Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Atlantic Crossing Recap

The Atlantic crossing went pretty smoothly overall, with a couple of hiccups and a lot of lessons learned. Here's the actual route flown. Click here to load into SkyVector.

Actual Route Flown
Final details of the trip:

Planned Actual
Flight Time 28h30m28h22m
Distance4987.7nm 4834.2nm
Avg. Groundspeed 175kts 170.4kts
Legs 12 13
Fuel 391.5 gal

For an index of all the Atlantic crossing posts, click here.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Atlantic Crossing Day 7 LEGE LELL

Day 7 Totals: 37.2nm, 0h20m

This was an unplanned extra day of flying to bring the airplane to its final home in Sabadell.

Lessons of the day:
  • Girona airport is not as expensive as one might expect. Still call ahead though...
  • Stay sharp on the use of ICAO flight plan forms.

LEGE - LELL (Sabadell, Spain)

I arrived back at Girona airport the next day around 3pm to move the plane to Sabadell. The Iberia handling guy acted a little put out by my surprise arrival (I didn't call ahead) at first but quickly got chatty and friendly when I was nice to him and he brought me to the airport ops office.

The fees were not too expensive (about 35€) and the staff was very friendly.  They had me file a VFR flight plan and I was on my way fairly quickly to Sabadell.

Filing a flight plan via the somewhat archaic computer system at Girona

It was a straightforward VFR flight. I landed and asked around to figure out who to speak with about long term parking. A nice fellow working for the adjuntament directed me over to he airport ops office on the other side of the airport. Since it was a long walk, he kindly lent me a bicycle.

The airport ops staff quickly realized the woman I need to speak with leaves at 3 so they gave me her number to call her the next day to sort things out. I biked back, secured the plane, and called a local friend to come meet me for coffee.

I had finally arrived.

N97NM parked on the ramp at LELL

Atlantic Crossing Day 6 EDAZ LFLP LEGE

Day 6 Totals: 749.8nm, 5h24m

I hadn't really planned out this day but it had seemed possible to make it to Sabadell, Spain. However, another late start and unexpected delays brought us into an interesting situation.

Lessons of the day:
  • Have cash on hand for the occasional service that is cash-only.
  • You will very likely get assigned an 8.33kHz channel frequency when flying in Europe.
  • France is indeed as cheap and friendly to general aviation as I've heard.
  • Do not even think about arriving close to the closing time of an airport in Spain.
  • Do not expect weather advisories from ATC in Spain.

EDAZ - LFLP (Annecy, France)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 2h36m 3h20m
Distance 467.9nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 36.4 gal 45.5 gal
Fuel Cost $8.56 USD/gal

I filed the flight plan myself using Autorouter for the first time. It got us a pretty direct route, about 10% overhead. There were a ton of airways in this route:


Click to see this flight plan in SkyVector

Joe grabbed some omelettes from the restaurant upstairs at EDAZ, which turned out to be top notch. The place is a little slow, but the food was excellent. Highly recommended.

Eating omelettes from the restaurant on the fly
In the meantime, we had the plane serviced with O2 and TKS at CD Aircraft Maintenance GMBH right next door to the FBO. They only accept cash payment for services but fortunately there was an ATM on site. All the airport, fuel, and FBO fees were paid with a credit card.

I also had to re-download the IFR charts onto my iPad since I had upgraded the OS to try to get flight plan filing working on it. That combined with running around to get service and file flight plan, etc. put us at a pretty late departure and I knew we had to hustle to land at Sabadell, Spain before sunset.

We picked up the IFR clearance via Bremen Radio after VFR departure. They gave me direct to a fix and then flight planned route.

The ease of entering airways into the GNS480 is clutch. Entering the above flight plan was easy and at one point later control assigned me direct to GUDOM, a point not in the flight plan but along one of the airways. I just hit Expand, scrolled to GUDOM, and then hit Direct. Easy.

I think we need a few more waypoints in this flight plan
Control handed me off a couple times and I eventually got assigned to 118.235MHz, one of the new 8.33khz channels that I couldn't tune in either of my built-in radios. I had to get out my handheld radio and plug it into the airplane's antenna, but it worked great. I wore a David Clark headset (plugged into my handheld via the adaptor) over my Clarity Aloft headset (with one of the earpieces removed) so I could operate both the handheld and aircraft radios and also hear the intercom. It was clunky but worked, and I was relieved to not have to tell Control that I couldn't accept the 8.33kHz frequency.

Two Headsets and O2 Cannula

We quickly ran into severe headwinds, around 100kts, at FL210. I asked for a descent to FL180 and we picked up a couple of knots groundspeed but it wasn't much help.

We were above the clouds the whole way and didn't see much of the ground except this a snow capped mountain peeking through the clouds.

Snow capped mountain peeking through the clouds
A little after an hour in I asked Erlangen Radar for a more direct route and they cleared us direct to a far waypoint, eliminating much of the big dogleg in the route. Our ETA was still looking pretty late, however.

The approach into Annecy was easy VFR with great views of the mountains and fields.

Approach into Annecy (LFLP)
LFLP runway in the distance
LFLP tower

LFLP - LEGE (Girona, Spain)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 1h34m 2h04m
Distance 281.9nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 21.9 gal No fuel taken
Fuel Cost
No fuel taken

Our turn around at Annecy was super fast, service and fuel were quick, and I was hoping we could make it to Sabadell before sunset. I filed again via autorouter but could not get a very direct route.

Departure from Annecy
Departure from Annecy
Once airborne, the GPS was estimating 1840Z arrival, and the Sabadell airport closes at 1821Z. I asked Montpellier a couple times for more direct routing but he could not accommodate us immediately. Things were a little tense while we contemplated what would happen if we arrived late. About 40 minutes in we got a more direct routing and a slight climb. Once leveled off we had a little less headwind and with the more direct routing but we were still looking at an 1833Z ETA. I thought that sounded like it was pretty close after closing time and it was worth trying to make it.

Well about 20 minutes later, Marseille called us and told us the airport would be closed when we arrived and asked what we would like to do. To push the issue, I said I thought we would make it. They immediately switched me to Barcelona Approach and asked me to take it up with them. Barcelona was even less helpful, and seemed to pretend they didn't understand my request to arrive a few minutes late. We made a few tries and were generally ignored and repeatedly told to divert to Girona. Super unfriendly service.

We then realized we were running into a pretty serious thunderstorm. It had been tough to tell if the area of gray we were seeing below us was a break in the clouds or dense moisture but as we got close, an abrupt downdraft quickly had us turning around and running the other way with our figurative tail between our legs.

Pretty but dangerous
That storm is a little too close
Sheepishly, I told Barcelona I'd be diverting to Girona and they immediately handed us to Girona Approach. We then wound our way down around some nasty cumulus buildups and made a visual approach to Girona as the storm was threatening nearby. Girona approach advised us of the severity of the storm and asked us to land quickly, in contrast to Barcelona Control who had failed to mention we were heading directly for a thunderstorm earlier. To be clear, I realize avoiding the storm was my responsibility but I found it interesting and in sharp contrast to the advisory service I'm used to in the US.

Here's the video of our diversion from LELL and arrival into LEGE:

We got on the ground without issue in Girona and the marshaller immediately advised us we'd have to use a handler. Girona is a large commercial airport and I wondered what the fees would be. Iberia handling turned out to be extremely friendly and told us it would be 20 euro for the night. Not bad. We were quickly on our way to get a rental car and head to Barcelona for the night after securing the plane on the ramp.

Atlantic Crossing Day 5 EGPC EDAZ

Day 5 Totals: 669.3nm, 3h31m

Since we skipped Edinburgh, we were on schedule to get to Berlin on time.

Lessons of the day:
  • Start trying to file a flight plan in advance in Europe. You may not be able to get good routing.
  • Turn the TKS on early when flying into IMC to get the system primed!
  • A knowledgeable co-pilot will make the flight much less stressful during tense times.

EGPC - EDAZ (Berlin/Schönhagen, Germany)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 3h43m 3h31m
Distance 669.3nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 52 gal 47.1 gal
Fuel Cost $10.36 USD/gal

Time to head out for Berlin. Again Drew and the staff at Far North were incredibly helpful and friendly. Filing flight plans in Europe was new for me at this point so Drew worked hard to file for us but ran into challenges with active danger areas. He had to keep trying different departure times to get the route to validate and we ended up waiting an extra hour to depart so we could fly a more direct route.

While Drew was working on getting the flight plan to file, I called the airport to arrange arrival. I had intended to fly to Strausberg (EDAY), having heard that it offers great service and prices. However, they told me they didn't have border control available and needed a form filled out to apply for the police to come and perform border control services. They'd have to get back to me later if approved.

I called Schönhagen (EDAZ) in the meantime to see if they would be an option and they told me they could handle everything without any prearrangement. They reassured me to just show up and so we decided to go to there instead.

I asked Drew to change the destination to EDAZ and he got the following routing as long as we departed later:


Click to see this flight plan in Skyvector

Preparing for departure from Wick
Departure was very easy with tower operational. They handed us over to Scottish Control and we were off over the ocean in no time. Scottish soon offered me "deconfliction service," but I didn't quite understand the offer and thought they were advising me they didn't offer traffic conflict service. Maybe you'd decline it if you had onboard TCAS. Will need to look that one up.

Control cleared us to only the first waypoint initially and FL090. Then got FL190, then FL210 about 12 minutes out. Punched through a cloud layer but OAT was high so no icing initially. We had a slight headwind at first that changed to a tailwind around FL180. Had to throttle back a bit to keep cylinder 6 out of the yellow. We were loaded to max gross weight after topping off TKS and fuel and taking a few quarts of oil with us, and performance was a bit more limited than usual.

On the climb up to FL210 we hit some pretty messy weather, with some bumps and lots of very wet clouds and rain. I didn't turn the TKS on right away and by the time I did about a minute later, there was a nasty looking buildup of ice on the leading edges of the wings. It took a few minutes for the system to prime as well and even more built up during that time, probably about a half inch in total. Lesson learned: Should have had it primed.

At this point we were using a credit card every few minutes to scrape the frost off the inside of the window to see the wing icing and trying to get a sense of whether the TKS was keeping it at bay. This was more ice than I had ever seen on my wings so I was super uncomfortable. I asked for a climb to FL230 to try to get on top of the weather but it was just as soupy up higher. And I was grateful that we had been able to fill the TKS system at Wick.

When we leveled off I also noticed that TAS was about 203kts, a solid 10kts lower than it should be, possibly indicating reduced performance due to ice buildup. This made me even more uncomfortable. And to top it off, I wasn't seeing TKS fluid on the windscreen, which I usually see coming from the prop slinger, making me wonder if the prop slinger was working at all.

I also noticed the engine wasn't staying cool as easily either. Only with cowl flaps full open could I keep all the cylinders in the green, and we wondered if there was ice built up in the intake somewhere.

And as icing (pun intended) on the cake, the Pitot heat switch would not stay on all of a sudden, and I had to press it over and over to try to get it to catch and not spring back. An iced pitot tube in IMC (and hence airspeed indicator failure) is not the end of the world, but it was another thing to stress out over. The killer is that when I had my annual done the shop told me they replaced the Pitot heat switch. I have my doubts...

Icing on the leading edge after we got it more under control
Joe helped with the workload of monitoring the icing and engine and we continually discussed whether to descend to try to get to higher temperatures or even turn around. We had a fair amount of confidence based on the weather synopsis ahead of time that we wouldn't have long in this situation, but it was pretty tense watching it all and making sure we weren't seeing the situation getting worse.

Finally about 52 minutes into the flight, we broke into clear weather and breathed a sigh of relief. Sunshine above and no clouds below. With the OAT outside quite cold, the ice didn't go anywhere right away, but it would be slowly melting off in the sunshine over the next couple hours.

About half an hour later I noticed a dull ache in my right arm near my shoulder that I couldn't quite explain. Joe and I thought it might be a result of the pressure differential and 4 days of flying at high altitudes and then I recalled hearing that arm pain is a sign of a heart attack. Could a heart attack have been precipitated by the stress of the first hour? I had had the O2 flow rate cranked up to keep me clear headed during the tense part of the flight and now I cranked it up to the maximum to make sure my circulatory system was in good shape. This kept me at 95 O2sat consistently which is pretty good, and I now briefed Joe on how to land the plane if I became incapacitated. Drama.

There were some cool offshore windfarms off the coast of Denmark, and then we were happy to be over green fields again instead of water far below.

A small distraction was a couple requests from Copenhagen Control to turn right 10 degrees and another 10 degrees to stay clear of a military operation. About 20 minutes later they called up to let us know we were just underneath a military operation area "just in case you're wondering about the F16s at 12 o'clock and 5 miles." That sounded exciting and we kept looking out to see if we could see anything. About a minute later we saw the two of them cross right to left in the distance at high speed. Too bad they weren't closer.

In the last hour we got bounced to Bremen Radio on 125.855MHz, the first time I had heard a new 8.33kHz channel called out. That's the same as 125.85MHz, though, so tuning that frequency is no problem.

Then we got progressively more detailed clearances from ATC. Even with something like 60 miles to go we got PITEN BIRMO RATMO NISGA. We'd definitely be flying a pretty specific flight path in the event of comms failure. Broke out of the clouds and made an easy VFR approach into Schönhagen.

Happy to be on the ground in Berlin

Atlantic Crossing Day 4 BIRK EGPC

Day 4 Totals: 639.8nm, 3h41m

What I had thought would be an easy day of flying to Edinburgh, Scotland, ended up being just one leg to Wick due to a late start.

Lessons of the day:
  • Airport opening hours and prior permission procedures are varied. Call 2 days in advance!
  • Far North Aviation in Wick, Scotland, is awesome.

BIRK - EGPC (Wick, Scotland)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 3h30m 3h41m
Distance 639.8nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 49 gal 49.4 gal
Fuel Cost $8.38 USD/gal

We had stayed out late the night before checking out Reykjavik's nightlife so we didn't exactly get an early start this morning.

I called Drew at Far North Aviation at Wick to arrange arrival. Turns out that on Sundays the airport is only open 1415-1615Z and to arrive outside those hours we need prior arrangement, to submit an indemnity application, and to pay a fee. Given our late start and one hour time zone difference, it was impossible to make 5:15pm local time so I asked Drew to send over the forms.

Planning to make it to Edinburgh after Wick, I also emailed Signature at Edinburgh for arrival later and was told our request was denied by Airfield Ops due to lack of parking space. Was not expecting that! I started looking into alternates.

Checking out at the FBO in Reykjavik was very pleasant, though they really don't have much in the way of services to offer, especially on Sunday. There was no oil for sale and we were told oxygen service might be possible with significant delay and great expense. They did have precious TKS fluid and we purchased 2.5 liters to be safe, at €38 per liter!

The FBO helped us file a flight plan to Wick using Rocket Route. Got a pretty straightforward clearance:


Click to see this flight plan in SkyVector

While getting our survival suits on, we met a pilot who had flown a light jet from KFRG (Farmingdale Long Island), the same place we started. It had only taken him a day, however. He was pretty impressed we had done the same trip in a single engine piston plane.

After chatting a bit, we headed to the plane. Fueling was very straightforward: Taxied to the pump and an agent fueled the plane and took our credit card right there. We were ready to head out over the water again.

It was very difficult to understand the ground/tower controller. Her accent was fairly thick and she spoke extremely quickly. I got pretty frustrated as we were running behind and had already been denied from Edinburgh, and she wasn't really able to speak more slowly despite my requests. After a lot of "please repeat" and some deep breaths we finally departed at 1420 local time.

ATC cleared us direct RATSU almost immediately without me asking, doing us a little favor in giving a more direct route. We hit some pretty significant headwinds right away and despite a solid 215kts TAS we were only making about 180kts ground speed at first.

The flight toward Scotland was super smooth, and we were well above the clouds the whole way at FL210. The cloud tops were slowly getting higher and were probably at FL190 toward the end, but we were never in them.

After giving estimated time to the last waypoint to Scottish Control, they offered to let Far North Aviation know what time to expect us. Very friendly service!

Upon arrival into Wick we had high ceilings and great weather, and were treated to stunning green scenery. We spotted tall cliffs, lots of sheep, tall stone towers, castles, and lots of open fields.

Far North Aviation operations building
Drew at Far North greeted us on the ground and had the fuel truck ready almost right away, with the intention of getting us out to Edinburgh quickly. The guy is definitely the friendliest and funniest character we met on the trip, and was incredibly helpful, an absolute pleasure to deal with.
Drew in Action
In contrast with Reykjavik, TKS fluid is super cheap and oil is readily available. Drew provided us with phone and wifi so we could arrange our next stop, but Signature Edinburgh repeated they did not have space for us so we decided to stay the night in Wick and enjoy Northern Scottish hospitality. Drew organized a hotel for us, recommended a restaurant for dinner, and dropped us off in the company truck.

Rockstar Drew organizing a hotel and dinner for us

Atlantic Crossing Day 3 CYFB BGSF BGKK BIRK

Day 3 Totals: 1224.1nm, 6h20m

My intention was to make it to Reykjavik, Iceland (BIRK) today early in the day but since we were behind by one leg we ended up making it late in the day. Fortunately, the airport there is open 24/7 with no out-of-hours fees.

Lessons of the day:
  • Turn-around time in Greenland can be heart-breakingly slow. Bring a book.
  • Northern airports oddly do not seem to have TKS or oil for sale. Take extra with you!
  • Service is good but expensive in Reykjavik.

CYFB - BGSF (Kangerlussuaq/Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 2h40m 2h24m
Distance 487.4nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 37.3 gal 32 gal
Fuel Cost $12.10 USD/gal

We got up early for a long day of flying to make it to Reykjavik as early as possible. Literally nothing was open so we figured we'd eat the oatmeal Joe had packed once we were airborne. I filed a flight plan via and we departed Iqaluit at 7:15am.

Crossing the ocean we had a 100kts crosswind from the north. It had been solid from the west the day before and it would have helped our ground speed considerably. But we still made well over 220kts TAS and about the same groundspeed.

The weather was clear and smooth at FL230 the whole way. I wanted to fly as high as possible over the ocean to maximize performance and safety in the event of an issue. We used oxygen at a pretty high flow rate to keep us alert and O2sat up.

The engine performed well. It was still during the break in period so I set power at about 90% according to my engine monitor. 27.8" MAP, 2500 RPM, 13.1GPH fuel flow. Cylinders all in the green with #6 running hottest as it has so far this trip. Oil pressure solidly in the upper green range as it has been so far as well. Happy engine means happy pilot.

155 miles out we were handed over to Iceland radio. I could barely hear them but a friendly airliner relayed messages for a while. They asked for our ETA into BGSF since we were outside radar coverage and gave an oceanic clearance direct to SF NDB at FL230 then direct BGSF. Not too complicated.

I was given the LOC 9 approach with vectors to intercept but misunderstood the FAF location on the plate. I think I thought the FAF was at the NDB but it's actually at DME 10 a few miles before that. To be safe and stay high longer, I waited to cross the NDB and then descended rapidly. Had to slip the plane to get down in time to make a coordinated landing.

The view on approach after breaking out of the clouds was pretty cool. Mountains and barren terrain all around. The exterior GoPro died on the way for some reason so I have no video unfortunately.

We arrived 11:37 local time, having lost 2 hours due to time zone shift.

On the ground in Kangerlussuaq

Turnaround at BGSF was incredibly slow. Greenland's only airliner, an A330, arrived just after us and took priority of the airport's limited resources and staff. On top of that, the clerk at the desk was not very friendly or helpful, and seemed to be chastising me for not being more informed. She was also constantly distracted by other things going on. It may have been more of a language gap and cultural difference... who knows? Great lesson in patience and rolling with the punches.

There was no wifi, no TKS fluid, no oil to purchase, and getting fuel took forever. On top of that, you'd think the fuel was liquid gold, since it cost $12.10 USD per gallon. And as if that wasn't bad enough, handling was $160 USD. Fortunately, they take Visa.

I had to file an ICAO flight plan on paper, something I've only ever done flying in Central America. As the clerk was unhelpful I used their computer to look up the codes to use and literally had to throw away the form and start over 4 times. It's not a user friendly process. I had plenty of time, however, as we were waiting for the fuel guy to do whatever it was he was busy with.

Filing a flight plan in Kangerlussuaq
I also used the downtime to take photos of the approach plates for Reykjavik off the screen of the office computer. Super high tech. With no wifi at any of the recent stops, I had been unable to download them onto my iPad, and they had mysteriously disappeared from Iceland's AIP app. I suspect that they had expired and the app just blanks them out instead of marking them as expired. Good thing I noticed.

At this point we dubbed Kangerlusssuaq more like Kanger You Suck after that terrible service.

BGSF - BGKK (Kulusuk, Greenland)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 1h54m 1h48m
Distance 339.3nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 28 gal 33.3 gal
Fuel Cost $13.39 USD/gal

We finally departed BGSF at 1317 after all that.

The scenery was incredible, with mountains and icebergs everywhere.

We picked up some ice climbing out and asked ATC for FL190 to stay comfortably above clouds and out of icing (I had filed FL170). When that wasn't high enough I asked again to climb to FL210 but was given FL240. At 240 we were mostly clear of clouds and got no additional icing.

It was cold out there, -25C to be exact, and we were scraping ice from the condensation of our breath off the windows with a credit card to see outside and monitor the icing situation on the wings.

We were down to 1.5 gallons of TKS fluid at this point. A little stressful that FBOs don't seem to have it up here despite what you would think. Lesson learned: take extra with you.

The approach into BGKK was a bit confusing, to be honest, and I banked on the fact that the other traffic on frequency was probably the only other traffic for the next hour or two. We weren't really issued any specific clearance since we were outside controlled airspace. As I approached we got bounced from Reykjavik Center to Sondrestrom Information to Kulusuk AFIS a few times before I got everything sorted.

On approach into Kulusuk we began to see the most stunning and wild scenery yet, with glaciers, mountains, ocean, and icebergs all around.

Passing over a glacier on arrival into Kulusuk
We could see dust rising from a departing plane on the gravel runway from quite a distance away, the only clear way to visually identify the runway. The AFIS operator was very friendly and just after landing asked if we would be departing right away after fuel and if so what our next destination would be. I told him Reykjavik and he offered to file a flight plan for me. Incredible service compared to Sondre Stromford!

After stepping out of the plane we spent a few minutes gawking at the epic scenery all around us while they brought the fuel cart over and began fueling us immediately. I think they might not have been so prompt had there been a commercial flight to attend to but we got lucky with great service.

Kulusuk Airport

After a quick bathroom break I ascertained that indeed there is no wifi available on the east coast of Greenland either and went up to the tower to collect my invoice and flight plan. The tower guy was very friendly and chatty in sharp contrast to the cranky lady at the last stop.

Costs were similarly ridiculous as at BGSF, with the same $162 handling/departure and fuel at $13.39 USD/gallon. I paid at the office and we were on our way again.

BGKK - BIRK (Reykjavik, Iceland)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 2h19m 2h08m
Distance 397.4nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 32.7 gal??
Fuel Cost $?? USD/gal

The departure clearance was VAXAN 6530N SOPEN RK BIRK at FL230. About as direct as one can get and easy to fly.

Click to see this flight plan in SkyVector

On climbout we were treated to more incredible scenery and had a little more attention span to appreciate it. We thought Iqaluit was an alien place but Kulusuk takes the award, scenery-wise.

BGKK Departure (Timelapse)

BGKK Departure

We climbed through a couple of thin cloud layers and then high above everything. Severe clear and smooth all the way to Iceland at FL230 with a broken layer far below us. It was fortunate that there was no icing at all given that we were low on TKS fluid.

A slight crosswind turned to a slight headwind part way through the trip but we were still above 200kts ground speed the whole way and made good time. We were making position reports as requested by ATC until they announced radar contact about 242nm out from Reykjavik.

We did pick up some light rime ice on approach into Reykjavik but we would be on the ground long before it could be a problem.

ATC service inbound to Reykjavik was quite helpful and proactive with descents and clearances like US ATC normally is, which was a relief after the awkward procedures at the 2 stops in Greenland. We were given the LOC 13 approach and I could barely read my grainy photo of the plate on the computer screen, but we got below the clouds quickly after stepping down.

We were on the ground at 2020 local time and customs was right there and ready to check us in after we were marshaled to the ramp. They were very friendly and the process was quick and easy. The lovely lady at the FBO was also very friendly and helped us find a hotel and warned us repeatedly with a laugh that Iceland is very expensive.

Customs was 75€ since we arrived after 6pm. Apparently it is 9€ before. Handling was 158€ and overnight parking was 10€.

On the ground in Reykjavik

Atlantic Crossing Day 2 CYKL CYVP CYFB

Day 2 Totals: 545.7nm, 3h38m

My intention was to make it to Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland (BGSF) today to make more good time but the time zone change and super slow service meant we didn't make it to Greenland.

Lessons of the day:
  • Take careful note of time zone changes and closing times of airports.
  • Get an earlier start than you think is needed (this one comes up a lot).
  • Don't expect wifi or phone service to be available at far northern airports.

CYKL - CYVP (Kuujjuaq, Quebec, Canada)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 1h18m 1h22m
Distance 205nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 18.2 galNo fuel taken
Fuel CostNo fuel takenNo fuel taken

Shefferville airport is devoid of wifi, and neither of our cell phones had service, but the clerk at the airline counter said I could use his computer when the cabin crew using it was off on their next flight. So I killed time while waiting to file a flight plan and we ended up with a much later start than desired.

Kuujjuaq, Quebec, Canada
The flight from Schefferville to Kuujjuaq was smooth and mostly in clear weather. We needed TKS and pitot heat for about 10 minutes in some soup right after takeoff but the rest was clear. On the arrival in Kuujjuaq, the operator on Kuujjuaq radio (similar to a tower controller in the US) was quite a character with a funny demeanor and charming accent. At this point we were ridiculously far north in Canada, but still in Quebec! Canada is a big place.

Here's a video including cockpit audio of our approach and landing into Kuujjuaq:

CYVP - CYFB (Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 1h50m 2h16m
Distance 340.7nm
Avg. Groundspeed 150.3kts
Fuel 25.7 gal 55 gal drum
Fuel Cost $4.78 USD/gal
$170USD ($200CAD)

We did not get fuel since it's available in drums only and I had planned to arrive in Iqaluit (our next stop) with enough reserve and enough room to buy a full barrel there. I filed a flight plan via and we put on our survival suits since the next flight leg would be mostly over (very cold) water. Man are those suits tight and uncomfortable. But we look like characters from Star Trek.

Space suits on, life raft ready for action behind us
The weather from Kuujjuaq to Iqaluit was clear and smooth. We passed an interesting island with no signs of inhabitants but a high rock wall the entire way around that drops to what seems to be a road at sea/beach level.

We also passed a number of small icebergs floating seemingly in a line from west to east. Our first iceberg sightings!

ATC was mostly in French on the radio at this point which was fun to listen to. There was not much other traffic up there but we were still talking to Montreal Center even that far up north.

The air got bumpy at this point off and on for the rest of the trip and we hit some clouds eventually. Our arrival into Iqaluit was in and out of IMC at 13000 ft. Picked up some light rime ice at -1C OAT but the TKS system handled it nicely.

We had intended to quickly get going from Iqaluit and make it to Greenland but the slightly late start, loss of an hour due to time zone change, the slowest wifi ever, and 20-30kt headwinds meant we wouldn't make it before the end of operational hours at 5pm local time. Opening fees for afterhours operations are $1062 so we decided to spend the night in Iqaluit. Lesson learned here is that going east with the time zone changes makes it really tough to make good time.

Getting avgas took forever, and in retrospect, we wouldn't have made it to Greenland anyway. We found the fuel drums but then had to literally wander around the airport ramp looking for help for a while. A friendly fellow in a nearby hanger chatted with us for a bit and then flagged down an airport service truck and eventually got us the right people.

Waiting for fuel in Iqaluit
The fuel was full service and they have their own electric drum pump, so I didn't need to bring the cheap siphon pump I had brought along in the end. Fuel was extremely cheap and the one barrel I bought filled the tanks just about exactly to the top as I had planned. We then taxied back to the FBO and started the process of looking for a hotel for the night.

100LL fuel drums in Iqaluit with drum pump

Now... about Iqaluit...

Control tower or alien space ship in Iqaluit
Iqaluit is a very alien place. Not just because of the lack of vegetation and cold, but also the utilitarian design of everything is a bit odd. And to top it off the Inuit people there use a very alien looking writing system called Inuktitut syllabics.

Menu at the Storehouse Bar & Grill in Iqaluit

Iqaluit apparently means "place of many fish" in Inuktitut and has always been an Inuit fishing location. It later took a role as a US Air Base and has been developed for strategic purposes. Now it is the capital and only city of the province of Nunavut.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Atlantic Crossing Day 1 KFRG CYFC CYZV CYKL

Day 1 Totals: 968.5nm, 5h28m

My intention was to make it to Schefferville, Ontario, Canada (CYKL) today to get a good start on the trip and we accomplished that without issue!

Lessons of the day:
  • Prepare to be at an assigned altitude (in our case 11500ft) for the Canada border crossing.
  • Get an earlier start than you think is needed!
  • Call your hotel in advance if you can to ask about late arrival

KFRG - CYFC (Fredericton International Airport, Lincoln, New Brunswick, Canada)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 2h24m 2h19m
Distance 430.8nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 39.7 gal 38.3 gal
Fuel Cost $6.84 USD/gal

After packing the plane and last minute weather checks (all VFR ahead for the first leg), we took off from KFRG (Farmingdale, Long Island, New York) at about 10:40am local time. The plan had been to leave at 10 to make a lot of distance on the first day.

Proposed flights for day 1
We had slight tailwinds and made good time to Fredericton. The recently-overhauled engine was performing well and the Mooney was flying as she was designed. I think we stayed at about 13500 ft. and were seeing 190kts true airspeed.

Since the route is direct and doesn't pass over any restricted areas, I chose to fly VFR the whole way with flight following. I was prepared to file IFR in the air for the border crossing into Canada but I inquired and ATC advised we just had to be on the same squawk code and at 11500ft to cross the border. We ended up a little high due to short notice and were chastised by Canadian ATC. I heard "I need you at 11500 over the border" about 5 miles past the border. Oops.

Weather at Fredericton was not totally clear as the METARs were stating and we ended up having to dodge clouds as we descended into the field. Landing was straightforward, however, with no clouds below about 3000ft.

When landing in Canada you always call customs before getting out of the plane to get instructions. Normally they just say "Welcome to Canada. Here's your reference number," but for my first time in my several flights there they asked us to stay in the plane and wait for agents to arrive.

The agents were very friendly but had an issue with my copilot Joe, who had a warning on his driving record many years ago. Apparently Canada takes that stuff seriously and they needed to make sure he is an upstanding citizen now and isn't coming to Canada to terrorize the roads. It took quite a while for them to sort out but I got fuel and filed a flight plan while this was going on and eventually we were ready.

CYFC - CYZV (Sept-Îles, Quebec, Canada)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 1h26m 1h30m
Distance 261.7nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 21 gal ?? $206.32 total
Fuel Cost $?? USD/gal
?? $0

By the time we departed Fredericton, weather was rolling in and the departure would be quickly in clouds. I had filed an IFR flight plan so we were good to go.

The flight to Sept-Îles was in fact mostly in instrument conditions, in clouds the majority of the time, however in smooth air. We were given the ILS 9 approach and it was in clouds down to about 420 ft. Always fun to see the approach lighting pop out right where you expect it to be before seeing the runway.

Sept-Îles was an easy (though very rainy) fuel and rest stop. Coffee and a sandwich cured my altitude headache and I filed an IFR flight plan for Schefferville, paid, and got back in the plane.

CYZV CYKL (Schefferville, Quebec, Canada)

Planned Actual
Flight Time 1h40m 1h39m
Distance 276nm
Avg. Groundspeed
Fuel 23.3 gal ??
Fuel Cost $?? USD/gal
$36 for ??

We were back in the clouds right after departure and flew mostly in solid IMC to Schefferville. Because of the moisture, we picked up a decent amount if ice but the TKS anti-icing system kept up with it well. Used about 3 gallons of TKS fluid in the last 2 legs.

Arrival into Schefferville was uneventful. We had intended to fly the RNAV 35 approach but my GPS data was out of date and had an RNAV 36 approach instead and the waypoints didn't match. Ceilings were quite high anyway so Joe flew a visual approach.

We were now quite far north in no man's land. It was about 7:45pm and nobody was at the airport so late as expected, but fortunately the hotel was only a 3 minute walk down the road. Unfortunately there was nobody at the hotel either and we spent some time trying to get in as the front door was locked.

Eventually Martin and François, some nice fellows who were staying there, let us in, gave us a couple of beers, and helped us brainstorm ideas on how to contact management and get into our room, half in English and half in French. We got nowhere but had a fun time chatting and having beers with these guys.

Eventually we left a note for the management, should they reappear, and Martin took us in his truck to the local "Restaurant Bla Bla" where we dined on pizza, poutine, and Labatt Bleue in style, served by a jovial older lady who only spoke French, while hoping the wifi would start working. Martin and Francois had told us not to expect much from Internet and there was no cell phone service anywhere. Our wishes did not come true, however. No internet... Schefferville is pretty remote. It's a mining town, with red dust covering everything. All signs in French, super quaint.

Local cuisine in Shefferville

When we got back to the Hotel, François let us in, though we still had no word from the hotel management. Then our buddy Martin made a few calls to friends and was able to find someone who knew someone who worked at the hotel. She appeared 10 minutes later and checked us in.