Part 5 of the ferry flight journey takes our pilots to the Shetland Islands, a little detour from the originally planned route through the Faroe Island due to weather. As mentioned, this will be the pilot's longest leg across the Atlantic and they are taking all necessary precautions for a safe flight.
A storm named Callum
I had spent the nights during the last weeks in ten different cities over four different countries. It felt like it slowly had become a new lifestyle. Wake up, check the weather, then either fly or just wait for the clouds to clear up or for the winds to fade. We had so far spent five days in Iceland. A storm named Callum had moved down from the north giving us both bad weather and strong headwinds on our route towards the Faroe Islands making us stuck in Iceland.
Don’t get me wrong, Iceland is a wonderful place. The views I’d experienced during my days there I will never forget, but we were so close to home now. It felt as the Norwegian coastline was just hiding below the horizon. During the last days we had repositioned from Reykjavik to Egilsstaðir on eastern Iceland giving us range to not only the Fareo Islands but also the Shetland Island in northern Scotland. Yesterday the weather over the Atlantic had cleared up so we made an attempt to fly but shortly after take-off we received ice build-ups and had to turn back. After that, both me and Jesper had that feeling that we never going to be able to leave this island. The weather was always going to be against us.
Today was Sunday, exactly three weeks since we left Västerås. I got up from the bed and looked out over the lake from my hotel window. Clouds…sigh… I reached for my phone, opened the weather app and prepared myself for another day in Egilsstaðir. But the forecast looked… good? Weather charts showed only little weather over the Atlantic, there was some isolated CB clouds travelling around but nothing that you couldn’t navigate around. The weather at Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands also looked…good! It was good!
I reached for my phone, opened the weather app and prepared myself for another day in Egilsstaðir. But the forecast looked… good?
I started to text Martin and Jesper for their opinion on the weather and they both agreed that this was possible to fly in. We took our baggage, jumped into our car that we had rented and drove to the airport. The aircraft were fueled and ready from the day before so all we had to do was just securing the baggage and performed the daily inspection of the aircraft before we were ready to leave. We jumped into our big dry suits, capable to keep us alive for at least six hours if we had to ditch the aircraft in the water and prepared the oxygen system.
Ready to leave Iceland
Me and Jesper taxied out on the runway first in AZB. For this flight I was behind the controls and Jesper was on the radio. We lined up on runway 22. I couldn’t help thinking of yesterday’s turn-back after we got icing, hoping that everything would go better today. Egilsstaðir is located in a valley between two mountain ridges which the runway was parallel to, making the approach and departure very beautiful. We climbed up above the mountains and turned south east, towards Scotland. Passing 11 000 feet we turned on the oxygen system and continued the climb up to 17 000 feet.
We were finally on or way again. When we passed the Icelandic east coast it felt very good, now there was just ocean in-front of us for the next few hours. The Norwegian coast turned out to be a bit further away than what it felt like on the ground.
Longest leg of the journey
This was the longest flight of the trip. It took around five hours to reach the Shetland Island and since we had an endurance of around seven and a half hours it meant that at one point along the route there was not enough fuel to turn back. This point is called the “point of no return” or “point of safe return” if you add reserve fuel to the calculation which we obviously did. Jesper calculated that point and set it as a way point in our flight plan on the navigation display. “After this point, the Shetland Islands is all we got” he said. However, with today’s weather, we both thought that wouldn’t be a problem.
After three hours of flying we saw land. Though this wasn’t the Shetland Islands we saw. No, this was the Fareo Islands. The once planned fuel stop was now just a fly-by point at 17 000 feet. Between the clouds covering the islands you could see the steep and sharp hills and the ocean waves smashing into them. It was beautiful from a distance, but at the same time you can understand why they warn small aircraft to land there if the weather conditions aren’t anything but perfect. It was nice to see that we made the right decision to fly directly to Sumburgh.
Approaching Sumburgh, Shetland Islands
As the islands disappeared behind us we now aimed for U.K airspace. Hearing that Scottish accent on the radio certainly was a relief after such a long flight over the ocean. As Jesper started loading the approach into our GPS and went through the descent checklist, I started the descent down towards Sumburgh.
The Shetland Islands were now visible on the horizon and it looked like the forecast was correct. It was going to be a pretty straight forward approach in good weather conditions. Just some convective clouds in the area but small enough to fly through. Passing 11000 feet we took out our cannulas and shut off the oxygen supply. The cannula had a habit of chafe against my nose, so it was always a relief to get rid of them during the descent.
Runway 27 was in use, so we had to fly over the island first and then turn around for the final approach. The Scottish nature with green hills and fields below us made for some beautiful views. The sun was about to set which gave the horizon a nice yellow colour as we flew through the clouds on our way towards the runway. A perfect ending for this great 500-mile flight.
Preparing for the end destination
After landing and refueling we checked the weather for Norway, the final destination for this journey. Unfortunately, a weather front had decided to park over pretty much the entire country, so it had to spend a night in Sumburgh. After a warm welcome (and very extensive security check) by the airport personnel, we took a cab to a hotel nearby to spend the night. First, we thought of renting a car but when we saw all people driving on the “wrong” side of the road we decided that we will probably stay alive longer by just taking a cab.
We checked in at the hotel, met up in my room and started planning for the next flight. I had a feeling that our “bad-weather-streak” was at an end, and the morning after was going to be a great home stretch to Gullknapp, Norway.