Seville – February 2020

G-TRJB in her new livery at La Rochelle

2020 is a year to forget. As readers of this blog will know, late winter/early spring is often a time for an aviation adventure. However after a number of longer range trips, Miranda and I decided to start the year with a short trip to Spain in the then expectation of some more exotic destinations later in the year. We would fly there in my bonanza G-TRJB to Seville spending a night on the way down and the way back at our favourite watering hole La Rochelle on the FrenchAtlantic coast.

At this time of year, flying over the Pyrenees can be problem particularly if a cold front stalls over the mountains and causes icing conditions but this year we were lucky with good weather forecast once we were south of the Loire Valley. Seville is a busy regional airport; it is possible to self handle but the handling charge is relatively modest as these things go and certainly makes for a much easier transit both on arrival and departure and assistance with refuelling.

Seville is a city we know well and usually the afternoon temperatures in the second half of the February reach a very pleasant 22/23º C so a welcome change to what is often poor winter weather in the UK. We had three very pleasant days in Seville staying in a quaint hotel in the old part of the city as the first part of an Inntravel three city tour also taking in Jerez and Cadiz.

Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral roof







Seville city from the cathedral roof

As it happened, Phil Caiger, his wife and daughter overlapped with us in Seville on a half term break having flown down there in G-PTXC so we met up with them for dinner on the night of our arrival and caught up with their news. We visited a number of our old haunts in Seville but for the first time took a tour of the cathedral’s roof from where we had some stunning views over the city.

From Seville we took a train down to Jerez leaving G-TRJB at Seville. Jerez also has an airport we know well which in the past has been the jumping off point for flights further south but the Inntravel tour provided the train as our transport and it was certainly convenient. Jerez is perhaps best known for its sherry bodegas and on this visit we managed to join a tour to a small and much recommended bodegas not far from the cathedral where we sampled a number of glasses of different sherries before retiring for a siesta!

Jerez city square

The third city Cadiz was new to us, and we knew of it historically as an important naval base. Our early morning train seemed unusually crowded with fellow passengers in all sorts of fancy dress and it turned out that we were arriving on the most important day of an early Spring fiesta there with the old city area of Cadiz heaving with dancing throngs of people. The following day was quieter and we enjoyed a relaxed tour and visited a couple of restaurants friends had recommended to us.

G-TRJB at La Rochelle
Cadiz from our hotel rooftop lookout

It was in Cadiz that we began to be aware of what was then called the ‘Corona virus’ later to become covid-19 which was then spreading rapidly through Madrid. We did not give it much thought and all too soon it was time to get on the train back to Seville, then out to the airport and take off for the return trip to the UK night stopping again at La Rochelle for another excellent fish dinner at André

The weather over northern Spain was fine but with very strong westerly winds which generated strong mountain waves over the high ground to the northwest of Madrid. After departure the following morning from La Rochelle, the weather deteriorated as expected and we landed back at Biggin Hill in gloomy conditions.

The rest of 2020 is history; covid-19 spread throughout Europe and the UK. Aviating became much more difficult; we managed a few trips to see family and friends in the summer and early autumn, including a three day visit to a very windy Lands End but any flying outside the UK became too complicated with different quarantine regulations and other uncertainties. We hope 2021 will be different and allow us to visit more exotic destinations again.


First here is a map with our route marked as recorded by the Delorme tracker.

Route to Oshkosh and back

Our route was essentially what we had planned for with two minor exceptions. First the gathering point for the group before flying into Oshkosh had not been included in our initial routing and secondly we had to make a short flight to a TBM service centre to remedy the pressurisation problem which occurred at the end of our flight from Oshkosh to Westchester. Other than that, all our flights were on time to the prepared schedule. Our goals in terms of Oshkosh and New York were achieved and enjoyably so in generally benign weather conditions. The TBM is certainly a remarkable aircraft and ideally suited to trans Atlantic crossings.

Oshkosh is indeed an unique event in terms of size, both in airfield area and number of visiting aircraft and in the overall dynamics of the flying display and we were thrilled to share in this experience. In some respects, it is perhaps just too big and Friedrichshafen is a closer and more convenient location for keeping up with developments in aircraft and avionics. Flying in the US turned out to be easier than anticipated in the context of rapid fire ATC instructions, really no more difficult than London Control on a busy day and our appetites are whetted for further journeys into Canada and the US in the future.

Many thanks to Phil and Ed for their contributions to this blog and particularly to Ed for some of the photographs.

As to where to next, watch this space!

Day 11 – Reykjavik to Carlisle

This was the final flying day of Team XC flying from Reykjavik to Carlisle. Phil and Ed then stayed overnight before completing their journey home the following day.

Just before takeoff, we met up with Ben Hines, an old colleague who was on his way home from Oshkosh in his Mooney and who flew to China last year. Just after takeoff Ed, seated in the back, drew our attention to fuel streaming out of the starboard filler cap so we did a short circuit to land and sort out the cause. It turned out that the refueller had not put the fuel cap back on properly. This was not immediately obvious on a pre fight inspection so something to watch more carefully in the future. The refueller made up for his mistake in providing us with a free top up and 40 minutes later, we set off again. Without Ed’s careful watching, it would have taken us pilots longer to notice with more significant delays to our journey.

Passing depression centre near the Faroes

Unusually the wind was  a strong SE so it was a slow journey albeit for the most part in fine clear weather. Many airliners were taking advantage of the tailwinds for their westward Atlantic crossing and we saw a steady stream passing us between 1,000 and 5,000 ft above our cruising altitude of 31,000 ft. Few sightings of the ground except over the islands off NW Scotland and several large CB’s spotted, fortunately none on our track, with many weather deviations being requested by other aircraft in the Edinburgh/Glasgow areas. We would arrive too late for an egg and bacon bap at Carlisle so we broke into the emergency rations again for a lunch of cereal bars and dried fruit.

As often happens, the strong south easterly winds gave moderate turbulence in the descent to Carlisle but we arrived in time to unload and tidy the plane before Miranda arrived to take us back home for a celebratory evening with champagne and a good dinner.

We will post a concluding page in a few days’ time with a few post trip reflections.

BIRK (Reykjavik) to EGNC (Carlisle)      848nm in 3 hr 46 min

Day 10 Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq to Reykjavik

Time has gone by very quickly and now our US adventure is drawing to a close. Today we had two legs of the same length – 675 nm but a tailwind for the first leg gave a sector time of around two and a half hours while a strong headwind for the second leg stretched the sector time to well over three hours. Take off at Goose Bay was into low cloud which we soon broke through but with a fair amount of medium and high cloud including some cumulus development, it took time to find clear skies at our cruising level of 29,000 ft. The cloud slowly cleared as we crossed the Labrador sea and Greenland appeared on the horizon. The weather at Narsarsuaq was fair with a high cloud base which was good given that the weather for our nearer diversions was poor. We flew the Rnav procedure for runway 06 noting the proximity of high ground all around.

On the RNav approach to Narsarsuaq
Runway in sight






Refuelling was quickly accomplished and then we set off for Reykjavik. Again almost full cloud cover below for most of the route with an increasing headwind which moderated later in the flight. At one point halfway, we had an excellent view of a BA 747 going in the other direction just three thousand feet above us. We landed at Reykjavik on a pleasant summer’s evening and after customs clearance and refuelling, headed to our hotel in town. It was warm enough for a beer outside and then a great fish and chips dinner at a restaurant the Caigers had discovered on a previous family outing to Iceland. A walk round the lake in the centre of Reykjavik finished the day.

On the ground at Narsarsuaq

It is worth noting that the blue box housing the Delorme tracker in one of the above photographs was custom made by Ed on his 3D printer the night before our departure.

CYYR (Goose Bay) to BGBW (Narsarsuaq) 675 nm in 2 hr 33 min

BGBW (Narsarsuaq) to BIRK (Reykjavik) 673 nm in 3 hr 15 min

Day 9 Groton to Goose Bay

Time to start our return journey. First we needed to return to Groton, luckily rather a shorter journey this time stopping at a supermarket to buy supplies for lunch. On arrival at Groton while Phil and Ed prepared G-PTXC and loaded the luggage, Anthony dealt with the advance customs notification to Canada which involved a long wait on the telephone and as he discovered later, an enormous telephone bill. Finally we were off climbing up to our cruising height of 31,000 ft and then being given a direct to destination some 860 nm away (in European terms, that is the equivalent to Carlisle to Calvi in Corsica!). Thereafter lunch, ham and cheese buns prepared by Ed in the back!

Thunderstorms to the left of our route

The weather was good but there was a line of thunderstorms off to our left which needed the occasional weather avoidance turn. Landed at Goose, refuelled and then off to our hotel for flight planning for our return to the UK, a beer and cooking our own steaks at the Trappers Inn. There was thunderstorm activity to the south of Goose and heavy showers during the night.

KGON (Groton) to CYYR (Goose Bay)          888nm in 3hr 14 min

Days 7 and 8 – New York

Lobster rolls for lunch

After some phoning around, Phil was directed to Columbia Air Services which was a TBM service station located around 70 nm NE of Westchester at Groton so we took G-PTXC up there  and their chief Engineer promised to try and rectify the fault. This was a short VFR flight up along the attractive coastline although on a hot day without air conditioning not the most comfortable. At Groton, we hired a car for our return journey which took about four hours in heavy traffic although this did include a stop of lobster rolls for lunch at an excellent coast side eatery found by Ed on Google.

Night time in New York


After a quick swim, Phil had us heading to the Big Apple for a night time tour mainly around the Greenwich area where we found an excellent restaurant for dinner on a warm balmy evening eventually arriving back at our hotel rather late. Fortunately there was good news from Columbia Air Services who had found the fault – a blown pipe – and rectified it.



View from the Empire State building

Next day we were back into New York with what we thought was a modest tourist itinerary devised by Phil. However getting into the city involved a ten minute car journey, time to buy tickets and then a fifty minute train journey so even a prompt start meant we were not in central New York until towards midday. We walked first to the Chrysler Building, not far from Grand Central Station. Although the central hall was officially closed at the weekend, we were able to go in and see something of this high point of grand Art Deco work. New York in the 1930’ties must have been quite something.



Two happy Caigers at 1000 ft+ agl
Empire State Building at ground level



From there it was a short trip to the Empire State Building where we joined a crowd of other tourists and soon were rafted up to the 78th floor and shortly afterwards to the 86th floor viewing gallery. There were magnificent views  on this fine, sunny day and we could see La Guardia and JFK airports in the distance with aircraft landing and taking off.

Brooklyn Bridge from afar

Thereafter we walked south eastward towards the Brooklyn Bridge taking time at an enticing bistro for a salad lunch before taking the subway for the rest of the way. This bridge was of amazing suspension construction and having appreciated it from afar, we ended up walking across it on an elevated passage way shared with cyclists with motorised traffic in two lanes below.

Walk way across Brooklyn Bridge

Phil had planned a boat trip round Liberty Island as well as a visit to Central Park but we ran out of time for these as we needed to get back to our hotel for flight planning the next day and to take up our dinner booking at a seaside French bistro nearby. Another longer visit sometime in the future is a must.

KHPN (Westchester) to KGON (Groton New London) 70 nm in 29 min

Days 5 and 6 – At Oshkosh and Oshkosh to Westchester

Sorry that we are somewhat behind with the blog but it has been a busy few days; we will try and catch up today.

Words fail when it comes to describe Oshkosh. I have penned a few below but will add more later together with pictures. First it is an enormous site covering hundreds of acres. Then there are thousands of aircraft of every conceivable type generally grouped by classification – so war birds, homebuilts, ancient and modern etc. Then there are the various aircraft manufacturers, avionics and other equipment  stands for the larger companies and four large hangars for the smaller concerns. We were lucky because Phil as a TBM owner had an all time pass for the facilities at the Daher stand and Ed and I were able to tag a long as his guests. It made a great venue for meeting up, refreshing our water supplies – much needed as both days were hot and sunny – and for refreshments and light eats in the evening.

Aeroplanes during the night show.
F35 and P51s during the airshow.








We spent our first morning wandering around and looking at the aircraft and most of the first afternoon watching the daily airshow. In the evening, we met up with the rest of the group at Daher and watched the first evening show; spectacular in every way with some airplanes having fireworks attached to their wings – what would our CAA say about that?

View from our breakfast spot!

On Thursday morning, we started off by going for breakfast at the sea plane base followed by a wander round the stands and making a few modest purchases as well as talking to Garmin about possible equipment upgrades at some stage!! We continued to wander around for the first part of the afternoon  before making our way back to the Basler FBO to get ready for our early evening departure to Westchester, our base for a visit to New York having said ‘Goodbye’ to the rest of our group who were returning to Europe the following morning.

Breakfast with one of the German crew

The departure was chaotic; IFR flights were meant to be separated from VFR departures as we all had slot times. The marshallers totally failed to manage this  and there was much gesticulation of waving arms by different marshallers all indicating different instructions which we eventually just ignored. We finally got off around 13 minutes late, not a big deal in itself but our destination ATC at Westchester closed at 11 pm and we were keen to arrive before they went home. Now we were going eastwards again, we gained an hour. It felt funny taking off at 0013 UTC in bright sunshine when it was the middle of night at home! The flight was lovely as the sun set and the stars came out but with slightly less favourable winds than forecast, we ran a few minutes late and closed our flight plan with New York approach as the Westchester tower controller had gone home. Luckily the runway lights are left on all night and the FBO chap was there to meet us with a taxi to take us to our hotel.

Unfortunately a fault has developed in the TBM pressurisation system which will have to be looked at tomorrow.

KOSH (Oshkosh) to KHPN (Westchester)         705 nm in 2 hr 52 min

Day 4 Iqaluit to La Grande Riviere to Saute Ste Marie to Mackinac Island to Oshkosh

Today was a long day. We woke up to fog which soon cleared to mist and low cloud and took off at 9:30 am local time for Grande Riviere, a small airport about 730 nm to the SW and around half way to Saute Ste Marie where we entered the USA. Some members of the group missed out this intermediate stop and flew direct; this was within our range capabilities but made for a long flight so we decided to break half way. The weather was fine and we had an increasingly useful tailwind with an undercast beneath us which slowly broke up to reveal frozen lakes and tundra and eventually pine forests. Two other group members stopped there and left before us while we refuelled and enjoyed our sandwich lunch thus ensuring we bought no fresh food into the US.

Phil and Ed at Saute Ste Marie

The next sector was to Saute Ste Marie which turned out to be a small club airfield; we had some difficulty in working out our arrival in local time which was a requirement for filing the necessary US customs form in advance – were we four hours behind Greenwich or five hours?  In the end, it did not seem to matter as the US border people were there in force but processed us quickly as well as scanning the aircraft for radio active substances – luckily none found. It turned out we were GMT – 4 but this had become GMT – 5 by the time we arrived in Oshkosh.

Team XC having ice creams for tea

We then had a short 20 minute flight to Mackinac, a small island where the only form of transport was horse drawn wagons. This was a holding point to assemble the group before the final leg to Oshkosh when the airport reopened after the afternoon show. There was time to walk down to the little town for a large ice-cream. Then on to our arrival at Oshkosh which involved a further hour’s flight and then a VFR arrival following the ‘Warbirds’ routing. There was much activity with many other aircraft arriving within the short time the airport was open after the day’s airshow; our own arrival lacked polish but we arrived and after parking at our assigned place with the rest of our group went off to our hotel about half an hour way in a minibus followed by beer, pizza and bed.

The group just before leaving for Oshkosh

Tomorrow the show itself.

CYFB (Iqaluit)  to CYGL (Grande Riviere)  732 nm in 2 hr 31 min

CYGL (Grande Riviere)  to KANJ (Sault Ste Marie) 506 nm in 1 hr 59 min

KANJ (Sault Ste Marie) to KMCD (Mackinac Island) 39 nm in 0 hr 20 min

KMCD (Mackinac Island) to KOSH (Oshkosh) 208 nm in 1 hr 00 min

Day 3 Reykjavik to Sdr Stroemfjord to Iqaluit

Approaching the east coast of Greenland at FL300

The day dawned with a broken cloud base around 4,000 ft with a generally good weather forecast for Greenland. The group had planned to go to the little airfield of Ilulissat some 150 nm north of Sondre Stroemfjord (Kangerlussaq) but as the TAF for that airfield gave a 40% probability of fog at the time of our arrival (and we were the last to depart), we decided to go to Sondre Stroemfjord instead together with the German crew. This turned out to be a good decision as the fog did indeed come down just about the time that our ETA would have been at Ilulissat and a photograph appeared on the group blog showing the Beech Kingair shrouded in fog. Sondre Stroemfjord was clear and we briefly met our German friends there before we both left for Iqaluit. As we climbed towards the coast on departure, we could see the sea fog lingering over the west coast of Greenland.

Tech stop at Kangerlussaq

The best bit of the flight was approaching and departing Greenland when we could see lots of icebergs floating about and several glaciers calving along the coastline. Flying over the ice cap was not so interesting; just much whiteness and we could easily understand how a number of pilots over the years have suffered ‘whiteout’ and come to grief on the icecap.

Phil and Ed at the top of the hill overlooking Iqaluit

As we approached Canada, the sea fog cleared to the desolate landscape of Baffin Island –  rocky lichen interspersed with numerous lakes. We landed at Iqaluit in sunny, warm conditions with a moderate breeze, which kept the mozzies well away, shortly behind the German crew. The rest of group arrived later having spent some time at Ilulissat out in a boat whale watching. We all met up for dinner later in the hotel and recounted our various adventures of the day.

Icebergs on Iqaluit beach

Iqaluit was an interesting small town; we climbed a hill for a good view of the surrounding area and then wandered among melting icebergs on the beach. We found the public library which had an interesting sections tracing the history of the local people and describing the influence of the Hudson Bay Company in setting up trading posts in this far north region. All the buildings were on stilts because permafrost prevented any underground foundations.

The sun set for a short time but it remained light all night and later on, as forecast, the fog came down.

Fishing boat on the Iqaluit shore

BIRK (Reykjavik) to BGSF (Sondre Stromfjord/Kangerlussuaq)  737 nm in 3 hr 01 min

BGSF (Sondre Stromfjord) to CYFB (Iqaluit)  487 nm in 2 hr 04 min

Day 2 Le Touquet to Carlisle to Reykjavik

Day 2 started with an early 7:15 am breakfast before walking back to the airfield and readying the aircraft for departure number two in the sequence of six. We were airborne at 9:15 am local with me flying over familiar territory to Carlisle. Clear weather in the south gave way to cloud (as usual) north of Manchester and arrival at Carlisle at 9:45 am where we were quickly refuelled and for the first time, Phil added prist to the fuel as an anti icing agent. We had time for a chat with Ashley in Ops before we departed on our next leg to Reykjavik.

Phil and Ed at Reykjavik Airport

Phil flew this and for both of us, it marked the start of the adventure proper as we left the Scottish coast behind cruising at FL310 in clear air just above a thin cirrus undercast. ATC was busy as this was the final sector of radar control before the airliners above us were handed off on HF to Shanwick for their oceanic crossing. We saw several off to the left climbing through our level and FL360 seemed to be the favourite crossing level for today.

Reykjavik Cathedral

As we approached the FIR boundary we were handed off to Reykjavik Control and then asked to obtain our Icelandic oceanic clearance on box 2 from Iceland radio. This proved to be quite difficult as there was interference on the frequency and a long clearance to be read back parts of which had to be repeated but all good in the end. We had planned our flight to track round the NE of a depression; the initial crosswind of 70 kt was stronger than forecast but eventually turned into the forecast tailwind. One of our party tracked through the centre of the depression and captured a splendid picture of the circular cloud formation worthy of a meteorological textbook; the downside was a 70 kt headwind for them for quite some time!


The Opera House/Concert Hall

All too soon it time to start our descent; we found ourselves nicely positioned for number 1 of the group for the approach and arrived at the FBO’s ramp in clearing skies closely followed by the Piper M500 and the TBM850 – very satisfactory. They and all the other aircraft had stopped for refuelling at Wick.


The Green Mound

After customs formalities were completed we took a taxi to our hotel and then Phil and Ed, who had been there a few years ago on a family holiday, gave me a guided tour of the city including a very fine modern cathedral, a fascinating concert hall near the harbour fronted by glass rhomboids and a green mound landmark at the end of a harbour wall involving a long walk before meeting up with the rest of the group for dinner.

LFAT (Le Touquet) to EGNC (Carlisle)  330 nm in 1 hr 30 min

Why I wouldn’t want to meet a polar bear!

EGNC (Carlisle) to BIRK (Reykjavik)    890 nm in 3 hr 17 min