TRAVELS

Transatlantic crossing

Together with my dear friend and co-pilot Luca, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the PIPER - AEROSTAR , one of the best performing twin-engine aircraft in the world (pictured), specially modified for the occasion.

It all started due to the necessity to take the aircraft to the American continent, an opportunity that I would never have missed.

Piper Aerostar.jpg

THE STAGES

Departing from Bresso, Milan (LIMB), we headed to Seville (LEZL), South-West of Spain; city that we found completely flooded due to bad weather.

 

From there, we headed to Lanzarote (GCRR), the most northeastern island of the Canary archipelago.

During the trip we found an autopilot failure and the approach, at night, to the GCRR airport was a nightmare !!

We landed in turbulence amidst rain and lightning.

 

As soon as the weather had recovered, the following morning, it was time for Africa.

We should have made the last stop, before the crossing, in Sal, the westernmost island of the Cape Verde archipelago and therefore closer to the destination. That same morning, however, we discovered that they had no fuel available at the airport and we were forced to change plans, opting for Dakar (GOOY), the capital of Senegal.

CHANGES

Given the extent of the trip, it was necessary to modify the airplane with a system of additional tanks, which occupied the entire cabin.

The project, consisting of several tanks, separated from each other for safety reasons, was carried out by the owner of the plane and by Sergio Dallan, a man of great experience in the field.

DEPARTURE (uncertain)

From Dakar, where we refreshed ourselves with a good dinner and rested in a cozy hotel, we got ready for departure.

"Ready" is a strong word, in fact, we started with a series of uncertainties:

  • Although we had carefully observed the weather and as reassuring as it was, we knew we would encounter bad weather in the equatorial belt. This is inevitable, because at the height of the equator there is, on one side or the other, always some perturbation, called precisely the equatorial perturbation.

  • We then checked the autopilot failure that occurred during the Seville-Lanzarote section but, not finding any kind of anomaly, we hypothesized that it was caused by an infiltration of humidity due to rain (spoiler: we were wrong)

  • A twin-engine aircraft is usually a very safe aircraft, however, due to the modifications made (the additional fuel tanks) we had a mass greater than the maximum take-off weight , which means that, in the event of an engine failure, we would not have had the guarantee that the other engine would provide us with sustenance. Indeed, we were certain that until we had used up some fuel the plane would not be able to maintain flight level, it would only lose altitude.

In addition, we must consider that we started about 350 miles farther than planned (we should have started from Sal). A considerable distance for the fuel available. This inconvenience significantly shifted the point of no return.

On the other hand, the air traffic control team at Dakar airport was very comforting, asking us if we had - as a safety device - the life raft and, in the affirmative, replied "Ah, well! No problem, sharks usually eat it anyway ".

They also informed us that after 100 miles, he was not required to retrieve us.

THE CROSSING

The trip, as per the flight plan, lasted about nine and a half hours, but that doesn't mean we had the chance to relax.

It was necessary to carefully monitor consumption for the entire duration of the trip, as the system of additional tanks - which for safety reasons had been divided into independent compartments - required them to be opened from time to time through a series of steps . There was therefore no margin of error allowed on the timing calculations.

Furthermore, by law, when flying over the ocean it is mandatory to periodically communicate by HF radio, after providing the identification of the aircraft, your coordinates.

As planned, about halfway, we removed the GPS from the dashboard to be able to insert the new maps, as the software allowed the reading of the maps of only one continent at a time.

UNEXPECTED

Shortly after re-installing the GPS, we started having a number of technical problems.

In the middle of the ocean, the autopilot failure that we had previously encountered returns! At the same time, some on-board instruments began to present uneasy anomalies .

As if that weren't enough, my adventure partner is presented with a severe vision problem, which later turned out to be a detached retina.

In spite of everything, we managed to remain calm and in control, excluded the non-functioning instruments and continued the journey.

natalBrasil.jpg

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Having landed at Natal Airport (SBNT) in Brazil, after almost ten hours of travel, Luca went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a detached retina.

It was certainly an unforgettable experience, which I will always carry in my heart.

North Africa

coming soon