Turbo-Beaver Ferry Flight
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From our take-off point we diverted
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a couple of pictures we walk to the
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
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.
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.
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
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
Last modified on April 21st, 2013.
© Virtual Horizons, 1996.