The Story So Far
15th July to 25th August 1998 in a Lancair IV
This website is for Aviation enthusiasts and may assist others planning to fly a light aircraft around the world. More information and recent developments can be found at www.earthrounders.com .
What started out to be a dream to build and fly a home built aircraft to the Mecca of experimental aviation at Oshkosh USA, evolved in to a flight around the world. Along the way, we managed to set 11 world speed records in the C1c category that are still standing to this day. We could have set many more point to point records but the additional paper work and costs involved were not worth the effort and was never a major priority.
The preparation for a flight like this is a huge task. We had the assistance of our employer (Qantas) for trip pack Jeppesen charts and contacts for obtaining over flight and landing clearances. Some of the clearances took two months to obtain, some requiring a two hour window or the clearance would be revoked! Across Lebanon & Saudia a minimum altitude of FL250 was mandated, possibly because of the Gulf war.
Some details of the Lancair IV: VH-LKG was built with long distance flying in mind. The kit arrived in 1992 and 6 years (6,000 hours build time) later was ready for the journey. The Engine is a Continental TSIO550E1B dual turbo charged and inter cooled 350 HP with a Hartzell scimitar propeller.
The aircraft was built with a forward centre of gravity to carry a 460 litre bladder tank on the back seat. No speed brakes were fitted so that 460 litres of fuel was available from the wing tanks. The aircraft was not pressurised in order to save weight. No Autopilot or stormscope were fitted but a portable HF was as this is mandatory equipment. A Mountain High oxygen system with full masks were fitted. A purpose built survival jacket with flotation was worn on all sectors, a raft was in the front of the aircraft readily at hand. The speed at 65% power flying rich of peak was 210 knots TAS at sea level increasing to 310 knots at FL290. I am a strong advocate for operations using lean of peak. The longest sector from Muscat to Phuket was flown Lean of peak in order complete the sector with 2 hours reserve. The cylinder head temperatures ran 40 degrees cooler and the engine ran smoothly. Rich of peak the fuel flow was 83 litres per hour as opposed to 59 litres per hour lean of peak and of course the true airspeed reduced due to less horsepower. The main reason the remaining sectors were flown rich of peak was to ensure daylight flying as the sun sets quickly when flying East & achieve a higher true airspeed when setting speed records. Also, an early start on the days we flew across the ITCZ meant avoiding a lot of CB's.
The HF aerial (when fitted) reduced the TAS by 5 knots. Taking off at gross weights of up to 3650 pounds (3200 pounds was normal) also reduced the TAS until some fuel was used.
logically we should have flown the whole journey at FL290 but the lack of oxygen to pre breathe prior to take off would have increased the possibility of developing the “bends”. As it turned out, above FL210, we were not getting sufficient oxygen from the automatic system and had to use “continuous” to stop hypoxia. Having two Pilots when flying at these flight levels was great insurance!
The crew comprised two B-737 Pilots with a general aviation background. The owner / builder is Gary Burns & the other Captain is Alex Schenk. We flew leg for leg with the second Pilot running the radios and deck log. We used our six weeks annual leave to complete this flight. Avgas availability was one determinant for the route, the other was to avoid excessive “handling” fees!
We succeeded in not paying graft at all which pleased us no end!
The Route flown was departure Brisbane (Australia), over flew Noumea and Fiji and landed Pago Pago. From there to Hilo Hawaii. Hilo to overfly San Francisco and land at Redmond Oregon where the kit was manufactured. Redmond to Oshkosh via Spearfish South Dakota. Oshkosh to Bangor Maine. Bangor to Shannon Ireland. Then a short sector to Bern Switzerland to meet Alex's friends. Then low level through the Alps to Ciampino Italy, Larnaca Cyprus, Muscat Oman, Phuket Thailand, Darwin and then Brisbane.
We fitted a Satcom system which allowed fax/telex communication & then did a trial flight to Melbourne and return. We noticed the laminar flow wing lost 10 knots indicated airspeed in heavy rain which is very typical and picked up ice at a rapid rate. We were pleased 75% power for climb was available all the way to Fl290.