Rogier had long had a dream to fly across the Atlantic. Head of Audley’s South and Central Asia department, and an amateur pilot for a number of years, he now had the opportunity to start a new life in Audley’s Boston office, and it seemed a fitting time to make the flight in his small two-seater aircraft.
The plan was to stop off in Iceland, Greenland and Canada along the way, finishing in Boston with a small group of fellow pilots, who were also keen to complete the flight. Read his day-by-day account of the trip below…
We set off today to start the flight across the Atlantic. We made it to Wick in the north of Scotland, departing Enstone — a ten-minute drive from our office in Witney. Unfortunately much of the trip was obscured by cloud, although there were some pretty views of Northern England and Scotland in between. In Wick we met the two other aircraft and their crews who would join us for the journey.
We made the hop across from Wick to Egilsstadir today (eastern Iceland), the first long sea crossing of the trip. It took three-and-a-half hours across water, passing over the Faroe Islands about halfway through the journey. It was a smooth flight with lots of empty expanses of water. On approach into Egilsstadir we passed snow-covered mountains, the first sign we were heading north.
It was an eventful day today. We had a brake fire which delayed our departure (the first time the airport fire department had dealt with a real fire!). I thought one of the other pilots was making a joke when he shouted our wheel was on fire.
Thankfully we got the aircraft airworthy again and once we got going we set off for western-Iceland. Crossing Iceland we found the landscapes varied and ridiculously beautiful. The photos don’t do it justice.
The airfield where we stopped for the night was in a very small and tight fjord which made the landing a bit more challenging. Despite the disappointing start, it was an amazing day which finished with a meal in one of Iceland’s best seafood restaurants. We’re aiming for Kulusuk in Greenland tomorrow, so another long sea crossing ahead.
On Friday we made the crossing from Iceland to Kulusuk in Greenland, another exciting and somewhat challenging day.
In an effort to stay above cloud we ended up at 3,352 m (11,000 ft), an altitude one should not fly at for long without oxygen, so we soon had to descend through the clouds which meant the risk of ice forming on the aircraft, something we had been trying to avoid.
We picked up some ice on the way down but thankfully only a small amount. We popped below the clouds at 1,371 m (4,500 ft) and continued our journey to Iceland without further challenges. On approach to Greenland we started to see sea ice and icebergs.
After one night in Kulusuk we continued to Narsarsuaq, which for me was the most amazing flight of this journey. Rugged and constantly changing landscapes and blue skies all the way, we crossed the ice cap at 3,048 m (10,000 ft) as at various places during the crossing the ice itself was up to 2,438 m (8,000 ft thick!). That means ice up to 2,438 m (8,000 ft) above sea level. Navigating over vast expanses of white was tricky as it’s almost impossible to judge your height. Thankfully we weren’t alone and the shadow of one of the other aircraft gave a visual reference to how high we flew above the ice.
A well-earned day at leisure in Narsarsuaq, Greenland. Time to relax and do a bit of sightseeing. We left Narsarsuaq, waived off by the local air traffic controller who was worried that the weather wasn’t suitable for our flight. Admittingly it was a bit windy and therefore a bit bumpy on our departure but it caused us little reason for concern.
Two hours after departure we arrived in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital which was surreal. Having flown for hours and hours without many signs of civilisation, we were all of a sudden in a town with shops, supermarkets and high-rise buildings. A nice barbecue and a few beers were had to celebrate the trip so far.
Poor weather up north meant we had to cut our stay in Greenland short and we set off for North America one day early via another long sea crossing. The destination for the day was Qikiqtarjuaq in Canada. Our approach into Canada was difficult due to low cloud but thankfully we managed to punch through it and arrive safely. Qikiqtarjuaq is a small settlement with around 400 people, mostly Inuits.
Day nine and ten
The beautiful landscapes continued as we headed south. We landed in Pangnirtun where we left the last of the high mountains behind. We crossed the Hudson Strait and into Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. From there we continued further south and it was on that last flight to Schefferville when trees suddenly reappeared and all of a sudden we found ourselves surrounded by big forests and thousands of lakes. We’d left the Arctic!
We made it to the USA today by flying from Schefferville to Sept-Îles and ending in Bangor, Maine, where we got stuck due to the weather. We covered 650 nautical miles that day and almost 4,828 km (3,000 miles) in total, but couldn’t make it all the way to Boston due to the weather so we were 150 NM short of my final destination.
A bit disappointing but after a day wandering around Bangor we made it to Boston in glorious sunshine. For me the trip was over but my friend continued his journey and had another 4,023 km (2,500 miles) to go, all the way to San Francisco, which he completed in three days and without further delays.
This really was a flying trip of a lifetime and although there were plenty of moments when I asked myself why I thought it was a good idea to do this trip (due to the risks involved), I now wonder when I can do it again!
Additional photographs by Jeremy Martin / The Vintage Air Rally.