I achieved a flying dream today, by landing my own aeroplane in Greenland!
In keeping with the theme of this trip, the day didn’t go quite as planned. We woke early in our excellent lodgings in Kuujjuaq, and quickly came to the conclusion that if we flew to Iqaluit to refuel, as we had planned, there was no way we could reach Greenland before the airport closed at 5pm. There’s a 2 hour time difference, and it’s a long way.
So a new plan was hatched. We would fly directly from Kuujjuaq to Sondrestrom. About five hours flying, cooped up in our survival suits. Which is fine – the Mooney can fly for 10 hours with full fuel. But the immediate problem was that I would need fuel in Kuujjuaq.
Everyone who has been there had told me the same thing. Don’t buy fuel in Kuujjuaq! But there was no choice.
So, I strolled over to the fuel office, which was a little shack surrounded by drums of Avgas, and heaps of cigarette ends, where a very friendly local said he would happily sell me some fuel.
“That’ll be $730 for a 54 gallon drum, please.” And it was another $30 cash for him to help me move the drum to the aircraft and borrow his pump. Anyway, it was cheaper than an extra overnight stay in Iqaluit, which was the alternative, so I bought the most expensive fuel ever. Soon the aeroplane was ready to go;
On the ramp in Kuujjuaq
We took off, and headed North initially. This was to avoid the Gander control zone, where a High Frequency radio is required – which we don’t have. We had a long time to enjoy the stunning coastline of Baffin Island, thanks to a vicious headwind which slowed us dreadfully.
Cliffs on Baffin Island
- A splendid airfield, which we were tempted to try!
At times the wind blew at 60kt from the North West. It began to look as if we wouldn’t reach Greenland before closing time, but we battled on knowing that the strong winds would soon become a tailwind when we turned to the East.
Well, as pilots know, the weather gods are a perverse bunch. As we turned East, the wind turned too, and we still had a headwind. And, indeed, for the whole journey today we never once had a tailwind.
But apart from the winds, the weather was perfect, and the Mooney purred its way across the Davis Strait until eventually the stunning, magnificent coastline of Greenland came into sight. I have spent hours staring out of airliner windows, mesmerised by the beauty of Greenland, so the last hour of today’s flight was pure pleasure.
Crossing the coast.
It would have been nice to fly low up the fjord to the airport, but we were trying hard not to be late – and failing. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, we had our friend Steven contact the airport and negotiate a bit on our behalf. Steven, incidentally, was sitting on a train in England. Being an incredibly helpful chap, he also reserved hotel rooms for us!
Soon, we were touching down at Kangerlussuaq – formerly known as Sondrestromfjord – after five and a half hours in the air. And we both felt remarkably fresh, thanks to the incredibly comfortable seats in the Mooney – which Joe Thorne had re-upholstered by a friend of his who can work miracles.
We felt fresh, but we felt thirsty. We were perhaps a bit dehydrated, due to our desire not to use the on-board bathroom facilities. So, after reaching the hotel we enjoyed a quick drink in the bar, and then a long walk on the path heading East out of the village – towards the ice cap, which is clearly visible just a few miles away. Greenland is a beautiful place.
Yet again today, we had a group of friends tracking our progress thanks to our Delorme InReach device, and sending us messages. It is very reassuring to know people are watching out for us, and it always cheers us up to receive messages -whether they are useful ones about the weather, or jokes which can’t be repeated on a family blog like this!
Someone had left a musk ox hide hanging out to dry – possibly the one that we ate for supper when we got back to the hotel. If so, he was very tasty!
We haven’t come up with a plan for tomorrow yet, but it will probably involve getting to Iceland. Maybe further, but most likely not.
Meanwhile, after a long day, it is time for bed.