Every now and then you meet someone interesting that challenges your perspective. Such was the case recently with Darrell Freeman, the owner of a super-nice PC12. Darrell had a “bucket-list” dream of flying his family and friends to Egypt to see the pyramids, and I got to be part of the deal. Darrell flew with John Mariani (a veteran international pilot and flight instructor) on the flight from the USA to Egypt, and I got join the trip on the way home in Venice, Italy. I was super-excited about the trip because I got to fly the incredible PC12, and…well, Venice is not a bad place to start any trip!
For this article, some of the best work is the videos…if you skim the article, be sure to watch the videos because Darrell and I have some of the best discussions while flying!
I airlined to Venice and ended up with a free afternoon to take in the sights. Venice is as lovely as you’ve heard…beautifully designed buildings, lots of history, fantastic food…just a wonderful place that I’d like to see again soon.
On the morning of our departure I met Darrell, his wife, and a married couple that came along for the whole trip. We instantly hit it off. We had all of the normal frustrations when flying in Europe on our departure (VAT tax problems, exorbitant fees, high fuel prices, and “security issues”), but we ran the gauntlet and finally became airborne on the way to Scotland.
Darrell and I met telephonically prior to this ferry flight (I helped another customer purchase his super-nice Meridian that he had just prior to the PC12 purchase), but we had never met in person. So, we had plenty to talk about on the first leg, just getting better acquainted and talking about aviation. Plus, we had to develop a crew-coordination manner-of-business that would help us pilot the airplane as a team. We ended up with a good plan that we continued for the entire trip…I handled the radios/checklist and Darrell did the flying, while both of us accomplished the smaller items. It worked perfectly and we settled into a flying routine that any airline-military pilot would have appreciated as excellent CRM.
We landed at at Prestwick, Scotland (EGPK) and purchased some fuel. Darrell monitored the fueling while the rest of us hunted down the restroom. EGPK is an acceptable stop along the NAT, but there is very limited food. They had a bunch of snacky-items available, and we used those for lunch. It’s terribly hard to eat well along the NAT, and EGPK had only candy and cookies for us. I keep looking for one of the NAT airports to provide solid food, but I’ve yet to see it. A good take-away…if you fly the NAT, bring additional food to eat!
The flight from EGPK to Reykjavik, Iceland (BIRK) centered around our solving a fuel problem. It seems like problems always show up at the worst time, and our fuel problems revealed themselves right in the middle of the North Atlantic. Here’s a video that shows the problems…
When we landed in Reykjavik, we confirmed that there was some ice in the fuel, and we did not receive PRIST in Scotland. So, big lesson learned…make SURE you bring PRIST on a NAT trip! Why any FBO on the NAT would ever NOT sell PRIST is beyond me, but we were guilty of not checking properly. Both Darrell and I thought that we saw the appropriate labeling on the fuel truck, but we should have asked. Clearly, the PC12 needs PRIST, and we were fortunate to have diagnosed the problem accurately and then addressed the problem accurately on the flight.
The Freeman’s went into Reykjavik city for dinner and I went to a local Crossfit box that evening. Iceland is famous for its prowess in the Crossfit world, and I love to stop by to get a good workout and buy a t-shirt (crossfit people love a good shirt!). In the morning, we checked weather, loaded up, and departed for Narsarsuaq, Greenland (BGBW).
The weather in BGBW was forecast to be excellent, and I was looking forward to visiting that storied airport. As we came upon the eastern coast of Greenland, we checked the weather and BGBW and the visibility had gone down so that it had to be reported with RVR, probably just a local fog bank, but it was certainly not flyable. We immediately chose to divert to our alternate, Sondestrom, Greenland (BGSF). This added about 1.5 hours onto our trip, but we still landed with 2+ hours of reserve fuel. The PC12 is an amazing airplane!
We walked over to the airline terminal at BGSF to find some food, and ended up at the nice cafe. I challenged the others to try out the musk ox soup, and they did! I personally think musk ox soup is really good…a little gamey, but not bad at all. Others on the trip had something Greenlandic (one of the group had a musk ox burger), and all were fairly pleased with the meal.
Soon we were on our way to Goose Bay (CYYR). I always enjoy flying low up the fjord when leaving BGSF, and the weather allowed us to see the vastness of the Greenlandic views. It really is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The flight from BGSF to CYYR requires long times “in the radio dark”, meaning that you cannot talk to ATC at all. At first this troubled me on my first crossings, but now I sort of enjoy the time as it’s a good time to reflect, inventory your thoughts, and realize that there are times when you really are “all alone”, relying solely on the Lord to provide. There’s nothing like being half way across the Labrador Sea, looking at the chilly water below (with icebergs floating) to remind you of your frailty, isolation, and need for others. In this case, Darrell and I continued to enjoy chatting about business, life, plans for the future, and aviation.
The weather in Goose Bay (CYYR) generally sucked, with low clouds, rain, and cold temps (40F). We got a little ice on the descent, but nothing that scared the mighty PC12. We were all fairly tired from a long day of flying and the pillow became a welcome thought. But, someone mentioned bears. Somehow we ended up taking a taxi to the countryside to look for bears. It started out as a joke, but soon we were enthralled by the idea of finding a bear in the nature of Canada. The locals advised that we drive to the local garbage dump, and they said bears were frequently seen out there. While it’s not exactly “Canada nature”, we found the dump, but didn’t see any bears. Upon returning to the hotel, I was asleep within minutes. The long day meant that the sun came up early, and my body(which was dancing to the beat of the wrong circadian rhythm) popped up out of bed way to early. I had another long day ahead of me to return to the USA, and I was ready to get started.
The flight from CYYR to Bangor, Maine (KBGR) was routine. I’ve noticed a real sense when I return to my homeland…it’s either pride, familiarity, love, peace…or, maybe a combination of all. I’m sure everyone else who is from anywhere else has the same feeling when they return home after being abroad, but it is nice as an American to return to American soil. Bangor was particularly nice on this day with blue skies and 70 degree temps. I left the Freemans to get on a Texas-bound airliner while they continued the last leg of their trip to Tennessee without me. I remember this trip with much fondness…mainly because of the Freemans and their terrific hospitality, but also because the trip was in a terrific airplane through some of the coolest parts of the world.