Aviation & Travel Tips
- Credit Cards- In Canada and across the North
Atlantic, for services at the airports, they took Visa, MasterCard, and often American
Express. Once we left Scotland, however, it was a different story. I would
call ahead to each airport to make sure they had Avgas (100 LL) and to check if they would
take credit cards. Actually it is a matter of definition. They really don't
take credit cards as we know them, but they take a carnet (carnay). Apparently this
is a card issued to corporations from Shell, BP, and Exxon. Although I carried U.S.
currency just in case, this was a problem as well. Norrkopping, Sweden only wanted
Swedish currency. Helsinki only wanted Finnish marks, Berlin only wanted German
marks, etc.. Some of the countries accepted U.S. dollars, but, for example, in
Berlin it was necessary for me to walk quite a distance to the commercial terminal and
change U.S. dollars to German marks to pay for the gas. I am checking on the
availability of carnets and will change this section when I learn more. All of the
airports, however, took Visa and MasterCard for landing and parking fees. It was
just a problem for fuel purchases.
- Handling Agents- Almost every day I was
calling ahead to various airports to check about fuel, landing, etc.. There was
certainly a language barrier. I used the phone numbers in the Jeppesen books for the
airports. That was a mistake. The person who answered often didn't speak
English. At each airport, when we landed, we were met by our "handling
agent". You are charged for this service (whether you use it or not, and you
really don't have a choice). The handling agent will walk you through customs,
supply transportation at the airport, take care of paperwork, and show you where to go and
what to do. They all spoke English. We would have been much better
off had we called them directly, instead of calling the airport. I didn't really
find out until the trip was almost over that there is a book of handling agents. It
is published by Janes (as in Janes' Planes). You can buy it from: Janes Info.
Group - (in USA) Joe McHale, VP Sales - 1340 Braddock Place, Ste 300 - Alexandria, VA
22314 - (703) 683-3700. You can also get it from Janes in UK at Sentinel House - 163
Brighton Rd - Coulsdon, Surrey CR5 2NH, UK. I would suggest you call. I called
the U.S. number in December 1998 for the 1999 editions. I was told that they have 5
different editions covering different geographical areas. I ordered
"Europe" which included Eastern Europe. It arrived in January 1999.
It cost about $400. I wish I had it during this trip. It would have
saved a great deal of time.
- Gifts- We brought along oranges to give
to the folks at the airports in Iqaluit, Canada, Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland, and
Reykjavik, Iceland. They were much appreciated. I had hats made with
"AZTEC N5930Y" imprinted on them. They cost about 6 bucks a
piece. Sharon looked up (before we left the U.S.) the words "Thank You" in
each language of the countries we planned to visit. When we arrived at each airport
I wrote "Thank You", on the hats, in their language and signed Sharon &
Arthur. It went over real big. In Krakow, Poland, the Customs Agent gave me a
patch of his government agency, and at Biggin Hill in England I was given a hat of the
Flying School. It started off each encounter with a smile.
- Money- Cash machines are great. I have
two credit cards and can tap MAC (in Helsinki- "OTTO", and other names in other
countries). Every city we visited has cash machines. (In Marrakech,
Morocco the only machine was at the airport.) Although there are charges for using
the machine (as there are in the U.S.) the machines give you close to the wholesale
exchange rate. We brought with us a small currency converter. I'm sure you'vfe
seen them. I bought this one at Brookstone. It had the capability of storing
15 exchange rates and was very helpful going from country to country.
- Oil and Alcohol- I carried alcohol for the
props (good old denatured alcohol from the drug store in the U.S.) and mineral oil, which
I was still using in the engines. Unless you make previous arrangements, FBO's just
don't have mineral oil, although they usually have AD. I would suggest carrying some
oil just in case. Some of the refuelers spoke no English and did not have oil on
their trucks, although I am pretty sure it would be available from the FBO.
- Charts - Enroute- I bought just about
everything that was available. I bought the following Jeppesen trip kits:
Europe and the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Eastern Canada, and the North
Atlantic. These four trip kits covered everyplace we went. I divided the pages
into loose leaf books (2 inches each). There were about 30 of them. The
difficulty arises when you want to keep a book handy for the country you are flying to and
from. Unfortunately, unlike in the U.S., the Europe books are arranged
alphabetically by city. This means you have to do a lot
more arranging before the flight because there are so many books to handle. Before I
left home, I bought some Jeppesen spiral bound books of clear plastic envelope
pages. We used these to hold approach plates for the airports that we would be using
(or might have to use) for each flight. We bought four books, each one holding 30
plates. We found them extremely helpful and kept them all in use.
- Charts - Bottlang- Jeppesen bought Bottlang which
publishes a set of charts for Europe. Although we bought them and we used them at
times, we could have done without them (because all of our flying was IFR). If you
are going to do any VFR flying at all they would be not only helpful, but necessary.
The local reporting points are on them. They are similar to Jeppesen approach
plates (NOT enroute charts) with one or two plates for each airport. It shows you
the airport layout in color and shows the VFR reporting points. The rest of the
information is basically the same as the Jeppesen approach plates.
- Charts - VFR- We bought a lot of charts that
were only useful for a general picture. We bought ONC charts at the Pilot's Shop in
Nashua, NH and VFR charts for France, Poland, etc. which we bought in France. We
really didn't use any of them. What is valuable however are the new charts published
by Jeppesen called "VFR GPS Charts." These are quite large scale, are for
altitudes below 10,000 feet, and show a lot of detail. Again, since we didn't fly
VFR, the position of the multitude of restricted areas were really not important to
us. It was nice to follow our route on the charts but I couldn't pronounce the names
of the towns or rivers anyway. I would carry the VFR GPS Charts but wouldn't bring
- Communication Radios- I have two 720's.
Therefore they go up to 135.975 which is all we use in the U.S. Twice during
the trip (in Europe) I was given a frequency beginning 136. The first time it
was a surprise. In Europe they use frequencies up to 136.975. It caused no
problem when I told them I didn't have the frequencies, but if you buy a new radio, buy
one with 760 channels instead of 720. They are available here.
- IFR or VFR- We did all of our flying IFR.
Across the North Atlantic, there is no choice. You must fly IFR above 6,000
feet, and you certainly don't want to cross the North Atlantic below that. In Europe
we found that we really didn't have a choice either. Each country has its own rules
and there are more restricted areas than you can believe. There is no such thing as
a straight line, and even with making all of the turns necessary to avoid restricted
areas, there are still instances when you would have to climb or descend to fly around,
over, or under this or that. IFR is easy, in that it's basically the same as in the
U.S. A friend in France (David Beechcroft-Kay) charted out a VFR course for us to
fly from the French-Spanish border, along the coast to southern Spain (which we ended up
not doing). We would have had to talk with 22 airport controllers when passing near
their airports. IFR was much easier, although it ain't free. There are enroute
charges which I will cover later.
- Altitude- In the U.S. we use the local
altimeter setting up to 18,000 feet and at and above that the standard altitude of 29.92
inches. Once you leave Canada, that changes. First of all, let me define the
three altitude settings you will get from controllers as well as on the ATIS of the
various airports in Europe. QNH is the altimeter setting we use in the U.S. below
18,000 feet. QNE is a setting of 29.92 inches which also indicates you are flying at
a Flight Level. QFE is often given but rarely used (at least by us). This is
the altimeter setting which would give you an indication of zero (0) feet when you are on
the runway. I have used that when flying a sailplane in the U.S., especially
when I am going to take off and land at the same airport. I just set the altimeter
to zero before I take off, and therefore it will indicate zero when I land. Keeping
track of altitudes is easier because the only real altitude you are interested in is your
altitude above the airport. In Europe you are often given both the QNH and the QFE
before you land. I guess some might change their altimeter setting during the
landing sequence so that the altimeter is at zero when you land. I'm accustomed to
looking at the altitude of the airport and fly accordingly. Forget QFE for the
moment. It is important to note however that flight levels begin at different
altitudes at and around different airports. The changeover point is known as
"transition level". When you take off (IFR) you are generally given the
transition altitude, when you change from QNH to QNE. The Jeppesen approach charts
have two indications, transition level (altitude on climb out at which you change to QNE
[29.92]) and transition altitude (when you change to QNH on decent). The altitudes
may be listed or may state "as assigned by ATC". PLEASE NOTE THAT THE
CHANGEOVER ALTITUDES ARE OFTEN DIFFERENT. You will NOT hear the words
"altimeter setting 30.02 inches". Instead you will hear something like,
"QNH 1013.3". Yep, I didn't mention, they give the altimeter setting in
hectopascals. The Jeppesen service has pages for conversions. Before
we left home, we made copies of the conversion pages, enlarged them to 8 by 10, and
laminated them in plastic. We each had a copy and would verify the
conversion prior to setting the altimeters. Of course this would not be necessary if
you had an altimeter that had both inches and hectopascals, or just the latter.
- Conversion Tables- In addition to the
conversion table mentioned in the previous paragraph, take a look at the conversion tables
in the Jeppesen book. You might want to make copies of other tables. For
example, we also copied the metric conversion for runway length. The Jeppesen
approach plates show the runway length in feet, however the Bottlang charts show the
length in meters.
- Class Airspace- We don't see much "Class
G" airspace in the U.S., but you sure do in Northern Canada as well as western and
central Europe and North Africa. What's the difference? Look it up. For
example, I was flying to Prunay Airport outside of Reims, France. I was on
instruments at FL 060 (6,000 feet). I had just passed the main airport in Reims
about 15 miles from Prunay. The reported ceiling at Prunay was about 2,000
feet. The controller said, "I see no IFR traffic below you. Change
frequency. Au Revoir"!! There we were, on instruments and not
controlled. CLASS G!! We just flew on and finally contacted
Prunay. In another instance, I requested a change in altitude in northern Scotland
and similarly in northern Canada. In both cases I was told, "You are in class
G airspace; altitude at your discretion". Actually, in these areas there
is normally a frequency (usually the last one you are on) that all pilots use to announce
where they are and where they are going. You usually do this about every 10 or 15
minutes, unless there is someone in your area. There really isn't much traffic so it
isn't much of a problem.
- The Route Across the North Atlantic- The
route from Goose Bay, Labrador to Narsarsuaq, Greenland (674 NM) then to Reykjavik,
Iceland (667 NM) to Wick, Scotland (637 NM) requires that you have High Frequency Radio on
board. You can rent the units. We flew further north to Iqaluit, Northwest
Territories which is about 650 miles further north than Goose. This shortened the
routes across the Atlantic. Iqaluit to Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland (west coast of
Greenland and further north than Narsarsuaq, it is above the Arctic Circle) is 485 NM.
Sondre Stromfjord to Kulusuk, Greenland (east coast of Greenland) is 337 NM.
Kulusuk to Reykjavik is 395 NM. You can then cut the leg to Scotland by flying from
Reykjavik to the Faroe Islands which is 415 NM and then the Faroes to Wick, Scotland - 250
NM. On this route it is not necessary to carry High Frequency Radio. To
avoid the HF radio all you have to do is fly Iqaluit to Sondre Stromfjord. In our
case, we really didn't have shorter legs, but we still didn't need the high freq. We
flew from Sondre Stromfjord to Reykjavik, skipping Kulusuk because it was fogged in.
(Actually the weather there wasn't too good on the way back so we skipped it again.)
We also skipped the Faroe Islands both ways. The weather there was lousy on the way
back, and on the way over the winds were favorable and it wasn't really necessary.
- Flight Training- We went to Nashua, New
Hampshire to spend a day with Ed Carlson. Ed has made about 300 or so crossings of
the North Atlantic and his guidance was invaluable for the crossing. By the time we
were finished with Ed, we felt very comfortable about the crossing. There was really
no training available for flying in Europe. We learned as we went,
and that is why we are trying to pass on as much information as possible on this
page. The AOPA in the U.S. really has no information about flying in Europe.
They have a package that is somewhat useful for the crossing, but it really isn't very
helpful other than warning you about a lot of stuff that is important, but you are looking
for more than that. Actually the AOPA was the one that suggested calling Ed Carlson.
- Crew Card- In our planning, we sent email to the
various AOPA organizations in Europe. We got some useful information. (You can
click on the email section at the bottom of the left page and read what we received.)
The most helpful came from Denmark. We received a booklet from them that
talked about a "Crew Card." It was suggested that I get one from the AOPA
organization in my country. I called the AOPA here and requested that my membership
be upgraded to a "Command Pilot", and that I would like to receive a "Crew
Card." It cost 6 bucks. I received a card which, of course, says
"Crew Card". It has room for a passport size photo, which I had taken and
glued on. It fits in a plastic holder with a clip for your shirt. It is
supposed to make you look official!! "Ha, ha",
you say? Well, it works. In Budapest they wanted my Crew Card number, NOT my
passport number. (The Crew Card number is, of course, the same as my AOPA
number.) In Lisbon, when passing through customs, I was asked the number of crew and
number of passengers. I told them 2 and 2. The customs agent looked at Sharon
critically and demanded, "...and where is your Crew
Card"? Sharon didn't have one, but she will next time.
- Uniforms- David Beechcroft-Kay suggested we
wear uniforms in Europe to make us look more official at airports. We wore jump
suits, and it worked as well as the Crew Cards. Some of the agents treated us as
some sort of important visiting aviators. I would suggest one would be more
comfortable in just flight crew shirts with epaulets and bars. We certainly would.
(Four stripes would be nice.)
- Weather reporting- We went up to see Ed
Carlson (recommended by AOPA) in New Hampshire for a briefing for the crossing of the
North Atlantic. He was very helpful and particularly so in
the area of weather. The METAR and TAF reports are good but you really need to see
the graphics of frontal activity and most importantly, winds aloft. These are
readily available in Canada and in Iqaluit, in northern Canada, you will get a very good
briefing. In Iqaluit, Canada, Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland, and Reykjavik, Iceland
we received very complete Dossiers. These are folders with
all of the necessary weather information you should need. Some of the airports in
Europe also prepared dossiers for us, and at the airports where this was not done, the
material was available for review. Some airports have a fax machine with a telephone
and you can call the appropriate weather facility; they fax you whatever you need.
By the way --- study the METAR and TAF formats. There
is no real translation software available overseas as there is in the U.S., which is what
lazy people like me use with DUATS. Fortunately, we reviewed a video tape, that
Sharon had received, with a good explanation of the new formats. We also had a
booklet from the FAA which had translations in it. This is the only format they use
outside of the U.S.. In addition, there are some abbreviations that are used in
Europe that we don't see here. For example, CAVOK -- (Ceiling and visibility
OK). I had a notebook computer with a modem with me and I used the internet for some
aviation weather. There were some pretty good sites on which the METAR and TAF
reports were available.
- Flight Plans- Learn the ICAO format if
possible. These are the flight plans that are used. We learned the easy way.
In the first stop in Canada, we were taken through the form line by line. It
was interesting that at one stop, we were told to use the OFFICIAL designation of "DCT"
when meaning direct. At another airport (in another
country) we were told never to use "DCT."
- Language Barrier?- Not really.
Especially in the air. We had a little difficulty understanding the ground
controller in Prague when taxiing out for take-off, but other than that, once we got into
the plane, everyone spoke English. There are two things I should point out.
First, there is a difference in syntax, but you get used to it. For example, they
usually don't say "stand by". Instead, "we call you back" is
common. Also, since flight levels start at different altitudes in different areas,
you must be careful not to confuse a flight level with a heading. For example
"report 060" could be confused with a heading, especially if the transmission is
not clear and the accent difficult to understand. That leads me to the second point.
The accent. At first I felt a little intimidated by asking controllers to
repeat what they said. I also had to ask them to phonetically spell intersections.
But then I felt a little less so when I heard Air France, British Air, American,
etc. asking the controllers to repeat and spell. I had a little better success later
on in the trip by speaking to controllers a little more slowly and with a little less
sound of self assurance. They tended to speak back to me a little more slowly.
This worked pretty well. In the U.S., after flying so many years, I try to
sound very professional in my transmissions. I think I get a little better service.
In Europe, I found it better to sound less self assured. There was an
instance of a combination of both problems. Upon landing in Marrakech, Morocco,
while rolling out on the runway the controller said something to me that we really
couldn't understand. After asking him to repeat it twice, we figured it out.
(It had to be for us since there wasn't another airplane, on or off the field.) He
had said, "Let me know when you have the airplane under control". (By
that time I was almost stopped on the runway.) He then responded by giving me a turn
onto the taxiway to parking. Apparently he wasn't supposed to give me a turn until I
announced that I "...had the plane under control".
- Starting up- At the first landing outside of
Canada, we found that the rules change. Across the North Atlantic, and through
Europe and North Africa, you don't start your engine(s) without permission. Your
initial transmission to ground or clearance delivery is usually something like "...
Templehof clearance (ground) this is Aztec N5930Y at General Aviation; request permission
to start engines.--- IFR to Prague". If your clearance is not ready, or
if there is some other kind of delay, they will often tell you to delay your start
up. This is usually indicated by "we call you back"!
- Tie Downs & Chocks- I brought a set of
aluminum chocks and a tie down kit. I used the chocks quite often and I would
recommend that anyone making this type of trip also bring a set. I never took the
tie down kit out of the bag. Remember, however, that we usually stopped at larger
airports and all had a hard surface for parking.
- Survival Equipment- We rented a life raft,
immersion suits, and portable ELT's from Ed Carlson in New Hampshire. We were gone
for seven weeks so it wouldn't have been much more expensive to purchase a life raft.
The immersion suits were ridiculous. They were supposedly for anyone from 5'
2" to 6' 2". We are both about 5' 4". They would have been
totally impossible to put on in an emergency and extremely difficult to put on at any
time. If you take a look at "page 1" you will see what I mean. We
also brought along 10,000 calories of emergency rations for each of us. Sharon made
up a mix of chocolate buds, peanuts and raisons. It was actually pretty good.
We had with us a camp stove that uses any kind of fuel, bottled water for emergency use,
some dried food that, when mixed with water, can be cooked, a water purifier, first
aid kit, life jackets, a Swiss Army knife, and various other equipment such as fishing
line, etc. that was packed in the life raft. Also on the suggested list was snare
wire to catch rabbits. We didn't bother with that since we felt there would not be
many rabbits in the North Atlantic, and we didn't see any while flying over the Greenland
Ice Cap. A very important item that should certainly be included in this category is
mosquito repellant. We brought some for ourselves and a spray to use around the
inside of the cabin door before opening it. This was important in Greenland, where
there are more mosquitoes than there are people, and the mosquitoes are really into
- Spare Parts- I guess the old rule probably
holds true. If you carry a spare, the original won't break, and vice-versa. We
carried a spare main tire and tube, nose tire and tube, post lights, landing light, two
oil filters, and alternator. We didn't need any of them (but they are in the hangar
and I'm sure we'll need each one sooner or later). We did lose the JPI engine
analyzer between Iceland and Scotland on the way over. We landed in Scotland on
Friday afternoon, called JPI in California, they expressed one to me, and it arrived on
Monday afternoon. Their service was great and since the unit was still under
warranty, the only charge was for the express shipment. They even told me to wait
until I got home (6 weeks later) to mail the broken unit back to them since it would be
substantially cheaper. On a personal note, I did bring a spare pair of eyeglasses.
- Clothing- Since we were going to be in cold
as well as hot climates, and weight was a consideration, we bought light weight cold
weather jackets from REI or Lands' End and most of our clothing from
"Travelsmith". This is a catalog company that sells a lot of wrinkle
resistant and easy to care for clothing, much of which has hidden zippered pockets for
passports, money, credit cards, etc. This gave us a feeling of comfort in places
(mainly Prague) where pickpocketing is popular.
- Driver's License- We obtained international
drivers' licenses from AAA prior to the trip. These are accepted in many, but not
all, of the places where you might rent a car. The main advantage is if you get
stopped and, for one reason or another, your driver's license is confiscated, you still
have your "real" one. To obtain one, if you are a member of AAA, just show
up at one of their offices, show them your driver's license, they will take your picture,
you pay a small amount, and they will give you your international license on the spot.
- Telephone hookups- In order to use my
notebook computer, I bought a whole set of adapter plugs from Magellan, a very good
catalog company. When I called them, they really knew their stuff. They also
sell some important safety equipment. For example, in some countries in Europe an
electrical signal is sent through the line at regular intervals. It has something to
do with their method of keeping track of phone usage. It can also disconnect your
data line and/or destroy your modem. They sell a connector that eliminates this
signal getting to your modem.
- Electricity- You should have the usual
compliment of plugs and converters. Magellan (see previous) has a good variety.
Their catalog also has a very good chart showing which plugs and telephone
converters are used in every country in the world.
- Internet Access- Some ISP's have Internet
access agreements around the world. CompuServe/AOL does, as does Netcom, my service
provider. In most cases, however, I called a number in the U.S. The connection
was excellent in every country. I had a problem with the phone line in Greenland on
the way back (but not on the way there). Other than that it was perfect.
- IFR Clearance- Across the North Atlantic,
this was pretty simple. In Europe, however, it was quite different. First of
all, every IFR flight plan gets sent to Brussels, Belgium. It then is sent back to
the AIS (Airport Information Service) office, or other office where the plan was
filed. You must file a flight plan at least one hour prior to takeoff. It is
then good for 30 minutes from the filed takeoff time. Brussels either accepts or
denies your plan. If denied, then you have to figure out why. In the beginning
we had some difficulty with this. For example, we would file, get in the plane, and
then find out the plan was denied. We would have to refile and wait another
hour. This is how we solved the problem. I would file the flight plan at the
appropriate office and then wait to see if it was accepted. That would usually take
about 15 minutes. If denied, I could make the necessary change(s), and again wait to
see if it was accepted. In the U.S. of course you can file anyway you want, and then
when you receive your clearance it could be changed. In Europe it just doesn't work
that way. They certainly may change your clearance, either before takeoff (maybe by
adding a SID) or in the air. But your plan must be accepted before all of this even
starts. A couple of times, making the change was a little difficult. For
example, in Ostende, Belgium I filed two flight plans. One from Ostende to Biggin
Hill, England, and another from Biggin Hill to Edinburgh, Scotland. The former was
accepted and the latter was rejected. I was told to file the second plan in Biggin
Hill. I wasn't told why. The most time consuming problem came in Lisbon,
Portugal. They people on the ground were very helpful but my flight plan was denied
from Lisbon to Toulouse, France. I asked why. I was told
"routing". I asked what routing would they like. They said it
doesn't work that way. I should file another routing. Actually there really
wasn't another route to take. I asked was there anything I could do. They
said, "go VFR". I explained that it was impossible. I begged and
they called Brussels to find out what routing they would like. I was given THE SAME
route only one of the airways had a different designation. Since the airways can
have not only more than one number, but more than one letter designation. I then
refiled the appropriate route and again it was denied. I begged, they called
for me again, and were told that the VOR that I used nearest Toulouse to transition to the
airport, could not be used. "You can't get there from there."
I learned. Look at the STAR or approach plate to see what fix is used to begin the
approach. Use that in your plan. Other than Lisbon, there were really no
other problems. I stopped using airways and used just the fixes along the
airways. That worked. I didn't have to worry about which airway designation to
- Controlled and uncontrolled fields- Controlled
fields --- that's easy. Same as the U.S. Uncontrolled is a little different.
They really aren't "uncontrolled". The "controller"
is not the fixed based operator. When handed off, from approach or FIR (Center) the
conversation with the "controller" at the field might go like this---
"N5930Y, say your position." "Report 20 miles South."
"The winds favor runway 09 (not 9 but 09)." (I respond obviously that I
will use runway 09.) "Report 1 mile left base." "Report turning
final." "Report on runway." "Report clearing
runway." I was then told where to park.
- Airplane and Pilot Documents- Take the
registration, Airworthiness Certificate, POH and airplane manual with you.
I also brought the 337's and airplane and engine logs. (I left
copies at home.) I brought copies of my log book, my license and medical. In
addition I had to bring my insurance documents. I bought the insurance from Ed
Carlson in New Hampshire. It was issued by Lloyds. Avemco and my insurance
carrier in the U.S. could not obtain coverage for the North Atlantic and Europe, let alone
Africa. Don't forget radio licenses. Although not required in
the U.S., you will need a pilot's radio license from the FCC as well as one for the
aircraft. We had two instances where the documents were required. In Lisbon,
Portugal, when our handling agent met us at the aircraft, he told us to bring in all
the aircraft and pilot documents, as well as logs and insurance papers. We did and
when I asked at the office if they wanted to see the documents, they said no. The
other instance was at Templehof Airport in Berlin. When leaving, I paid for fuel,
landing, parking, handling, etc.. I was asked (in the office) what engines I
have. I told them IO540C4B5. He looked up "Aztec" in his book and
agreed. He said that was good since an Aztec is not too noisy. Templehof is a
very noise sensitive airport. "Just show me your Aircraft Manual."
It was in the plane. The plane (as well as Sharon, Bill & Judy) was about 1/2
mile away. Since this was the day of the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the
Berlin Airlift, airport personnel were very busy and there was no transportation
available. If I walked to the plane to get the manual, by the time I got to the
plane, got back, paid, and got back to the plane, my IFR flight plan would have timed
out. The man was sympathetic but not yielding. He must see
the manual. I decided not to get it and therefore paid the "noise
fee" of a DC3. It cost me an extra $150 bucks.
- Navigation Instruments- We have two NAV's,
and an IFR approach approved Garmin 155 GPS driving an Argus 7000 moving map. We
bought (and Sharon maintained) a Lowrance portable GPS. All three had current
international databases installed. I added a JPI engine analyzer and fuel usage
instrument. There wasn't any room left on the panel so I removed the ADF. I
was told that with the GPS's and moving map it really wasn't needed. It
wasn't. The combination of the GPS and moving map was extremely helpful. It
was great to see the runways on the moving map as I approached new airports. Of
course it is just as helpful here in the U.S.
- Oxygen- We carried a Nelson oxygen system,
which was recommended by Bill Sandman. It worked perfectly. The only time we
used it was crossing the North Atlantic. I obtained, before we left, a connector to
adapt our tank to the foreign refilling systems. It didn't work at all. In
Iceland they connected together a couple of different fittings they had and filled the
tank easily. In Wick, Scotland, Andrew Bruce filled our tank. He had a box of
connectors he obtained in England for just such a purpose. The connectors we had
were useless. Since you need to refill only in Iceland or Wick, they will work it
out. If you feel you might refill elsewhere, I'd obtain the necessary connectors
before you leave the U.S.. I'd get them from England.
- Weather Enroute- We ran into some IFR here
and there, as expected. Requests for diversions around thunderstorms seen on our
weather radar were responded to quickly and diversions were always approved.
- Out of Radio Contact- If you take the route
we took, from Iqaluit, Canada, to Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland, to Reykjavik, Iceland, to
Wick, Scotland, at or below 18,000 feet, you may be out of radio contact for certain
periods. The dead spots are part of the way from Iqaluit to Sondre Stromfjord, and
for about an hour over the center of Greenland. For most of the rest of the way,
there were very few dead spots, and none between Reykjavik and Wick. When out of
radio contact, position reports (usually Lat, Lon) can easily be made by just calling in
the blind and asking for a relay, on the last frequency used or the new one assigned.
There was always someone available for the relay, and sometimes there was so much
radio traffic that you had to wait a couple of minutes to find some free air time to call
for the relay. The airlines were very helpful and friendly.
- Density Altitude- After 33 years of flying, I
had my first real experience with density altitude. I had
flown out of Mexico City, Denver, and other high altitude airports. (I was a little
too heavy when flying over Leadville, Colorado to try it.) This was different.
First some background information. As you may know, the Aztec engines are
fairly tightly cowled and, occasionally, in order to keep the temperatures down, you have
to fly with the cowl flaps in trail, or maybe even wide open. My lesson began
leaving Marrakech, Morocco. The temperature is around 115 degrees fahrenheit during
the day in the summer. I decided to take off about 7:00 AM. The temperature
was a little lower (about 100). The airport elevation is 1,535 feet but the runway
is 10,171 feet long and the surrounding terrain is flat. I filed for 8,000 to
Lisbon. The MEA (and MOCA) was 4,300 feet. I got to 6,000 feet, where the
density altitude was close to 9,000 feet. Well, I can certainly climb from 9,000
feet. The problem was the combination of density altitude and heat. In order
to climb from 9,000 I have to begin leaning the mixture. However I
couldn't do that. The engines were running hot due to the heat.
In order to keep the engine temperature in the green I had to keep the mixtures full rich
and the cowl flaps wide open. The plane just wouldn't go any higher. My Aztec
is not turbo charged so I can't solve the density altitude problem. After coming
home I took the plane to Mattatuck to have new, larger oil coolers installed. That
should help with the heat.
- Airframe Ice- The airplane was washed and
waxed before we left Philadelphia. The deice boots were treated and were smooth and
shiny. This made the application of Icex more effective. We applied the Ices
in Iqaluit before we left to cross the Atlantic, and in Scotland for the crossing on the
way home. The Icex worked well, reducing the amount of ice buildup during the few
times we were in icing conditions.