May 23

After a cafeteria breakfast in the barracks, I negotiated a contract fuel release through World Fuel, a company kind enough to support our mission with pricing advantages and credit at remote stops. We fueled the plane upon arrival. The authorization did not arrive until after midnight. The local BP dealer would not accept an authorization without a reference to the day of fueling. My Internet odyssey, prior to the flight to Iceland, began with World Fuel US, then London, then Dubai (a chap named Moses was most helpful) where BP aviation must approve all European authorizations, finally on to Soderstrum. By the time the new authorization arrived, so had three Air Greenland deHavilland dash eights requiring all hands on deck, including the person who needed to acknowledge my authorization. Perhaps it’s inevitable, even with good planning, that some nuance in the back country will slow you down.

For the first time this trip, we filed a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) departure meaning I could explore the countryside before picking up an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) clearance limiting our freedom of flight to an approved route and altitude. I took the crew around “Sugarloaf,” a peak just east of the airport named by members of the US Air Force, over the ice cap and along transitions between glaciers and moraines. The crew got its money’s worth. Later we paid our respects to a radar station on the ice cap with a landing strip carved out of the snow and ice for US Air Force C-130s. By the time we reached the radar station, we were traveling at 12,000 feet, yet only a couple thousand feet above the radar station. It is a cap, after all, and rises to 10,000 feet in the central part of Greenland which is why during WWII, so many planes were lost in “white outs” when clouds and the rising surface tapered into nothing.

Now direct Reykjavik. The edge of the overcast below is in sight yielding an ocean. Pretty soon we will be over land again and at least for today, retire our ocean survival suits.

John Sessions

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