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ATTENTION: ANYONE WHO EVER WANTED TO CROSS THE ATLANTIC...
"Planning my North Atlantic crossing began in May,
1989 when my wife, an Air Force physician, received word that her next
assignment was to Hahn Air Base in central West Germany. I borrowed an old copy of IFR
magazine (Jan. 1989) which had an article about such crossings written by an experienced
ferry pilot. First, I contacted Canada Air Transport (Bob Lavers at 506-8577131) in
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. They sent a complete packet detailing the requirements for
single engine North Atlantic crossings.
In short, they require a full gyro panel, two long range navigation radios, and a high frequency communications radio. I found a marine handheld radio direction-finder that worked very well. The other long range nav radio I had was a loran. Loran coverage is normally good all the way to Scotland using the Goose Bay-Narsarsuaq-Keflavik route but the Labrador Bay chain was down for maintanence during my trip. I found out after buying it that my Northstar loran is not able to receive the loran chains in Europe or the North Atlantic past the Labrador Bay chain so I had to rely on my other nav radios. I was able to get a heading for the Simiutaq (SI) NDB on the coast of Greenland using both my Northstar and King Marine lorans before the Labrador Bay chain went down. I was able to use the East Canada chain all the way to the coast of Greenland, but the Northstar kept asking to change chains and warning about repeatability. The King loran worked great in the states but not at all in Europe.
For the crossing, a full immersion suit, life raft, and sea survival pack are also required. The spares that I carried were a set of plugs and oil. I used 100 weight oil but would recommend a lighter weight as it felt pretty stiff trying to hand-start in Greenland. Also, the oil temp never got over 1200 between Greenland and Iceland.
Navaid Devices sold me an auto pilot and it worked well and let me relax a bit during the long legs over water.
Since the Long-EZ is classified as experimental, technically, we must contact any country in which we want to operate and request validation of our airworthiness certificates. Canada and Iceland were aware of this rule, written in small print on the back of our certificates. Others were not. Eventually, all countries responded; Denmark said that they wouldn't validate my certificate since my aircraft was not "certified", and I was in and out of Greenland before I even got their reply (which ultimately was "no"). The people at the airport in Narsarsuaq didn't care about this rule. They even let me park overnight in the hangar with the Ice Patrol planes.
For maps, I relied on Jeppesen. They sold me a North Atlantic set of charts, A VFR radio navigation chart for Germany, and an expensive set of books called a Bottlang Airfield Manual. The Bottlang books were very handy, with all the required details I needed for international travel. I didn't install any extra tanks since I planned legs of only about 700 or 750 nautical miles. This left plenty of fuel to meet the three hour reserve fuel requirements of Canada Air Transport.
The trip itself started from Dunnellon, FL. headed up the east coast to Barnes Airport in MA. On subsequent days, it was on to Caribou, ME and then across to Moncton, New Brunswick for the required inspection. Don't try to skip the inspection; security checked paperwork in Goose Bay and the officials in Iceland also checked the "ship's papers". After a low pass which the Moncton tower requested, I was off to Goose Bay about four hours north. Telephone ahead for a prior permission number that you will need for the approach controller (Goose Bay Operation at 709-896-7331). Outside the U.S., our airplanes get lots of attention, most controllers asked lots of questions if they had the time and always gave very good service. Goose Bay was my first landing at a primarily military airport, so phrases like "check gear down" and "arresting cable up" made the approach a little out of the ordinary.
Before I left, people I talked to about the trip said that the
weather briefing that you get at Goose Bay is really something special and they were
right. After having made an appointment the night before, the weather service had a folder
ready for me covering the flight and a weather man met with me to go over it. I was
following a high pressure system out to the U.S. and the weather couldn't have been much
After I was out of VHF range, I started using airline traffic passing overhead to relay my position reports. Over the North Atlantic, air traffic is required to monitor 121.5 and it is normal practice to call and ask for help with a position relay. My calls always got an instant response and we arranged to meet on 131.8, the air-to-air frequency assigned to the North Atlantic. Again, there were always lots of questions about my aircraft and the trip.
About seven hours out of Goose Bay, the coast of Greenland and the fjords that lead to Nararsuaq airport come into sight. Simiutaq NDB is on the coast and there are three choices for someone flying too low to pick up Narsarsuaq NDB. If you fly up the right-hand fjord, as I did, you are on a long right base for the runway. For the center fjord, you jump over a hill and are on final. The third fjord does not lead to the runway. You shouldn't fly up the fjords if the clouds are below the tops of the ridges at 3600 feet but should use the Narsarsuaq NDB/DME approach. The charts show an instrument approach using the NDB and DME but the controller said that the airport is normally only open for VFR. I stayed at the Artie Hotel in Narsarsuaq; the only choice except in mid-summer. The room was warm and clean and reasonably priced at about $60.00 per night.
Overnight, Greenland had snow so I had to wait until noon
before the low clouds and fog went out to sea. Just before I left, the weekly airliner
arrived and said that they had a lot of turbulence over the ice cap on their way in from
Iceland. So, I had to skip flying over part of the ice cap and head out to sea and around
the southern tip of Greenland before heading for Iceland. Again, I got excellent weather
service with hourly satellite pictures. The personal service might have been because the
airliner and I were the only traffic for the day. My only alternate was Kulusuk, about 400
miles north on the east coast. Kulusuk was reporting a snow storm but I went ahead because
the satellite pictures showed a clear path to Iceland.
The trip to Iceland was uneventful although very cold. I wore the immersion suit, pulling off the top half after climbing in. Wool pants and a down coat under the immersion suit were not quite enough. I was afraid to run the electric cabin heat since I could not tell if the legs of the suit were touching the heating elements. I was very cold by the time I reached Iceland, especially since it was in the 90's when I left Florida.
Iceland is supposed to be a North Atlantic radar outpost but they didn't see me until I was over land despite operating my transponder and giving them my flight level and inbound VOR radial.
If you can afford $150 a night for a hotel, the Lofleder Hotel at the Reykjavik airport is an excellent choice. It offers pilots a discount, has a heated pool and seafood lunch buffet that YOU shouldn't miss. I could only allow myself one night of luxury and then had to catch a shuttle bus over to Keflavik and stay at the Navy base (military only). I spent three days in Iceland waiting out both a wind and rainstorm with steady 35 to 40 knot winds and some military maneuvers that restricted low level flight between Iceland and Scotland.
The wind was not as strong as forecasted on the trip between Iceland and Scotland and I purposely over-corrected for the forecasted wind in a southerly direction so that if I was off course, I wouldn't pass north of Scotland. All this put me about twenty miles south of Stornoway when Benbecula VOR came into range. A call to Scottish information and I was on my way down the coast to Glasgow. Communications and radio navigation were weak down at lower levels in northern Scotland but improved after I cleared the hills and entered the valley leading to Glasgow.
Strong winds and rain delayed my departure from Glasgow the
next day until nearly noon again and after flying southeast into England, I began to run
out of daylight and the weather, while reported as clear in Germany, was turning into a
sold deck below me. So, it was time to change plans and land at Teeside airport on the
central coast of England after only a couple hours of flying. The next day was sunny and
very windy but I was off to Germany. I had radar service all the way across the north sea.
VFR traffic is required to descend to one thousand feet around Amsterdam and, again, I
caught up with the rain and a forcasted ceiling. I passed a small airport just inside the
German border and I called Dusseldorf radar to let them know that I was heading back there
to land because of the weather.
My wife, Peggy, drove the two hundred kilometers north to pick me up. I had to wait out a week of clear skies until the next weekend when she could take me back up for the short flight down to Koblenz. The airport there has a 3000 foot paved runway and overlooks the Moselle river. This is homebase for my airplane for the next four years.
All in all, I had a pretty smooth trip. The only problem was the loran chain being down for maintenance and this shouldn't be a problem for future flights. For the flight back, I'm planning to build a back-seat tank and take the Shannon-Gander route or go through the Azores.