Menu

Category: GA community (page 1 of 20)

Personal lessons learned on the Pole to Pole Flight

 Taking yourself and your aircraft to their absolute limits can teach you things you never knew about yourself, your aircraft, and those involved in the operation of your airplane. While we strive for perfection in our training, the maintenance of our aircraft, and the planning of our missions realistically we will never achieve any of those. That doesn’t mean we should ever stop trying. This art form I’m describing is called flying and can be our greatest source of joy but also at times be the most frustrating and the riskiest thing we will ever do. It is my hope that these lessons learned will help you enjoy your practiced art form while keeping as safe as possible.

Take your time preparing

Don’t rush your preparations for flight. This is a vitally critical time where you get into the zone and begin your transition from being a two to three-dimensional being. Methodically pre-flighting and thinking through your flight can help you avoid making dangerous mistakes. If you are hurried, tell whoever is waiting for you, counting the seconds, that it’s going to be a while longer, and you will be delayed. Take the stress off and take time out of the equation. If you feel like spending 30 minutes with the instruction manual on that new piece of equipment, pushing buttons on your panel, studying the approaches, walking yourself through the emergency checklists, or just sitting for a minute and being quiet then do it. This time is well worth it and will make your experience flying more enjoyable.

When I was in Sweden, I was instructed to park in a particular location that ended up partially blocking the taxiway. In my rush to move the plane the following day, I forgot to take one of the exhaust covers off the pilot side engine. After shutdown, I found the burnt-up exhaust cover 25 feet behind the Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900. I ran to the front of Citizen of the World to see if I had removed the intake cover knowing if I hadn’t, the engine would need to be removed, shipped to a repair facility, and inspected at great cost and delay.

Listen to what your inner voice is saying to you!

If you keep thinking about a nagging problem on your airplane or a concept you don’t quite understand you need to delve deeper into the issue and find out why the Universe keeps tipping you off. I couldn’t help thinking about the environmental system that I ran hard during my polar expedition. I flew the airplane at altitudes higher and colder than it was originally designed to fly while simultaneously using the environmental system to heat the ferry fuel stored in the cabin. When I got back to the United States, we found two stainless steel bleed airlines that had been cooked and burst from long flights of up to 18.1 hours in duration. When the Universe talks, listen!

Hyperfocus

While a Polar Circumnavigation can be extremely complicated organizing sponsorship, speaking engagements, social media, and repairs to the plane when it’s time to fly, your focus should only be on that. Erik Lindbergh said it best before I left the U.S., “You have only one mission and that is to stay alive!” None of the other things that you have going on in your life that are unrelated to aviation will help your decision-making skills in the cockpit. Your ability to stay 100% at the moment will allow you to do the best you can. If you are feeling distracted by something major in your life, visualize taking the issue from your mind and put it into a little wooden box that you will open when you are back on the ground and have the bandwidth.

Never give up on your passion

There are times when things went terribly wrong on my Polar Circumnavigation and I could have quit. One of those moments occurred when my #1 ferry tank burst inside the airplane in Dakar, Senegal, due to a misalignment of the valves, and sprayed fuel in my eyes, on my legs, stomach, arms, chest, and groin. I could have stepped back and watched the airplane be destroyed, packed it up, and called it quits. Instead, I splashed water in my eyes, deflected the fuel out of the plane by cutting a fuel line and using a plastic bag, and did what I could to save it while others around me watched in disbelief. Once the leaking tank drained, I tossed my clothes in the garbage can, showered, had a meal, went to sleep, and left the following day. I skipped the judgments and got on with the mission.

Have faith in your ability to accomplish the impossible

For 18 months I had been told by the industry flight planning leader that they would be able to get me permits to fly to the South Pole. Two days before my departure from the United States, they told me they were unsuccessful, and based on some calls they had made to the Chilean government I would now need permission from their scientific community a process that would take six months.

I recall getting this news standing on the ramp in Las Vegas feeling defeated and betrayed. After 18 months of making promises to 95 sponsors, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and working harder than I ever had in my life—things looked very grim. I turned to the U.S. Department of State and they refused to help me despite the fact that the Antarctic Treaty permitted all member nations free movement in the airspace over the continent.

Within 24 hours my team and I shook the setback off and shifted into high gear. Our senior scientist Dr. Dimitri Deheyn from Scripps Institute of Oceanography reached out to the senior scientist for Chile asking for an exception. General Aviation Support Egypt reached out to a British military base in the Falkland Islands asking for permission to depart from there and famed circumnavigator Michel Gordillo reached out to his contacts in Ushuaia, Argentina . In the end, we got approval from all three countries and pulled off what the industry leader could not.  It was an epic win for our team and a testament to what was possible when you choose faith over fear.

Get used to stretching your comfort zone on every flight a small amount

If you aren’t growing, then you are stagnating. It’s an easy space to slip into and before you know it you are afraid. I’m not suggesting taking major chances, but I am suggesting trying new functions on your panel, simulating different emergency procedures, and memorizing the location of critical circuit breakers.  With time you will become a more confident and skilled pilot. You may feel uncomfortable at times, but my guess is you have felt a little awkward during your training and worked through the issues only to be rewarded with a heightened sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Mitigating the risk of flight

Every flight is an opportunity to identify and mitigate the risks that you will encounter. Before each flight, you need to sit for a moment and ask yourself what risks will you encounter on this flight? What can you do to improve your chances of success? Most flights offer different challenges like weather, distance, terrain, day/night, foreign countries, corruption, runway length/surface, and pandemic considerations. One of the most challenging risks I had to mitigate on my Polar Expedition was extreme cold. To mitigate the risk, I flew at the warmest time of the year, installed additional temperature sensors, installed a new environmental system with higher heat capacity, heated my fuel inside the cabin of the plane, wore a survival suit, used Prist and biofuels with a lower gel point, spoke with people that had flown my type of aircraft in the extreme cold and even considered burning avgas in my turboprop engines which is permitted on occasion. How far are you willing to go to make your flight safe?

While the Pole to Pole flight of the Citizen of the World did many things in support of STEM Education, aviation, science, and world peace I am most proud of what I have learned and shared what I hope will make flying safer for each and every general aviation pilot. As a community working together to share what we learn in our areas of expertise we can make everyone safer and our flying experience more enjoyable.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Bouncing Back: A psychotherapist’s guide for pilots

Some of you may know that I am a licensed psychotherapist. Since March of this year most  counselors have been able to see clients virtually to address mounting mental health issues from the pandemic. I could probably work 24/7 right about now. I truly have never experienced anything like this in my 29 years of practice.

Last week I read a recent study Mental Health Disorders Related to COVID-19–Related Deaths by Naomi M. Simon, MD, MSc1; Glenn N. Saxe, MD2; Charles R. Marmar, MD3 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA]. It noted that since the onset of COVID -19 the percentage of Americans who have a diagnosable mental health condition has doubled. Pre-COVID about 20% of the population in the United States was affected by a thought, mood, anxiety or substance abuse disorder. The survey taken in June 2020 now indicates that number has jumped to 40.9%. A stunning part of the excerpt below is that 10.7% of respondents who revealed serious suicidal thoughts in the last month.

A June 2020 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 5412 US adults found that 40.9% of respondents reported “at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition,” including depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and substance abuse, with rates that were 3 to 4 times the rates 1 year earlier.2 Remarkably, 10.7% of respondents reported seriously considering suicide in the last 30 days.2 The sudden interpersonal loss associated with COVID-19, along with severe social disruption, can easily overwhelm the ways individuals and families cope with bereavement.

As our flying started opening back up [with precautions] this summer I thought back to a piece I wrote for AOPA many years ago on recovery from trauma. I have included the article below. My hope is that as you get back in the airplane you will seriously consider a mental health checklist in addition to the checklist for the airplane you will be piloting.


Bouncing Back A psychotherapist’s guide for pilots

It was a beautiful day in the Columbia River Gorge. Hood River Airport is located in a picturesque valley, surrounded by mountains. A pilot was in his backyard garden enjoying the sunshine. He heard an airplane engine start to sputter, then quit, and listened to the sound of a loud impact in the neighboring vineyard. He jumped the fence and raced to the crash scene. There he found an aircraft nose down between the rows of red grapes. A quick glance in the cockpit revealed his deepest fear: the loss of a life.

As a psychotherapist who specializes in recovery from trauma or traumatic loss, I saw this pilot in my office four days later. “I am having a hard time. I keep hearing the engine quit, then the sound of the crash. I keep seeing the wreckage in my mind, over and over again. I run to him, but I know it is too late. He was still warm. I held him in my arms until the paramedics came.” When I asked him how often the movie is playing in his head, he said it was about 20 times per day. He had disturbed sleep, lost his appetite, and felt very hopeless about the intense flashbacks.

Over the course of our work together, I was able to help him understand how the brain reacts to trauma, and how professional care could speed recovery. In the end my client understood that while he was seeing the movie in his head hundreds of times, the pilot who perished only experienced it once.

Exposure to trauma

We all experience trauma in our lives, and as pilots, with medical certificates at risk, how we deal with it can be especially important. After exposure to a traumatic event, most people go through four distinct stages. The first is shock—a sense of disbelief or cognitive fogginess. During this stage a survivor may experience flashbacks, or mental movies of the event. Let’s also surmise that the person watched the news, listened to audio, saw photos, and viewed video of the event—thus re-exposing himself to the initial trauma. The re-exposure to the brain is essentially the same as the initial exposure. Should the person not get appropriate care, especially in the weeks or months after the event, an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder could develop.

Next comes a return to a “feeling” state and also a time to tell the story. When I worked at the Vietnam Vet Center, my supervisor—a combat vet and a psychotherapist—said, “Every trauma survivor has a story to tell and retell, and it is in the retelling that the healing is found.”

The third stage is when a person’s energy typically rebounds and a sense of focus develops. This energy could take the form of volunteerism, donating time and money, contact with rescuers, or helping other survivors.

Finally, reintegration must take place. A person must accept life on life’s terms now. Meaning is incorporated in life, in absence of what they lost. This is a time where we hear, “I have a new lease on life,” or “Life is precious.”

How does this apply to our ability to pilot an aircraft? One study says that intellectual power is decreased 50 to 90 percent when you are in the midst of the first stage. It is important not to make big decisions at that time. When we perform a preflight on our aircraft before launch, we are careful to consider all the aircraft systems. The effects of exposure to trauma cannot be underestimated. In our go/no-go decision, we should carefully reflect on our emotional health and how that will affect the flight. After all, we want to be able to fly the airplane instead of it flying us.

Pre-Flight Checklist

Here are some simple ways to put you and your emotional health on the pre-flight checklist, as well as some ideas on when to get support if needed.

Mood: Think back over the past week. Rate your mood on a scale of one to five, with one being the lowest, and five being a happy mood. What is your average? Has anyone told you that you look tired, depressed, or nervous? Sometimes our spouse or families are our greatest mirrors—we might not see our mood, but to them it is written all over our faces.

Sleep: Have you been sleeping well? The average person in a lab setting will sleep a six- to seven-hour stretch and take a one- to two-hour nap in the afternoon. Think back and check whether you have had any difficulties falling or staying asleep. Deep, restorative sleep typically happens well into an uninterrupted sleep cycle. Think about performing a go-around on every approach—when sleeping we simply cannot get down to Delta if the cycle is continually disrupted.

Energy: Has your get up and go, got up and went? Do you find yourself drinking coffee or energy drinks just to get through the day? Some pilots find they have too much energy and are unable to relax into a healthy focus. Between the tortoise and the hare, somewhere in the middle is the most efficient.

Anxiety and Worry: Someone once told me that worry is interest on a debt we don’t yet owe. An interesting study on worry shows that it can be healthy in small doses. Worry is a high-brain function—one that can help us sort through possibilities and strategies. Too much worry shuts down the function and we can find ourselves in a state: fight, flight, or freeze. Thirty minutes of worry once per week is effective. How many minutes this week have you racked up?

Concentration and Focus: Particularly important for the pilot in command is the ability to concentrate and stay focused. If you are noticing that your mind is wandering or you are distracted by worry, it might be best to keep yourself and the aircraft on the ground.

Sex drive: This might seem a strange item to have on your personal checklist, but a person’s sex drive can be indicative of emotional health. A lack of desire can suggest a mood problem.

Appetite: Does your favorite food taste good to you? Are you eating for comfort or to excess? Healthy food is fuel for the brain and the body. Make sure that you do not fly without fuel onboard.

Bumper sticker: If you had to summarize your attitude about life to fit on a bumper sticker, what would yours say? Is your bumper sticker upbeat and optimistic, or doubtful and negative?

When to get some “dual”

As a practicing psychotherapist and trauma survivor myself, I have come to believe in getting some couch time when you need support. The addition of the pandemic, isolation, uncertainty and lack of currency necessitates a closer look at your check list.  If we do not take care of our mental health, it might end up taking care of us. Think of a licensed counselor as an advisor, or life coach. It truly is a gift to be able to talk with someone you trust about things that you might keep from others. Sometimes my clients think that they can tell me something that I have not heard before. That is simply not the case. We all have many of the same core insecurities, wounds, and doubts. The difference is in how you deal with them.


Recently I was flying a large turbine aircraft with a more powerful engine than I was accustomed to. When I was about 50 miles out, I began a descent, thinking about each thing that I was going to do next. As I began the approach I thought, “I am going to fly this airplane and make it do what I want it to do.” Imagine if I were instead plagued by doubt, anxiety, or insecurity, or maybe I did not sleep well the night before. Who would be PIC—the airplane, or me? Make sure that when you are in the left seat you are flying the airplane. The only way to do that is to consider yourself on your personal checklist.

If you want or need help, reach out. Most insurance companies are offering free or low-cost counseling visits virtually.  Let’s make our return to the skies as safe, joyful and fun as possible.


 

2.Czeisler  MÉ, Lane  RI, Petrosky  E,  et al.  Mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic: United States, June 24-30, 2020.   MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(32):1049-1057.

 

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Aircraft lessons learned during a Polar Circumnavigation

Flying Citizen of the World to the South Pole and then the North Pole can create stresses on the aircraft that it was never designed to endure. Furthermore, taking a stock aircraft and modifying it in over 50 ways and hoping all those systems will work in perfect harmony for 8 months and 23 days over 26,000 nautical miles is total insanity. But somehow, we did it. Along the way, we learned a lot about what a 1983 Gulfstream Turbine Commander is really capable of when supported by some of the most talented and skilled mechanics, engineers and aviation enthusiasts. Below I’ve shared the most important of these lessons in hopes that you will be able to operate your aircraft in the safest and most reliable way possible.

Be protective of your plane

Before anyone puts a wrench to my airplane, I want to make sure that they are in the mental state to focus 100 percent on the job at hand and have lots of experience. If they are dealing with a major life event or anything that will distract them, then they need to resolve their issues first. Pilots must be in a good mental state of mind to fly, so why shouldn’t the person who you are trusting to keep your machine running over oceans, mountains, in the dark, and in bad weather not have the same requirements? I know the aviation industry says the most likely cause of flying accidents or incidents is pilot error, but I would disagree. New mechanics today are taught component replacement not the critical thinking skills like diagnosing and the repair of problems.

Critical aircraft components fail regularly

If you think you will be lucky and never experience a major component failure in flight then you are in for a few surprises. Airplanes are machines and all machines eventually fail. In fact, the more we ask from these systems the shorter their lifespan. With just 2,000 hours flying time I’ve had engines, avionics, hydraulics, props, environmental systems, tires, fuel tanks, batteries, and even windows fail at critical moments. Using the very best mechanics and equipment money can buy didn’t stop it from happening as well.

The thing that surprised me in preparing for my flight was that new parts could fail as well. I experienced this test-flying my new high-tech environmental system at 34,500 feet. I lost pressurization when the turbo charger blew out with just six hours of life on it. The problem was eventually traced to a sound resonance issue the designer/installer didn’t detect during the test flights.

Install multiple redundant systems

As I watched my flight management systems, attitude heading and references systems, and autopilot fail while flying over the North and South Poles, the importance of having backups never became more important. Redundancy and not becoming attached to any one piece of gear for any critical phase of flight can save your life. Luckily, different types of backup avionics systems are plentiful and relatively inexpensive today. With just an L3Harris ESI 500 with battery backup, an iPad, and an Icom handheld radio, you can pretty much fly your aircraft if you lose the rest of your panel. Having these independent backup systems allows you to troubleshoot when things get difficult.

Go high-tech and low-tech

Technology offers us so many advantages but let’s not forget about our heavier, older, and oftentimes rock-solid steam gauges. I have both in all the aircraft I fly and while it makes for a busier panel that may not look as cool as all glass, you are covered in an emergency. Additionally, just about any avionics shop in the world can change out old-school steam gauges.

In preparation for the Polar Circumnavigation of the Citizen of the World, we reinstalled a directional gyro that was crucial to navigation over both poles as well as an ADF that is required for flight in Europe. Both of these systems likely came with the airplane when it was built back in 1983.

Planning your flight may be the most critical component

Every minute you spend on the ground planning out your flight—and responses to critical issues that can come up during the flight—can save your life. When you are on the ground and thinking calmly, and not under stress, is when you will do your best planning. Spend extra time reviewing your approach plates, writing down the frequencies you will use, studying the weather, selecting alternates, and thinking about the “What if’s?”

When I was in Madagascar two days before departure, I spent time reviewing the weather patterns in this area of the world. I saw the winds starting to swirl between the mainland and the island. It was the beginning of a cyclone and caused me to leave a day early which saved my airplane and possibly my life.

During moments of crises focus on what is working

When I was flying over the North Pole without comms, autopilot, attitude heading and reference systems, or flight management systems, it would have been easy to fixate on the avionics that had gone offline and try to fix them. Instead, in a moment of clarity, I decided to search for what was working and use it. At the time, the iPad was working perfectly, I was above the cloud deck with a reference to the horizon, and the 1,150-horsepower Honeywell TPE 331 engines outfitted with five-bladed props were perfection in motion.

Check the work of your mechanics

I usually allow a half-day after a major maintenance period to look over the airplane with the mechanics. Take a wrench to the fittings that have been worked on. Run the systems, stress the aircraft. You are the pilot in command and the one who’s life is on the line. With the exception of High Performance Aircraft Inc. in San Diego, I don’t know any repair facility that takes the airplane up in the air after major work to test it for the customers. This alone is reason to pay a premium for the work that is done on your aircraft.

In my nine years of flying I’ve never had a truly perfect flight. If you think you did, I can almost guarantee that you missed something. For this reason, aviation is a great place to hone your skills, refine your aircraft, and learn valuable lessons about life on every flight. See your aircraft as a training ground, a place to grow your mind, body, and soul to better experience all the wonders that are available for you! In the process this will make your experience safer and more enjoyable knowing that you are prepared for anything that may come your way.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Decoding Transcendence

On most flights taken in the Cub, I come back a much happier person. However, on certain flights, I am in a transcendent state of happiness for much of the rest of the day afterward. I have often wondered why it was the case, initially ascribing my feelings as proportional to the majesty of the experience. Having taken the Cub to so many mountain ranges and countries has allowed for quite a number of tremendous experiences, which makes it easy to compare how one flight might be old hat whereas another could be something that left me nearly speechless.

Hanging around the Alps has complicated the assumption about the relationship. The scenery is generally world class no matter what the specific flight is like, though sometimes I am merely happy, and other times I am utterly transcendent as described above. I tried to explain it away as an issue with novelty, as I am more prone to stay within 50 miles of the airfield as the Alps are filled with more terrain than one knows what to do with. Was I tiring of seeing similar things?

That theory went out the window when the pandemic made the world smaller. Repeated flights over similar areas are actually increasing in majesty, even though the reality of the pursuit of novelty could be argued either way. While it is possible that I have changed my perspective, there is still a reality that some flights are utterly spectacular, whereas others are merely pleasant.

Since inversions are a regular part of European weather, particularly around terrain, I supposed that flying above the clouds might have something to do with it. It is an age-old sense of bliss, to be in massive terrain, with mountains poking up here and there, and a stratiform cloud deck below (ideally not entirely covering a safe glide range to the valley below). Separated from human society by the cloud layer, one finds himself soaring in the heavens, literally, with the inability to see human influence. It is nothing short of stupendous.

The problem with that theory was that I have had this differential of feeling on flights where clouds were not involved. While I can place a bookmark in the idea that soaring above the clouds constitutes something special, I think that there is more to the story as evidenced by my experience.

The next theory that I had is a more significant one. Aviation has many elements where we often find in magazines and other pilot communications something to the effect of “only with aviation can you see…” where the item in question is some sort of resplendent experience. I find that those experiences can be grouped into two main categories: the sheer majesty of being in the air, and the speed that aviation affords. To fly any kind of airplane and change states, countries, vegetation, or climate zones in orders of magnitude faster than a car is something that we clearly cherish in an aircraft. At the same time, “low and slow” Cub flying is cherished equally as much (if not more, depending on who is rendering the opinion). “Low and slow” is the embodiment of the majesty of being in the air, irrespective of the purpose behind it.

With a pokey old Cub, it is very hard to experience the theory of going anywhere fast. If it is Kansas, then one might as well drive. In the mountains, it is a mixed signal as the Cub can certainly beat a car, sometimes by a wide margin. The world on one side of a mountain range is often different than that of another, so some mix of the two can happen in such an occasion.

I thought I had the problem solved when I figured this reality out. Since I have been flying around mountains for the majority of the last 7 years in this airplane, I have had plenty of opportunities to experience this phenomenon. As the mountain ranges have gotten steeper and taller, the world on the other side has grown significantly more different, including now often meaning that it is a different country on the other side.

It took a few recent flights to furnish some clarity. Not only did I fly over mountains, into other countries, and into what felt like other worlds, I also landed somewhere else. COVID-19 has accentuated a problem that I knew had shown up when I came to Europe: I am far less likely to land at an airport that is not my home base (wherever that happens to be) if I am in Europe compared to the United States.

The opportunity to shut down the engine, step out, take in the scenery, and let the reality of where I stand sink in is one that contributes greatly to the sense of transcendence which remains in my psyche long after the flight has completed. Something about merely flying over to the other side of the range and then turning back, even if it is a full tank three-hour flight, is not the same as the silence that comes from a parked airplane. This reality held true in the semi-arid regions of Spain, where mountains may have only been incidental to the flight at hand. Something about landing elsewhere makes it all sink in.

So, the question becomes, how much has my flying changed since I came to Europe? I did some gymnastics with my logbook and tallied total hours, by year, where the entry included “Local” as the destination compared to those where it did not. Some simple division furnishes the percentage of local flights, where I return to home base compared to a flight where I landed elsewhere. I did not differentiate between the FAA definition of “cross country”; I merely added total hours of the flight if it included going to or coming from a landing at another airport. The chart is not my total flying career, but basically the point at which I became active again and acquired the Cub.

The results are quite interesting: 43% of flight hours in the United States started and stopped at the local airport, whereas 68% in Europe did so. The underlying reasons are pretty simple (to me): there is more paperwork and aggravation to coordinate a flight elsewhere, so I do not do it as much. To make matters more complex, the pandemic has added additional layers to daily life, which means that 90% of my flights in 2020 have been local.

Motivational incentives are lined up to the contrary. I am not bumming around my grandfather’s grass strip in an area that I lived since I was born, nor I am floating around over the Piedmont of North Carolina, which is relatively repetitive. I am in a foreign continent filled to the brim with things to see and do and yet I still find myself motivated to fly locally more than ever. I think that reality, coupled with the added layer of pandemic restrictions, made some recent landings elsewhere stand out entirely. Flying took on a more transcendent dimension, merely by making concrete on a mental level the magnitude that aviation affords. The freedom is immense and hard to quantify, when we have a chance to use it.

 

Garrett Fisher is an aerial adventure photographer, having photographed some of the most rugged and wild terrain in America from his 1949 Piper PA-11. After living in Germany with the Cub, he recently moved to the Spanish Pyrenees to continue the flying adventure. He has published six aerial photography books covering the Colorado Rockies, Wyoming, high terrain in the Southeast, and the Outer Banks, with more US and European books in the pipeline. He blogs regularly about his flights at www.garrettfisher.me.

Lessons learned as a Citizen of the World

After nine months of meeting and talking with literally thousands of people across the planet during my pole-to-pole circumnavigation and global peace mission, and interviewing more than 50 of them about what it means to be a “Citizen of the World,” I’d like to share what I learned along the way.

Once I had been away from home for about two months, my perspective started to change. I began to forget about the things I liked doing back in San Diego and started replacing them with other things. I always loved walking and working out in Balboa Park; it’s been a magical place for me where I could restore my sense of inner peace and receive what the Universe had to offer me.

Fast-forward eight weeks to Sitges, Spain, where I lived during the most intense lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe. Every few days I would walk down the mountain to the market, and was most often the only person out on the street. At the market, I would load up with bags of groceries and then walk home. Over time, I could carry more and more, while enjoying the view of the old town, harbor, ocean, and mountain. During these walks I would fall into a deeply reflective state of mind and felt connected once again to everyone and everything in a unique way. It was a stunningly beautiful experience and one of the many steps that redefined me as a “Citizen of the World.”

Sitges, Spain

The same thing happened when I met new people on my journey. I was spending time with wonderful new friends I met like Claes and Inger Martinson at Gotland Island Airport off the coast of Sweden. I ate dinner with them, pulled weeds with them, compared thoughts on the world, and shared my love of aviation while living at their beautiful airport museum prior to taking off to cross the North Pole.

My view of different cultures changed—I saw people cooperating rather than competing. In fact, in some places competing was frowned upon until the age of 12! Growing up I was always encouraged to stand out and be “better” than others. On this expedition I realized my perspective–shaped by my upbringing–was a very different and divisive way to see other people. All the people along the way who helped me, even when it wasn’t necessarily to their initial benefit, helped me see that when we work together, we can accomplish so much more. I came to understand that working together as “Citizens of the World” would  be the only way ahead for the planet as we tackle things that we never would have expected like the coronavirus.

This transformation within me continued to happen in each country I visited. My definition of home changed and expanded. These new elements along with hearing diverse answers from people about what it meant to them to be a “Citizen of the World” gave me greater clarity and began to redefine me. Clearly a time of personal evolution, I did not always feel comfortable in the midst of everything that was happening in the world. At times I felt lost and confused, but I kept choosing faith over fear as this new way of being filtered into my daily life. This perspective flew in the face of what I had been taught. After nine months of exploring the most remote parts of the planet and the most different cultures during some of the most difficult times the world has known, I came to realize the following things about what it means to be a “Citizen of the World”:

A Citizen of the World is someone who doesn’t wait for others to change the world for them. Instead, a Citizen of the World has the courage to go out into the world using whatever resources they can draw upon and become the change they want to see. We must first start with ourselves, and by example, others have the opportunity to learn from our positive actions.

A Citizen of the World respectfully listens to but does not rely on input from others through the media, politics, or religion to formulate their view of the world. They formulate their worldview based on their own global experiences. By traveling outside their home country and meeting others, shaking hands, looking people straight in the eye and seeing that these “others” are struggling just like themselves helps them see we are more the same than different and helps to develop new and lasting bonds. When we see the “common” in common humanity, we are more able to work together to overcome hardships, share in each other’s successes, and shape a better future for everyone and the planet.

A Citizen of the World is someone who can truly listen to what others are saying and feeling. Listening to and feeling what others are communicating totally and completely is the most important thing we can do for another human being. To be truly heard is what we all long for. People have never been taught to truly listen. They try and anticipate what someone is going to say and feel and then start to formulate an answer before the other person is even through talking. We must try to be as present as we can, hold our thoughts in silence and neutrality while others are speaking, and truly and completely hear what this other soul is trying to express. This is a powerful bonding experience that allows our deepest thoughts, truths, and dreams to be revealed to each other. In this process we learn more about ourselves and how powerful and empowering our connection with others can be when we actively listen.

A Citizen of the World rises above the boundaries or borders that people have placed on the world and sees diversity as humanity’s superpower. This superpower is perhaps most noticeable when borders are open. For example, when I’m flying between countries in the Citizen of the World Gulfstream Twin Commander 900 there are no walls or boundaries as I cross over different countries. The only thing while I’m flying that reminds me that I’m in a different state or country are my aviation charts and air traffic control. Flying is the ultimate metaphor for those things that do not divide, restrict or limit. Flying allows us to spread our emotional wings and experience how it feels to connect to the rest of the world without labels, definitions, walls and borders that separate us and instead, flying can bring us together.

A Citizen of the World is someone who has perspective. Flying, thinking, and viewing the Earth at higher altitudes allows us to see the world in a different and more complete way. We can see how things connect, affect others, and calibrate in relation to other things. Imagine standing next to a river versus seeing it from 35,000 feet. From high above, we can connect the dots more easily; things on the ground begin to make more sense. We start to think on a global scale, see how all the players are impacted both upstream and downstream, and act in a unified direction.

A Citizen of the World learns the lessons from life’s challenges so they can continue to grow and expand until everyone and everything is connected as One. Making “mistakes” is part of being human and going for it. There is success even in perceived failure because we have tried. When we let go of self-judgment, we begin to see others and ourselves with awareness and compassion, the two wings of freedom. Our mindful growth increases our positive impact on others and moves the planet forward.

A Citizen of the World is not afraid to be the example by sharing their passion with others. Shared passions, even the ones that are so big they scare us, inspire others to their greatness. Passion ignites a fire in others that encourages them to keep reaching for their impossibly big dreams. Passion can direct humanity to the next step in its collective evolution. Seeing people express their passion and struggle to achieve their goals are such powerful lessons for humanity to learn. Passion transforms fear into courage and paralysis analysis into inspired action on the journey.

From this journey of exploration and growth we learn that the world won’t be changed for the better solely from behind a computer but by going out into the world, making contact with others, and showing kindness and concern for everyone we meet. Seeing and taking the time to really understand the challenges all people share, the emotions we all feel, and the common language of pain and suffering, love and joy, that we all speak is part of sharing the expanding human experience—and it’s so easy to miss when we’re lost in comparison, competition, separation and isolation. The world puts barriers in front of us to test our clarity, determination, and desire for growth. Overcoming these challenges together through respect, listening, diversity, perspective, life-long learning and passion makes us all stronger and connects us globally as One.

The time for this global connection is now! No single person, company or country can do it alone. The world needs this positive change now more than ever and it will take every one of us as “Citizens of the World for the World” working together to manifest a better, more connected, loving, and peaceful world.

One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.

Blessing Circle just prior to Citizen of the World departure at Gillespie Field

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

California Pilots Association Zooms into View

The California Pilots Association (CalPilots) held its annual conference and annual meeting virtually this year. The event, California Zooming, featured 8-hours of Zoom content for hundreds airport and airplane lovers and featured John and Martha King as keynote speakers. CalPilots established in 1949, is a statewide non-profit corporation committed to the support of CA state general aviation airports and flight privileges.

Local, state, regional and national aviation groups have been challenged to meet the needs of its members during the COVID crisis.  I have been impressed by the virtual events I have attended both in terms of scope and quality.  California Zooming was an example of both and I was honored to be a part of it.   Here’s a list of offerings from the event, many of these seminars will be available on CalPilots’ YouTube channel in the coming weeks. My hope is that other state aviation associations or local groups can offer this type of education on airport advocacy as well as proficient pilot safety courses.

Through generous support from these great companies, we were able to offer wonderful member door prizes.  A big thank you goes to: King Schools, Lightspeed Aviation, Flying Eyes Optics, LIFT Aviation, Precise Flight, ACI Jet, and MyGo Flight.


General Session Presenters


Airport-Centered General Sessions

FAA WINGS Credit Courses

California Zooming provided attendees with four WINGS credit courses focused on pilot proficiency.  Thank you to  John and Martha King, Captain Brian Schiff, Captain Mike Jesch, Captain Gary Schank,  Paul Marshall, Ron Lovick, and  Ed Story for their informative and entertaining presentations.

California Flying Oddities – What Makes Flying in California Odd and Fun.

Captains Brian Schiff and Mike Jesch shared with us the interesting challenges ranging from the terrestrial (mountains, deserts, and oceans) to the man-made (big cities and complicated air space). They took us on a tour of several interesting and challenging airports and areas all around the state, to highlight some of what makes California flying fun.  This WINGS credit course is viewable on our YouTube channel.

Keynote: Straight Talk about Aviation Safety with John and Martha King

Pilots throughout the world regard John and Martha as their personal aviation mentors from multimedia training programs. Having had a hand in the aviation education of nearly half of the pilots in the United States in the last four decades, the Kings feel a deep responsibility toward their students and a strong sense of mission about passing on practical and insightful tools for risk management.  While we will never completely eliminate the risks of general aviation, but the Kings’ presentation covered procedures and techniques that can help pilots manage aviation risks effectively. This WINGS credit class is viewable on our YouTube channel.

Responding to the Pandemic: CalDART COVID-19 Operations

The California DART Network (CalDART) organizes California’s pilots to safely help their communities respond to disaster through its Disaster Airlift Response Teams (DARTs) located throughout the state. For COVID-19, CalDART launched Operation Medical Shield (OMS), helping front line workers get their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) even when their main sources of supply ran out, or when their thinly funded organizations could not afford them. Flights have delivered PPE all around California and as far away as Walla Walla, Washington. In OMS, CalDART developed new Flight Medical Safety practices to keep people safe from viral infection. This WINGS credit class is viewable on our YouTube channel.

Avoiding Wing Dings: Operating Your Plane Safely on the Ground

Captain Gary Schank provided a fun and informative look at an airline pilot’s tips for safely operating your aircraft before and after you take to the air. Every flight begins and ends with ground operations, and therefore, it is a skill that should not be taken for granted. Topics included airport signage, markings and lighting, clearances, standardization, taxi etiquette, emergencies, low visibility taxi, and runway incursion avoidance. This WINGS credit class is viewable on our YouTube channel.


 Three-Tiered Airport Advocacy

Given that we are not holding large aviation gatherings, these virtual events give us opportunities to socialize, get education and explore airport advocacy. I support the three-tiered approach to airport advocacy.  Here’s a brief introduction to the concept.

Tier 1 – Local Advocacy: Local wisdom is the best source of information at an airport. Who better understands current issues, history, and future needs better the pilots who are based there? What can you do locally?

  • Join your local airport organization.
  • Find out who your AOPA ASN volunteer is.
  • Attend Airport Land Use Meetings.
  • Host community events at your airport.
  • Form a business relationship with your City or County Planners.
  • Attend all City or County sponsored airport meetings.
  • Attend Airport meetings.
  • Look for chapters of state aviation organizations in your town/area/region.
  • Use media to the airport’s best interest [newspaper, radio, social media, TV].
  • Create a good working relationship with your airport manager.

Tier 2 – Statewide Organizations: Not every state has its own general aviation organization. But a quick Google search will tell you if your state does. Statewide airport advocacy organizations are important because they maintain statewide contacts, information, and strategies. Further, our statewide groups can also advise and assist the local airport groups when issues arise.

Tier 3 – National Organizations: Our national aviation organizations are a critical piece of the three-tiered airport defense strategy. Membership ensures that each maintains its ability to support statewide or local airport/pilot organizations. If you do not belong to AOPA, EAA, NBAA, you should. Critical to interfacing with our congressional representatives, lobbying that national pilot organizations provide a large presence in Washington, DC. This voice serves to remind DC of the importance of general aviation to the nation’s transportation infrastructure. We were happy to have Melissa McCaffrey our AOPA Regional representative for the Western Pacific Region join us throughout the day.


Life has changed for us all in 2020. However, one thing that remains constant is our need for connection, camaraderie, and fun. Join your local aviation groups, become a member of your state aviation association, and utilize our national organizations fully.  We will come out of this on the other side, but we need to make sure that our airports are protected and our piloting skills are proficient.

 

 

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Antarctic route – the South Pole

I wanted to share one of the most interesting graphics of the Polar Expedition with all of you. I believe it captures the drive, determination, courage and ability to dream impossibly big of the entire Flying Thru Life Team while proving technology, moving science ahead and bringing people together in Oneness.

What you see is the 18.1-hour South Pole route of the Citizen of the World with her departure from Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire located at the southern tip of Argentina on December 16, 2019. On departure, a 180-degree turn was required in the narrow channel due to a last-minute wind change when the airplane was heavily ladened with fuel as she flew along the Beagle Channel for about 50 nautical miles.  Citizen of the World turned to the south once she was out over international waters and then just a little to the west in an attempt to ride an 80-100 knot wind from Mother Nature to the South Pole. You can see that about one-third of the way to the South Pole I lost my nerve and gave up on that tailwind because I was burning fuel heading toward the west with no benefit. At that point, I turned straight to the South Pole. When I got there, I did a couple circles (hard to see) —one for the planet and one for the people— and then headed back as directly as my Genesys Aerosystems S-TEC 2100 could do since at that point I had burned more than half my fuel (biofuels were used over the pole).

About 75 miles before and 75 miles after the South Pole, I lost my two flight management systems and was flying using a heading bug on autopilot based on inputs from an old school directional gyro more affectionately known as a “DG.” At this point, I also had a line of position on the sun since I was above the clouds, which reversed as I started to head back.

To compliment ADS-B Out tracking I also had two Nano GPS trackers that were required, installed and certified by the Federation Aeronautique, iPad screenshots, about a million mind-blowing pictures, videos and several recorded voice comms with “Cory” at the South Pole.  All this will be released in the 10-part docuseries and the book called “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth and Beyond.”

The trip back seemed to take much longer as the fatigue set in even though it was a straight shot back over the eastern Antarctic Peninsula and the dreaded Drake Passage until I got about 25 nautical miles from the Beagle Channel. By this point, I had lost satellite comms, (HF never worked) and I made a decision to not enter the instrument approach tired (and afraid), in IMC without air traffic controller comms.  Instead, I decided to descend through the cloud layer over the ocean and fly the last 50 miles back to Ushuaia, Argentina, about 500 feet above the water on fumes and below the rainy cloud layer. This was the part of the trip that I say “broke me open” emotionally, physically, and spiritually and the true learning began for the rest of the trip. For those lessons you will have to check out the docuseries and book.

I want to thank my friends at Iridium for using their newly launched 66 Iridium NEXT Satellites to track me on the longest and most challenging legs of my polar circumnavigation. Iridium obviously didn’t miss a beat on this 4,200 nm leg.

I would like to also thank the good people at Aireon (created by and still partially owned by Iridium) whose payload on the Iridium NEXT satellites was picking up our ADS-B Out signals, and produced for me the beautiful graphic that you see above that is fit for the record books. Certainly, the image above is proof of how well ADS-B Out works, thanks to space-based ADS-B extending traditional ADS-B ground coverage across the oceans and over every inch of the planet.

The tracking would also not have been possible without the help from my friends at L3Harris and their wonderful NGT-9000! Neal Aviation installed the L3 diversity transponder antenna just weeks before departure when they were impossibly busy trying to help customers meet FAA ADS-B Out equipage mandates. In addition to the panel mounted unit, the company also had to install the diversity ADS-B transponder antenna on top of the Gulfstream Twin Commander 900 and through the pressure vessel to make sure we could talk with all those Iridium satellites.

As you can see the polar expedition was clearly “A mission of many not one.” The successful Polar Circumnavigation is a wonderful demonstration of how many inspired people in aviation can work together to move STEM ahead for the planet on a mission of global peace which connected the South Pole with the North Pole as “One Planet, One People, One Plane.”

And now for the worse tease of all…. Can any of you guess what graphic 2 of 2 will be?

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Flying the world in living color

When I started the pole to pole mission on November 16th, 2019, which seems like a lifetime of challenges ago, my team and I were clear on our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.” One of our primary goals was, and continues to be, to see the similarities in people, not the differences.

As I learned on my previous circumnavigation in 2015, I knew the universe would present me with many opportunities and challenges along the way that would test me and my ability to connect with people of different cultures and beliefs—along with a million other things—and hopefully expand my awareness and growth so I could be of greater service to the world.

After successfully crossing the South Pole with its many challenges I felt I had completed the hardest part of the polar circumnavigation and the rest of the trip would be the “Global Victory Lap.” As I was hit by overwhelming challenge after challenge on the South Pole leg, I kept asking myself, “How hard does this have to be? How strong do I need to be? What are you preparing me for?”

What I’ve come to realize is that the South Pole crossing merely served to break me open to be ready for what was to come. As weeks of coronavirus quarantine in Spain turned into months, it became clear that all those South Pole challenges were preparing me to respond to the coronavirus and its impact on humanity and the earth and our mission of global peace. The virus has seemed to split the world apart with great intensity. Many countries have gone it alone by closing off their borders. Isolation seems to have become the solution to our global problems. From my perspective, locking ourselves away, hunkering down, and fighting the natural order of things to move and grow has become a new normal for the world.

While traveling over the past five years to more than 50 countries and working with over 100 sponsors and numerous aircraft mechanics and governments around the world, I’ve learned global issues can’t be solved by working independently—interdependence and collaboration on a local and global level are what build and strengthen relationships and economies. COVID-19 has given humanity an opportunity to come together to find a solution. The world, unfortunately, appears to have missed this lesson and is paying the price as more issues have been created with this contraction and resistance to the natural order of life. Fear has escalated to panic and riots, business decimation, and suicides, while the expansion of political and military control worldwide has ensued.

Clearly, I’m not a political expert, nor do I pretend to be, and I don’t know how things will ultimately turn out and what we as a global community are meant to learn through all this, but I am a global traveler in the Citizen of the World with an impossibly big dream of world peace. Our vision of connecting the South and North Poles and everybody in-between is more important than ever and we hope it serves as an empowering example of connection, collaboration, and possibility in a time when it is sorely needed. As I spoke with local people in the cities I visited about what it means to be a “Citizen of the World for the World,” it has never been more apparent that we are in this together, and our shared humanity is what makes the world go round.

Another big lesson I learned, again from my first circumnavigation, is that all people regardless of their color share a common desire for safety, family, happiness, financial security, health, joy and happiness, and most importantly, love. The way to experience these things, especially when facing fear and adversity, is not by turning away or striking out against each other but by working together courageously with an intention of uniting in our similarities and appreciating our differences. This solidarity creates a better outcome for everyone that reduces fear, encourages understanding, and brings people and our own conflicted minds together in oneness with solutions-based thinking.

Shortly after a Chilean Air Force C-130 mysteriously went down over the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica with 36 souls onboard, I was advised to wait until after the Chilean government knew what happened since this stretch of airspace was on my route to and from the South Pole. I felt fear arise while I considered the risks and the potential delays and ultimately chose to trust in my plane, myself, and our mission, and I flew. When the cyclone was about to overtake Madagascar, and I felt fear rise up again, I faced it, and again I flew. When Spain was locked down tighter than anywhere else in Europe as it became the epicenter of the coronavirus, I encountered resistance every step of the way, and continued to remind myself of our mission of global peace and that all impossibly big dreams have risks to be considered and dealt with, and then I flew. I chose to fight the urge to contract and instead focused on my purpose, expanded my love of Life and trusted in Universe to guide me.

I share all this with you, not to impress you (well, maybe a little) but in hopes of inspiring you during these contracting times to hold your impossibly big dreams close and keep working on yourself to let go of limitations and embrace your possibilities. I won’t pretend these choices have been easy for me; in fact, I’ve been terrified at times. But what keeps me going is wanting to help as many people as possible around the world overcome their fears and take the courageous action that is needed to experience all that Life has to offer.

Our Flying Thru Life team is dedicated to being a living example of what is possible when people from all countries work together. Rather than running from challenges, when uncertainty and difficult times show up, we revisit our ideals and support each other through them. This is what we stand for. This is who we are. This is what we dream of for the world.

We are all stronger together. As “Citizens of the World for the World,” we rededicate ourselves to our global community and our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.”

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

A racket about noise

For a few months, I have had a line of thought brewing in my mind, which is a superlative form of the majesty of flight, applying it to the magnificence of the Alps and other mountain regions. As I would get close enough to make the concept emotionally tangible, something ridiculous would happen, such as my diatribes from the last two months about maintenance nonsense. While the airplane is flying and I have had some transcendent moments, I find that grasping and sharing that concept is still a bit out of reach.

It starts with that pesky reality called noise in Switzerland. I recently have had the unbridled joy of forgetting what sleep is like, as sociological changes brought on by the pandemic have created a sudden flood of people looking to squeeze themselves into flats next to ours, which has resulted in a raucous construction boom. As I laid there most certainly not asleep, snarling about the noise, I thought to myself how noise has reared its ugly head a number of times with Swiss flying.

I must first point out that patterns in Switzerland are not standard. They are unique to each airfield, necessitating looking at the Visual Approach Chart, to follow it within a moderate latitude under the risk of a fine from the Swiss authorities. The reason is due to noise, as these patterns snake around villages and other physical obstacles. To some extent, it makes sense, and it can also be very interesting, such as the approach into Saanen, which features rather sizable terrain just to the south of the field that has to be avoided.

In 2019, when I was flying for a while out of a different airfield, I got an email from someone I did not recognize. He attached a map and a photo of me flying over his house, noting that I have been “repeatedly” climbing over his house, and he is “kindly” asking me to stop doing it as he doesn’t like the noise. I thought the request was rather intrusive, as I was 1,500’ to 2,000’ above his property, choosing the path to avoid two other villages, though I couldn’t help but wonder if I was missing something. After all, it is a different country with different customs, and the guy was a pilot, noting that he “didn’t make a report to the police” and instead contacted me. I forwarded it off to another pilot friend, who said that it was incredibly considerate, as the custom is to report people and let the police handle it. At any rate, it was rather curious how the guy found me and got my email address, though I digress.

My next flirtation with noise was from a lesson taken in a PA-18-95 from an aeroclub about 35 minutes away. I decided to have a backup and be ready to go in case my aircraft goes down for maintenance again. The cost wasn’t as bad as I thought ($200/hr wet, fully insured with today’s exchange rate) and it is an aircraft rather similar to mine. I must confess that I was thrilled that this “perfect” airplane, maintained under EASA standards, smelled like exhaust like every other rag and tube Cub and had oil streaking down the belly…

Anyhow, during the course of the one-hour checkout, roughly 20% of the content of the lesson was about exactly where to point the noise coming into and out of that airfield due to very specific properties where the owner will call the police in the event of overflight. It was literally down to various houses, where the traffic pattern involved snaking this way and that, sometimes counterintuitively over a populated village to avoid a private school where an immortal hell is raised if it is flown over. The funny thing is that flying 200-500 feet laterally from the houses in question (while still rather high) is enough to sate these noise totalitarians. I am rather convinced that slant distance variation (and therefore noise reduction) is very minor from having done so. If it quiets these terrestrial dwellers, then best not to poke the hornet’s nest.

My third flirtation with noise is associated with my inherent passive aggressive reaction to fastidious and exacting rules. At all Swiss airports, like most of Europe, there is a closing time. Like Germany, it is important, so when dealing with the formula of “sunset plus 30 minutes or 8:00PM, whichever is earlier,” I start to ask my nitpicking questions. “Is it wheels down at 20:00, or pulled to a stop at the hangar with the engine shut off?” The reply was “Wheels down at 19:59, not 20:00.” Ok, so 19:59:59 it is which lead to a philosophical dilemma during a sunset flight.

After a, say, two-hour flight in the mountains, it is logical to return early enough to not trigger the collapse of the European order by landing after 8PM. Arriving over town at 7:47, I could dive in and land at 7:52 or…. I could circle and land at 7:59. Flying a really slow pattern at 45mph, nose up, behind the curve, the tires chirp at 7:58:30, leaving me quite proud of the situation. This was not the first time, though it was the closest to the appointed time.

After putting the airplane away, I was walking to the car and noticed an airplane careening into the circuit, obviously doing a full speed descent and then rapidly slowing down on short final and landing at….8:10 PM. Since it is not Germany, perhaps there is some grace and the situation isn’t the end of the world? Three minutes later, as I am loading things into my car, a Land Rover comes screeching into the parking lot, where the deputy CEO comes running over asking which airplane it was. As he lives under the approach path, it was evident to him what had occurred. He explained to me “the trouble we can get from the commune” and, before racing to address the problem, noted “I saw you come over at 7:57. Nice job.”

I explained the situation to my wife, and she asked, “Why didn’t you land at 7:50?” “Out of principle” I replied. “This silly rule drives me crazy and, since I am paying a landing fee, I am going to get every last minute I can.” “You need to stop torturing him and land at 7:50,” so said the woman who last got in my airplane in December 2014. I have to admit, she has quite a point, so I quit antagonizing the establishment. Are a few minutes worth annoying the people that own the place where I station my aircraft?

That brings me back to this duplicitous and hypocritical noise regime, where I find myself paying to not be able to sleep. “Go back to America,” the builder told me in so many words, for which I contacted the owner, a Super Cub pilot, and, well, I am sleeping again. The whole situation is one of many variables that has me in one of my cyclical states of misery (they happen every 8-20 months), where I get fed up and am ready to move back to America. So far, I haven’t done it but who knows, maybe someday I will. The mere thought of American aviation freedom is so utterly salacious at this point…..

Escaping the heat on the Italian side of the Matterhorn. They don’t care much about noise over here.

At 15,000 feet looking down on Chamonix, France. There were climbers on the ice that stopped their hike to presumably glare at the airplane making noise.

Solving the noise problem….fly above the clouds so nobody can tell who is making such an “obscene racket.”

 

 

Garrett Fisher is an aerial adventure photographer, having photographed some of the most rugged and wild terrain in America from his 1949 Piper PA-11. After living in Germany with the Cub, he recently moved to the Spanish Pyrenees to continue the flying adventure. He has published six aerial photography books covering the Colorado Rockies, Wyoming, high terrain in the Southeast, and the Outer Banks, with more US and European books in the pipeline. He blogs regularly about his flights at www.garrettfisher.me.

Crossing the North Pole three times

Yesterday as I prepared for my first ever North Pole crossing things were going pretty smoothly. Almost too smoothly. I’m used to last minute surprises especially before taking off. But then I remembered I’ve had over 18 months to prepare for this leg. I thought maybe the Universe was finally going to throw me a bone. The taxi showed up on time the morning of departure, the airport manager let him on the ramp—which never happens, the new coordinates for my flight worked in the Flight Management System, I had no leaking fuel from the plane after fueling the night before, the tires held air, the emergency oxygen was near full, the nitrogen charge was still within limits…it was almost hard to believe. The Citizen of the World was in all her glory, fierce and it was a fantastic thing to see.

The good fortune continued as the airport allowed me to take off early without charging me, the tower operator showed up early and got me into the air traffic control system on the ground, and the engines fired right up as they always do. All avionics systems came online immediately, and I thought “Isn’t life wonderful!” I started down the runway like a bat out of hell with enough fuel to get me back to Alaska in the United States after being away for eight very long months. I still had six weeks to go to be back in San Diego but I was getting closer.

As I climbed above the solid cloud layer that extended all the way to Alaska things were going well. I had a great climb rate even with the extra fuel. I flew over Svalbard, Norway, which had been rejecting my departure requests for over a month. I thought skipping one stop reduced my risk and it was time to get going while the North Pole was a nice warm -43 Celsius compared to the -60C I experience near the South Pole.

About two hours out of Kiruna, Sweden, I was beyond VHF radio comms range and my luck started to change. My HF radio was not picking up anything and I was at a wrong-way altitude. My satellite phone calls to Bodo Oceanic control over the most remote part of the planet didn’t work either. I got through to Oceanic control on my satellite phone I just couldn’t hear a word they were saying, and I assumed they couldn’t hear me either. Considering I had eight hours of open ocean flying to do this was going to be a major problem.

One-hundred-fifty miles from the True North Pole things really started to happen. My two flight management systems/GPS units started to fall offline since they didn’t have a satellite signal. This was odd since this didn’t happen until about 75 miles from the South Pole. I figured there would be more coverage over the North Pole since it was a more traveled route. My autopilot would still hold in heading mode, so I made the adjustment and continued on my way using my iPad. “No problem,” I thought as this felt like old times over the South Pole!

About 25 miles from the True North Pole things got really scary. One of my Attitude Heading & Reference Systems went offline. I remember thinking, “this is why I have two ADAHRS systems.”  I flipped the switch and nothing. With the loss of the units I also lost the autopilot. The airplane jerked to one side and I began to attempt to take it offline at 30,000 feet. The yoke cutoff switch chirped but didn’t stop the turn. I was fighting the autopilot at this point and pushed the off button on the autopilot unit itself, but it still didn’t work. At this point, I felt like the Universe was conspiring against me and had a thought that this was how those 737 Max planes went down. I reached over to the left and pulled the autopilot circuit breaker with the yellow cap I had marked so it was easy to find in a jam. That was my last hope short of shutting the power completely off over the North Pole which sounded, in a word, “terrifying.” This emergency was making no sense to me. But just as I pulled the breaker the resistance faded away and I felt a slight sigh of relief.

Crossing the Magnetic South Pole I got a brief look at the snow, ice and water the ground through the clouds.

To put things into perspective, I’m five hours of flight time from land, 30,000 feet up over a cloud layer at a wrong-way altitude doing almost 400 mph over the North Pole with no comms. I was using only my iPad to navigate, hand flying in RVSM airspace (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum) that requires an autopilot to maintain precise flight level with no autopilot and by myself. My first non-Zen words were unprintable in a family publication. So much for an easy flight across the True North Pole, the Magnetic North Pole and the North Pole of Inaccessibility!

What I did have was a visual horizon for the time being, two working Honeywell TPE 331-10T engines, two kick-ass MT 5 bladed scimitar nickel tipped composite props, and about three hours of extra fuel which could potentially just extend my misery as I flew in circles around the North Pole while my followers wondered why my track on the InReach explorer was so erratic. I had a directional gyro and knew it would hold my course for a time but as I turned from the North Pole, to the Magnetic North Pole, and finally to the North Pole of Inaccessibility, I got confused and knew it couldn’t hold a course forever.

As if to tease or taunt me, the flight management systems would periodically come online but then fall offline a short time later. This felt like cosmic torture as I had conflicting heading information from multiple points on my panel. My magnetic compass said one thing, my two flight management systems/GPS units had a different heading, my L3 backup system said something else, my directional gyro offered another heading, and my radar display showed yet another heading. “Which do I believe?” I thought. “Will I run out of fuel or fly in circles over the North Pole?”

As I was trying to hold the altitude constant in an airspace that was separated by 500 feet from opposing traffic I start shutting down and restarting the failed systems. The ADAHRS tried to realign in motion but couldn’t do its two-minute alignment. Eventually I realized the flight management systems appeared to have the aircraft flying backwards along the track for a time, then one would right and then go backwards. I was totally confused and trying to make sense out of the conflicting information.

Now I was seriously scared. I was very much alone, and the laws of physics didn’t seem to apply. There were no reference points in the cloud layer below me as far as the eye could see and a bunch of red Xs across my screen. I couldn’t help but wonder what a mess I had gotten myself into. I thought they would be talking about this for a long time. The naysayers were going to have a field day.

I took a minute to take a few deep “Zen” breaths in the midst of the shit storm that was unfolding around me. I took a personal inventory and realized I was still in the air, was straight and level, and wasn’t out of options yet. This was fast becoming a test of my faith.

As I moved between the True North Pole, the Magnetic North Pole, and the North Pole of Inaccessibility I was mostly hand-flying and occasionally overpowering the autopilot when it didn’t want to turn.

As I continued to hand fly, I realized my autopilot could maintain altitude and it seemed to fly on a heading once I set it but needed to be restarted to program a new heading. Next I realized that my Apple iPad seemed to be as accurate as it had been over the South Pole as well. How odd that a $1,000 iPad was working when $100,000 of avionics seemed totally confused. Flying like this was of course totally illegal but I had no choice. I was doing what my instructors had told me to do, which was “just fly the plane.” I was lucky to have a visual horizon above the clouds for as far as the eye could see.

I expected the failed systems to come back online in about 30 minutes but to my surprise everything stayed offline until I reached the coast of Alaska some five hours later. I literally watched as one system failed and then would come back online with the information making no sense. It was extremely stressful, and I was searching for the lesson in all of this. When the systems came back online at the coast of Alaska, they acted like the bad school kid who misbehaves when the teacher is out of the room and then reverts to becoming the perfect angel when the teacher returns. I realized that the issue was the lack of a satellite signal and not that the systems weren’t working.

Eventually as I got close to the coast of Alaska, I realized that the weather was not the broken clouds that were forecast at Prudhoe Bay/Dead Horse. Instead, I had 300-foot ceilings. Being as that I had been flying for so long and had 3.5 hours of fuel left, I decided to extend my flight for another hour-and-a-half to land in Fairbanks where I was hoping to meet my film crew the following day. As a side note, on my first call to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the director told me he could arrest me, impound my airplane and severely fine me if I landed in Prudhoe Bay where they didn’t have an agent.  When I told him my first priority was my life and that weather over vast distances was unpredictable as was aircraft equipment, he told me if I had planned better I wouldn’t be having such a problem. I hung up feeling a bit defeated. About two hours later I got a call back from the director and he said I could land in Prudhoe Bay for an overnight stay but would have to call Customs when I landed, and be in Fairbanks the next day.

It is hard to put into words how I felt when I landed in Fairbanks, Alaska. We had a mechanic and restaurant owner at the airport come over and snap a few pictures. Myself and the film crew that had just arrived by car were offered a delicious pizza lunch by the Wendy, the owner. As we ate, I stared at the plane with a blank expression on my face, exhausted, and in total disbelief of what had just transpired. I felt shock, pride, and relief all at the same time, and just wanted to sleep for a day. My focus was so narrow it was impossible to comprehend what I had just pulled off and the impact it would have on our mission—and I hoped—on the world. Calls and messages would come in for the next 48 hours congratulating me and my team. Most of them had no idea what I had been through, but I was so touched by those that reached out in the most-kind way.

One example that summed up the Citizen of the World’s challenges during the Polar Circumnavigation was from Eddie Gould, one of my handlers from General Aviation Support Egypt.

“Adventures like yours do inspire and create so much more than what you have personally achieved. Having this adventure during one of the world’s most horrific periods must rank high above many of the worthy exploits undertaken by [other] pilots.

I guess we, on the ground, have felt invested in your quest in a way that others would not. Your successes in the air are also ours. I have a massive smile, and I know Ahmed does too, when we get something approved, or a plan works out or even when you say  ‘this hotel is fantastic,’ the work we do in the background can be enjoyable, satisfying and at times…frustrating…like when you lose comms or someone doesn’t answer a phone in an office 7,000 miles away. But your adventures create the memories for us too…and this adventure is yours and our crowning glory…you took on everything the planet could throw at you, faced dangers in every corner of the globe and even had to change everything you knew about to become a Spanish recluse and then a Viking hermit!

I hope you make the book at least half as exciting as the reality was…and by the way…the aircraft was amazing and beautiful :-).”

I’m so happy to share this adventure with all of you and my hope is that it will in some way inspire you to go into the world and be a positive force in the world. To shine as brightly as you can and to allow your dreams to become your reality.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.
Older posts