Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Common Questions about this Journey (by Jack)

Let me address some common questions I get about this crazy Polar RTW endeavor.

The Route

In order to accomplish all the FAI requirements for a polar circumnavigator diploma, especially the 75N and 75S control points, it makes sense to do the trip in two pieces…the northern part in the northern hemisphere summer season and the southern part in the southern hemisphere (“austral”) summer season. Traveling to Arctic and Antarctic regions is tough enough in good weather, in the middle of winter it is almost impossible.

The northern part of the route starts in Jackson Hole, WY (KJAC) on August 11, 2016 and ends in Austin, TX (KAUS) on August 29, 2016 after crossing "the pond" to England (for a cycling trip with friends).

KJAC Jackson Hole, WY, USA
CYXE Saskatoon, SK, CAN
CYFB Iqaluit, NU, CAN
BIKF Keflavik, ISL
EGNT Newcastle, GBR
EKVG Vagar, Faroe Islands
BIAR Akureyri, Iceland (cross 75N between BIAR and BGJN)
BGJN Ilulissat, GRL
CYFB Iqaluit, NU, CAN
KDLH Duluth, MN, USA
KAUS Austin, TX, USA


We plan to "sprint" on the way to England (three stops with one overnight), but are taking our time on the return to do sight-seeing in some interesting places to include the Faroe Islands, northern Iceland, and western Greenland. We will cross the required 75N control point on the trip between Akureyri, Iceland and Ilulissat, Greenland.

The southern part of the trip (to be completed in January 2017) could change and is much longer and more challenging than the northern portion. The currently planned route is:

KAUS Austin, TX, USA
CYYT St John's, Canada
LPAZ Santa Maria, Azores, Portugal
GVNP Praia, Cape Verde
DGAA Accra, Ghana
FHAW Ascension Is, St Helena
SBRF Recife, Brazil
SBSP Sao Paulo, Brazil
SAZM Mar Del Plata, Argentina
SCCI Punta Arenas, Chile
SCRM King George Island, Antarctica
[Round-robin flight to 75S]
SCRM King George Island, Antarctica
SCCI Punta Arenas, Chile
SCEL Santiago, Chile
SPJC Lima, Peru
MLRB Liberia, Costa Rica
KAUS Austin, TX, USA
KJAC Jackson Hole, WY, USA (completing the circuit started in July 2016)

Showing this route graphically takes several screen-shoots...


Most of the challenge of a trip like this one is the planning. The flying part of the trip is not terribly different than my normal flying in the United States. The plane does not know or care where it is flying.The main differences versus typical domestic flying are some variations in air traffic control (“ATC”) procedures and more flight time over remote areas and water where emergency diversion airports are fewer and farther between.

We partially mitigate these risks with training and good equipment including additional equipment that would be helpful in an emergency landing off-airport (survival kit, top-quality raft, immersion suits, etc.). We also spare no expense in terms of aircraft maintenance (especially the engine) and thus the plane is in tip-top shape mechanically.

While our plane is single engine, it is a very reliable engine and the accident record indicates an engine failure is pretty low on the list of risk factors for an accident resulting in serious injury or worse. In 20 years and almost six million PC-12 fleet hours, there have been no fatal accidents in the PC-12 associated with an engine failure. An engine failure is not a zero risk consideration...there have been PC-12 accidents due to loss-of-power (including an ocean ditching in very cold water), but none of them have resulted in fatalities and most were "walk-way" type events. With proper equipment and training, the risk of a fatal accident due to an engine failure in this plane is well down the risk factor list in my view. I, as the pilot, am much more likely to be the cause of an accident.

With around 200 hours of international flying behind me now, while I am certainly not completely knowledgeable on every possible difference in ATC procedures worldwide, I believe I have experienced most of the differences and thus the risk of not properly complying with ATC instructions in a way that results in an accident is small.

Other aspects of this trip serve to reduce risk versus my typical domestic flying, notably that all flights will be made with at least two pilots (sometimes three) and essentially all the flying will be conducted in daylight hours. My typical domestic flying is single pilot (me) and I do some night flying. Accident data shows very clearly that having two pilots in the cockpit and limiting flight to daylight hours substantially reduces flight risk. Moreover, while I plan carefully for all my domestic flights, as a crew, we plan each leg of these international flights even more carefully.

While it is impossible to measure flight risk exactly, my conclusion is given the balance of increased and decreased risk factors, the overall risk of the flying part of this upcoming RTW trip is about equivalent to my normal domestic flying.


The answer to the “Is this trip expensive?” question is easy…yes!

We are very fortunate to be able to self-sponsor the trip. I am always mindful that many people with a similar passion to do a trip like this one must spend a great deal of time…months or even years…seeking third-party sponsors and performing public relations to support those sponsors. It is possible fund a trip like this without using personal resources, a PC-12 pilot re-traced the route of Amelia Earhart’s RTW in 2014 (see FlyWithAmeila) solely based on the financial support of third-party sponsors, but it takes a lot of time. We are lucky to be able to focus entirely on the planning and execution of the flight.


Why would anyone even be interested in such a trip? I can’t really answer that question other than to say it is a passion of the highest degree for me. I find planning and successfully executing such a trip extremely rewarding. Perhaps it is an especially strong exploration gene combined with a love of all things aviation. All I know is pursuing these RTW trips is a big part of what makes my life interesting.

Next post from me will be after we finish the first day of flying on August 11, 2016.