Flight Preparations

Trip Start Jun 27, 2011
Trip End Dec 08, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Saturday, June 25, 2011

The 78 gallon ferry tank and HF radio were installed in mid-June. With the installation of a ferry tank it is necessary to obtain a Special Airworthiness Certificate for operation at greater than normal MTOW (normally 3400 lbs, certificate allows for 3989 lbs) and a modified fuel system since the ferry tank is plumbed into the regular fuel system. You need to work with a local FAA FSDO to get the installation inspected, approved and the paperwork issued.  The fuel tank installation included a valve manifold that allow switching from the right wing tank to the ferry tank. The fuel return goes back to the right wing tank so as fuel is drawn from the ferry tank, some of it goes to the engine and is burned and some of it is returned to the right wing tank. Thus the fuel quantity shown for the right wing tank actually goes up when the ferry tank is in use. When the right tank is once again full, I switch off the ferry tank and switch the right wing tank back on. This back and forth switching continues until the fuel in the ferry tank is down to about 5-10 gallons. The amount of fuel remaining in the ferry tank must thus be derived by subtracting the amount that went into the engine (given by the Shadin fuel flow meter) and the amount that went back into the right wing tank as indicted by the right wing fuel gauge. The left wing tank works in a conventional way and is not involved in this operation.

In addition to the normal VHF aviation radios in the plane, I also carried an HF (shortwave) radio for communications over the ocean when out of range of the VHF radio facilities. This radio is a ham radio rig - an ICOM IC-760MKIIG - which I modified to transmit in the aviation shortwave bands. It uses the standard ICOM AH-4 automatic antenna tuner to tune the wire antenna strung beneath the fuselage out to the tail and back. In addition, I carry a satellite phone which is an Iridium 9555 which are sold/rented from several places on the web. 

The items I carried for this flight that I normally don't carry are a life raft and an immersion suit. The life raft is a Winslow Ultra-light model 46FAUL which weighs 35 lbs and is FAA TSO'd (you'll pay a premium for TSO'd). The cold water immersion suit is a Stearns.  The emergency gear I always carry in a dry bag: ICOM A4 handheld aviation transceiver, cheap Garmin GPS, ACR PLB-350C Aqualink View personal locator beacon, flares, signal mirror and whistle, basic pre-packaged survival kit, spare batteries.  I also always carry an inflatable suspender-type life jacket since I routinely fly over Puget Sound.

I didn't have any real difficulty getting insurance for this flight, although it is expensive.  Normally I have insurance through AOPA, but they didn't have a policy covering overseas operation. I obtained a policy through Jeff Rhodes at CS&A in Kennesaw, Georgia. The insurance company is StarNet, a Berkey Company.  The policy is an annual policy providing worldwide coverage, the $5m liability coverage required in Europe, $50k for search and rescue (SAR) which Iceland sometimes checks for (though didn't for my flight), and operation outside the parameters of the normal airworthiness certificate (i.e. with a ferry tank). Annual premium is about 2.5x what I would pay for a US-only policy for this plane through AOPA.

I scanned all the important documents I might need to show on this flight, both for the plane (airworthiness, registration, maintenance logs, insurance policy, etc.) and personal documents (passport, pilot and medical certificate, etc.) Having all these in pdf form on my laptop in case I need to print more copies, or email them, was a useful backup.

For a flight around the world, the number of charts that might be needed is very large, easily filling a couple of bookshelves if you get paper charts.  I tried to minimize the chart burden as much as possible.  In the US I have been using the Honeywell AV8OR ACE EFB with a small touch screen.  This has VFR and IFR charts, approach plates, etc. covering the US which are all geo-referenced.  Although I have been using this, I have now transitioned to using a 32GB iPad 2 and the ForeFlight HD Pro for the iPad.  The iPad screen is much larger, and the touchscreen response much better, than the ACE (and the iPad is a lot cheaper and more versatile than the ACE).

Outside the US the chart problem gets more difficult because electronic charts are generally only available from Jeppesen and are expensive.  For the part of Canada I crossed, I bought the LO en-route charts and approach plate book from Canada which are excellent.  Canada's LO en-route chart coverage on the Atlantic also extends to Iceland and the Azores.

For Europe, LO en-route and approach plates are available for the ACE so I didn't bother with getting paper charts. However, it turned out to be difficult to use the charts on the ACE for flight planning.  Also, no VFR charts are included.  European VFR flying is complicated so paper charts are definitely needed for those areas where VFR flights are intended.  I ended up buying a VFR chart (in England) covering southern England for some short VFR flights I was making in that area. I finally ended up buying a set of Jeppesen paper LO en-route charts which made flight planning easier than using the charts on the ACE.  For the countries I was visiting in Europe, all of the detailed terminal charts (STAR’s, SID’s, approach plates, text) are available from public sources.  A convenient way to get at them is to subscribe to EuroFPL.  EuroFPL provides route planning (with EuroControl route validation) and for origin and destination airports, tripkits which include all the terminal charts from these public sources.  Using these tripkits, and the Jeppesen LO en-route paper charts, effectively provides all the chart info I needed for flying IFR across Europe with stops in the UK, France and Greece.

Beyond the U.S., Canada, and Europe, the only consistent source for charts (paper and electronic) is Jeppesen, although many countries offer complete airport terminal charts as pdf  files on the web site of their FAA-equivalent government organization (Australia is a good example).  I initially bought Jeppesen paper trip kits for the Middle East, SE Asia, and the Pacific which is a lot of paper.  I then extracted all the en-route charts and only the terminal charts for the dozen or so airports on my route to minimize the paper I would need to carry.  However, once the trip started, I got better information on which airports to go to, so I significantly changed my original route and hence the paper charts I had  on board were useless, and I didn’t have the ones I would need.   The solution to this, which I should have done in the first place, is just accept the additional expense of buying JeppView electronic chart coverage for the Middle East, SE Asia, and the Pacific.  These charts along with software then reside on my laptop and on the iPad (running the Mobile FD app) which I use in the cockpit in place of the AV8OR ACE.   Backup terminal charts can also be printed from the e-charts using either the business center (or front desk) at the hotel or using a portable printer (I ultimately bought a Canon ip100 printer with battery pack for this purpose and printing the multiple copies needed of General Declarations).  If the routing changes, all the charts needed are at hand.  Also, if a diversion due to weather or a mechanical issue is needed, the charts for the diversion or alternate airport are immediately available in the cockpit on the iPad and much easier to search than a multiple Jepp binders full of paper).  The iPad is also nice because travel guides can be downloaded from Amazon in Kindle format for display on the iPad (I used Frommer’s eBooks for many areas).  For a flight like this which was also about touring, not just flying, using eBooks for travel guides also eliminated the need for carry these paper guidebooks.

I bought a blank NAVDATA card for the Garmin 530W and loaded it with the Jeppesen worldwide navdata database.   The database includes all the navigation aids, intersections and approaches, including those in the U.S.  I used this data card in place of my U.S.-only NAVDATA card.  The odd thing is there are duplicate and sometimes triplicate names for some VOR’s, intersections, etc. so when you dial in a particular code name, it may ask you something like "Do you want the one in the U.S. or the one in Thailand?"  Not much chance of confusion.  In addition, I bought the Europe and Asia navdata databases from Honeywell for the AV8OR ACE to have as a backup source for this fundamental navigation information.  Most of the time I navigated by using the Direct-To function in the 530W from one waypoint to another and using the heading bug in the AP to steer the plane.  This turned out to be more flexible and easily changed when the routing changed compared to programming the entire route into the 530W and using GPS steering.  There were a few exceptions when I did use GPSS.  For waypoints over the open ocean at latitude-longitude intersections (like N60W50) that were not identified by name in the navdata database, I programmed these points into the 530W as user-defined waypoints with an appropriate name (like ATL01, ATL02, etc.)
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