Day 1: UK to Iceland
Climbing into G-ROCK, and after having done some suitable ground run calculations with a full fuel load for a transatlantic crossing to Iceland it looked like it was going to be tight getting out of RAF Kirknewton (EGKT) but just doable with enough smash to get over the rise not far after the runway heading west.
Picking up my IFR clearance on the ground from Edinburgh and taking off west I was disappointed that I couldn’t catch a last look at home in the opposite direction but was instead climbing for cruise and into the high altitude jetways routing out over northwest Scotland. I was treated however to an amazing view of Skye on one side and Harris off in the distance on the other through a break in the overcast.
Finally handed off from Scottish Control to Shanwick handling transatlantic traffic there was a certain amount of nerves as this was to be my first solo crossing. Fuel calculations were good though and I knew I would arrive in Reykjavik with a good amount of contingency left in the tanks.
Rules over the Atlantic are a little less closely observed by the CAA and soon I was joined in a formation with Franticstone who was to be my buddy on major sections of this trip.
With some three and a bit hours to run before I’d need to be on the ball, I took the opportunity to fiddle with the huge amount of features that the TBM offered. Drilling down into menus on the Garmin avionics suite and enjoying the easy handling of this powerful and smooth single turbo prop. The integrated auto pilot and full navigation integration took the hard work out of a long leg over ocean, meaning I could enjoy the views of the clouds out to the horizon and only think about how miserable the weather would be under them. How lucky to be above the clouds in the glorious sunshine.
Off in the distance the weather was clearing and looking like conditions in Iceland would be phenomenal. Slowly first landfall appeared out of the haze and I could see the end of my first major ocean crossing.
Passing down the south coast of Iceland in the descent give me a preview of the rugged and volcanic terrain that I would be flying low over for the next two days.
However, even before I had the chance to swap into the X-Cub, massive hills rose up from the sea on the the approach into Reykjavik (BIRK). It was hard to not become fixated on the land and concentrate on a busy approach and instructions from ATC.
Coming in over the docks on finals and getting into the general aviation parking, the first leg was done.
Day 2: Iceland Part 1
First day in the X-Cub G-KIRK, and first day of proper bush flying. Taking of from Reykjavik’s long runway in a bush plane with insane short field and climb performance seemed quite comical. I unstuck from the runway after only passing two of the painted centerlines and found myself passing 1000ft in moments.
Took a closer look at the mountains to the north that had wowed me yesterday and then headed out over patch work farmland that slowly gave way to more barren terrain.
now it was time to get my first look at what I’d come to Iceland for… actual Ice. Dropping down low to see the broken chunks of glacier at the edge of Langjökull. An impossible crazy and jagged death trap, I did wonder if there was any point to the ELT beacon as there was no way you’d come out in one piece if you had to put down on that terrain.
Eventually it rose up to a plateau of what from height appeared to be smooth ice, but on closer inspection would rip your undercarriage right off.
After the expanse of white that was Langjökull the sudden drop off into volcanic sand and scrub was starkly beautiful. Like something from a D&D dungeon master’s campaign book rose Eiríksjökull. Iceland’s highest table mountain and a clear product of the country’s volcanic activity. Steep lava slopes and topped with it’s own glacier it really was like something from a fantasy novel.
Continuing to track the edge of Langjökull brilliant blue lakes dotted the margin, filed with glacial runoff and powered by the geothermal activity deep under the ice. I wanted to set down and dive in.
After the trip over the glacier, Frantic needed to top the tanks off before we headed into the interior of Iceland. Sandá Airfield (BISA) on Lake Blöndulón gave us the opportunity to top the tanks off and it’s where I discovered one of the quirks of the X-Cub. With a single pilot in the front seat and full tanks, I was putting the C of G limit right out. In order to safely operate I had to chuck 80lbs of junk in the luggage compartment in order to move the centre of gravity rearward. It was standard practice when flying a cub solo to fly from the back seat, but with all the fancy gubbins being only in the front I didn’t have this option. With suitable heavy things loaded we set off once more.
More stunning patchwork gave way to a set of mountains and deep valleys that led us down to Eyjafjörður Fjord. For all the world looking like we’d just discovered Rivendell with the town of Akureyri at the end.
Steep sides with terrain rising high on each side it was a good job that the valley was wide enough to turn around in, as with the weather starting to form on the plateau, I didn’t fancy my chances of getting up and over. Having all the climb performance in the world won’t help you if you run smack into a brick wall of cloud when you’re visual flight rules.
The approach into Akureyri (BIAR) was a little tricky being penned in by steep slopes and the wind blowing in off the fjord, we needed to execute a turn on to finals in quite close proximity to the ground. But then, this is what bush flying is about so just put your big boy pants on. Giving the X-Cubs a drink for the second time that day we were all set for the long leg over to Egilsstaðir (BIEG). A journey that would give us a much more volcanic landscape to explore in the Ódáðahraun desert.
Remember that weather that was forming? Rising terrain, weather moving in, and after some deliberation, safety won out. So we were fumbling around GPS menus to find somewhere to divert to.
This led us to the utterly stunning airfield at Reykjahlid (BIRL), as well as affording us an overflight of the massive crater of Hverfjall our first active volcano.
Now we just needed to wait out the weather…. that would take some time. Iceland, you crazy.