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Fri, Oct 15, 2004

Al Pike's Trip Of A Lifetime

Brings Home Air Comp 7 All The Way From Lithuania

Bringing home an aircraft from overseas can a daunting task. First, there's the paperwork and approvals. But then comes the long journey over water. Last week, Al Pike completed such a trip, flying an homebuilt Comp Air 7 from Lithuania to Florida. Here's the first of a two-part story on Al's trip as told in his own words, written in private notes to interested friends during the ferry flight:

The airplane has been flying for the past year-and-a-half in Lithuania, where it was assembled by UAB Aeronika, a group of private pilots and technicians sponsored by the ship-restoration company AB Laivite in Klaipeda. The Comp Air 7 kit was purchased from Aerocomp Inc. of Florida, and then assembled, test-flown, and operated for private flights in Lithuania.

Preflight preparations for the ferry flight included 3 earlier trans-Atlantic flights in a variety of airplanes (2 dual flights and 1 previous solo flight). Prior trans-Atlantic flights, however, had routed through the Azores and Canary Islands. This was my first flight along the northern route, through Iceland and Greenland.

Because the airplane is an experimental airplane, special authorization was obtained in advance from both Transport Canada and the FAA. Insurance was provided by a Lithuanian insurance company.

A few minutes after stepping off the airliner in Vilnius, I was seated at a computer terminal in the Lithuanian CAA offices, taking an English version of the Lithuanian Commercial Pilot exam. Fortunately, the regulations in Lithuania are very similar to those of other ICAO countries, so obtaining the necessary Lithuanian pilot license for the flight was not a problem.

Before leaving, we equipped the airplane with an HF radio rented from Telford Aviation in Bangor, Maine. With the permission of the Lithuanian CAA, we also doubled the airplane s normal fuel capacity with a pair of welded aluminum  ferry tanks  installed where the passenger seats are normally positioned. These tanks had professionally wired redundant electric pumps, fuel level  sight  gauge, and a flow meter. Some of the safety gear carried included a cold-water immersion survival suit, life raft, portable 406 mHz emergency beacon, emergency rations and water, satellite phone, and a handheld VHF radio and GPS in a waterproof container. Portable oxygen was also carried, as most flights were conducted at 14,000 to 18,000 feet.

My departure from Lithuania was delayed several days, waiting for a series of cold fronts to finish moving across Norway and Sweden. After leaving Palanga, Lithuania, I flew in bright sunshine across the Baltic Sea, but was then either above, in, or between layers of cloud all the way across Sweden and Norway. The first leg of the trip home was a non-stop 3.8 hour flight. During this first leg, I was in a radar environment at all times and in constant communication with ATC via VHF. It was very similar to flying in the US.

Letters Home

Monday, Sep 27, 2004

Howdy y'all!

Just when I want to start complaining about the weather in Norway this time of year, I turn on the TV and see that hurricanes are making things are much worse in Florida!

So I am not complaining.

Today I am in the scenic coastal city of Bergen, Norway, where the good folks at Bergen Air Transport have been very helpful assisting with some unexpected brake repairs. Fortunately, the problem was spotted during a preflight inspection and the people here had the tools and parts available to fix the problem. The Lithuanian Comp Air 7 Turbine (registration: LY-XXL) is now ready to begin the trans-Atlantic portion of the flight home.

The weather Saturday and Sunday was not suitable for a flight to Iceland. The weather en route today (Monday) is much better, but the winds are too high. With a 5+-hour flight planned, attempting the trip with headwinds of 50 to 60 knots would reduce my fuel reserves to unsatisfactorily low levels.

Also, the surface crosswind here in Norway exceeds my landing capability, so if I were to take off, any need to return here for landing would be problematic.

So I am still waiting in Bergen, Norway staying at the Scandic Airport hotel, ready to leave on short notice if the weather ever becomes suitable. The forecast for tomorrow is promising, but I am skeptical of the forecast based on my own observations of the satellite photos. But just in case the meteorologists get it right, I'll be up at 5 am ready to head for Iceland early tomorrow if possible. FUN!


Tue, 28 Sep 2004

Howdy y'all!

Today I flew LY-XXL from Bergen to Reykjavik, Iceland. The flight was good - no problems. The weather was good for the whole trip, with light winds and just low stratus clouds with no ice. Finally, the meteorologists got it right! The flight was non-stop 5 hours 15 minutes, and I burned 810 liters of fuel (10 liters more than I had expected). I4m carrying 1200 liters, and estimating 1100 useable, so I had a 300-liter (2 hour) reserve. I stayed down at FL100 to conserve my oxygen for the next two legs.  This was the longest leg of the trip. The next legs will each be a little shorter.

There is a big cold front of bad weather between Iceland and Greenland today. I expect it to be here in Iceland tomorrow. So I do not know when I will be able to make the next leg, to Narsarsuag, Greenland. But I am hoping that maybe it will be possible tomorrow, if the weather gives me a break, or maybe on Thursday.

Meanwhile, I am comfortable in the Iceland Air Hotel beside Reykjavik airport. I think I will go sit in the sauna for a while now. FUN!

al pike

PS. Sveinn Bjornsson of Flight Services Ltd, (the local FBO) has been great. He really knows his stuff and has helped me with Customs, accommodations, flight planning and weather, etc.

Thu, 30 Sep 2004

Howdy y'all!

Sorry about the mass mailing. I'm working from a hotel computer with the slowest dial-up connection I've seen in years. I should have used the computer at the airport briefing office, instead of waiting until I got to the hotel.

Today I flew LY-XXL from Reykjavik, Iceland to Narsarsuag, Greenland. Encountered some scary ice when I was 1/2 way across that was not forecast and that I didn't expect, but fortunately it didn't cause any problems other than fear. Generally, the weather was good for the flight (or at least as good as it is going to get this time of year). The flight took 4.5 hours. At FL160 (16,000 feet), the temperature was -30C. By the time I landed, my feet were getting cold. Next time, I think I will insist on a functioning cabin heater!

If the weather is good, I would like to fly to Goose Bay, Canada tomorrow. That will be another 4.5-hour flight. But I must be very cautious with the weather, and will stay here as long as necessary.

Meanwhile, I'm spending the night in the hotel at Narsarsuag. This is a little village with only 150 permanent residents. The hotel is the biggest building in town, and is used to house the 400 or so additional people that I'm told come here in the summer. Flying over Greenland today made me wonder how it got it's name. The whole country is one big frozen ice field (punctuated by numerous mountain peaks). Only the very edges, down at sea level, are habitable. FUN!




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