There is a song we sang as kids, "Far away places with strange sounding names...are calling, calling me." I always had an intense fascination when examining a globe and dreaming of those far away places.
It all started to come together last October when Sherry and I attended a presentation at the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville. Carol Ann Garratt had recently returned from flying solo around the world in a single engine Mooney. When asked what she would have done differently, she replied "I would have taken seven years instead of seven months." That started the wheels turning...
The website www.earthrounders.com lists all of the pilots who have flown a light plane around the world. After reading some of the stories, one starts thinking "I could do that." When we started to think seriously about it, we contacted a few of those pilots by email and later by phone. They were very positive with lots of helpful information. If they could do it, why can't we?
Our Beechcraft Baron already has long range fuel tanks and can fly over 1500 nautical miles. At first, we thought we could make the trip without adding additional fuel capacity by taking a route up through Japan, touching down in Far East Russia and then, following the Aleutian chain back toward the mainland. However, we soon found that there is no acceptable Avgas in all of Russia, only jet fuel and low octane auto gas, so that would not work. Therefore, it was decided to take the more conventional route out through the South Pacific. That would entail, however, a 2150 mile leg from Hawaii to California and require the installation of auxiliary fuel tanks. With the tanks now installed, the increased range is 2600 miles. This will give us a better comfort factor for the trip.
Some earthrounders prefer a westerly route because you continue to gain hours as longitudinal lines are crossed. However, in the Northern Hemisphere, there is the penalty of significant headwinds for most of the trip. We opted for the shorter days with prevailing tailwinds. After checking all of the various airports for Avgas availability, the route over the North Atlantic, down through Southeast Asia and out through the Pacific was inked in. Larry researched the flight portions while Sherry checked out the hotels and sightseeing options. There are some very fine hotels and, once you pass Europe, the rates are quite reasonable.
Flying in the United States is quite easy. You file a flight plan, write down the clearance, fly to your destination and try not to bounce the landing. However, it is not nearly that simple in the rest of the world. Other countries require overflight, takeoff and landing permits. There is also much paperwork to sort through at each destination. It is too much for pilots to handle on their own. Fortunately, there are flight service companies that provide the various permits, and ground handling agents who will walk us through the arrival obstacles. That should make the experience much more relaxed and enjoyable. All we have to do is take in that beautiful scenery and--oh yes, try not to bounce the landing.
Most of the planning has now been accomplished. We are starting to get really excited about the trip.