No title is fitting.
Day 36. 27/July/2014 No title is fitting. Haukadalsmel to Reykjavik 0:51hrs
Reykjavik to Kulusuk 457 miles 3:28hrs
Day score 10.
Oh, I’ve a lot to do today, like get to Greenland. I was just thinking that not long ago I was whinging on about how unfair life was. Now I’d been to the party, do I get to eat my cake and keep it by getting to Kulusuk today?
Earlier morning, you could see for miles. A few photos then jump in. There was another runway that was slightly longer than the one I landed on. It didn’t have an volcanic ash bank at the end of it either. I took off easily within half the runway but with only an hour of fuel on board, I looped back around and flew low over the tent park. Bye Gummy and family and friends.
I had been told to fly towards Eyjafjalla-Jokul, the cinder cones and colours were supposed to be fantastic, and they were right. But with limited fuel I head back. At Pingvellir I took example of last nights flight and turned to fly low down the fault line, such fun but not really the fuel left to do that and headed back for Reykjavik.
The approach was ‘VFR route 2’ via the Fertilizer Factory and for runway 19. I’ve not done this route before and it takes you over the port and town before landing, I mean really low and I took photos up at the cathedral spire on top of the hill above the town on the approach, before concentrating on touch down.
Back at Geirfugl I couldn’t get in. It was all locked up. Not desperate yet but I lost an hour before one of the pilots turned up with a key. I used the hour to walk around to BIRK handling where Johann welcomed me and I filed my flight plan again for about the fifth time. Johann gave me a lift back over across the runways to Geirfugl and wanted to know how successful Gummy’s band was last night. He stayed for a while as I loaded up the plane once more and siphoned the fuel back into the tanks from the barrels I had used last night. With the plane all ready, I topped up with another 38 litres of fuel in the main tank. I had 140 litres on board or enough fuel for 7 hours of flight.
With everything ready, I said a fond farewell to Geirfugl, is this me breaking Ground Hog day? The weather tomorrow looked awful.
I taxied over to BIRK with the plane. Johann had printed out the latest weather. The French couple did land there yesterday, stayed an hour and then came back? I was running out of reasons not to go. Johann came out and we took each others photos by the plane. I put on all my survival gear, shook his hand and thanked him again as once more, there was nothing to pay and I think it is quite a lot.
I climbed in started up the engine and was told by the ground frequency to taxi out and hold short of runway 31. My heading to Kulusuk was about 31 and after correctly changing to the tower frequency I was cleared to line up and take off.
Wow, Itzy was heavy. Climb rate of only 600ft per minute and then less as I turned the climb into a cruise climb to keep the engine cool. TheGPS said 452 miles to go. I normally put on two GoPro Cameras and film a lot, but not today. I just wanted to concentrate on ‘am I making the right decisions?’
I was handed over to Keflavik control as I pasted by their airfield. They were busy but let me fly through their departure route. Somebody was getting a roasting as they requested a decent below cloud. Apparently they had planned a VFR flight plan and shouldn’t have been above cloud. But we have all been there, so I can’t say too much. I couldn’t climb more than 4,000 ft due to cloud. Strangely for the first 40 minutes the North West Fjordland was quite close of the starboard wing until it passed behind and out of sight. At FIR boundary I was wished ‘Good Luck’ by Keflavik and handed over to Iceland Radio on 127.85. This frequency was where all the cross Atlantic travelling commercial traffic communicated their wished to change flight levels for clear air turbulence avoidance some 30,000 feet above. When out of radio range I relayed position reports every 30 minutes with KLM47, N65LJ and Speedbird 47Alpha. As soon as I can I transfer all the fuel from the ferry tank to the main tank. Failure of the pump or any reason why I couldn’t transfer the fuel, I need to know about as soon as possible to make a decision. Two hours into the flight and I still have a full main tank. It’s a good feeling.
Basically I just sit there, using the fuel dipping stick for the reserve tank to push on the right pedal once in a while to give my aching foot a rest. The plane needs more right thrust on the engine, I didn’t have time to sort it out before I left, so I need to push quite ******* the right ruder pedal all the time to keep the aircraft flying straight. Or fit a rudder trim tab, which I haven’t done yet either.
That’s an iceberg… My first. Just sitting there as a white dot amongst a view of blue. There isn’t much horizon. It’s just all blue. Oh talking of horizons. I seemed to have fixed it, it seems to be working perfectly again now. The engine is running too cool though. Oil temperature of 70 when it should be 85 and cylinder head temperatures of 85 when they should be 125. On a hot day I can take the cylinders to 225, so they are really cold. Still hot enough to burn you though. But its all relative.
What could I say? I could bore you with how boring flying over the sea is. A ship, I can sea a ship and another iceberg. Then another hour of nothing. Still cloud above and still at 4,000ft. I would like to go higher but I can’t. Relaying your position report is not easy. The airline pilots don’t obviously do it that often and struggle to understand or hear what you are telling them, but its good to talk to someone to know there is still life out there.
Oh heck. Fog banks. My worst fear. They don’t look too big though and I think I can see over them. Now low cloud and I’ll have to go over it. There is 80 miles to run, I’ve had a good 15knot tail wind and I’m almost an hour now ahead of schedule. The fog clears, now why? Is that a different air mass influenced by near by coast? Yes that’s land, that’s snow and black rock on the horizon. I turn to Kulusuk radio and they can hear me just about. The east coast of Greenland is pretty straight, with one kink in it half way down. The island of Kulusuk lies at that kink. So I can see the east coast when still 40 miles out. I head for it and then fly down the coast, thinking if the engine cuts at least I won’t drown now.
An Air Iceland Focker 50 calls engine start up. Soon after he asks for taxi clearance as I’m now 10 miles north east. I state that I will fly around to the south and 5 miles off shore so the Focker can take off without me getting in the way. The mountain next to the runway is 2,500 straight up, it’s an old volcano so as yet I still haven’t seen the runway. What can I say? White ice, blue-grey glaciers, blue-white water, black rock, little red, yellow, green and blue painted huts and a rocky approach to a gravel strip. I see the runway as I round the headland as the Focker is climbing away and I’m told the runway is clear. This is Kulusuk radio, the controller does not have authority to issue clearances, its all at the pilot’s discretion and I touch down onto the loose gravel and bring Itzy to a slow halt. I turn around and taxi back in and pull up into a strong wind in front of the airport.
Relieved, I’m in Greenland. I’d like to say that was fun, but it was not. None of this over-water flying has been.
I shake hands with the guys who walk out and see about refueling the plane straight away. I only needed 50 litres of fuel to refill the main tank and put 40 in the reserve tank. The next flight is shorter so I estimate for 6 hours endurance for a 4 hour flight. The flight time today was only 3:28 hours. It’s gone so well
. I wasn’t looking forward to this flight but it’s gone so well.
Something dripped of the bottom of the cowls. It was oil! I can see it soaking into the gravel. I took a look under the cowls. Lots of oil, all the way down to the back of the aircraft. What the xxxx! I took the cowls off to find the oil cooler covered in oil. The oil cooler had cracked at one of the two fittings. It could have only just happened, loosing that much oil, there isn’t that much in the engine. At that rate of loss, it would have emptied the sump in about 10 minutes. The engine would then run out of oil and seize solid and that would have been the end of the plane and probably me…
Shock hit again. For once I thought I’d had an extremely good flight when really I’m lucky to be standing here wiping oil off everything. I mean it’s unlucky that the cooler decided to crack after 780 hours of use, but lucky that it only just happened.
I’m really quite fed up with these types of things happening to me.
There is nothing for it, I’ll have to run the engine without the oil cooler. Its not needed now anyway as the air temperature is too cold. It took about half an hour to remove the cooler, very easy to remove the oil filter, remove the take off pipe fitting and refit the oil filter and unbolt the cooler and drain the oil and put it into a bag. The airfield and surrounding country rock is littered with rubbish and bags and I grab a few to clear the place up, put the oily rags in and generally tidy up. With Itzy ready to go again, I walk into the terminal building and climb the stairs to the control tower and meet Jacob, the guy I had spoken to on the phone yesterday. I can pay for all the fuel and fees tomorrow. He asks if I want the van to pick me up to take me to the hotel. I already know the hotel costs $350 a night for a naff room, so I say no and that I’ll pitch my tent. This seems to **** him off a bit and he gives me the number of the hotel in case I should change my mind.
So I grab Fredy Pig, my long term travel companion and mascot and set off to walk to the town as such which is a 2 mile walk.
Wow, the bleakness and abruptness of the scenery and ice and rock and water and rubbish are outstanding…
I hold Fredy close. My poor brain is even more fried.
I walked along a dusty track, the only way to town and follow pipes and rusty cables and junk and litter. Past the scruffy hotel and two cemeteries, a small glacier, and a pack of dogs before arriving in town.
Town is dominated by the big oil tank that’s keeping everyone from freezing. Small boats are running in-between the floating icebergs in the bay between this Island and the mainland. My goodness, this place is falling apart. One out of three building is derelict. True Inuit looking people arrive in the boat. A 25 foot speed boat with a hood and an outboard motor that could be parked up in a Miami marina. They refuel it by dragging a 100 litre container of pink stuff, so heavy with two people lifting it that the boat almost capsizes, till they can poor or spill most of it into some tank, before putting back on the quayside. They then fit a family or two onboard, gran, mother and children, pull back, turn around and speed off.
They seem to bury people in what might have been their back garden as there are white crosses everywhere. Another pack of, argh they are huskies. And there is the sleigh. So it’s true, they still do use sleigh dogs and skidoo’s and quadbikes!
If you looked at this place from afar, you would think its idyllic, picture postcard sort of stuff. Look closely and it’s buggered. People paid good money to come here for day trips from Iceland. I bet they all go back very disappointed. Not that they would admit it after paying so much money for a few hours day trip. And they mostly take rides on the speedboats through the icebergs to the glacier head to watch it collapse in as you can hear it periodically doing. It is a site to see, but the locals who waved merrily as if I was another tourist paying for their existence paying $350 at the hotel, as if I was their best friend. Truth be told, I wasn’t. You could easily clean the place up a bit as it wasn’t that big a town. But talk about pollution and degradation. Also the RSPCA would have a thing or two to say about the condition the dogs were not kept in, chained up everywhere and half starving. I just kept walking around thinking “What a shame”. I climbed to the highest point, past the only home with real money, well he had the biggest satellite dish.
I could hear a helicopter approaching. It was the bright red Icelandic search and rescue helicopter that Siggi flew. He did say they were flying over here yesterday. They were helping an American team of service men as they repatriated apparently the last of the military pilots who crashed into the glacier during the war. The Americans have this saying of “Never leave any behind!” So ever since the war ended they have been trying to find all the crash sights and bring back the bodies. These were the last of many apparently.
I’d read stories about aircraft just flying into the ice on many occasions. It’s high and flat up there, but so dazzling that you can’t make out any features, so you can’t tell how high you are from it. There is just no depth perception. People think it is cloud and just fly into it. I heard and saw pictures of a Piper Senica, a light twin. He had been flying along on a ferry flight, heard a terrific noise and commotion from underneath his aircraft and pulled up and it went quiet again. When he landed, he found all his propeller blades were bent. He had unknowingly flown so low to the ice that, without his undercarriage being down, the propeller tips were the lowest thing sticking out the bottom of the plane and they had been hitting the 10,500 foot icecap.
I waved but they didn’t see me. You couldn’t walk where ever you wanted to in case you disturbed a pack of Huskies, as people were and they all started barking all over town until their owners ventured out of their wooden shacks and shouted at them to shut up I suppose in Inuit.
So not really fitting in here, I despondently walked back to the plane, got back in and went to sleep. It was quite late and I was bushed and couldn’t be bothered to put the tent up. My KR2 is surprisingly comfortable if you lift the rudder pedals up out the way you can stretch out and you can rest your head on the fuel tank. But sleep wasn’t that easy as you kept hearing the booms of falling ice as some more fell off the near by glacier and fell into the sea.
Thought for the day: I waited to get here for so long and was disappointed that I’m now in a rush and need to go through Greenland quite quickly and didn’t have the time I wanted to spend here. I envisaged spending a week here and getting to know the locals as no one gets here easily and I’ll doubt if I’ll come back this way again any time soon. Now I’m here, I can’t wait to leave.