At 1500 hours, on
our heading of 115�, we check our gas system. Max has his own special rig for
feeding gas from the cabin tanks: a little Bendix fuel pump that plugs into the
cigarette lighter, pumping the gas into the airplane's regular cross-feed
system. He shuts the feed off the right engine; it immediately goes out, the
airplane rocks downward to the right, I plug the pump into the lighter and the
engine starts right up again. We check in the same fashion on the left engine;
O.K. there too. From now on in, via the cigarette-lighter plug and the little
electric fuel pump, we are on the cabin tanks, which should last us to the
We are now
holding course with the autopilot. Since this works in conjunction with the
directional gyro, Max has turned the gyro to zero. As long as the autopilot is
on, it will hold the airplane on that zero heading. If we want to change
course, we do so in relation to that zero heading; for instance, to change 5�
to the right, Max cages the gyro, turns it 5� to the right, uncages it, and the
autopilot promptly puts the plane into a turn until it has found the zero
heading again. In a way, this simplifies matters—even with the autopilot off,
it is easier to hold a plain zero heading than to hold one of, say, 117�. At
least, I find it so, and will remember this.
We keep the ADF
on a zero heading too; and now we tune in Yarmouth, off to our left on the
lower tip of Nova Scotia. It comes in loud and clear, a musical signal note,
and the ADF needle swings to 310�, pointing to where Yarmouth lies off our port
bow. When the needle is at 270�, at right angles to our course, we will know we
are directly abeam of the Yarmouth range. Thus we can check our forward
progress, station by station, all the way up the coast of Nova Scotia and
Newfoundland while we proceed diagonally away from the coast line out into the
This is our
weather situation for the crossing: there is a big low centering somewhere
around Greenland—on the map it is drawn like a great, irregular pool, with
concentric waves reaching down toward us. Around this, winds are circulating
counter-clockwise. Right now these winds are northwest, blowing behind our left
side, pushing us partly southward, partly ahead. As we proceed eastward across
the ocean they should gradually change to west winds which will be tail winds
for us, then to southwest winds which, coming from our right, should push us
north again. Thus, the winds over the entire crossing should tend to cancel
each other out, and this sort of figuring forms an important part of Max's
navigation. There's a high to the south where the winds circulate clockwise; we
ride between the two systems.
1540 hours. We
call Boston—twice—but fail to raise them. So we have now lost Boston Control;
we are well beyond their range on VHF. We try New York on the Sun Air HF radio,
which Max has wedged between the seats. He lets out the trailing antenna, puts
on his headset. O.K., here is New York, loud and clear.
Our floor of
cloud is breaking up now; ahead and to the left there seems to be clear ocean.
Off to the right, far distant, a pale tan bank on the horizon, is the weather
of the high-pressure area to the southward. To the left, abeam and slightly
behind but much closer, is the trailing whiteness, veiled and ragged-edged, of
yesterday's storm going up toward Newfoundland. Gander would have been very
difficult today. Tomorrow, says Max, would be wonderful for a northern flight
to Shannon—tail winds all the way.
1552 hours. We
start to pass through the Yarmouth beam. The needle has slowly swung to 270�,
pointing straight left at right angles to our course. The signals beeping
musically through the loudspeaker blend gradually into one continuous hum—A's
and N's canceling each other out to indicate the center of the beam. The clouds
below are widely scattered now, the sun shines bright and warm into the
cockpit, the air outside feels cold and pure and we feel warm and snug. Engines
are running beautifully, throttled down, quiet. I eat a peanut-butter-and-jam
sandwich, and we both have a swallow of coffee. "I don't know when I've had
it better at the start of a crossing," says Max.
I take over again
for a while, and Max checks weather reports from Canada. At 1605 we are solid
on the Yarmouth beam, so we switch over to Dartmouth, halfway up the coast of
Nova Scotia near Halifax. The signal comes in loud and clear.
Here is our
instrument situation: we have cut off the lines to the manifold-pressure and
oil-pressure gauges; Max does not consider them essential for the trip and so
prefers to eliminate them as possible sources of trouble. We have also
disconnected the engine priming lines for the same reason. We have our ADF,
dual VHF radio with omni navigation facilities, instrument-landing system,
including runway localizer and glide-slope indicator, and Max's SunAir HF radio
for long-distance work. We have magnetic compass, gyrocompass, artificial
horizon, electric turn-and-bank indicator, rate-of-climb indicator, sensitive
altimeter, suction gauge and the rest of the standard instruments.
throttle, props and mixture are all in a line about halfway down the quadrant.
The mixture has been leaned down quite considerably. We are running at 2,200
rpm, which Max figures is probably around 20 inches of manifold pressure. The
ship now trims almost level, with the nose trim still at full down position; we
are slowly using up some of that tail weight in the cabin tanks.