Dino Karagozian, a Bonanza owner, fulfilled a dream in 2011 when he flew his 1964 Bonanza from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Fairbanks, Alaska, over 35 days.
Joining him on the trip was Juan Carlos Bisi, also known as JB, a professional pilot.
Dino put together a daily report on his adventure, as well as took many, many photos.
We’ll run his report in three separate installments, starting today with his trip from home to AirVenture in Oshkosh:
I really do not remember when I started fantasizing about this trip. However over time the dream became a project and as it was developing it seemed less “crazy” and more achievable.
Studying everything I could about the subject made it more real and less imaginary.
After all, all you had to do is go from one airport to another, until you get to Alaska and then bring the plane back home.When I bought the plane, at 29 (now I’m 48), I never imagined that we would take each other so far.
Why Alaska? I’m not sure. Maybe to fly all America.
I like to fly. For some reason, it does me good. I will not do anything that has not been done before. It is not nor does it pretend to be a record. But it fills me with emotion to think that I will fly all over the Amazon, all the islands of the Caribbean until arriving at Florida. Then join the breathtaking Air Venture in Oshkosh and then enter Canada and cross from downtown to west to enter Alaska and back southbound along the west coast to Los Angeles passing through Vancouver and Seattle. I also want to fly to Wichita to the Beechraft factory where my V Tail Bonanza came out 47 years ago.
Many ask me why? Then they realize that it is part of fulfilling a dream. I tell you what I think: “If you do not live your dreams you are only a little excited spectator of life. I’d rather be an actor. ”
The preparations are many. But I started them with time and I made numerous lists to complete. Little by little they were fulfilled.
As for the crew: It was not easy to find a pilot friend to do this flight. I asked Juan Carlos Bisi, also known as JB. After thinking about it for a couple of days, he said that he would like to do it, which made me very happy.
JB is a professional pilot and he also loves to fly — he continues to take pictures of every cloud that crosses him. He is certainly an enthusiast. I will learn a lot from him and he is a very good traveling companion.
Day 1: Thursday, July 14, 2011
Finally the journey started!
We left at 8:30 a.m. for Iguazú Falls (586 nm, 4.3hs), where we made customs and migrations, then flew near the falls to Fox of Iguazú (a flight of only 15 minutes) to make customs and migrations again into Brazil. How boring these procedures are!
From Fox we flew to Cuaiba (615 nm, 4.4 hours) where we arrived at 8:30 p.m. after a total of almost nine hours of flight. We did an ILS with the autopilot coupled (in my case for the first time).
On the flight everything went very well, except for a problem with the transponder. We were warned that we could not take off without it working. There was only one shop that could repair it.
Day 3: Saturday, July 16, 2011
Today we take off from Cuaiba to Manaus on the Amazon River (770 nm, 5.5hs) and from here to Boa Vista. This is well north of Brazil, very close to Venezuela, from where “we thought” to take off tomorrow towards Grenada in the Caribbean.
I say “we thought” because in Boa Vista, migrations and customs does not work on Saturdays and Sundays.
Today I am especially happy because I completed my first 1,000 hours of flight. Luckily JB remembered and we celebrated inside the cabin with a handshake.
Today the Bonanza also had the longest flight, in distance, of its history, flying 1,400 km without stopping (770 nm) to Bariloche. I had never taken him so far.
Getting to the Amazon River was exciting. It’s very beautiful. Wide, with a lot of human activity, at least at the height of Manaus where they are finishing building a bridge that crosses the river.
We overflew a car route, which brings peace of mind when flying a single-engine airplane. It would not have been a nice experience to have a motor failure over the Amazon jungle.
So far we have made some very long stretches. However at no time was I “bored.” From here the flight and the views become more interesting because the landscapes will change more often and will be less monotonous.
Day 4: Sunday, July 17, 2011
After lunch we went to the airport to check the ship, load fuel, and leave the flight plan ready for tomorrow to do migrations and customs (they arrive at 8 a.m. luckily). Do not believe that everything here is fast. It is not. You have to be patient!
Day 5: Monday, July 18, 2011
We woke up at 6 a.m. to be at the International Airport of Boa Vista by 7 a.m.
But the customs people showed up quite late — at 9 a.m. — but we had to be patient and put on a happy face.
Today we will fly direct to Grenada passing over Venezuela, almost just over the border with Guyana.
We ascended to 11,500 feet to avoid a few cumulus that formed in passing hours (this is normal at this time of year, so the need to leave very early, in addition to the heat).
While flying to the Caribbean, we discovered that we do not have any information from the Caribbean, USA or Canada airports on our main aircraft GPS, since they did not update the information as requested. We have another portable device that does. We will update it in Fort Lauderdale.
It was quite shocking to reach the Caribbean and see how the brown water of the Venezuelan rivers that flow there mixed with the Caribbean water.
With the height that we carried, the water looked very dark blue and not the “turquoise” color of the tourist brochures.
We flew over Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago and then arrived in Grenada with some light rain.
We went to the Granada Grand Beach Resort and we went to tour the town.
Tomorrow we will go to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, where my brother Aldo is with his family on a catamaran.
Day 6: Tuesday, July 19, 2011
We woke up very early and left for the Grenada airport. We made migrations, customs of departure, our flight plan and took off for Tortola. We flew over Martinique, Saint Lucia, Guadeloupe, and other islands at 1,500 feet to enjoy the views.
The prevailing winds are from east to west and it is fun to see how the clouds form over the islands when the humid wind hits the slopes of the mountains (there are up to 5,000 feet in height and much more!) And sometimes very localized rains fall. Even when you fly in the west of the islands, you feel the “rotors” that form the air currents. That’s why we try to fly further east.
At this point it was very hot at 1,500 feet. Then in a moment we ascended to 8,500 feet to lower the thermal sensation (the plane has no air conditioning.)
We arrived in Tortola after a spectacular three and a half hours flying over enchanted islands and the incredible Caribbean.
I do not like to fly much on the water. But, I’m getting used to it or it’s the Caribbean that I like. While flying over the sea, we wore life jackets and we also took an inflatable boat.
As soon as we closed the plane I called Aldo, and we went to the catamaran they had rented for a week.
It was incredible! As soon as we arrived we went snorkeling everywhere. We had lunch in the boat, continued diving, and at six we came to find the boat to take us back to Tortola. We had to look for a hotel to get out early tomorrow morning to Fort Lauderdale. We have a tight schedule!
Day 7: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
At 8 a.m. we were already inside the ship, having done the paperwork and fuel and ready to take off to Providenciales in Turks & Caicos. After loading fuel we will fly to Fort Lauderdale.
The takeoff was spectacular. We ascended to 8,500 feet with the sun behind us, which gave us a breather with the heat. It is the first time since we took off from San Fernando that we did not fly a northern course, but we flew west northwest. The speed was close to 170 knots (310 kmh). We had some tailwind.
From Tortola to here it took us an hour and five minutes.
To enter the USA there are four procedures to do beforehand and some many days in advance to get your authorization before entering. I had them all, but there are two that need to be done when we are sure when and at what time the entrance to U.S. airspace and the airport of entry will be. This gave us some stress.
Luckily everything went well and we had no problem.
The arrival in Florida was very emotional for me. I really wanted to get there. It’s like starting another journey, rather than continuing with the one that started on July 14.
The Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport is awesome. Here we went to the Banyan FBO, which is like Disney World for pilots. It has workshops, hangars, a restaurant, car rental, and shopping.
Here we fixed a couple of things in the Bonanza. The most urgent was the transponder that does what it wants and never matches our desires. It is very important because the Yankees want it to work as they want, when they want.
We will be here until July 23. On July 24 we have to be in Oshkosh where we will stay for three days. There is the air festival where they land between 7,000 and 12,000 planes per day — one of those will be us!
Day 8: Thursday, July 21, 2011
In the middle of the morning we went to the FBO to see the Bonanza. They were placing the new transponder, also an antenna and the altitude “encoder.” We checked with a mechanic, who said the right exhaust manifold had a hole that was covered by a clamp. I think they can fix it tomorrow.
Day 9: Friday, 22 July 2011
We were at Fort Lauderdale Airport by noon. We wanted to see the work on the ship.
Placing the new transponder, the encoder, the antenna and repairing the static system for the loss took a long time, but by 3 p.m. they had finished. Everything we did at Banyan, including GPS equipment and data loading of all US, Canada and Caribbean information, cost us about $4,900.
Day 10: Saturday, July 23, 2011
The alarm clock rang at 5 a.m. and obviously the sky was still dark. We wanted to leave very early to avoid the storms.
In Banyan they had our plane ready with full fuel. While checking the plane, JB made the “flight plan” over the phone.
We loaded the ship, then took off and asked for flight following. It was 7:15 am, heading for Dayton, Ohio (I19).
We came to Dayton because we wanted to be near Oshkosh to arrive tomorrow before noon. The traffic is hyperintense and we think that this way we will reduce some of the stress.
The first part of the flight was with the clear skies, then clouds began to appear that were quickly transforming into storms. But we almost did not have to dodge them since they were arming to our sides, especially to the west.
In the USA, the Garmin 696 GPS has an amazing and incredible accuracy, including a lot of weather data, such as storms, clouds, winds at different levels, lightning, weather at all US airports, forecasts and more. Unfortunately it only works here and with a credit. I think we have a few years to have it in Argentina. I calculate that, as things are, about 50 years or so.
Today’s flight was very long in non-stop distance. He even beat the previous one from this same trip. We flew til 5:30 pm, which is not so much, but we did 827 nm (almost 1,500 km non-stop.). We arrived with two hours of fuel reserve. Absolute record, in terms of miles traveled.
Actually we were going to do it in two stages, but reaching the first destination we both talked about it and as we were very well and rested we continued our journey forward. And luckily we did so because the storms that were settling to our west traveled in the direction of our trajectory and they would cross with us.
We had to get close to some clouds. This was great fun and there was never turbulence of any kind.
We arrived in Dayton, which has a runway without a tower and a few hangars. This is incredible. We arrived and a gentleman called us on the radio, and before we could ask, asked if we wanted a car. He asked for my name and card number. He faxed this information to me and in 20 minutes I had my car keys (they never asked me for a driver’s license or ID). This man, well into years, towed the plane and fastened it to the floor.
My friend George Deeter, who also flies a Bonanza, recommended we come to Dayton to visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This was also amazing. They had more than 300 aircraft in several absolutely giant hangars (what would be a word that describes bigger than giants?) With all kinds of airplanes, starting with replicas of the Wright brothers planes until giant bombers (yes, they were inside the hangars). It was amazing how many people were there.
We just started looking for a hotel when we left the museum, and this was torture. This place is big, much bigger than I imagined. But we found no place in the hotels. We ended up in a hotel of those American movie stars where cars parked at the doors (which in our case are violet!) Well, that’s what we found and we’re tired. At least the rooms inside are not so bad (unless you look at the ceiling where there are a couple of bugs crushed against the ceiling.)
Tomorrow we have a flight of two and a half hours. All the time I have to think Alaska is not the destination. Alaska is only half the trip. The destination is to return home with mine.
Day 11: Sunday, July 24, 2011
The destination today is Oshkosh. For us pilots, it’s like Mecca. Sometime in life we have to go. If possible, more than once.
We arrived at the airport early, JB took care of the flight permits and the meteorology and I checked the plane. The weather was pretty tricky in the Chicago area.
But I relied on my GPS with weather information. It is tremendously objective and accurate. The operators of the meteorological service are also, but they have to be more conservative (and undoubtedly they are).
The air traffic control system here is fantastic. As one Argentine pilot told us: “in the United States everyone, absolutely everyone, conspires to make everything go well.” And so it is.
The flight was relatively low because we thought that we would not have very high ceilings (4,500 feet) and we went a little further north to avoid a storm.
Thanks to the Garmin GPS, we totally avoided it. If it had not been for this apparatus, surely we would not have thrown ourselves here. (No, they do not pay me a mango for propaganda). It should be noted that we did not take risks of any kind. We did not even get into clouds.
Oshkosh is north of Chicago. The idea was to fly west from Chicago to the destination. Since there was electrical activity and rains, we decided to go farther east and finally cross Lake Michigan from east to west. This crossing took no more than half an hour.
We did the whole procedure very correctly (it was easier than it seemed), but when we were in “initial” (it is the straight line parallel to the runway, but while one flies before landing in a direction opposite to the one that is going to land), I realized the landing gear had not gone down and that the fuse had jumped. After several attempts the blessed fuse stayed in place and the landing gear went down as it is supposed to always do (in case of failure it can be lowered manually, but this is not fast). This added a bit of adrenaline to landing at Oshkosh (as if some of that was missing)
At Oshkosh, known as the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture, the experimental aircraft industry is huge and it is where many developments emerge that are then implemented in equipment or “aircraft” planes in aircraft factories.
But not only do experimental ships come, they come in all types, materials, sizes, and antiques. The Concorde once came! There are bombers, World War I airplanes, helicopters — anything that flies.
The norm is to see the owners standing or sitting glued to their aircraft or under the proud wings of their machines. They love being told something nice about them. Even we have been told nice things about our plane.
There is so much aircraft movement that there are established standards for getting in and out. And all this is done by a large number of controllers who direct the traffic by radio, communicate with each plane with the description and color of the plane and the pilot does not have to answer because there is no time. The controller asks you to move the wings if you received the message.
I have seen on the track up to five planes at the same time landing, one behind the other at different points on the runway. In the final straight of landing and as far as I could see, I counted 10 planes that were to land on two parallel runways. And no accidents! It is impeccable. And a lot of the people who work are volunteers.
We will stay in an apartment (condominium) that my partner got online. It’s very good. Nothing to do with the violet doors of yesterday. We have two rooms, kitchen and living room and good Internet.
Day 12: July 25, 2011
The alarm on the iPhone rang at 8 a.m. We were supposed to be be picked up at 9:30 a.m., but we did not see the driver anywhere. When we called, he said he would be there at 9:30 a.m. I asked him how he would arrive on time if the time had already passed Just then I realized that there was a time difference here of one hour, so we went back to bed and slept for another half an hour.
Believe it or not, this to-and-fro is quite tiring.
We are very close to the show. It is little more than five minutes of travel in the car. We toured the show and one of the things that most struck me is the dedication and professionalism that they put into everything they do. There are thousands and thousands of planes parked in perfect order and no one is giving orders or banning activities. Of course it is regulated, and the directives are fulfilled.
As you walk you can pass by a plane, a truck carrying something, a golf cart, and yellow school buses to take people from one place to another.
Another striking theme is that there are very old people enjoying all this and also working as volunteers. It is very nice to see them doing different activities and not sitting somewhere bored. Today a 93-year-old man, while visiting the interior of a DC-3, told us anecdotes of when he was flying professionally and how, with a group of friends, they borrowed one of those and went to New York to spend a romantic weekend.
It is amazing to be able to touch the planes that I only had the opportunity to see in history books or magazines — fighter planes, bombers, even a Zeppelin.
As you walk, looking at the sky you see a number of planes and helicopters. Anywhere else, there would be chaos, but here there is not.
There is nothing to criticize. These guys have it very clear.
In the afternoon, the airshow begins. Different planes fly, usually with pilots who dedicate themselves professionally to this. They are masterfully accurate. There is even an announcer explaining the maneuvers.
Today JB repeated something to me from yesterday when I did not pay much attention due to the excitement of the moment. He said: “Dino, yesterday when we were landing here I was very moved.”
I do not think my partner is getting “sensitive.” I think that’s what an aviation-loving person feels when he has experiences like these in which, in addition to flying so far on a small plane, he comes to a place where he can study, see, touch, hear, feel, vibrate and fly the history of aviation.
This is a phenomenon and I am already thinking about our next step: Canada.
Day 13: Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Our driver came to pick us up very punctual today with his vintage car. Before 10 a.m. we were where we had to be.
We walked around measuring our energy consumption because the day is long at the show and the sun does not take a rest. We do not have a lot of clothes and so far we have only been one time to the laundry in Fort Lauderdale.
If someone wants to try to understand how the pilots here feel among so many planes and history they should try to imagine how a male teenager would feel in a photographic production of the last 24 playmates of Playboy magazine. It’s the most descriptive comparison I’ve come across. I think a lot of people are going to understand me now.
The show in the afternoon was very beautiful. At one point it seemed that there were more than 100 airplanes in the air. It was impossible to count. They flew in groups and solos, all doing something and in opposite directions. Coordination was total.
Tomorrow: The trip from Canada to Alaska.