It’s 3 a.m. in a lonely hotel room in Northern Europe in the midst of worldwide quarantines. The world seems to be spiraling out of control in panic and fear, and once again, I can’t sleep. With the North Pole crossing looming over me just a few days away, my inner child just vomited with fear because he knows I’m taking him along like it or not—again. I keep tearing up when I think about all I’ve been through so far. I’ve been away for seven months and it’s looking like it will take another two months when I had originally planned for five months total. I’m fatigued, somewhat confident, and people still are calling me crazy—at least that last part is consistent.
This North Pole crossing has been perfectly planned just like the longer, and much more difficult, South Pole leg six months earlier. That 18-hour leg stressed me physically, emotionally, and broke me open spiritually. But that doesn’t keep my mind from thinking about all the possible issues the universe could throw my way this time.
The Citizen of the World is working well after the repair of two of my ferry tanks, which burst after a misalignment that caused a dumping of about 175 gallons of jet fuel inside the modified Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900, a starter-generator failure in flight, and a hydraulic fluid leak from the co-pilot-side brake caliper. Who can help but wonder what will happen next?
The North Pole Leg is approximately two-thirds the distance of the South Pole Leg. I can’t make it without the ferry tanks—two of which carry biofuels.
This is the ideal time of the year for an open ocean and ice flight as the Arctic temps are the warmest, which is good for avoiding potential fuel gelling and engine operating issues. But like everything in aviation, there is also a downside. There is a lot of fog down low this time of the year. Low fog makes it difficult for an emergency landing. Luckily, I have a ground radar that works pretty well for helping to determine my height above the ground or water in case I have to do a blind landing.
I’m well prepared with respect to survival gear, training, and support. In fact, I couldn’t be more prepared.
Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole is crossed often by commercial jets, maybe not as much now with the quarantines. That gives me some comfort that I will have some more experienced pilots in the air with me that could offer assistance if needed.
My route to cross the three north poles (magnetic, true, and the North Pole of Inaccessibility) has been charted out, along with the points to shift from magnetic to true navigation, as well as my alternates.
The plan is to leave from Longyearbyen Airport in Svalbard, Norway, after a 24-hour tech stop for fuel while being quarantined in the airport hotel. From Longyearbyen it’s just a 2,000-nautical-mile flight to Alaska. In this case, I would be up around 32,000 feet for only about 8 hours. That far north the winds aren’t too bad. But, as of today, the communications seem to have become confused and now require a departure from Kiruna in northern Sweden, which pushes the distance out to 3,000 nm and 11 hours of flight time, requiring the use of more ferry tanks. I’ll have more than enough time to think about all that can go wrong. At some point, I know from experience, I will relax into all of it and just accept my fate the gods have planned for me. You can’t be afraid forever—or at least I would like to think that on some level.
At least I know what to expect with respect to navigation this time. It will all fail except the iPad (which somehow did not over the South Pole and I still do not know why). My directional gyro will work, and of course, the position of the sun will be reliable, assuming I can see it. I will cheat the flight management system this time by putting a waypoint before and after the pole.
The incredible stress from the first flight opened me up and changed the person that I am, teaching me some of the most important lessons of my life. I’ve reframed my fear into looking forward to the growth that lies ahead over the North Pole; and, of course, praying to be an inspiration to others while having the most positive impact on the planet.
Miraculous. Impossible. I’ve got this.