The baron in flight


In-Flight Diary


Project Round Up

Overall Diabetes Flight 50 has been a terrific project. Initially there were some tense organizational challenges with installing extra fuel tanks for the Hawaii - California flight, with safety issues to boot. However, the 14.5-hour flight on 11th July worked a treat. After the tanks were taken out at Torrance, California, it was very dissapointing to be grounded on the first mainland day with a faulty RPM needle and being unable to take Isabelle from Dexcom and cameraman John Mans with us to Colorado as planned - it was the same RPM needle that nearly foiled us last year for the 48 states flight, but fortunately we got this fixed at Torrance.

Once on our way the following day we made great progress around the lower 48 states, and with just three on board - Douglas, Karl who was looking after all things communication, and 6 foot 4 Daniel having much more legroom than last year for his official record observing - it was a comfortable load and very good company throughout. Just an hour into the first mainland flight, a brief smell of electrical burning resulted in the autopilot "heading hold" function failing - likely a transistor burning out - so much of the flight cruise thereafter was spent with the autopilot "altitude hold" working and steering by rudder pedals, or hand-flying the Baron. After a good 11 hours of flying that first mainland day, at Monroe, Louisiana, we were somewhat amused to be picked up by a hotel stretched limo which duly took us through a Burger King drive-through for dinner.

Overall the weather was kind to us with only one storm sending us fleeing for an instrument approach into Atlantic City, New Jersey on the second mainland night, and the following day having to pick our way through two lines of storms near Lake Michigan. The final day ended with 14 hours of flying and being on the go for almost 18 hours, with a beautiful twighlight flight northwest from Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska with Ron Sheardown onboard, and completing the journey in 5 days and 15 hours (subject to confirmation by the National Aeronatic Association). Total flying time was 60.4 hours from Hawaii to Alaska for an average of 10 hours flying each day, 12 hours a day taking into account the day grounded by the pesky RPM needle.

During that time we had plenty of low level flying through Arizona, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Michigan and South Dakota which was extremely enjoyable. Once again the grandeur and variety of the USA landscape was absorbed and very much appreciated, including California deserts, skirting the Grand Canyon, through Monument Valley at low level and New Hampshire and Vermont's mountains amongst many other standout moments. Wildlife spotting at low level included elk atop Colorado mountains and mustang in South Dakota.

Many, many thanks go to all Diabetes Flight 50 supporters, including Dexcom Inc as a major sponsor, and sponsors Jeppesen, Spidertracks, ANL Global, Air Routing Fuel, Advanced Air Inc., Olade and Threadneedle. Also to all those following our progress and donating to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and to many people and companies during preparations and while en-route.

The aim of Diabetes Flight is to raise awareness of diabetes, in particular to show what people can do with diabetes, particularly when it comes to flying. It is worth highlighting that blood sugar control was terrific throughout the project, with pre-takeoff, hourly and pre-landing blood sugar testing requirements being augmented by continuous glucose monitoring. The other very important aim of DF50 is to raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation which strives to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, and we are delighted to report that we have surpassed last year's figure of 17,000 Pounds with donations still coming in.

Many, many thanks again to all supporting the fund-raising, in particular Mel, Deb and Al for our fund-raising dinner organizing and to all those supoorting this annual event. So what's next? On April 25th 2011, Diabetes Flight 90 is in store, a record-setting flight in the Baron to the North Pole (90 degrees north), including a landing on the ice, plus another fund-raising dinner in March.....more later!!


The Adventure Continues..

15:35 pm 19th July (Alaska) 00:36 am 20th July (England)

Our journey continues north....with a four-hour low level flight from Ketchikan to Anchorage on Sunday, past stunning glaciers spilling into the ocean, and by beautiful unspoiled coastal landscapes. Next year's project heads up to the furthest north possible, hence this week's recce flights with Ron Sheardown, one of the most experienced Arctic aviators around. Yesterday we flew at very low north of Anchorage under low cloud bases and rain to Windy Pass and then west to Nome, eventually hitting solid low level cloud and having to climb up and complete the flight with an instrument approach. Grounded today by the weather but hoping to go up to Barrow in the Arctic Circle tomorrow.....more later.



Finished, after 14 hours of flying today!!! Initial calculations have the time to complete the 50 states plus Washington DC at 5 days and just over 15 hours. Subject to confirmation by the National Aeronatic Association we have cut the existing record in more than half which is terrific.

Total logged flying time was 60 hours in just short of six days, and taking into account the one day we couldn't fly, it was an average of 12 hours flying each day. Blood sugars have been great, with normal fingerstick testing requirements augmented powerfully by continuous glucose monitoring. Many thanks today to Ron Sheardown who came on board as "safety pilot" over Canadian airspace. As soon as we met up at Seattle Boeing Airfield a flight plan was filed and the final flight took four hours in beautifully calm night conditions and into a constant, faint northerly twighlight. Cloud cover over Ketchikan meant another instrument approach, the third one in the last five days.

Some of today"s highlights include flying around Mt Rainer, a 14,400-foot volcanic cone, using updrafts to climb above Rocky Mountain ridges in Idaho, and the final approach into Seattle Boeing Airfield, right by the city skyline and with tons of aircraft buzzing by. Many, many thanks also go to Daniel O'Mara for coming on board to act as the National Aeronautic Association official observer, and Karl Beetson for acting as Technical Adviser looking after en-route comms and the Spidertracks GPS tracker, plus all those who have helped make this project conclude successfully (subject to confirmation by the NAA). This project is not over yet, as we hope to make our way up to Barrow in Alaska's Arctic Circle, weather permitting, to prepare for next year's diabetes awareness and fund
raising project!!

More details will follow on some of the key highlights of the last few it's time for bed after landing at the equivalent of almost 4 am Iowa time where we set off from today - or rather, yesterday... More later...


Day 6 - The finish?

21:00 pm Pacific Time, 16th July

05:00 am GMT, 17th July (London Time)

Just arrived at Seattle after battling strong and turbulent headwinds over the Rockies. The weather forecast is good for another 4-hour flight up to Ketchikan so we're planning to head off shortly. More later....


Day 6

16th July

Writing this at 10,500 feet over stunning Idaho Rocky Mountains being thrown around by turbulent westerly headwinds. Good day so far en-route Seattle, with some very low flying over Missuori River, South Dakota and a little further on coming across a group of Mustang on the praries; a terriric sight. Our refueling point was Powell, Wyoming, where Orville, the Fixed Base Operator, had a very entertaining routine on his rock collection and local sights! More later....


Day 5- Update

21:30 pm Central Time, 15th July

03:30 am GMT, 16th July (London Time)

An excellent day with almost 12 hours in the Baron from New Jersey, all the way up to Maine and then west to Iowa. Some tremendous low flying was enjoyed over the Atlantic east of Mahnattan, and over Lakes Erie and Michigan plus beautiful tree-clad mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont. Over Lake Michigan we flew quite close to the Chigaco skyline which was surreal with early evening sunshine glinting off skyscrapers and wisps of fog sitting atop the water in the foreground. Almost amusingly, after last year's near miss with three waterfowl on the runway at Angola Airport, Indiana, last uear, we narrowly missed a number of smaller birds immediately after takeoff this year.On the weather front, we had to detour almost 100 miles west over Indiana while sandwiched between two huge lines of storms before picking our way through a small gap. Some stats so far; landed in 11 mainland states on Tuesday 13th, 14 on the 14th and 15 today, the 15th - literally a coincidence, not planned as such! We have 11 more states to go, and aiming to reach Alaska by Saturday lunchtime if all goes to plan. Time on board the Baron for each mainland day has been 11 hours on the 13th, 9.9 hours on the 14th and 10.4 hours today. So full days - we would have got further yesterday had bad weather not forced us down in New Jersey, but definitely no complaints so far! Other (important) stats - only *one* barf-bag used this year versus two last year - the most welcome stat so far! More later....


Day 5- Plan for today

09:30 am Eastern Time, 15th July

14:30 pm GMT, 15th July (London Time)

Up at a more civilised hour today, waiting for fog to burn off in Massachusetts before we head off from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Yesterday's flight included a landing at Gaithersburg within the Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area with a special transponder code required plus constant contact with Air Traffic Control - we had to hold off near Fredericksburg before obtaining a response to our radio calls; a bit disconcerting at the time as we had to land at Gaithersburg, plus if you get the procedures wrong you soon have a military aircraft accompanying you!  It was a late night plotting instrument flights plans for the first few hours of today's flights but it looks like we may be able to go "VFR" – visual conditions instead of in cloud - as the weather clears off to the east. Coincidentally we had similar bad weather on the east coast during Diabetes Flight 48 last year. More later....


Day 4 - Beaten by weather!

10:00 pm Eastern Time, 14th July

04:00 am GMT, 15th July (London Time)

While cruising above New Jersey at 1200 feet at dusk some low cloud forced us to divert into Atlantic City (not a corny excuse to go gambling, honestly!) and after a quick instrument approach through cloud and rain we just beat a thunderstorm to the airfield. So staying put for the night, and tomorrow will endeavour to reach Iowa and on to Seattle by Friday before final touchdown in Alaska. One of today's more memorable moments was having to abandon a landing due to two people standing on the runway half way down - they soon ran off as we flew right by them. More later....


Day 3

5:30 am Central Time, 14th July

11:30 am GMT, 14th July (London Time)

A quick update at 5.30 am, Central Time. Perhaps a silver lining to the delay on Monday, as a huge area of storms yesterday would have prevented us getting very far up the east coast. Today planning to fly as far as possible towards New England states on the east coast from Louisiana. Many thanks to Mike and Monroe Air Center for so much help last night, including buying food for today's flights. More later...


Final stop for today

10.15 pm Central Time 13th July

04:15 am GMT, 14th July (London time)

Final stop for 13th Monroe, Louisiana, at the equivalent of 1215 am Pacific Time, so over 16 hours on the go today and 11 states covered. We had some terrific low level flying in Nevada and through Monument Valley, Utah. Texas saw the hottest with 39 degrees C, almost 100 degrees F, and a high cruise was a welcome respite from the heat. Approaching Coffeeville, Kansas, you could feel the humidity as we descended into hazier, an early start beckons tomorrow to try to catch on on yesterday's lost time ....more later...


Progress at last

13th July

Good progress today, so far covering 8 states at time of writing, at 9,500feet over Oklahoma, but bumpy, hot conditions got the better of Karl earlier (!) with a quick stomach-emptying exercise carried out at Farmington, New Mexico. Over Colorado we met up mid-air with Butch Weaver, another pilot with diabetes, in his Cessna 185 for half an hour of formation flying - great to do this for the second year in a row! 


The arrival of good news!

10:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time, 12th July,
06:30 am GMT, 13th July (London time)

A frustrating day with two false starts. After a faulty part was replaced the left RPM needle still wouldn't work on engine restart. However we've just learned at 9 pm that it's fixed so plan to depart Torrance early tomorrow for a full day's flying in, hopefully the east coast. The original plan was to cover all 48 mainland states round to Seattle in four days, so we'll now try to do this in three and catch up on today's lost time. The key aim is to cut the existing 13-day 22-hour record in half, therefore touching all 48 mainland states and Alaska by early Sunday 18th July....more tomorrow....


Main land day 1- A false start

15:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time, 12th July,

11:59 pm GMT, 12th July (London time)

Aborted take-off at Torrance with RPM needle failure on the left engine - unlucky but very fortunate we could just taxi back straight back into the maintenance shop where the extra tanks and HF aerial had just been de-installed. This little glitch is being worked on - hopefully we can still get on our way eastwards later today. More later...


Arrival into California

01:05 am Pacific Daylight Time, 12th July, 
7:05 am GMT, 12th July (London time)

Landed just after 1 am LA time after 14 hours and 33 minutes airborne time. A terrific flight overall with a fun instrument approach through cloud into quite hazy conditions at Torrance. Totally bushed now - heading for a 5 hour sleep before sorting out the Baron tomorrow; extra tanks will be taken out and the back four seats put back in. All being well we will depart around noon for the mainland states, and hoping to get as far east as Kansas.....more later...


Four hours

9:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time, 11th July, 
3:00 am GMT, 12th July (London time)

Four hours to go with sun setting behind....despite over 10 hours airborne there's been no time to get bored or tired. Fuel management is a good pep-up with regular transfers being made from the extra nose-bay tank and huge rear tank. Hourly position reports are made along with navigation fix reports to San Francisco Radio on a long-distance HF radio (like a ham radio).....more later


Day No. 1;

11th July;

Wicked day so far...writing from just over half way between Hawaii and Los Angeles, at 11,500 feet with a strong 30 knot headwind to boot. Normally at this time of year trade winds blow from the east at lower levels while up here you often get a decent tailwind back to the mainland - not today though, and a good 14 hour-flight is in the offing. Would have loved to have stayed longer in Hawaii but it was great to start with an early take-off into beautifully calm air and a couple of light tropical showers. The extra 248 gallons of fuel in a "turtle pack" (bladder tank) in the back were moving back and forth, and even with a gentle lift off and shallow climb, you could feel this movement through the aircraft's own rocking-like motion. Meanwhile the back doors were bulging out due to pressure from the fuel pack, even with strong door-support in place, and I kept turning around to check the upper latch securing the door wasn't moving. - indeed the latch did move visibly upwards back to its normal position as fuel was transferred out of the bladder tank - good to see. Overall flying conditions have been terrific, mainly above cloud with the occasional clear area unveiling a shipless ocean. Blood sugars have been great too, with the hourly fingerstick check requirements aided by continuous glocose monitoring giving blood sugar readings every 5 minutes. Now estimating Torrance at 1 am, a late night for Daniel, the official record keeper, Karl, Technical Support, John who will be filming the first mainland day and Isabelle from Dexcom. More later...


The stopwatch starts!

11:59am Pacific Daylight Time, 11th July, 
7:59 pm GMT, 11th July (London time)

At 10:33 am PDT time (6:39 pm London time) Douglas and the fuel laden Beechcraft B58 soared skywards from Hilo International Aiport to embark upon the most challenging leg of the whole DF50 flight. It is estimated to take approximately 14 hours for Douglas to cross the vast expanse of North Pacific Ocean that lies between Hawaii and the mainland USA, however the flight time can fluctuate dependant upon the weather conditions encountered. Therefore Douglas will be seeking out a cruising height which will provide a benefical tail wind to improve the speed across the ground whilst ensuring an economical fuel consumption rate is maintained. Douglas and the 'Baroness' are due to arrive at Torrance CA around midnight, watch this space...