Plane & Pilot
Saturday, October 1, 2005

Through The Eyes Of A Ferry Pilot

Observing places, people and planes is part of the job

Observing places, people and planes is part of the job

Almost by definition, half of every delivery flight I make is on an airliner. I’ve been able to dovetail ferry flights to and from the same destinations a total of once in nearly 30 years of delivering airplanes.

Most recently, I delivered David Gardner’s Cessna 421C from Reykjavík, Iceland, to Waco, Texas, by way of the usual milk-run route through Narsarsuaq, Greenland; Goose Bay, Canada; and Bangor, Maine. That meant two airline flights, the first from Los Angeles to Chicago, Chicago to London, and on to Reykjavík and the second home to Los Angeles from Dallas at the conclusion of the trip.

The actual ferry portion of the trip was probably the easiest aspect of the delivery. I arrived in Reykjavík about midnight, slept for a few hours and was in the air, headed for Greenland the following morning at 8:30. Weather in Reykjavík was typical for mid-July, brisk and overcast with ice in the clouds. Iceland is one of the most beautiful destinations on the North Atlantic, but the atmospherics are nothing if not changeable. Weather can transition from severe-clear to 500 to blowing snow in little more than an hour.

This was my second try at delivering Gardner’s 421. The owner and I plus fellow pilot Steve Minar had picked up the airplane at Biggin Hill outside London in mid-June, made a stop in Wick, Scotland, for fuel and gone on to Reykjavík. We had stayed over in Iceland the following day, June 21, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a holiday in Greenland. We tried to leave on the 22nd, but the winds weren’t willing, blowing about 35 to 40 knots on the nose on the route through Narsarsuaq and Goose Bay. The usual hedge of flying the shorter legs through Kulusuk and Sondre Strom Fjord, Greenland, and Iqaluit, Nunavit, Canada, wasn’t possible, as both Kulusuk and Iqaluit had run out of avgas. After three days of waiting, we huddled with the forecaster, determined that the trend looked the same for the next week or so and elected to fly home on the jet.

A month later, the 680 nm leg to Greenland was sporting unusual tailwinds down low, the usual neutral or headwinds up in the flight levels. There was a stationary low parked halfway out in the Denmark Strait, and the swirling winds resolved to a slight push, only the third time I’ve seen that on that route in 30 years.


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