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Atlantic Crossing on a Single Engine Airplane Part 1

Updated on February 3, 2013

Since my early days of flying back in 1978, when I was trying to learn how to fly sail planes in Panagitsa Edessa Greece, the idea of crossing the Atlantic on a Single Engine Airplane was stuck in my mind.

I guess it was out of reading too many aviation adventure books that time.

The Airplanes

The Single engine airplane I crossed Atlantic
The Single engine airplane I crossed Atlantic
A C172 similar to the one we were flying to Italy
A C172 similar to the one we were flying to Italy
Cessna 172 The Instrument Panel
Cessna 172 The Instrument Panel
Cessna 310
Cessna 310
Cessna 310 another shot
Cessna 310 another shot
Piper Navajo 425P
Piper Navajo 425P

Anyway, I got my PPL SE Airplanes (Private Pilot License Single Engine) back in 1982, from the Local Aero-club. We were a few active pilots back then and the norm was to fly around the airport's pattern, nothing spectacular. Touch and goes for an hour or so, and then sitting in the club talking adventures of others. I thought that flying was much more than that, so I started planning trips to nearby destinations. The most attractive destinations were the Greek Islands, at least the islands with a runway. Fuel was always an issue, as the vast majority of the Islands had no aviation fuel. I am afraid that this situation has not been changed until today.

For a year or so, I did a lot of flying to the Greek Islands. Starting from my home airport in Thessaloniki (North Greece) I had to make a stop over to Marathon (Athens Greece) for refueling, and then proceed to Mykonos, Santorini, etc. Fellow pilots in the Club, started also traveling further than the airport pattern, so we made a group of enthusiasts for long distance flying. Then the idea came to fly further away, to Italy. First destination Brindisi. They serve perfect espresso coffee and Italy is famous for shopping. Well, the problem was not only the fuel, as we could refuel in Corfu Island, but also the Otranto straight, 90 NM of sea, between Greece and Italy. It was a risk on a single engine airplane.

We did it, and we liked it and every other weekend we were in Brindisi and Bari for espresso and shopping. The tech-nick was simple. Otranto straight is a very busy shipping lane. Several passenger ships, cargo ships and ferries are crossing the area, both Northbound and Southbound. As we were crossing Otranto, we would not fly straight to our destination, but we would fly over the ships beneath us, a kind of zig-zag, leaving one ship to fly above the next one. In case of loss of power on our single engine, the plan was to ditch near the ship, so to have more chances to be seen and survive.

We never had a single incident during that trips, although I remember, flying from Thessaloniki to Skiathos, an island 90 NM South of our home airport, on a Cessna 172 Rheims, (220 HP), we experienced a loss of oil pressure, minutes away form the island. When we landed and we opened the cowling of our single engine we realized a crack along the engine body, leaking the last drops of oil. The engine broke on our way to the island, and lost all of its oil. We were lucky that it happened when we were about to land. It took several weeks to fix the airplane with a new engine and fly it back home.

Years passed by, and at the end of 1989 I earned my ME (Multi-engine) licenses as well as IFR (Instrument Flying) training. It was the time I purchased my first airplane, a Twin Engine Cessna 310. The trips were longer and further away, like Larnaca Cyprus, or Innsbruck Austria. Gaining experience, adding flying time, the dream was always there. To cross the Atlantic on a single engine airplane.

It was January 2008 when one of my classmates in the pilot school, Costas, called me and asked me if I was in the mood to help him fly a single engine airplane all the way from Athens Greece to New York. He had to deliver the airplane on behalf of its owner and as it was a long trip, with unfavorable weather and he would appreciate to do it with my help.

We were friends with Costas, since our early days of flying. We have been flying together several times since then, both on single and twin engine airplanes. I trusted him, and he trusted me as a pilot. I remember one afternoon, back in mid eighties, he had to renew his medical, in Athens. We were sitting in the club and he asked me to fly him from Thessaloniki to Athens, see the doctor for couple of hours and then fly back to Thessaloniki. It was February, the sun was setting early, and the weather was very cold. The club had a fleet of old Cessnas 172 which are not famous for the cabin heating abilities. We decided to carry blankets and cover our feet to protect them from freezing. And off we went.

To be continued.....

Part 2-3 & 4 Already Published The story is now complete

Follow the links at the end of this text


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    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      You were blessed that your cracked engine, cracked near the end of your flight.Thank God you or no one elsae got hurt. God Bless

    • profile image

      Ahmed 8 years ago

      You are Lucky sir .. :) wish you nice flying all the time..

    • Mike India profile image

      Mike India 8 years ago from Greece

      You are right Dan, Too many photos in the archive. I took care of it. Thank you for the comment, and I admire your observation skills.

    • profile image

      Dan 8 years ago

      That is not A C-172 above...It looks like a C-182RG.