For some reason the flight over to Italy on the airliner affected me physiologically much more than normal. The Jet-lag was quite intense, at least much more than normal. I never do sleep well sitting up straight on an airliner and didn’t sleep very much on this flight at all. My biggest complaint on the trip over was that I had to change airports in England from Heathrow to Gatwick and had to take a drive for an additional hour. I did get to visit with a nice taxi driver on the way, but it was a pain to make that connection. I arrived in Verona, Italy tired and ready for a good night’s sleep. The hotel (Veronesi La Torre Hotel) was one of the best I’ve even experienced, probably on my top-five list world-wide, and the expense for the hotel was quite reasonable. However, sleep did not come to me easily that night…I got about 4-5 hours and then my body decided it was time to get up. After tossing and turning for a few hours, I popped up out of bed at 4am and started the day.
The King Air 200 was in Brescia, Italy, so I had a little traveling ahead of me as I was still in Verona. I got an airport shuttle to the train station and then a train to Brescia through some pretty countryside. I asked about 5 people at the train station to help me find the right train, but found no one who commanded both the English and Italian language, so I just guessed which train to get on. I picked one that was pointed in the right direction hoping for the best. I discovered after boarding the train that I got on the wrong train, but only because I paid for the “fast-pass” to Brescia and ended up on the one that stopped at each little town along the way. The taxi to the airport from the rain station cost nearly $50, but I arrived at the Brescia Airport on time.
I met Marco, the Italian who was to help me get the airplane, at the Brescia Airport We met at the airline terminal and had to go through security. He took me to an old WWII hangar that was a full 1/2 mile away from everything else. The doors would barely open and there was general filth everywhere.
My ride back to the USA was on the far side of the hangar completely covered in pigeon poop. This King Air had not moved in a long time and the pigeons were prolificly using it as their outhouse. It looked like a nice airplane, but you could hardly tell from the poop. I began a two-hour process of cleaning the airplane revealing that my suspicions were right…this was a nice aircraft!
Marco and I sprayed lots of water in an attempt to loosen the poop, but some of it just would not come off. We finally called our cleaning job “good enough” and awaited the DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative) to arrive and sign off the ferry permit. The DAR came and looked over the airplane, and with a few cautions based on his previous experiences, signed the airplane off for flight.
Marco and I then ate lunch in the airline terminal. It was interesting to notice while in the terminal that there were absolutely no passengers. Not a single airliner came in the entire time! I asked Marco about it and he told me that there was no longer any airline service into Brescia, but the entirety of the workers were still working. Everyone was there including security, food service, administration, refueling, parking attendants…everyone! This brought on a long discussion of the economics seen in Italy. It seems that Italy has become quite beaurocratic and the government runs just about everything. All of the jobs at the airport have rules which prohibit the firing of anyone (unions are prolific), so everyone shows up to work each day with nothing to do. It was a sad state of affairs, and they all knew it. I paid for “one month’s hangar rent” at the rate of $2,600 and when I went to pay for my fuel, the cost was $12/gallon. These exorbitant fees were to “help defray” the costs of running an airport. They had set up taxing conditions which were causing the death of the airport! Remember the old story of the “goose and the golden egg”…Italy is killing the goose! It was a perfect example of a dying economy due to horrible governmental practices. Italy is becoming less and less capitalistic, and I am sad to see it happening. Marco was too, but there was little he could do about it. As I see America moving more and more towards a big-government economy, I am scared. All it would take is one trip to anywhere else in the world to see the ramifications of government-run operations and people in America would revolt against the government running anything they hold dear. When Americans think of Italy, we don’t think of a socialist nation, but I am telling you that Italy is moving in that direction. I hope we don’t follow in their footsteps.
Back to the ferry pilot story…I finally got my paperwork and got into the airplane around 5pm. The King Air had not flown in nearly a year and a half, but it really did perform well. Here’s a link to the route of this flight. The GPS gave me all sorts of grief during the first hour, which made navigation a real challenge, but the engines ran beautifully, and that was my major concern. The weather was VFR and the Italian Alps drew nearer as the beautiful Italian landscape flowed underneath me. As I came upon the Alps, the weather started to get cloudy and soon I was on top of an undercast. The flight was smooth and I was in good spirits as I flew to Frankfurt-Hahn, Germany. I wanted to stop on the mainland before progressing over the North Atlantic to check the airplane out just to make sure everything was OK. Also, I wanted to visit Staton, one of best friends from my active-duty military days.
We drove through the beautiful German countryside in Staton’s really nice BMW and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Staton and I had a super dinner and I got a good nights sleep (finally). Germany in the summer is one of the loveliest places in the world. Staton dropped me off at the airport the next morning and soon I was airborne for Scotland. I got at least 8 re-routes from ATC on the route from Germany to Scotland (be sure to see my route of flight). Those turns you see on my route were not for weather at all…only because ATC could not make up their minds! I had wanted to go to Wick, Scotland (EGPC), but the weather was just horrible up there with low ceilings and poor visibility. I ended up diverting to Prestwick, Scotland (EGPK). This was a good choice. The folks at Greer Aviation helped me out. The best thing at Greer’s is “Jacob’s Orange Club” chocolate candy bars. I was absolutely addicted with one bite! I ate about 6 or 7 bars and they even gave me a few on the way out the door. Definitely try them if you ever get the chance.
Within an hour I was airborne for Iceland. My HF radio did not work properly at all, so I had to divert to a more northerly route to RATSU before pointing the nose toward Iceland. But, the King Air was performing perfectly and the winds were light. I flew at FL280 and the engines sipped the gas at high altitude.
The flight was rather unremarkable except that I got a good view of the islands that make up the northern coast of Scotland, and they are really beautiful. The weather in that part of the world does not always allow this view, so I was glad to see it. Iceland came into view about 100 miles away and I knew the weather was going to be good for this portion of the trip. There were clouds around Iceland, but I did get plenty of glimpses of the ground. As I made the approach into Keflavik, I felt right at home. I really like Iceland.
The guys as South Air (FBO at Keflavik) took care of me and I was soon on my way to the Northern Lights Hotel. I’ve always wanted to go to the “Blue Lagoon”, a bathing pool of geo-thermal heated water, which is a next door to the Northern Lights Hotel. I had high hopes for this experience, but it turned out to be a very expensive ($50) salt-water swimming pool with WAY too many fat, old people. I have no problem with being fat or old or even being fat and old, but there were hundreds of fat old people there seeking the supposed fountain of youth available in those waters. I found the water to be dirty, the bath house filthy, and I’m sorry I went to this tourist trap. Afterwards, I did that which I really wanted to do and went to the little fishing village of Grindavik and had a great time. I mixed with the locals, found some great scenes, and had a nice walk (4km) back to the hotel.
By the time I reached the hotel, it was 10pm and the sun was still high in the sky. It was weird to experience the continual sun, and it can easily convince a person to stay up late. I went to bed at 11pm with the window shades pulled down tightly.
The flight from Keflavik to Narsarsuaq, Greenland was about as expected. I climbed out in the powerful King Air and was soon climbing through an undercast and I never saw the earth again until very near the Greenland shore.
The forecast VFR weather at Narsarsuaq had deteriorated to marginal VFR, and I chose to fly the infamous NDB approach. It worked out well for today’s weather, but it absolutely would not have with much lower of a ceiling. The scenery below me as I made my approach to landing is simply stunning.
Large mountains (with a little green), icebergs, blue water, and the beautiful slopes patch of concrete that allowed me access.
The landing was uneventful and I quickly jumped out of the King Air to visit with a PA-46 pilot that was making his maiden voyage in his new-to-him airplane. It was really nice and he looked as if he were having a good time. We chatted for about 10 minutes and met a few other pilots that all wanted to know my perspective of the weather eastward. I reassured them it was benign and they soon thereafter took off on their adventure.
The flight operations at Narsarsuaq is very professional. It has an older-military feel to the building with briefing tables, maps, and military-unit stickers everywhere. I got a good brief of the weather, filed my CANPASS, got a “sausage” (a local hotdog with really good bread) from the small dining area, and soon was on my way. With the marginal weather, I decided to fly the fjord for a while, and was really glad I did.
The wind was calm, the water blue, and the icebergs in the water were beautiful. Once I got to a good spot to climb, I gave full power to the mighty King Air and had more than 2,000fpm pegged all the way through 20,000 MSL. At 10,000MSL, the sky gave way to a brilliant clear with a sunglass-requiring view. I crossed 59N50W and experienced radio silence all the way to LOACH (the next reporting point near Canada. The sight of land is always welcome. Canada began to fill the front window and soon thereafter I began a descent Goose Bay. There’s lots of water around Goose Bay, but this year there has been a drought. Several fires had scorched paths through the woods, looking much like East Texas in 2011, the year of a really severe drought near my hometown. When I landed, they parked me next to two really cool looking fire-fighting airplanes.
I had originally planned to remain overnight in Goose Bay, but the sun was high in the sky and I was moving westward, so I picked up daylight with each passing minute. So, I decided to progress on to Bangor. The flight to Bangor was unremarkable, except that the entire landscape was blocked by an undercast, and the sun was blaring right in the cockpit. It was one of those flights where the brilliance was overwhelming, even with a good pair of sunglasses. As I crossed the US border the clouds diminished and I made a landing over the Penobscot River on Runway 33. I was a little worried about my US Customs visit, for no other reason than it is always a little unnerving to know someone with immense power to influence me negatively is looking at me closely. It turned out that I had filled out my EAPIS with the wrong tail number, having put N727RA instead of N627RA, and that caught the attention of the customs agent, but otherwise is was a really benign visit and I was comfortably into the US.
Even though the sun was still high in the sky, I had been flying for more than 7 hours and I knew there was no way I was going to make it home that night, so I decided to call it a day and see the City of Bangor. Bangor has a really nice downtown area. They had a small “farmers market” with locals selling items they had either made or grown. I bought a bunch of stuff for my wife and kids and then had a nice dinner. I’ll definitely go back to Bangor again in the future for a vacation. I hit the bed hard and got a full 7.5 hours of sleep. I had a little less than 5 hours of flying to be home, and get-home-itis was setting in fast.
The flight to Texas from Bangor is quite far, and I was not sure that the King Air would do it. I planned to stop enroute to fuel both myself and the airplane, but once I did the inflight calculations with actual conditions, the King Air will make that flight with no troubles at all.
The funniest part of the story…when I got back, Staton notified me that I took off from Germany without paying the landing fee. So, Staton got stiffed for about $100 as the FBO . I’ll make it up to him…maybe!
It has been a wonderful trip. I look forward to doing it again soon.