Tom Horne

An around the world kickoff

May 14, 2008 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Lucky, lucky me. After years of waiting I’m off on a  trip around the world. Well, part way around , anyway. I’ve joined up with Air Journey LLC, a well-known purveyor of very high-end, guided general aviation tours, for the first few legs of their first-ever around-the-world voyages.

As you might suspect, the participants in this tour all fly turbine airplanes. How else could they fly with a greater degree of safety and comfort on such daunting and exotic legs as those taking them to India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Peoples Republic of China?

As I write this, I’m in the Chateau Frontenac Hotel in Quebec City. It’s one of the chain of hotels set up by the Canadian Pacific railroad, back in the early part of the last century. It’s right on the Saint Lawrence river.

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So far, a few participants have shown up. There’s my ride, Jeff Yusem’s Beech Duke, which has the “Royal Turbine” modification–it has a pair of 550-shp PT6As. Yusem’s from Aspen, Colorado. A TBM 700, a PC-12, and a Cessna Mustang are to arrive later today. The Duke does 290 knots true at FL270, burning just 66 gph (that’s for both engines).

Our first daily briefing is set for 4 p.m. today. We’ll be discussing the weather for what looks like (things can always change) our next two legs. The first will go to Goose Bay, Labrador. The next goes from Goose to fabled Narsarsuaq, Greenland. A north-south occluded front is now stalled over Narsarsuaq, and we’re hoping the forecast for it to move east will hold up. There’s another weather briefing before takeoff tomorrow.

I’ll keep you posted along the way. For me, this trip (I’m getting off at Paris) represents a huge contrast to the crossings I’ve made before. All of those were deliveries–driven by pressures to get through on a rigid schedule, and often decidedly non-luxurious. On this one, Air Journey has done all the yeoman’s work of transfers, reservations, flight plans, and clearances.

But blue water is blue water. We all have our rafts and our portable emergency transmitters. And I once more–sigh–have my Gumby suit. It’s a big floppy orange thing that keeps you warm should you ditch, and even keeps you afloat. My SPOT satellite personal tracker should transmit my position, superimpose it on a Google earth map, and deliver it to me trusties at AOPA, but perhaps we’re too far north for the satellite to read it. I’ll keep trying.

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