Turbo-Beaver Ferry Flight
Travel Dialogue Continued

Reykjavik Iceland: Our Fifth Destination Fuel Stop

Klaus and I spent three very luxurious nights in the expensive Skeen Duel Hotel, waiting for our custom made immersion suits to be tailored, the avionics to be fixed, and for the ferry tank fittings to be finished. The Bristow engineer brought us to an immersion suit factory where we were fitted for a perfect airtight fit. Both of our suits had names and name tags on them from "previous owners." Somehow, the idea of not knowing what happened to the other guys who used to own these suits tickled our curiosity, but no one in the factory would own up.
The avionics were fixed like magic, but the fuel tank fittings were going to be a problem. The Chief Engineer himself worked on this one. He led me through the underground labyrinth of the North Sea aircraft parts retrieval complex, but to no avail. We could not find a single certified aircraft part that would fit. He was ready to give up, but I talked him into the calipers and lathe trick. Make the damn thing. The Chief Engineer of the famous Bristow Helicopters company balked for a moment, and then fell to the task. Once he started there was no stopping him. He fabricated the perfect part. Except, well, it was not certified. He would install it on condition that "he could not sign it out, and I would have to fly with it at my own risk." Fair enough. We installed it immediately.
The next day I chose to forgo the fuel transfer test with the knowledge that the hole was bigger than before and therefore it must work better. Bigger hole more fuel. The logic worked and the fuel system worked fine. Klaus and I had fueled the aircraft, donned our suits, packed our crackers and juice, and climbed into the cockpit. As we were required to fly above the freezing level at times I wore my brand new pair of Kodiak work boots. They were a beautiful gortex lined leather boot that fit like a glove over the booties of my immersion suit. The problem was that I had never flown the Turbo-Beaver with work boots on.
As we called for taxi the air traffic controller warned me of a 30knt 60degree crosswind. The cold north winds were blowing on a clear blue sky day. The white cumulous clouds swirled in over the mountains showing the tumbling force of the ensuing leeward turbulence. I lined up on the centerline with a determination to leave despite the strong gusty winds. Even with the 55kt headwinds we estimated reaching our destination of Reykjavik in plenty of time and with enough fuel. It was only an 9 hour jaunt.
I pushed the throttle full ahead and the available 550hp wound up to fly. Naturally, the wind was from the left, and with the torque and the prop wash and the p factor and the gyroscopic effect, and with all that combined the beaver veered dangerously to the left as I raised the tail to accelerate. I slammed on full right rudder, but the boots were too big. My right foot caught in the well and I had to jam and jam again to force my foot into the well to push the inaccessible rudder.
If I had pulled the power I would have simply lost any rudder control I had and gone nose over into the rough grass fields to the left. So I readjusted the power, jammed the rudder one last time and took off virtually across the runway. Luckily it was a wide runway. Once airborne, I dropped the left wing and flew her into the wind. All the tower said was, "that's an interesting take off technique." Yeah, I save that one for when I have an audience.

Faeroe Islands
From our take-off point we diverted slightly east
of track for the security of seeing the Faroe Islands.

As we climbed out we stayed well out of the lee wind turbulence from any obstacles, but were soon high enough to level out in clear smooth air. Klaus and I crossed the North coast of Scotland, and headed out over the Atlantic. Until then we had some confidence in our survival immersion suits and the inflatable raft stashed between us. After seeing the seething, frothing, confused waters below us, whipped up by 55knt winds, we changed our perspective. We figured our only hope, if we were to go down, would be to remain in radio contact and transmit our GPS co-ordinates.
Despite our incredible headwinds we made headway, and the Faroe Islands came into view soon enough. The stark steep shoreline and the rugged geography made us wonder how anyone could survive there, but the hillsides were green and the harbors were well protected making it a tenable but tenuous place to inhabit. We were mostly concerned about looking for a runway or landing area if we had to return. The prospects did not look good.
As we passed the half way point, technically not the point of no return because we had lots of fuel to return if required, we contacted Reykjavik and called our position. Their weather report was not good with freezing drizzle and IFR minimums, but the alternate was better so we continued. Considering I had not shot an approach in almost a year, technically on my last check ride, I was not thrilled.

Atlantic Crossing
We hit land within sight of Heimaey Volcano and Hecla Mt., but freezing
drizzle keeps us vigilant on our approach over the North Atlantic.

Eventually, through the light drizzle and mist we could make out the big island, with an outline of mountains and glaciers. Pireps said the freezing drizzle was just above the MEA, so we elected to stay at the minimum altitude and continue direct over the lower part of the range rather than fly around the coast.

Atlantic Crossing
The visibility is poor in the rain and fog, but we can make out the glaciers
and black sand beaches the island is famous for.

Despite the cold sounding name of the island, we saw lots of green farms lined up along the black volcanic sand beaches. The living still looked isolated and forlorn, like something out of an Emily Bronte novel. Further inland, cold and foreboding in the mist and dim light, I can see the barren interior spotted with wisps of geyser steam rising from the rocks. I can see why the Americans chose this area to test the moon vehicles and train the astronauts before the first moon landing. Here and in Sudbury.

Joining others.
Plenty of others have made the crossing, but we were thrilled
to make the first transoceanic leg safely.

The approach over the ocean into Iceland was down to absolute minimums, but with only ocean right up to the threshold, I could hold her right down to the wave tops to make it in. One lady ferry pilot, however, did that one time and flew her light twin right into the frigid waters. She survived, but injured her back severely. After landing we asked the refuelers where the hotel was, and they laughed and pointed. The hotel paralleled the runway and we only had to walk, or waddle in our immersion suits, over to the hotel entrance. Before heading over, I invited the Twin Otter crew of the British Antarctic Survey Expedition to join us later for dinner and drinks.

More planes!
After a couple of pictures we walk to the hotel,
where we are greeted by a young blond girl serving salmon.
Sorry no picture of her, just more airplanes.

Inside the hotel was the most wonderful image of the island's heritage. There were two very pretty very blonde and very blue eyed young hostesses serving out samples of the island's famous fresh salmon with creme and capers. The girls were thrilled to serve Klaus and myself extra large helpings of the treat, much to the chagrin of the American tourists who had just flown in on a high dollar tour package. One old bag from upstate New York drawled out her complaint for everyone to hear. "Young lady, why am I only getting such a shitty little piece of fish, when you are giving away so much to these rude young men. I will complain to the tour manager. I deserve my share. I am an American and we are used to proper service. We do not expect to be treated so rudely." And on and on ad nausea.

Antarctic Expedition
The British Antarctic Expedition heading home from a summer of work in Greenland.

Inside the hotel is done up beautifully in Norwegian fine grained wood, possibly birch, and the rooms are really comfortable. I manage to snap a few more pictures from my bedroom window over looking the airport. The weather report for the morning is good, but for the moment no more traffic is coming in. Later, Klaus and I have dinner, more salmon as it was so fantastic, with the Canadian Twin Otter pilot. He had married a Brit and eventually had gotten his U.K. ATPL, which is reputed to be one of the toughest licenses in the world to obtain.
With that in hand, and with his Northern Canadian Twin Otter experience, he was a natural for the British Antarctic Survey Expedition job. He flies single pilot with an Irish engineer as crew. They spend our winter in the Antarctic and our summer in Greenland, doing much the same work. They were on their way to the U.K., on wheel skis, for maintenance and to prepare for the next ferry flight to the far south. Not to mention a much needed break at home.
The Twotter pilot, the Irish mechanic, and ourselves had a few too many beers considering that we all had to fly early the next morning. But, they were relieved to be on the last leg home and we were concerned about heading out on the longest across water leg, so we did what Canadian bush pilots do third best, got drunk. Not overly so, but just a bit too much for the flying that lay ahead the next day. I stayed up the longest to meet the girls off their shift, on their request, to help them practice their English. I did study linguistics in university. They dreamed about moving to Canada someday and both had applied for student visas. But, by 2am my English was not so good anyway so I reluctantly took my leave and retired for the night.

Story and Images by John S Goulet

*Narsarsuaq, Greenland Following the wake of Eric the Red's Uncle.

Note from the Editor. Follow the progress of the Turbo-Beaver as we fly our way back to Canada. The attitude indicator will take you back to the ferry flight introduction page.

Where all our flying is cross country.


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 Last modified on April 21st, 2013.
Virtual Horizons, 1996.