I’ve been around N14EF for quite some time, having been part of the acquisition/sale of this fine airplane for the last 3 owners. It is a fine PT6-21 version with lots of time remaining on the engine, a nice Avidyne Avionics panel, and interior/exterior aesthetics that are gorgeous. I performed Buyer-Agent services for the newest owner, George Porchester from the UK, and he was ready to take his new ride back home.
With the prebuy inspection complete, George came to the USA to fly with me back to England. Our adventure started at KJSO (Cherokee County Airport). Being early May (2018), the weather is beginning to become warm in Texas, and I looked forward to the steadily cooler temperatures anticipated on this trip northbound.
We flew to Kansas for our first stop, then stopped in Kentucky for some fuel, and ended the first day at KDYL, a small but very busy GA airport next the picturesque, pleasant, and historically significant Doylestown, PA. We had a nice dinner with friends and ended the evening quite tired from the early start and long day.
We were ahead of schedule time-wise and decided to do some flight training in the Doylestown area on the morning of day-2, and then departed for CYYR, Goose Bay, Canada. As always, Shepherd Aero conducted all of the logistics required for the flight. We called CANPASS, notified EAPIS, and filled our belly with some pizza before departing. We enjoyed a 100kt tailwind for much of the flight from DYL to CYYR, and arrived in record time. For much of the flight there was a gray undercast, but the ground revealed itself when within 100 miles of Goose. The landing was uneventful and soon we were at the hotel/restaurant. The hotel and restaurant offerings at Goose Bay are mediocre at best, but it was still neat to be around this historical airfield. The rest of the evening was spend dealing with Jeppesen (ugh) trying to make sure we had proper GPS fills fo the rest of our trip.
We departed Goose Bay on Day-3 into a really cold (-6C) gusty wind. Snow was still all around Goose, which was a surprise for I thought it was going to be much warmer. Soon we were above the bumps down low and reached the smooth cold air in the flight levels. We checked our survival equipment as we came over the Labrador Sea.
The weather in Narsarsuaq (BGBW) always seems to be a real crap-shoot. I’ve been there when it is nice, but I’ve also been there when it is absolutely terrible. Today it was supposed to be acceptable, but marginal. With a scattered layer at 1700ft and a broken layer at 3500ft, the ceiling was going to be iffy, and there were strong gusty winds. I conferred with the pros at Shepherd Aero, George, and the forecast, and decided that it was a doable scenario, although probably not very comfortable. The strong winds were the biggest concern, since strong winds translate into turbulence around the rugged Greenland terrain, but they were supposed to be right down the runway.
As I should have anticipated, the weather in BGBW was much worse than forecast. Fortunately we caught sight of the ground and were able to make our way up up the Tunulliarfik Fjord into the Narsarsuaq Airport (BGBW). Bumpy, heavy rain, and an overall terrible ride translated into our taking no pictures (we were just too busy!). Greenland appeared to be still locked into winter with snow on all of the mountains and fewer icebergs than I imagined would be present. As I approached the runway the strong winds became problematic. There was a 25kt steady wind with gusts to over 40kts, and they were far more of a crosswind than a headwind. Earlier, the prediction was for the strong winds to be nearly right down the runway, but that was not the case when we landed. We crabbed heavily to stay on approach centerline and I landed with a lot of bank into the wind. The touchdown was far better than I thought it would be, and the ground roll was super short (big wind and uphill runway). I’ve literally never been happier to be on the ground in 30+ years of and 13,500+ hours of flying. I hope that strong statement conveys the tough conditions well enough.
After taxiing to the apron and going inside, we got several, “good landing” comments from several of the locals. We were the only airplane to come to Narsarsuaq that day (for everyone else was smarter than me), and many of the airport workers went up to the tower to watch us land. I should have never attempted Narsarsuaq on such a windy day. I hope to go to Narsarsuaq again, but when I do it’ll be VFR only with no big winds.
We departed Narsarsuaq uphill into the wind. Usually I’d not takeoff at Narsarsuaq uphill, but the wind was just too strong and I was flying the mighty JetPROP. We literally leaped off the runway and soon were climbing steadily in the bumpy air. At about 10,000ft we were over the terrain and the air became silky smooth. We then pointed the nose towards Iceland and gave a huge sigh of relief that Greenland was in our rearview mirror.
Just to underscore and emphasize…for those reading this that plan to go to Narsarsuaq someday, definitely do NOT consider going to Narsarsuaq unless the weather is acceptable. Although I’ve been there many times (probably 20+), this is the second time that I’ve been completely challenged as an aviator by unpredictable Narsarsuaq. Give this airport LOTS of respect. Many, many aviators have met their Maker trying to go to Narsarsuaq, and I could have been a statistic on this day too. I can honestly say that the Lord brought me through…for the challenge was greater than my ability. I should have gone to Sondestrom.
We enjoyed more tailwinds on the way to Iceland. I’ve always liked Iceland, and I looked forward to arriving this time too. George received clearance for the ILS to RWY 19, and expertly flew the approach to about 300 ft above the ground. We caught a quick view of Reykjavik as we made the approach, and soon were unloading our stuff to go to the hotel. The hotel at Reykjavik is right across the road from the airport, and it is very nice. I love the easy logistics and love the city of Reykjavik. It has a vibrant culture and the people are all very warm and inviting. After a super-nice, 5-course dinner we got back to the hotel and I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I woke up early on Day-4 and got a short workout before our flight. The wind was starting to blow and I wanted to get to Scotland. By now, George was becoming quite comfortable in the JetPROP, and I did not have to do much at all on the whole fight. Although only mild tailwinds on this leg, they were still tailwinds and I appreciated the quick flight. Scotland was bathed in sunlight and calm winds. It was literally the most beautiful day I’ve ever seen in Scotland. We saw the coast from over 30 miles away and really enjoyed seeing the lovely Scottish countryside as we made our approach into Wick (EGPC). George masterfully landed and soon I was heating up tea in the Far North FBO awaiting the expected administrative work to be accomplished. George drove us to the City of Wick and we ate at the Wickers World Restaurant, which I highly recommend. It is right on the bay, and there lots of neat maritime/fishing stuff to see in the area.
We decided to do some local flight training at the Wick Airport before launching on our last leg to Fairoaks Airport in London. The weather continued to be absolutely lovely and I got a rare view of most of England from FL270. The controllers were quite busy as we flew southward, but George was well-accustomed to their jargon. The short runway at Fairoaks (2,667ft) is daunting for an American pilot that is used to longer runways. But, the mighty JetPROP (and George’s good piloting) handled it easily. We taxied to parking thoroughly enjoying the magnificent weather. Soon George had me in London enjoying a wonderful dinner.
It was a fantastic ending to a fantastic trip. The weather in the UK contrasted starkly against the weather in Greenland, but otherwise the trip went flawlessly. N14EF performed perfectly on the entire trip, not once giving us a hint of trouble. That is a good testament to the ruggedness of the JetPROP for the North Atlantic can challenge any airplane. I look forward to my next trip, and appreciate George for allowing me to be a part of this adventure.