Saturday, August 20, 2016

Newcastle, England to Vagar, Faroe Islands (by Jack)

August 20, 2016 – Newcastle, England (EGNT) to Vagar, Faroe Islands (EKVG)

After a glorious week of cycling in North England, it was time to start heading home. While we "sprinted" to England from Wyoming (3 stops), our plan was to take our time on the way back (to Austin, TX, KAUS) and visit some out-of-the-way places along the way. We also planned to achieve our 75N polar round the world control point along the way.

The first leg of the return journey was from Newcastle, England (EGNT) to Vagar, Faroe Islands (EKVG) a relatively short trip of 456 NM (great circle) or about 499 NM and 2+06 by the flight plan.

We departed at about 0930L at Newcastle into some light rain and a high overcast. Within 10 minutes we were in the clear and headed to our cruising altitude of FL280. It was smooth air and VMC at cruise the whole way. Approaching Scottish Control's boundary with Reykjavik Control (the GONUT fix), we get out oceanic clearance which was very simple "direct GONUT, direct MY, direct, maintain FL280". No problem, we just motor on with good VHF comms and radar contact the whole way. We had filed MY because the winds looked like they would be favoring RWY 12 and MY was the IAF for the approach to RWY 12.

About 75NM from EKVG, we needed to start our descent and requested such from Reykjavik Control to which we got another one of those clearances unfamiliar to many US based pilots..."cleared to descend out of controlled airspace, contact Vagar information at your discretion, good day." We had just been unceremoniously dumped. This controller rid himself and the system of all responsibility for us.

The floor of controlled airspace (Class A) in the area is FL55 and Vagar information is just a airport flight information service (AFIS) meaning they are not ATC and will not tell us what to do. So, we are on our own below FL55 (Class G). We just need to make a decision as to how we want to approach the airport and advise AFIS as a courtesy.

The weather is pretty good at Vagar, so we advise Vagar information that we plan to do the LOC DME RWY 12 which they acknowledge saying there is no other reported traffic. We work out safe altitudes to use before getting established on the approach.

We went direct to MY and then did the procedure turn. The approach chart, helpfully, has a continuous descent final approach (CDFA) like table of minimum altitudes every mile along the final approach. We estimate our groundspeed and compute a descent rate that will allow us to hit those altitude marks and it worked pretty well...almost like an ILS even without an electronic glideslope.

Incidentally, CDFA approaches are almost never seen in the US, but various flavors of CDFA appear in many other parts of the world. CDFA is a broad topic, but the basic idea is to convert a non-precision approach from a drive-and-dive procedure to something more like a precision approach with vertical guidance. As always, James Albright has a great and very detailed description of CDFA. If you have VNAV capability in your FMS, then you can get electronic guidance for a CDFA. Otherwise, you do it old school with ground speeds and descent rates which actually works well enough.

In any event, we did the procedure turn mainly in IMC and turned inbound as started descending along the profile and quickly broke out of the clouds to a spectacular view. The approach takes you right down the middle of the Srovag Fjord with high terrain on both sides.

This approach is beautiful in modest winds conditions, but can be dangerous in high winds. In fact, the AIP even has a whole section devoted to winds conditions that will cause the authorities to close the airport. Never seen anything quite like that in the US.

We were lucky this day and had a smooth ride and beautiful views. It was difficult for me to stay focused on the flying.

Here are some photos of the arrival to Vagar, none of which do the scenery justice.

The localizer is offset from the runway, this was just as we began our turn to final.

Looking back on our final approach path.

AFIS had had park at one of the commercial airline "stands" right next to an Atlantic Airways A321.

Our very friendly and helpful handler greeted us followed shortly afterwards by Faroe customs officer (a very attractive young women) who collected all our passports and returned a few minutes later saying we were all cleared into the country. No hassles at all.

The passengers were lead into the main airline terminal while the crew handled refueling and securing the plane. Once the crew got into the terminal, our passengers directed our attention to the overhead displays.

We were officially official!
Within a few minutes we were in our car headed to town. Here is the crew later that night enjoying the "big city" of Torshavn after the flight.

Nothing like a well executed plan to make pilots happy.
We enjoyed three great days in the Faroes including one foggy and rainy day when most folks stayed inside and got caught-up on some "real world" stuff and I did some long range flight planning for our "big" flight to 75N due in a few days.
We'll pick the story back up departing the Faroes.