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Friday, September 20, 2013
It’s been three days since my arrival back to Aiken, South Carolina after flying N50ET around the world. The support and encouragement I received from the MU-2 community along the way was overwhelming and very much appreciated. While we all know N50ET Outside the MT-Propeller Factorythat we have such an incredible aircraft with the MU-2, many have been struck by how seamless the whole trip appeared and the fact that despite political sensitivities in the middle east, varying weather conditions, airport operational issues, and just plain old Murphy’s Law, we were still able to keep to our planned itinerary each day and arrive back in Aiken on Day 25.

In reflecting back on the entire experience, I realize that while an around-the-world flight is a huge undertaking, it is no different than any other good, safe flight—most of the work is in the preparation and pre-planning. To be sure, with the magnitude of this flight, there was a lot of pre-planning—in fact, at least 12 months went into the planning for this adventure of a lifetime. (photo right: N50ET outside the MT-Propeller factory in Straubing, Germany)

Early on much time was devSalzburg-Riveroted to selecting the route; taking into consideration diplomat/political issues, the range of the aircraft, clearance, visa, and health requirements, associated airport fees, airport operating parameters, security risks, and finally personal preferences.

Since I knew I would be flying in varying extreme weather conditions and over long distances, I spent the past 12 months building flight profiles specifically for N50ET for normal and long range cruise in hotter and cooler temps. I tested and documented different times to climb, fuel to climb, power settings, and cruise speeds at different ambient temperatures in order to build accurate profiles. (photo left: The Hohensalzburg Fortress provides an impressive backdrop to the Salzburg Cathedral)

These profiles were extremely useful in the flight planning process and during the actual flight, and after selecting BaseOps to help with the flight planning and weather briefing as well as the international handling and clearances, they took time to meet with me at their Houston office to review each and every leg of the trip. Prior to departure and on the trip, not only did all of the trip handlers pay close attention to detail, they were very good at communicating important trip information and their international handlers were professional and competent—customs and immigration was a breeze.

Countless hours were spent compiling and filing paperwork for clearances, general declarations, and visas; contacting airports for handling and customs requirements (for the countries where we took care of View Outside of Red Bullhandling); researching and booking most of the hotel rooms on the trip as well as continually monitoring and comparing fuel quotes from a variety of vendors. Finally time was devoted to cockpit information management—from the order of flight package contents to organizing the paper backup charts to compiling daily checklists of critical airport, customs, handler, fuel, hotel and transportation information for each leg. (photo right: view outside of Red Bull)

In preparation for the international flying, I had a High-Frequency (HF) radio installed, which from reading my blog, you will recall was a necessity after leaving Oman and through much of Indonesia. I also had a third 16-watt Com installed, hot wired for start-up clearances, which was required in most countries. CTS installed the new MT-propellers on N50ET and made sure the aircraft was up-to-date on all inspections and ready to go.

Considerable time and effort was devoted to evaluating and building a stock of spare parts, including jack pads and tow bar with multiple spares. Bryan Capps of Air 1st put together the spares package, tool kit, airframe and window cleaning supplies, and loaded the Mitsubishi and Garrett service manuals onto thumb drives. An appropriate laptop was carefully chosen, and electronic chart subscription services were selected and loaded onto my iPad and mini iPad for the Atlantic, Europe, Middle East, Pacific Basin and Australia in addition to my previously installed North American Foreflight subscription. In support of the trip, Garmin very kindly donated a worldwide database for the G-600, GTN-750, and GTN-650 installed in N50ET as well as for the AERA-796 handheld GPS.

Though we continually monitored competitor fuel prices, we established a relationship with World Fuel Services, BaseOps’ parent company, for our fuel credit line and actual fueling for the majority of the trip. Astrid Naparstek of World Fuel took a personal interest in my trip and met with us in the early planning. She was instrumental in orchestrating the meeting with BaseOps in Houston, and of course their interest and enthusiasm about the trip sealed the deal.

It was certainly a pleasure to have along Mike Collins from the AOPA to document the trip with his excellent photography and writing abilities. Mike cheerfully took on the responsibility of supervising the fueling of N50ET which enabled me to concentrate on the aircraft itself and the paperwork at each of our stops.

While it will take some time for the invoices—with all of the associated fees—to trickle in, it will be interesting to compare just how costly it is to fly in other countries compared to the United States.

So in the end, yes the trip does appear relatively seamless when you consider that I flew N50ET 27,475 nautical miles in 101.5 hours on schedule in 25 days—all squawk free, but know that it was part of a grand team effort and countless hours in planning and behind the scenes effort among the Air 1st, CTS, Baseops and World Fuel Services employees! 

Now that I am back from the trip, I will sort through the photos I took along the way. Please be sure to check the RTW Photo Gallery for a gallery of my personal photos as I will be adding them over the next several days.