Tale of a Trip - Bonn to Nome
The idea for the flight was born shortly after a flight to Northern Africa over Eastern of 2ooo: If I replaced the passenger with fuel would she fly the distance to cover the Atlantic via Island and Greenland ?
It so happened that I was assigned to take up a new posting at the German Embassy in Mongolia and I was offered to have the plane shipped in a container. The bug had hit however - she doesn't belong into a container but in the blue cold air.
Not much time was left for preparation. To illustrate the time before the departure: I slept often times at the airport to be ready for work early next morning. We slept outside, just in front of the plane. At home my wife Motoe was preparing the household to be moved and in the office I had to prepare the handover of my workplace. The aux. fuel tanks were fitted on the morning of the flight; the silicone on the fairings was air-dried on the way to Epinal to meet with Andy Draper and Michel Gordillo.
Pop insisted on the paint inside and on the instrument panel. He had years earlier designed the paint scheme of my Europa - reflecting the European Flag. Days before the flight she was completely taken apart: The engine was with Rotax, Germany and the Instruments where at Pop's house. I had a hard time talking to people at the local airport about the upcoming flight.
There might be one explanation for the Flight ~ to smile in the face of those who spend their lives calculating risk and to carry ever new concerns. Don't get me wrong. This is not about who is right - but a statement of my believe that those who cross over the mountain in order to see what lies behind live as long as those who prefer the comfort of their habitat. For my part, I just have to carry on moving to new horizons.
On July 22, 2ooo, I departed Bonn - leaving behind dear friends. Elmar, I missed you as soon as the wheels were off the ground ! Some fellow aviators flew along south-westbound down the river rhine valley through some marginal weather. It's safe to follow the river though. They don't build houses or towers on rivers.
It was a short hop to Epinal, the second of three great Airshows I was going to attend with my plane in 2ooo: Cranfield, Epinal, Oshkosh. There I was scheduled to meet with Andy Draper of Europa Aviation and Michel Gordillo who flew to Oshkosh in his Kitfox in 1999 - the other way around (and more succesful with our russian comrades).
We had some five Europas gathered and spent the evening listening to Michel and his experiences. He also told me about his next plan(e): a converted Bambi to fly extreme distances. It was the first time I felt that fear: Once you start your flight-planning on a world map - it won't let you go any more...
The night was spent under the port wing of my Europa and next morning Henk & Bart were nice enough to drive me to a gas station for unleaded fuel for the first loooong leg. We took off two Europas in formation and I was received by another Europa at the destination: Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands. On this flight which basically followed the route: Epinal ~ Calais ~ Dover ~ Kirkwall I tested the fuel system for the first time. One aux tank was not feeding at all and thank to an advice Pop had given me before he left for Oshkosh, there was a short bit of fuel line aboard which was then used to syphon fuel from the second aux tank into # 1 which was then to feed the main tank. Also I worked "ground control" for the first time on HF from airborn. There was some apprehension about the static electricity that might form whenever 1oo Watt are radiated close to the fuel system - but - "no guts no glory" I depressed the Push-to-talk button and was rewarded with a good communication with Dietmar back in Southern Germany.
One night was spent with fellow Europa builders on the northern end of GB with the first atlantic leg ahead next morning.
(first glimpse of Iceland after a 7 hour flight)
Performance over the pond was as expected: all efforts before the flight were centered on my goal
of being able to achieve 1oo kn economy cruise with a fuel flow of under 10 litres per hour. I set up
for a cruise altitude of 45oo ft - which was a compromise of staying clear above the clouds and to
get less headwind.
Iceland was all covered by clouds. As soon as I was able to talk to Iceland Control I was adviced that the destination airport Kevlavik was IFR with ground fog. "Welcome to Iceland !" I though by myself and started making plans of a GPS approach through the fog. Control came back and asked whether I could accept an alternate airport... Reykjavik was CAVOK. It didn't take much of arm twisting to convince me to fly into the capital of Iceland and literally there was one single hole in the sky over Iceland - some 10 miles wide. Wide enough for a picture book approach into BIRK. 12 degrees C on the ground, a nice hotel right besides the aerodrome with view onto my plane that had covered the first 1/3 of the atlantic. The view was still good at midnight:
Next morning the trip continued onbound to Narsarsuaq, Greenland. Unfortunately I had not charting material and had to rely on GPS only. After having had a GPS failure on a weekend flight to Southern France I did install a second GPS, the Garmin AVD95 for redundancy. That GPS was connected to the Laptop that was recording the track. The panel mount GPS250GNC is connected to the Navaid wingleveler allowing for GPS-course follow. This GPS however occasionally went into some "RAIM" error mode and needed to be reset.
With the plane set up for 45oo ft altitude and the Autopilot carefully oscillating along the ideal track things became quiet monotone. I remember how I was awakened by a left hard-over caused by another RAIM-error. I then decided to rather play Minesweeper on the Laptop instead of sleeping...
The weather was cloudy again with view openings that allowed me to look down onto the vast waters. It wasn't frightening though to think of the cold waters and the long ways from civilisation. I had rather prepared mentally for an emergency situation. It was a memorized list of things to do in case of a forced landing. I had thought about ditching the left wing first in order to rotate the airframe and dissipate the kinetic energy by entering the water backwards. The Europa would float - enough styrofoam inside. Still I had a liferaft and was wearing a life vest over the survival suit. An ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) was tied to my waist and in a waterproof bag I had signalling equipment, water and food. Nothing happened - not even the psychological effect known to single engin drivers who suddenly feel that "something is wrong with the engine." Karma was good for the flight. Elmar had told me before that nothing will happen - the engine doesn't know it is over water.
Here is how things loked as we (my plane and me) approached the huge island of Greenland:
This island by the way is not part of Denmark but independent with an own language "Greenlandish" and a proud history of Vikings who from there made expeditions onto the North American Continent.
Page 2 of the Tale of a Trip from Bonn to Nome
and read about the arrival in Greenland, the last part to North America, a visit to Oshkosh 2000 and the flight along the Alaska Highway to the Bering Strait