Iceland, The Prequel
Summertime flying in the North Atlantic can be vicious
Fun and games aside, this is, first and foremost, a standard delivery flight. Our plan after Grimsey is to fly through Narsarsuaq, Greenland, and Goose Bay, Canada, and on to Bangor, Maine, clear customs and continue to Waco. Unfortunately, if winds are strong, we won’t have many options, as neither Kulusuk on Greenland’s east coast nor Iqaluit in Canada have avgas. Only Sondre Strom Fjord in Greenland has 100-octane gas available, and we don’t have the range to make that.
The lack of avgas is becoming a problem in the more remote sections of the world, and it’s almost guaranteed to get worse before it gets better. Price also is becoming something of a disincentive around the world. Fuel costs as much as $6 per gallon in Europe and $10 per gallon in the more remote sections of the world.
Gardner’s C-421 turns out to be a good one, and even better, it’s ready to go when we arrive in Biggin Hill, something that doesn’t happen very often. Most of England is luxuriating in clear skies and unusually warm temperatures. Practically all of the British Isles are CAVU, and the route to Wick, Scotland (still Scotland, not the U.K.), goes without a hitch, looking down at the pristine green from about 16,000 feet.
Andrew Bruce of Far North Aviation has our weather package waiting, he has our IFR flight plan prefiled, and he refuels the airplane in a half-hour and waves goodbye as we launch for Reykjavík, 650 nm northwest across one of the world’s nastiest oceans. Talk about quick turnaround service!
Ironically, summer is one of the nastiest seasons for ice on the North Atlantic. Climb to 10,000 feet or more, and the civilized temps down low translate to perfect conditions for icing. Sure enough, we pick up our share, pushing into the perpetual headwinds at 20,000 feet. We land in Reykjavík a few minutes before midnight, still in residual sunlight as the sun dips slightly below the horizon and starts right back up again.