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SR22 Atlantic ferry flight route

August 11, 2010

I turned down a request to ferry a Cirrus SR22 to Europe this week. One of the questions / requirements was that I would fly Goose Bay (CYYR) direct to Narsarsuaq (BGBW) and then on to Iceland.

Seems easy enough, right? Great-circle direct distance of 676 nm in an airplane with a maximum range of 1,170 nm.

Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq ferry flight route

Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq ferry flight route

Goose to Nars’q is possibly the most popular Atlantic ferry flight route – one that I’ve flown as well. However, Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq is not a ferry flight route I would fly in a Cirrus. There are several things to consider, and remember you are not flying in the US or Europe.

In Greenland the weather changes quickly and alternate airports are few and far between. Here’s what the North Atlantic general aviation manual says about the weather in Greenland:

Within the Sondrestrom FIR, Arctic weather conditions such as intense storms, severe icing, severe turbulence, heavy precipitation, snow and water in various forms may be encountered throughout the year. Weather conditions change rapidly. Due to the mixture of warm air over the oceans and cold air over the icecap, heavy fog may build up over the coasts, closing down all of Greenland’s airports simultaneously. Changes will often take place within a few minutes and will not always be included in the forecast received in your briefing prior to departure.

If you can’t land in Narsarsuaq, your nearest alternates to divert to are Nuuk (BGGH), Sondre Stromfjord (BGSF) or Kulusuk (BGKK). Nuuk is 251 nm direct from BGBW, Kulusuk is 347 nm and Sondre Stromfjord is 378 nm from BGBW.

But that’s not the complete picture. The only airport in Greenland that you could consider somewhat similar to US / mainland Europe is Sondre Stromfjord, which has a long runway, a localizer approach, and a bona-fide control tower. Sondre Stromfjord is located a bit inland, and typically has more favorable (less bad) weather than other Greenland airports. Airports like Narsarsuaq and Nuuk are known for high winds and strong turbulence.

Bottom line, if I’m flying a light airplane over the North Atlantic, a trip of at least several hours during which the weather can change significantly, it is absolutely imperative that I have enough range to go missed approach at Narsarsuaq and divert to Sondre Stromfjord and/or Keflavik (Iceland).

Goose to Narsarsuaq with a diversion to Sondre Stromfjord is 1054 nm. In an SR22 with 1170 nm max range, there’s no realistic chance that coming from Goose Bay you would be able to shoot an approach at Nars’q, go missed, route to Sondre Stromfjord and do a safe approach to landing there.


Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq with diversion to Sondre Stromfjord

You should also consider that Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq requires HF radio – which is cumbersome and expensive in a light aircraft – unless you go VFR below 6000 feet or on some routes above FL310 correction: for all flights below FL250, whether IFR or VFR (*). I’ve done VFR below 6000, but there’s a good chance you may have to camp out in Goose for a few days waiting for nice weather, and in an SR22 staying below 6000 feet would have a pretty ugly range penalty.

Far northern Atlantic ferry flight route.

A much safer and more comfortable Cirrus ferry flight route is the far northern route via Iqaluit and Sondre Stromfjord. This route increases the trip distance a bit, but greatly improves your margin of safety and comfort, and I typically prefer this route to ferry most piston-engine airplanes across the North Atlantic.

Far northern ferry flight route via Iqaluit to Sondre Stromfjord

Far northern ferry flight route via Iqaluit to Sondre Stromfjord

The far northern ferry flight route has many benefits: HF radio is not required, you can maintain VHF radio contact almost the entire way, airports are spaced closer together and you have several options to divert. If you fly via Qikiqtarjuaq (CYVM) and then BGSF, the longest distance over water is the leg from Kulusuk to Keflavik, only 384 nm.

This route does add about 500 nm to the total trip, but if you don’t have that much flexibility in either time or money, it’s probably not a good idea to attempt an Atlantic crossing in a single-engine airplane in the first place 😉

(*) UPDATE 6/29/2012:

The current Transport Canada HF radio requirement is that all transatlantic flights must have HF radio except on the route CYFB-BGSF-BIKF or on the route CYYR-BGBW-BIKF above FL250. The info above was from an older Jepp chart, the current Transport Canada reference is TC AIM section 6.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karl Fecteau permalink
    March 20, 2011 2:58 pm

    How you get your first transatlantic crossing? Do you, or would you train someone for this?



  2. February 21, 2013 6:54 am

    The article above is very interesting. My wish for pilots is that they will come to realise the danger involved with these type of flights. I often arrange ferry flights between Africa and USA and I find it is a constant battle to get people to understand the complications and safety planning.

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