To EAA Oshkosh by plane, train and automobile
Patrick had asked me if I would fly with him and his son Arthur from France to EAA Oshkosh this year. Patrick owns a Cessna 340A based in Vannes, in the beautiful Brittany region of France.
Arthur had provided me with an airline ticket to Paris, where he planned to meet me to buy a few last-minute supplies before heading to Vannes. We asked our taxi to rush to the train station and with literally a minute to spare we climbed aboard the “TGV”, the very fast trains that are widely used in France.
By TGV Vannes is about 3 hours from Paris. About 2 hours into the ride we made our first stop in Rennes (or was it Nantes?). The train conductor comes on the intercom:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are going to have a delay of 15 minutes here in Rennes due to a technical issue with your TGV.”
A few minutes later:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are going to have a delay of 2 hours here in Rennes due to a technical issue with your TGV.”
Arthur jumped out of the TGV and said we’re taking a taxi the rest of the way. A few minutes later we were on our way by taxi for the rest of the trip to Vannes. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in Brittany? You go eat crepes of course!
The next day we were on our way to Oshkosh. Patrick did most of the flying and Arthur accompanied us in the back of the C340. We took the most northern route to cross the Atlantic, the same route I take on most of my trips:
I like this route because airports are spaced more closely than along the more southern routes and Sondre Stromfjord (BGSF) is the most reliable airport in Greenland by far. In a C340 we could take the slightly more direct route via Narsarsuaq but this requires HF radio below FL250. The C340 can cruise comfortably at FL250 but going westbound at that level would give us a serious headwind. Even in a C340 with locker tanks we probably wouldn’t have the range to go from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq and divert to Sondre Stromfjord if weather at Narsarsuaq was bad.
Leaving Scotland we flew to Egilsstadir (BIEG) for our first fuel stop in Iceland. The winds were particularly bad from Scotland to Iceland, so we opted for the shortest distance to BIEG instead of going direct to Reykjavik.
Just for an idea of how bad the weather over the North Atlantic can be: leaving Scotland we filed FL180 (18,000 feet) to Egilsstadir. There was some weather between us and Iceland but the C340 has full de-ice and according to the charts we were expecting to be above any icing at FL180. Starting around FL140 we began to pick up ice. At FL170 I decided to disconnect the autopilot and hand-fly the airplane. As soon as I disconnected the autopilot the airplane felt as if it wanted to fall out of the sky. Not convinced that we’d be out of ice soon or that the airplane would climb much more I called Scottish and asked for lower. We descended down to FL140 for the next hour or so until we were clear of most weather and then climbed back up.
After clearing the weather north of Scotland the rest of the flight was uneventful with good weather all the way.
So how was EAA Oshkosh you ask? I’m sorry to say I don’t know. I picked up a little cold somewhere during the trip and when we arrived at Fond du Lac it became a really bad miserable cold. While Patrick and Arthur were at the airshow I slept in the hotel all day 😦
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The Cessna 340 like all of the big Cessna twins is a really nice flying airplane. The airplane handles very well and with its pressurized cabin it’s a great airplane to go places. Like all piston-engine twins the C340 isn’t very powerful on one engine, so you have to be careful with weight and takeoff performance. All of the Cessna twins are now over 25 years old with many 30 or 40 years old. In recent years piston engine twins have somewhat fallen out of favor against the single-engine turbines like the Piper Meridian and TBMs but I’m old fashioned, I still like the piston twins.