337 Trip Plug Pulled?

Let's pull out the standby power supply.

With less than a week to go before the proposed departure, the question of is it time to pull the plug on the trip looms.

A pilot must know when to say no right?

And if too many things are not going in the right direction, not ready, and are creating hurdles to completing the task at hand, perhaps it is time to bow out of completing the task.

2015-04-24 09.53.00The annual is progressing well on the plane, although there are a couple parts that still need to come in this week if the aircraft is to be ready to fly next Sunday. But that is probably manageable.

What is not manageable is the rest of the logistics that are yet to be accomplished.

At the time of writing this, we still do not have an answer from the intended recipient of the aircraft of how they will provide an updated GPS database that would include coverage for South America (obviously a pretty big part of the trip) or provide charts (we proposed a Jeppesen digital subscription with no answer) to cover the routes.

Bigger hurdles are the fact that we do not have documents required for the flight. We have already applied for and expect the US Customs sticker and the FCC Radio License for the aircraft to arrive this week, but we are missing a couple other critical things. The biggest is proof of insurance with liability waivers for each country of intended landing. This is required to show each place of landing upon entry for customs. And I must say I don’t think they have been procured yet, because two days ago the recipient called into question the route that we proposed.

Our route proposed (see the last post that has this route at http://www.jasonblair.net/?p=807) would take us from Ft. Lauderdale through Caribbean, down to Trinidad, and through north eastern South America to coastal Brazil. The entire purpose of this route (as you can see it below) is to avoid difficult areas to fly through or areas that are really no-fly zones for U.S. Citizens (think Cuba and Venezuela).

2015-04-24 10.20.13

But a couple days ago, the recipient suggested we change routing to do exactly that. Rerouting from Ft. Lauderdale directly (632 miles) to Port Au Prince, Haiti (which required passing through the Cuba FIR), then to Curacao (a 429 mile leg) and then overflying Venezuela on a whopping 746 mile leg into much higher terrain and remote areas of Brazil. This would be followed by an equally daunting 810 mile leg to the next stop they proposed in Brazil. The goal to save few hundred miles of flight and the cost of the gas for the flight. See the route below.

2015-04-24 10.20.20

This comes with multiple problems. The first is obviously coordination of flight through the Cuban FIR, followed by over 400 miles of open water flight, then the problem of flying over Venezuela, and very long legs over jungle and much less hospitable terrain than the original route we had proposed. For me, Cuban overflight is a no-go. Over 400 miles of open water is not a good choice when a more easterly route wouldn’t add much overall distance and would allow a pilot at almost all points to stay in established IFR routes and within striking distance of land at almost all points of the flight. The long legs into and in Brazil stretch beyond logical distances for this aircraft. Assuming normal fuel burns at an altitude of 10,000 MSL the aircraft might be able to make between 900-950 miles of flight before it runs out of gas. 746 miles and 810 miles not only stretch this endurance beyond a good practice range, but they certainly would not allow for IFR fuel reserve minimums to be met, especially if an alternate airport were required at any point. This would leave a pilot to assume that the entire leg could be completed VFR and that weather over a 5 hour flight leg would not change at all. Also probably not a good risk to take.

So, I proposed an alternate route, one that takes us through the islands as originally planned, and where we would deliver the aircraft to Trinidad where a pilot more comfortable (and able to overfly Venezuela) might meet us and takeover the remainder of the flight. The difference in what I proposed to what they suggested is less than 200 miles of flight.

2015-04-24 10.20.32

Another option is to deliver the aircraft back to Ft. Lauderdale, where a different pilot of their choosing might take over and fly the route they have proposed. Or, perhaps they will choose to have a different pilot all together fly the entire route from Michigan.

On top of routing questions, there still is outstanding the question of how the recipient would provide funds for the flight to be completed. With less than a week to the proposed departure, timing to allow for any transfer of funds becomes improbable to be completed considering the international transfer requirements. Reality begins to meet logistics planning and it becomes unlikely that even if all the other questions could be resolved rapidly, that the departure date could be met as planned. And considering other time commitments I have in upcoming weeks, even a short delay in departure would mean that I must bow out of the trip. The time had been dedicated over a month ago, but the logistical requirements have not been met in the interim.

So, the question is, does the plug need to be pulled on this trip at this time?

A pilot must know when to say that a trip cannot be completed in a manner in which they are comfortable, consider safe, and could be completed appropriately. Barring some major changes, at this time, I am at that point.

The exercise has been worthwhile, and I have learned much through the process, but for now, the trip is on hold. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to complete part of it or another such trip in the future.

Less than Two Weeks Out for Ferry Flight…and a Route

Wow. Less than two weeks to launch.The goal is launch on Sunday, May 3rd.

I am pretty certain it is going to by very fast and there is much yet to do. Much has been done, but a trip like this is something that has lots of moving parts and complex requirements for a first time attempt at completing a flight across to major continents and through multiple countries.

gcmapWe think we have settled on a route. The map to the right is what is planned. I know it looks pretty granular at this scale, but that kind of puts into perspective the length of the trip. We have settled on the Caribbean route then through Guyana, over Suriname to French Guiana, then lots of Brazil, over Uruguay and into Argentina to the end.

The entire route is broken out in the table below.

The short of it is that we expect around 48 hours of flight, 6730 miles to be traveled, and over $6,000 of gas burned along the way.

There is much left to be done, finish the annual, finish VISA applications for Brazil (its is a little scary that you have to send your actual passport through the mail to the consulate to get this done, I hate having my passport out of my personal control) and Argentina (the only two countries that require them for this trip), get a Yellow Fever vaccination, coordinate funding with the buyers, finish working with handlers for each landing location, oh, and hope for very good weather to not make us get delayed along the route. That will be a major factor no doubt. Hoping we are on the good side of mother nature.

Much of the routing was chosen based on customs facilities, hours of operation, availability of fuel services, range of the aircraft fuel reserves (the plane has approx 5 1/2 hours of fuel so we wanted to always leave 2 hours of fuel reserve if possible), and closing times of services.

There are days we probably could fly more if weather cooperated, but the times of operation of customs facilities and places we wanted to avoid having to stay overnight and incur further costs were definitely a factor. So, we came up with our planned route.

The route is as follows: (Click here for a much more readable pdf of the route)

Travel Flight ICAO
Day Route Time APT ID City Country
3-May 24C – KGSP 3.5 KGSP Greenville, NC USA
3-May KGSP – KFXE 3.5 KFXE Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA
4-May KFXE – zbv – zqa – btler – pvn – MBPV 3.5 MBPV Providenciales International Turks and Caicos
4-May MBPV – gtk – idaho – sju – stt – TISX 3.5 TISX Henry E Rohlsen (St. Croix) USA
5-May TISX – anu – ptp – TFFF 2.5 TFFF Le Lamentin Martinique
5-May TFFF – bne – gnd – TTPP 2 TTPP Piarco Trinidad and Tobago
6-May TTPP – lepod – SYCJ 2.5 SYCJ Cheddi Jagan International Guyana
6-May SYCJ – zy – SOCA 2.5 SOCA Rochambeau – Felix Eboue French Guiana
6-May SOCA – oia – amp – SBMQ 2 SBMQ Macapa Intl Airport Information Brazil
7-May SBMQ – bel – SBSL 3 SBSL Sao Luis/Marechal Cunha Machado Airport Information Brazil
7-May SBSL – pnb – urt – SBFZ 2 SBFZ Fortoleza Brazil
7-May SBFZ – mss – cpg – SBRF 3.5 SBRF Recife International Guararapes-Gilberto Freyre Brazil
8-May SBRF – mce – aru – svd – SBSV 2.6 SBSV Salvador Brazil
8-May SBSV – ylh – cnf – SBBH 3.5 SBBH Belo Horizonte Brazil
8-May SBBH – utger – bco SBSP 2 SBSP Congonhas – Sao Paolo Brazil
9-May SBSP – nigba – ctb – ljs – SBPA 3.5 SBPA Porto Alegre/Salgado Filho Brazil
9-May SBPA – bge – dur – SAEZ 3 SAEZ Buenos Aires Argentina

If you want to know the route with ICAO airport codes, you can cut and past this into a flight planner to have it pull up the route (this is just the airports, not the fixes and VORs/ADFs along the route that will be used):


For the route with all fixes, here it is:

24C KGSP KFXE zbv zqa btler pvn MBPV gtk idaho sju stt TISX anu ptp TFFF bne gnd TTPP lepod SYCJ zy SOCA oia amp SBMQ bel SBSL pnb urt SBFZ mss cpg SBRF mce aru svd SBSV ylh cnf SBBH utger bco SBSP nigba ctb ljs SBPA bge dur SAEZ

To get a good idea of the routing, check it out on SkyVector or use Great Circle Mapper website.

SkyVector can be used to see VFR/IFR routing charts to get a better detail of the route.

Getting the Weather En Route the Old Fashioned Way Still Works – Flight Watch and Flight Service En Route

Ever find yourself flying en route on a long leg and start wondering if those storms you were watching before you left had moved at all? How about if the ceilings had come up enough that you could plan for a visual approach instead of an ILS or worse, if they have gone down since your brief to a point that you may need to consider going to your alternate airport?

While many of us fly using onboard satellite or ADS-B weather sources, we don’t always have them with, or we may find our signal unreliable or a battery dead, or just want to get another opinion.

It is still possible to get a weather update while you are flying en route using your VHF radio to contact either Flight Service or Flight Watch.

With both services, a pilot is able to contact a live person whose job is to continuously monitor aviation weather. These insights and their continued attention to local conditions can provide valuable insights on trends, current observations, and the forecasted conditions across a route of flight. Both services can provide full weather and NOTAM information just like a telephone briefer on the ground, just in the air using VHF radio communications.

Flight Watch (also referred to as En Route Flight Advisory Service) is available on 122.0.

msnvorjvlvorContacting Flight Service can take a little more work to find the correct frequency. A pilot can find flight service frequencies on nearby VOR identification boxes on IFR en route charts. Note that if a frequency is listed and it does not have a “R” after it, it means that the frequency is “duplex” and the pilot can talk and receive communications with Flight Service. See the example to the right at Madison where the frequency you would use in that area is 122.6. If, like in the example by Janesville, there is a “R” after the frequency, it means that a pilot would transmit on that frequency to Flight Service, but would have to listen for a reply from Flight Service over the VOR frequency. In this case, the pilot would transmit on 122.1 and listen over the VOR frequency of 114.3. In both instances you will be able to determine which flight service station you are talking to by looking to the name that is below the VOR identification box, in these examples it would be “Green Bay Flight Service.”

While both of these services will be able to provide similar information, there are a couple small differences. The biggest is that Flight Watch is always available on frequency 122.0, but may not be available unless the pilot is above 5000’ MSL and it is only available between 6am and 10pm while the frequencies for Flight Service are regional and change across a route, but may be available at a lower altitude and are available 24 hours a day.

While new technology adds to our in flight data sources, sometimes, the old way is also just as good. It’s a good idea for pilots to remain familiar with these options and keep their skills sharp in case they need to access information using this method of contacting either Flight Service of Flight Watch for en route weather updates.

For more information about Flight Watch and Flight Service a good place to start is a review of AIM 7-1-5 which covers En Route Flight Advisory Service.

Good flight to Michigan in the 337…now to prep everything to go back south…

2015-04-05 07.58.19

Departure climbout from KCRG

Had a great flight today in the 337. A nice climb out of Jacksonville up to 10,000 MSL and I headed enroute using GPS direct (and I’ll be honest, the autopilot most of the way) to Knoxville for a half way point and a fuel stop.

Fuel burn was exactly as expected, conditions were VFR, and the plane hadn’t burned any oil when I landed there. All major systems were a go.

A gorgeous flight overall with only a couple of clouds in the sky and limited headwinds at any point. Can’t ask for anything more than that. It’s days like this when flying that I am still giddy at what we do. It really is pretty amazing stuff.

With a mere 6 hours of flight I found myself back from Florida to Lowell, MI (24C) where the 337 will get a little TLC and some prep to go back south for the ferry flight. Not bad timing at all. It actually was faster than the commercial flight I had originally intended to take. Gotta love general aviation when things work out properly.

The flight logs on FlightAware were pretty cool today and are below if anyone wants to look any further.

4-5-15 337 Flight 14-5-15 337 Flight 2

2015-04-05 14.13.16

Parked for the night at 24C

Enroute today no real new discrepancies showed up. So it looks like the list is pretty minor, fix the rotating beacon, try to ID why one of the fuel gauges is intermittent along with the same problem in one CHT and maybe address why the zero point for the VSI is -200 (it works very well, just the zero point on it isn’t quite right).

Now it’s put to bed for the night and the real work begins. Getting all the required permits, the fuel set up at stops, planning routes, etc. I will blog along this process as we get it all set, but for tonight, it’s time to get ready for the week.


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