The North Atlantic, the US and the Bahamas actually were not vacation destinations for us, as we had spent a few months there three years ago. Our intention was to get it done, vacation would start further south.
Mannheim (EDFM) to Boa Vista (SBBV)
We took off end of August for a short hop to Lille (LFQQ) and on to Wick in Scotland (EGPC) the next day.
We spent a day in Wick, waiting for better weather in Iceland and then it was time for the first challenge of the journey:
The North Atlantic
Well, our Atlantic crossing turned out to be not that much of a challenge this time, everything went quite smoothly. We took off in Wick on a nice but windy morning.
Rubber fetish time again ;-)
The flight to Reykjavik (BIRK) took a little over four hours and was completely uneventful.
We spent a night at Hotel Loftleidir where you can spend a fortune for a beer at the bar. The next day was long: Reykjavik (BIRK) to Narsarsuaq (BGBW) and on to Goose Bay (CYYR).
Greenland in sight
Spectacular, each time
We flew one of the new GPS approaches into BGBW. Almost all in VMC, weather was better than it appears.
Here we go
Field in sight
You may want to keep the RWY in sight here ;-)
Turnaround was quick and friendly.
The second leg of the day felt long, we were mostly on top of a cloud deck at FL 240 with headwind again.
GANDER RADIO GANDER RADIO…
Eventually we reached Labrador and landed at Goose Bay.
Canada and USA
From Goose Bay we flew down to Bangor (KBGR) and on to Leesburg (KJYO) to visit friends in the Washington area.
First night in the US
Our next stop was Charleston (KCHS), first, simply to break the journey and second because it was one of the few tourist destinations on the East coast we hadn’t visited before. So far, everything went according to our plans, but now things changed.
We had tried to plan the journey such that we would not hit the bad season in any region we wanted to visit. However, this is not entirely possible, of course, there are compromises to be made. The biggest problem was the southern USA and the Caribbean in September – it’s Hurricane season! We knew that, but we really got hit hard. Three major Hurricanes, Irma, José and Maria crossed our way.
The first one, Irma, chose to exactly our route, just in the other direction.
It was clear that we would have to wait for the storm to pass and that we wouldn’t do that in Charleston. So we flew inland, to Dalton (KDNN), where we took the chance to change the oil and peek into the cylinders. Still we had to wait for five days, till Irma passed us. She brought 36 hours of rain, but not that much wind where we were.
In the hangar
We didn’t dare to fly all the way down to Ft. Lauderdale the first day, so we just went as far as St. Augustine (KSGJ), to check what Irma had done.
Remnants of Irma
Nice again in St. Augustine
A day later we went on to Ft. Lauderdale (KFXE).
Flooded areas near Ft. Lauderdale
There were still huge parts of Ft. Lauderdale without power when we were there, but everybody we met appeared to be in happy mood to have narrowly escaped the disaster which hit the Keys and the lesser Antilles.
It was clear that we could not fly to Sint Maarten as planned, however, we took off for Exuma (MYEF) in the Bahamas after a night in Ft. Lauderdale.
José threatened to send showers and storms over, so we cut short our stay and tried to reach Santo Domingo the next day.
Convection to the left
Storms to the right
Crossing Hispaniola proved impossible due to massive storms over the Island. So we diverted to Puerto Plata (MDPP).
Puerto Plata (MDPP)
It didn’t get any less strenuous though, as Maria had decided to first devastate Martinique and then turn towards the Dominican Republic. So the lesser Antilles were completely off the table now. Moreover, we had to get out of the way quickly. Studying the charts and the enroute manual we opted for Curaçao (TNCC).
Flying in the Caribbean was straight forward, here is a little summary.
Bahamas: Very easy, almost like the US, only twice as expensive (outside flying too). English is the native language and except for Nassau approach, Miami center controls the FIR.
Dominican Republic: Very relaxed. Spanish helps, but I think one can get along with English. Fees and fuel very reasonable. ATC speaks very good English.
Curacao: easy, part of the Netherlands. The only place so far, where contracting handling was mandatory. Airport fees and
handling summed up to a hefty 400US! Fuel however, was less than a Euro per liter (we took more than 300l :-)
Early morning departure
To South America
Curaçao is south of the Hurricane alley, so we could relax for two days. But unless you dive, there is not much to do there, so we tried to get back to our planned route in Boa Vista, Brazil (SBBV). However, to do so, we had to cross Venezuela. It was going to be a long flight of almost five and a half hours and there is high terrain to cross towards the end of the flight.
The biggest excitement however, were the bureaucratic hurdles we had to master. To fly over Venezuela you have to register with their CAA via an online process called SITGA. We had done so months in advance, what took us countless emails. Now we tried to get a permit number. There was no reply to emails and none of the telephone numbers we had from the previous contacts worked. We called the CAA general number and after numerous handovers we really got hold of somebody competent. But he just asked what number, file a flight plan and go! We asked if we could have this in writing and he really did send us an email!
Brazil also has its processes to follow. Again there is an online form to fill out to receive what is called the AVANAC number. Apparently this is required to be allowed to fly a foreign aircraft into Brazil. Once you get there, customs transform this to TECAT, what is a temporary permission. This is documented in the AIP. Since January 2017 there is another process to comply with, called e-DBV. It has also to do with customs but I really don’t know what it is good for. It is not described in the AIP and we didn’t have it. Apparently no other aircraft entered Brazil in Boa Vista in the last 15 years and there is not much experience on this field. It was a three and a half hours nightmare, but we managed to get it done!
Boa Vista (SBBV)