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The Long Way Home

We didn’t expect that it would be easy to fly across the US in February, let alone crossing the Atlantic and in fact it wasn’t. While we were quite lucky in the US, the Atlantic was nerve-wracking.

Our route from Mannheim to Mannheim


After entering the US in Brownsville, all other stops were “social” as we visited friends in several places. The only exception was Nashville, where we broke the journey because it was conveniently located and we had never been there. The route was Brownsville (KBRO) – Weatherford (KWEA) – Nashville (KBNA) – Leesburg (KJYO) – Danbury (KDXR).

Brownsville is located only a mile or so north of the Mexican border and US authorities want you to land as close to the border as possible when coming from Mexico. Before we arrived there, we had all kinds of nightmares what customs might do with us after landing. As always, things turned out differently from what you expect: The officers were the most relaxed we ever had. We taxied to the customs ramp and waited in the plane as we had learned we had to, but one of the guys waved from the door, we should come over. While one of them inspected our aircraft from the outside with some sort of sniffing device, the other stamped our passports, said “welcome to the US” and we were good to go.

Our Mooney on the ramp in KBRO

Weather looked good for the next day so we left Brownsville for the tiny Parker County Airport near Weatherford in the Dallas area. We have friends there and they helped us to find an A&P/IA who was willing to take a look at our engine together with us. We changed the oil, rotated the plugs and peeked into the cylinders. Neither we nor the A&P mechanic could find anything that wasn’t right.

Approaching Parker County Airport (KWEA)

After a few days with our friends in Texas we flew to Nashville, which divides a straight line between KWEA and our next destination KJYO almost in the middle. We only spent one rainy day there so the city had to fight an uphill battle to concur our hearts. The fact that I don’t like country music didn’t help much.


We had stored our immersion suits with a (non-pilot) friend in the D.C. area, so we flew to Leesburg next. We had one more chance to enjoy the GA friendliness of the US there. We had called the FBO the day before to arrange a rental car and when we parked the plane they delivered it right next to us.

GA friendly service in Leesburg: rental car on the ramp

Summer was gone since we left Mexico but while we were in the D.C. area a cold front passed and it got really chilly. We had an evening and the stormy day with our friends and a little sightseeing but used the following clear day to carry on.

Snowy east coast

We flew to Danbury for our last stop in the US to visit one more friend, this time a pilot again.

Approaching RWY 35 in KDXR

We spent a few fun days in the area and even nicer evenings with lots of aviation talk. One day, while our friend had to fly, we drove over to New Haven to see the famous Yale university.

Yale university in New Haven

It was end of February already and we had to be back in Germany by mid-March. Of course an Atlantic crossing in a SEP is a little unpredictable and one needs some buffer, so we didn’t hesitate to continue once the weather forecast was good.

Atlantic crossing eastwards

After having crossed the North Atlantic three times via Iceland and Greenland it was tempting to tackle the route via the Azores. The obvious problem is: it’s far! The jump-off point to Horta (LPHR) is St. John’s, Newfoundland (CYYT). It’s a 1183NM leg and there is no Avgas in Horta. Piston fuel is only available in Santa Maria (LPAZ), another 192NM further. Anyway, as long as there is no headwind, a Mooney 252 with long range tanks (Monroy) can do this! We planned for a stop in Horta and just to be sure, we bought two jerry cans, five gallons each, to carry in the baggage compartment.

The island of Flores is located 125NM west of Horta, but it’s not a port of entry (even Horta is PPR) and there is no Avgas either. Still one can file it as an alternate, it’s certainly better than swimming. We had been looking at the winds and planned sample flights many weeks in advance and were confident we could do it, so we flew to the jump-off point of St. John’s (CYYT), Newfoundland, Canada. We departed with low clouds in Danbury, but we didn’t pick up any ice and were in the clear after a few minutes. We had filled our jerry cans in Danbury already, as we were not sure if they would allow us to fill them in St. John’s.

Boston, on the way to St. John’s (CYYT)

The flight to CYYT was long but we had very good winds and were lucky with the weather. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland don’t appear as desolate as Labrador, though some terrain is quite hostile.

On the way to Newfoundland

We arrived in St. John’s with strong winds (many runways, no problem) and under a sunny sky. However, sunny days are rare in Newfoundland end of February.

St. John’s

In fact, it started snowing in the evening and when we looked at our Mooney the next morning, she was covered with snow.

Mooney on the ramp in CYYT

The weather forecast was terrible for the next days. We took a rental car to explore the area but that wasn’t too much fun. It was foggy and one just doesn’t feel relaxed while waiting.

Newfoundland in February

We had booked an Airbnb and our host was very sympathetic. It turned out that she was a school teacher and she asked us to come to her class to talk about our journey. A very nice experience.

Watching the snow from our Airbnb apartment

To be able to fly from CYYT to LPHR three things have to come together: the weather in St. John’s has to be alright, the winds and the weather en route have to be good and the weather in Horta has to be forecast well above minimums. We waited for eight days till conditions were acceptable.

On the way to Horta

We had to depart into a low overcast with freezing level at the ground which we really didn’t like. But again there was absolutely no ice in it. Moreover, headwinds were forecast for the first two hours. We received a SIGMET about turbulence in the Santa Maria FIR via sat phone from Gander Radio. However, when Mrs. terbang plotted the area, we learned that our route was to the south of it.

Plotted SIGMET (comme il faut )

Fortunately the wind changed as forecast, we had a strong tailwind after two hours. There are options in case weather deteriorates while on the way, but only bad ones. The flight was planned to take 6:40, so one checkpoint was that we had to return if there was no tailwind after three hours. After two hours freezing level was well above sea level and no clouds were forecast until that point. In case of icing we would have been able to leave our cruising altitude (FL190) but that would also have meant to fly much slower, possibly reaching Horta short on fuel or even having to land in Flores. Same thing if the turbulence area would have been in our way. Luckily there was no ice in the cirrus clouds we had to cross en route. We encountered some ice an hour before Horta but we climbed to FL210 where we were on top again. We only stayed there for 25 minutes or so, before we descended into Horta, where we landed exactly after 6 hours and 36 minutes.

Approaching Horta

We had hoped for some better weather in the Azores, but were disappointed. First day was rainy while we explored the island.


The next day was so poor that the airport of Horta was closed all day long, not a single flight arrived. We drove over to check out the situation, talk to the very friendly folks there and fill the fuel from the jerry cans into the tanks.

Refueling in LPHR

Things didn’t look too bad. We had 25 gallons left in the tanks, so with the fuel from the cans we could fly for almost three hours. Strong crosswind was forecast for Santa Maria where they have a north-south runway. In Ponta Delgada (LPPD) on the island of São Miguel it was windy as well but there they have a 30. São Miguel is the most interesting island for tourists and from there it’s only 25 minutes to Santa Maria, so we decided to fly there the next day.

Ready for departure in Horta

It was windy and hazy with some low clouds and we had to fly the full procedure for the ILS, no vectors available. We checked immediately after landing and found that we still had fuel for an hour and a half.

Approaching Ponta Delgada

Again a storm with gusts of more than 50 knots was about to reach the islands within the next two days. We rented a car once again to see the island.

The northeastern most point of São Miguel

In fact São Miguel proved to be very scenic, it really must be nice in better weather. But even in March there were many tourists, Germans and Brits mainly, many more than we had expected.

Sete Cidades

The islands are extremely lush and green. There are some forests left, but one mostly sees pastures with grazing cattle. Very much like in many parts of Germany and Britain…

North coast of São Miguel

Again we waited a day longer to make sure we had really good weather for our flight to Santa Maria. We didn’t have that much fuel left and the only alternate was returning to Ponta Delgada. While this would not have been a problem, it would have meant to be stuck there without fuel. The next day however, was really nice and the flight was easy.

Santa Maria in sight

After landing we waited for the fuel truck and really felt relieved when the blue liquid finally poured into the tanks.

Refueling in Santa Maria

Even though the coming day would have been flyable we decided to stay for two nights. The day after looked even better and we will probably never come to Santa Maria again. Weather was so-so but the island is scenic as well.

Santa Maria

The day we flew to Cascais (LPCS) was perfect again. Absolutely no clouds at cruising altitude and very nice tailwind.

Tailwind on the way to Cascais

After only 3:40 we finally touched down on European main land. We were really happy to say the least.

Approaching the European continent

We have Mooney friends in Lisbon (at least one of them is a member here ). They met us at the airport and later we spent the evening together. We had fun and of course talked aviation again.

After one more miserable rainy day we continued to Bergerac (LFBE) and finally to Mannheim (EDFM), our home base.

Final 27 in EDFM

While the weather was rainy and cold, reception was warm 

Taxiing to our hangar

To South America

Brazil and Bolivia



West Coast and Central America (Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica