Thursday, June 18, 2015

Flying the Atlantic (from Jack)

We had a great flight yesterday from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada to Ponta Delgada in the Azores islands. Cold and rainy on departure from St. John's, but once we leveled out at cruise altitude it was essentially smooth and clear air the rest of the way.  Some photos from our friends of life enroute...

Final flight planning at the St. John's airport before departure...




Loading up...



The route when we were about one third of the way...



Co-captains Josh and Giuseppe giving Jack a break enroute...



The ladies alert and not so alert...





Final approach to Ponta Delgada (LPPD)...


Turning final at Ponta Delgada, Azores (LPPD)

Ponta Delgada, Azores (LPPD)

[Some technical stuff that can be skipped if you aren't interested in the aviation details...]

Flying long distances over water is a bit different than the normal flying we do at home in that both air traffic control (ATC) radar and normal very high frequency (VHF) voice communications with ATC only extend about 200 miles off the coast. Thus, the pilot and ATC have to use different procedures to communicate and assure separation from other aircraft (although there are a lot fewer aircraft to worry about!).

Instead of using radar for separation of aircraft, pilots regularly report their position and altitude to ATC via radio along with their estimate of the time they will reach the next reporting point. The ATC folks record these times and positions and use that information to keep aircraft separated. It is not a system that would work well in very dense air traffic environments, but it works fine for the handful of planes over any swath of the ocean at any given time.

For communications, pilots and ATC use high frequency (HF) radios which have the advantage of very long range via "skipping" the radio waves off the upper atmosphere.  The disadvantage is the communication has a lot more static than VHF and is more variable...sometimes it take a couple of tries to make contact.  But, the system is designed to allow for that and there are back-up methods of communication (sat phones and relaying through other airplanes) if you can't make contact with ATC via HF.

Next destination Bodrum, Turkey with a fuel stop in Girona, Spain along the way. We blast off at oh-dark-early Saturday.

Jack