Across to Scandinavia

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In four days we had traveled in my A-36 from California to Narsarsuaq, Greenland. We now were refueling and after a briefing at the Met office (54 gallons gas plus ‘service’ = US$509!) and filing the ICAO flight plan with the competent Danish controller at the tower we prepared to depart. Our take off was almost delayed by a Greenlandair Boeing 757 also about to leave but we won in promptness. Just recently they began flying the biweekly jet to/from Narsarsuaq to Copenhagen, Denmark. It is indeed an amazing sight seeing such a large plane landing at this strip!

Taking off downhill away from the glacier, our clearance called for a climb on a westerly heading to the Simitak NDB station at the entrance of the Fjord:  40 miles in the opposite direction that we wanted to go! Cruise altitude ordered was 13,000 feet, which is the lowest level they allow for crossing the ice cap. Soon after take off we found a large hole and requested (and were granted permission) to climb in VFR conditions saving us precious fuel for the 660 NM journey. The views at our altitude over the 80 miles of treacherous ice cap were incredible. The ice surface during most of the flight was 9,000 feet; therefore, we were close enough to see plenty of details of the land below with a complete lack of wind and turbulence. Soon we reached Greenland’s eastern fjords and watched many ice floes parting from its glaciers headed to the Straights of Denmark to wreak havoc with ships navigating through.

About that time we were cleared to descend to 9,000 feet across the Danish Straights to Iceland and about one hour later entered solid clouds. A low-pressure center laid right over Iceland with IMC below 6,000 ft. into the Reykjavik airport and a 500-foot ceiling with strong winds. A severe crosswind waited at the lower altitudes, which required a 25-degree correction angle to track the Localizer. We broke out in one-mile visibility and rain over the port and soon landed. We were glad to finally get out of our survival suits and put our feet on land. An immediate stop was the hotel restaurant for our first meal of the day. Then to our rooms in the Hotel Loftleider which is located next to the runway from where we could see our faithful Bonanza N3704A out of our hotel window – plane, pilot and crew ready to charge again for Scandinavia after a day of rest and sightseeing in Reykjavik.

 

We left Reykjavik IFR two days later after a great visit of this city and had to contend with some icy conditions but nothing too serious, discovering ways over and under. Before long we broke into relatively clear conditions one hour into the flight departing the Icelandic FIR for the 800 NM flight to landfall at Bergen, Norway. On the way, we flew immediately north of the Faroe Islands. We had no intention to land in Norway but were counseled to file for this city in the event that the tailwinds did not materialize. But with strong tailwinds we decided to amend our flight plan aloft, throttle way back and go the full 1100 NM to our final destination for the day to Bolange, Sweden burning a total of 88 gallons upon arrival. Although we had to climb to 13,000 feet to get over a weather system over the Scandinavian Mountains we soon were able to descend and had a beautiful close-up (4-5000 ft) view of Norway, particularly with a course directly over downtown Oslo. CBs were encountered soon after but their rain shafts were easily circumnavigated at low altitude. At Bolange, Sweden we were met by Jorma and Annette Koskinen and Lars-Gunnar Soderlind who flew to meet us from their nearby home airport of Norberg in their 1949 A-model Bonanza that they have magnificently restored to like a ‘fresh from the factory’ condition. The tower was closed at our 5:45 PM arrival and learned that neither Customs nor Immigration was interested in our arrival fortunately. The local Aeroclub fueling truck was around, however, and we purchased enough fuel to fly to their private airfield and beyond it to Stockholm. Fuel was quite reasonable at around $2.00 per gallon. After flying both planes the 15 miles to Norberg we had a good Svenska dinner and comfortably settled into the home of our most gracious hosts Annette and Jorma. The next day our friends showed us some of the Swedish countryside visiting nearby Grangesborg, the hometown of Peyton’s grandparents to see where their dynasty had begun.

 

The next afternoon we flew from Norberg to Stockholm a distance of approximately 65 nautical miles over beautiful Swedish countryside at low level in VFR conditions. Our arrival at this capital city of 1,000,000 inhabitants was extra special with an extended downwind to the old international airport of Bromma allowing us a wonderful aerial tour of the heart of this delightful city.

 

We toured beautiful Stockholm including old town and - probably best of all – the Swedish warship Vasa that was sunk in its harbor in 1528 and raised and renovated during the last three decades to an amazingly good condition:  a must see for anyone visiting Stockholm. The City’s Water Festival was commencing and we witnessed some of its activities along with touring the King’s Palace. We learned on departure that the Swedish government is trying to promote aviation in general through reduced handling fees ($30 for a 15 day unlimited pass) and low fuel prices. Then the next morning a 35-minute flight took us from Stockholm’s Bromma airport to Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. There we landed at its airport, only a short stroll from town, and saw the mediaeval walled city with narrow streets and many ancient churches. Our arrival was marked by an unusual wedding ceremony by two skydivers and many friends, performed by their pastor on the way down. There was a festival occurring in Visby with many people dressed in circa 14th century costumes. That afternoon we left Gotland flying IFR for the 400 NM run to Hamburg. On the way, we penetrated a warm front with heavy clouds, rain, strong headwinds over southern Sweden and across the Baltic until we reached the German coast, then clear and sunny into Hamburg. – To be continued…