How to fly a long way in a little plane

How to fly a long way in a little plane

There are many challenges to ferrying a single engine aircraft over a large distance. It takes good judgement and exactly the right weather conditions to fly. It helps if you have decades of flying experience too!

Energy, time, patience and paperwork are just some of the components needed to get a single engine aircraft from its place of origin to its destination. For Ferry Pilots Dylan Fast and Val Neufeld the right preparation is essential! 

Story and photos by Val Neufeld 

‘Most of the ferry flights that we have done are single engine aircraft – and in order to arrive at their destination – an ocean needs to be crossed.

Small single engined aircraft aren’t built to fly big distances so there are quite a few extra steps and things to consider.

Be prepared whatever the weather!

These aircraft are typically unpressurized – so they fly low (below 10 000 feet) and unlike larger aircraft – they are unable to get above icing and bad weather conditions. Decision making and flying is so much about the weather. Plan as much as you want – the weather always has the final say.

Dylan will start looking at weather trends long before the flight – determining the best time to go. Careful planning is so important – especially the planning for oceanic crossings.

'Plan as much as you want – the weather always has the final say!' Val Neufeld   

Because the flight legs can be long – weather conditions, especially the winds, can change from the original forecast. If a head wind is stronger than predicted there is the potential for the range to be significantly reduced. So if winds change - the pilot needs to be prepared to turn around rather than risk not having enough fuel to reach their destination.

...and always bring extra fuel

Fuel is one of the most important elements of flying – no fuel no flying!

The range of many small single engine aircraft is not long enough to fly from point to point across the ocean. To extend the distance the aircraft can be equipped with ferry tanks; barrels of additional fuel connected to the airplane’s fuel system.

Essentially, with these tanks, the pilot is able to refuel while in flight. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to refuel.

With ferry tanks, and in the case of this trip, floats as well, the additional gross weight means that icing is more critical. Icing happens when ice builds on the frame of the plane reducing the aircraft's performance. So taking into consideration the icing conditions is critical when flight planning. Planes with ferry tanks get special permits that allow them to fly beyond manufacture weight limits.

Another safety precaution is bringing along a life raft which is stored within arms reach and as well, we both wear an emersion suit while flying over large bodies of water. The picture below shows - Dylan in his emersion suit on a blustery day in Iceland!

Dylan and Val are due to depart in the next few days n their transatlantic adventure. You can follow their blog for regular updates of the ferry flight as it happens... 

Follow Dylan and Val's ferry flight blog