Ryne is a CFII/MEI that flies King Air’s, Malibu’s, and a whole bunch of other airplanes. As my right-hand man, I thought the experience of an International Ferry Flight from the Middle East to North America via the North Atlantic would be a huge confidence-booster. It was not only a confidence booster, but it also allowed him to grow by leaps and bounds as an aviator. Here’s his report on the experience…
When Joe first told me that I might get the chance to bring a King Air back to the USA from the Middle East, I was a little doubtful. My doubt didn’t stem from a lack of trust in Joe, rather, it was the ever-changing world of aviation. After several scheduling changes, Joe and I were set to fly together to pick up the bird. Joe and I had decided to dress the pilot part to make it easier to get through customs in Oman. We both dug our pilot shirts complete with shoulder-board stripes out of the back of our closets and dawned the uniform. I knew instantly when I arrived wearing Captain stripes that we would have to switch epaulets. Joe, being the fun loving joker that he is, thought it was funny for him to wear the first officer stripes for a while and tell anyone who asked a question to talk to the captain (me), so he could see me stumble. We arrived in Dallas around 1530 for our flight at 1730. Getting through security and getting our boarding passes wasn’t too terrible. I’ve definitely had way worse experiences. Once we were in, we decided to go to the gate and see if we could talk our way into upgrading to business or first class. The ladies working the ticket counter were not in the cheeriest of moods so our efforts were to no avail. While waiting on our flight, we walked around a bit to see the sites. It was a fun experience to get glances from people and kids as they pointed and said, “wow mommy look, the pilot.”
After climbing on board the B777 headed to Paris, the whole deal really started to set it. I was about to fly half way around the world to pick up an airplane and bring it back to the USA. I’m sure the guy sitting by me probably thought I was just a smiling idiot as I sat in my seat as giddy as a school girl. The flight from Dallas to Paris was scheduled to take over 8 hours.
Joe had told me that I probably needed to sleep on this flight to make sure I wasn’t hit with jet lag. We were to land in Paris at around 9 am so it made sense for me to sleep on this flight. The only problem was that I was way too excited. I hadn’t been on an airliner in a while, so getting to sit and watch movies and get doted on seemed awesome. After they served dinner and I had watched a movie, I decided to at least try to sleep. It was hard because the chair leaned back just enough to be uncomfortable and the guy sitting next to me moved around a lot and kept elbowing me. The rest of the flight was rather uneventful. I got about 4 hours of sleep which was less than I had hoped, but I was beginning to learn that such is life for a ferry pilot.
Paris was interesting. We had to make a mad dash to catch our connection flight and of course we had to go through security again. While in line waiting on my free physical, I realized that I didn’t have a boarding pass for the next leg. Joe had got his in Dallas, but the printer had jammed and the lady said I’d be fine without it. Standing in the security line, I didn’t feel like it would be fine but when it was my turn I walked up and handed the agent my passport and old boarding pass. She checked the passport and scanned my pass. Without blinking an eye, she handed me back my boarding pass and motioned for the next person to step forward. I was relieved. We got over to the gate on time and got the remaining boarding passes printed out.
The next leg was Paris to Bahrain on Gulf Coast Airlines. Everyone was very friendly. We were instantly moved to the front of economy class for more leg room (clearly the uniforms were paying off!). This leg and the next we were supposed to stay awake so we would be tired when we got to the hotel that night. I tried to read but that made me sleepy. I started watching a couple of movies and that helped pass the time while staying up. We landed with plenty of time before our last leg to Muscat, so we looked around for a bit. The airport was very interesting. Lots of perfume, suits, and candy. The coolest part was they had a Maserati and an Audi A8 sitting on display waiting to be raffled off. The raffle tickets were too expensive so I elected out of that. The flight from Bahrain to Muscat was a little different. The people weren’t as friendly and we got stuck in the back (next time we’ll have to wear captain hats.)
We finally made it to Muscat. It was late and we were both tired. However, Joe wanted to get to the customs counter as soon as possible. In his past experiences, if you take your time getting to the customs desk, you can wait forever. We hurried and it paid off. We were close to first in line, which made Joe very happy. We grabbed a taxi and headed to the hotel. We were staying at the fabulous Golden Tulip Hotel. Joe and I each got a suite, we were living it up. The rooms were great and it also had a super view. The next morning we met up with the pilots that flew the airplane into Muscat from India for breakfast. They were nice and helped show us the FMS (flight management system.)
Finally we were on our way. I pulled onto the runway and pushed the throttles forward. She took off with ease. The FMS was a little quirky to deal with, even though our friends had shown us what to do. We got the FMS under control and headed to Messina. The approach into Messina was interesting. ATC left us way high until we were very close. They gave me vectors for the ILS which I let the autopilot fly. The autopilot didn’t do a very good job over maintaining localizer or glide slope. It kept overcorrecting. I’ve had first week instrument students who could fly an approach better than it did. I’m glad I got to see the approach in Vmc conditions to see how far off it was actually flying. My landing was fine, but we were instantly in a rush because our oil temperature shot up almost as soon as we touched down.
Waiting for fuel in Messina was terrible. It was hot and we were running behind schedule. When the fueler finally came, he was old and slow. He kept complaining about the weight of the hose so I helped him pull it around to get the ball rolling. When he was finally done, he had over-filled one of the aux tanks so much that it was spilling out of the vent tube. He then informed me that it was my fault for not telling him the airplane would do that. I apologized to him for not informing him. Thankfully before I got any more of a lecture from him, Joe walked up ready to go. We needed to go fast because we were already behind schedule. Now listen up kids because this is where we made mistakes. I glazed over the before start checklist thinking I would catch everything. Well, I didn’t, and had left the engine anti-ice switches on. These switches divert power to the intake to prevent ice from building up. However, when starting engines, they need all the power they can get. When we started up the engines, we knew instantly that something was wrong. The ITT’s were hovering dangerously close to redline, but it didn’t sound like the engine was making power. Also our engine oil temp started to rise rapidly again. What do you do in a situation like that? Single pilot, you shut down and check everything. Flying dual in Saudi Arabia, there were more hands to recheck checklists. Once we had run through the checklist, we found what had caused the problem. The engine anti-ice being on, coupled with the ridiculous ramp temperatures (anywhere from 107-117 degrees Fahrenheit) caused conditions similar to a compressor stall. The engines simply weren’t getting enough air to keep running properly. Moral of the story….DO YOUR CHECKLISTS! I got the engine anti-ice turned off and the engines began to act correctly.
We taxied out quick to get some airflow into the engines. The airplane took off like a pig. After rotation, I had to maintain about a 300fpm climb to keep from getting too slow. Once we had cleared the mountains, everything seemed to calm down quite a bit. This next part of the flight was extremely cool for me as a Christian because we got a chance to fly over the Red Sea. Looking at the ocean and thinking about God physically splitting it so the Israelites could make it through really rocked my world. What an awesome God we serve. The approach into Egypt was pretty nice. We were left high again but in a King Air I’m learning its not too hard to get slowed down after pointing the nose over. When we landed in Egypt, Joe told me I’d really enjoy all the “amenities” in Egypt (with a smile on his face that I should have picked up on sooner.) We got out and there were about 6 guys standing around not really doing anything. One gentlemen came forward to shake our hands and welcome us (every handshake I got from a Middle Easterner was a limp fish). He was apparently the one in charge. We told him our fuel order and then sat back and watched the show. The man in charge gave out some directions and nobody really did anything. Finally another guy drove up in the fuel truck and we showed him which tank to fill first. This was still with 6 guys just standing there really doing nothing. Then, Joe told me I needed to see the facilities and smiled some more. The guy in charge had to clear it with the soldiers on guard but we got clearance to pee. We walked over to the bathrooms and I realized that Joe thinks he’s a comedian. The bathrooms were terrible. There weren’t any lights, the handles were missing from the toilets, and there aren’t any words in the English language to describe how band it smelt in there. As we were walking back to the plane, Joe told me how the guys who were just standing around were charging us for different “services”. One guy was there to operate a fire extinguisher if needed (which he didn’t have anywhere near him). Another guy was supposed to hold the ladder for fuel. Somebody else was there to get bags. One guy drove up in a van just in case we needed it. All of these “services” that we didn’t want or use cost us over $1000! This is why aviation is dying in other countries. The governments are trying to tax everything.
After we got fuel, we took off as soon as we could. We didn’t want to get charged any more than we already had. Climbing out of Egypt was very beautiful. Most of the population is established along the coast, so you could really tell where the edge of the water started. Flying along out of Egypt was so beautiful because we were trying to catch the sun to no avail. The world below us was dark with an inch of orange separating us from space. Crete was our final destination for this leg. It crept up on us quickly because we had input the incorrect identifier in the FMS. However, it was wonderful landing in a country where most of the people spoke descent English. The agent that met us on the ramp was a feisty one. She brought us into the the terminal pronouncing that people needed to move out of our way. When we got to customs, she had us get our passports out and when somebody else motioned us towards the metal detectors, she scolded them and brought us around them. Once she gave us instructions for the next day, she sent us on our way. We found a taxi and headed to the Hotel Sophia. The hotel was nice. Joe and I shared a room but it was very clean and we were tired and hungry so we didn’t care too much. We found our way down to the hotel cafe and began talking with the waitress about what we should have to eat. We asked her what she would have if she were to come to that cafe only one time in her life. She suggested the kabobs and boy were we glad she did. They were amazing. It was basically some small beef sausages in a tomato sauce with rice and yogurt.
In the morning I woke up very refreshed. We went down to the hotel cafe and had a nice breakfast. We got to the airport and began the hassle of getting to our airplane. I’m beginning to see a trend here. The clearances and fueling took forever. Finally, we took off and headed straight over the water to Croatia. For this leg we had perfect weather and beautiful skies. I should have known that trouble was about to come knocking. We land Dubrovnik, Croatia to a busy little airport nestled in on the coast. While Joe went to take care of paperwork, I stayed to help fuel. When Joe was done he came back and gave the fuelers his card to pay. The card didn’t work. We tried numerous times with no success. We were all getting very frustrated. Joe finally pulled out some cash so we could get going. We wanted to use the card as much as possible to conserve our precious cash-on-hand so we hoped that the card would work at the next place.
We headed off to the north towards Luxembourg. This leg of the trip wasn’t as sunny, but the countryside was green and beautiful. We passed right over Venice which was very cool. Even from an altitude of 26,000ft you could still see all the waterways through town. Coming down into Luxembourg, we hit our first real weather. We shot an ILS through some shafts of rain. By the time we landed, it was all soggy and gray but Joe insisted Luxembourg was an extremely beautiful place despite the rainy weather. We did the same routine in Luxembourg…I helped fuel and Joe went to do paperwork. As soon as Joe left the airplane, it started raining. Thankfully, I had brought a jacket. I helped the fueler so it would go fast (I didn’t feel like catching pneumonia in the middle of the trip). When we had finished, a car from the FBO came over and drove me to the FBO Building. I walked in to see a flustered German lady. She then informed me “my captain” hadn’t paid yet because the card wouldn’t work. The payment fun started up all over again! I found Joe in the lounge talking with his card rep. To make a long story short, the card didn’t work no matter what the card rep did or how many tries we made with the credit card machine. The German lady behind the desk was almost in tears. So we thought this would be a payment emergency that we would have to use our precious cash reserve. We pulled out the cash to pay and were then told they don’t take American dollars. I began to think that we would never get out of there. Joe convinced them to make a copy his card and try to run it later. They agreed and we were finally able to continue on.
Taking off out of Luxembourg was again dreary but beautiful. We climbed quickly in the cooler European air (as compared to temperatures out of Saudi Arabia). Our next stop was Wick, Scotland. The approach was like in a movie. We dropped below a cloud layer and there was the coast sticking up out of the ocean. Nothing but green fields. Joe pointed out several castles that were nearby, one of which he had stayed in on his last trip. We landed just before the tower closed and were worried that we wouldn’t be able to get clearance to leave. The tower assured us that (as a crew-only airplane) that if we departed VFR, we would be able to leave with no problem and contact Scottish Control on the climb-out. Parking on ramp, Joe and I instantly started quoting Braveheart. The gentlemen who was working had stayed late (just for us) which was greatly appreciated. As he brought the fuel truck around, a rain cloud started to work its magic and sprinkle on us. I (of course) had my jacket and helped the fueler. Joe did not so I tried to tell him to stay in the FBO or the airplane, but he exclaimed that he did cross-fit and he could handle it. Second lesson, always bring a jacket. Once we got fueled, we said goodbye and headed off towards Iceland.
The leg to Iceland was very cool because we were chasing the sun. It was definitely the longest sunset I’d ever seen. We were high over the cloud layer so it looked almost like we were flying over the arctic. It was very cold along this part, especially for Joe (since he didn’t have a jacket) so we cranked up the heat. As we were tracking along our course Joe notices that our FMS was 25 degrees off from our compass. It showed that we were still on the course but our headings weren’t aligned. We started to get a little worried that we weren’t heading the correct way. We informed ATC of the dilemma and asked for headings as we were beginning our descent. We then realized that both of our VSI’s were reading incorrectly. I put in what I thought was about a 1000 fpm rate of descent and I got a climb reading of about 200 fpm. This increased our awareness of the fact that we needed to get on the ground soon and figure out the problem. The approach to the Keflavik Airport was tricky as we had a couple of inoperative instruments. Joe flew the approach as many of the left-seat instruments were out of commission. I ran checklists and worked radios. At about 1000 feet above the ground we started to see land and gradually the runway environment. We landed with no troubles and taxied to park for a good nights rest.
I enjoyed staying at the hotel in Iceland. The rooms were clean and the beds were soft. The next morning we woke and had a nice breakfast in the hotel lobby. I’ve learned that most places overseas that offer breakfast at the hotel are much nicer than typical hotels in the USA. After breakfast we tried to go find a store for Joe to get a jacket. It was in the upper 30’s and already sprinkling. We returned to the hotel after having no luck. When our ride showed up, we asked if he knew of a store where Joe could get a Jacket. He did know of a store that carried clothing and took us there. We walked in and found several options. All were expensive but it was freezing so Joe had to get one. Again, lesson learned…always bring a jacket. When we got to the airport we looked around at the different jets and other airplanes. We passed one nice jet and the driver told us that it was Yoko Ono’s. I thought that was cool. When we got to the airplane, Joe went to do paperwork and I helped the fueler. Of course, as soon as Joe left the airplane, it started raining again! What a trip!
The next leg was interesting. We would be going from Keflavik, Iceland to Iqaluit, Canada. With the forecast winds we had elected to overfly Greenland. Flying along I did several calculations as the winds changed to make sure we would make it. There were a couple of times that the winds picked up and we thought about turning back for Greenland, but we ended up with a good tailwind and made it safely to Iqaluit. When we got to the ramp and shut down, the Border Patrol agents were there to say hello and ask us some questions. They were both nice and professional. This was the easiest fuel stop because they didn’t require anyone to stay with the airplane and Travis Holland had taken care of all the payment paperwork (thanks Travis!). The takeoff from Iqaluit was breathtaking. The landscape was simply rugged terrain and crystal clear lakes, none of which were man made.
The next stop was Le Grande Rivere. This location was surrounded now by forest and trees. We got below the cloud layer and we were able to see all the beauty that surrounded the airport. When we landed, a gentlemen came up right away to see if we needed anything. He called the fuel truck for us and showed us where we could get something to eat. I went out to talk to the fueler and Joe stayed inside to do paperwork. This time it didn’t rain, but for some reason the fueler was in a cruddy mood. I asked him to fill the outer tanks full and the aux tanks about an inch below the lip. He told me he couldn’t do this and that he needed to know an exact amount in liters. Unfortunately, I’m a little rusty on my metric ratios, so I had no idea what to tell him. Luckily Joe came over and helped me out. He basically told him a number and stood over him and told him to stop when he got to the level we wanted.