We continue the story of Magnus Fusion’s most adventurous ferry flight, a 6,000km flight across the USA. In this part, the pilot, Doma Andréka, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the flight.
From the previous part, we already know the figures, but how was the pilot’ personal side of the story? Did you put a small suitcase next to you with enough clothes for five days?
Technically yes, in addition to my personal belongings, In addition to my personal belongings, I had to be cleverly prepared with clothes, because I left Florida in twenty-eight degrees and arrived in Seattle in eight to ten degrees, where the weather was still winter-like. I departed in shorts and a t-shirt and arrived wearing a big jacket and hat. I also carry a minimal amount of tools with me, extra engine oil, aircraft accessories, a cover that I put on the canopy for the night. I also put extra batteries, a battery charger and cables for the headset.
How much liquid do you take with you?
I have a thermos bottle which is about a liter, I usually schedule it for 3.5-4 hours flight. You need to be very careful about your water intake, but it is also important that you cannot stop at every village to use the bathroom. It has to be optimal. So I tend to do it is to drink water sips at a time in the first leg, and when I start to get closer to my next stop, I drink a little more, and then drink a lot immediately after landing. I refuel, maybe I eat something, and then I go to the restroom before continue my flight.
Are most of the small airports in the US equipped with infrastructure suitable for getting rest? Is there, say, a motel everywhere? Did you plan your flight accordingly?
Many airports have a hotel or motel right directly on or near the airport where you can sleep. In most cases, the airport is not very far from the town, so you can reach it on foot, by taxi or Uber. Therefore, this was not a primary issue when planning the flight. For example, when I had to spend the night in New Mexico, I slept in the terminal building. It had a normal shower, tap water, and a sofa bed. There are many airports around the country where the terminal building is open 7/24. They are prepared for pilots to possibly sleep there, take a shower, freshen up, and continue their journey the next day. This is not uncommon.
You mostly used asphalt or grass paved airfields during the stops?
They were all asphalt except for one where I did a demo flight. I visited a gentleman who used to be the chief pilot of the Texas governors for 35 years and his wife is a rodeo rider. They have a huge ranch in Texas with their own grass runway so they can easily fly from home. This was the only time on my trip that I landed on a grass runway.
How did you feel when you set off?
The day of departure was quite busy and I departed later than I had planned. I was excited in many ways because it was a very, very long journey and there were a lot of unknowns in the equation that had to be solved on the way. For example, the weather did not show the best side on the forecasts. I knew it was still pretty cold in Washington State, which required caution in terms of atmospheric conditions and dress.
Were you prepared for icing flight conditions?
I was constantly monitoring the wing icing. When I saw that it was starting to rain, I also checked the thermometer and the wing to see what it was showing and choose my altitude accordingly. Everything turned out to be OK. I even had the opportunity to fly at night during the trip, which I was able to do with the peace of mind of the Fusion 212 NVFR qualification. This is not uncommon for me, because I often end my schedule in the afternoon or evening visiting a client and then fly home afterwards. Thanks to that, I already have quite a few flying hours at night.
By the way, what was the average flight altitude during the trip?
At the beginning of the trip, I typically flew 4,000 to 4,500 feet, but later I also flew to altitudes of about 8,500 and 10 to 10,000.
When flying across the US, are there specific airspace rules in different states?
No, it's a uniform system, it's a simple thing from that point of view. What differs at the state level is the airspace structure and the number of controlled, towerless airports. Here in Florida, for example, there are more bravo (B), charlie (C) airspaces, which are the busiest. There are more of these here than in many other states. It was weird after Texas, but California has even surpassed that, it was really crazy. You certainly won’t fly over the state without talking to someone. The whole state is covered in blue and red on the airplane map, which all means air traffic control towers and busy airports.
What were the most special experiences for you along the way?
The aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge was truly amazing. It was a bit cloudy that day, but I’ve never seen it before. Or when I handed the plane over to the client at the end of the trip and flew with his instructor in the area just over the Canadian border, that was another memorable moment. The whole journey itself will remain an extremely good experience: the diverse landscape, the mountains, the desert, the people I met along the way and of course I’m proud to have flown such a journey across the USA with Fusion.
There’s a photo - already posted on social media - showing the legendary Hollywood Sign with the Magnus Fusion 212 wingtip in the foreground. Did you take this picture now?
No, that picture was taken last December, but that is also a good story. I had to fly from one airport to another to pick up a client’s instructor in Los Angeles, and - as I mentioned earlier - the airspaces in California are practically so crowded, you really can’t fly without talking to air traffic control. So I was told what vectors I need to fly along to the other airport. I’m flying nd suddenly there's the Hollywood Sign next to me on the right! It was a big surprise because I wasn’t prepared to see it because I only had a day and a half to get everything done and come back to Florida. I had planned to see it one day, but as life would have it, I happened to be on my way there and I could actually see it from almost within arm's reach. That's how the legendary Fusion 212 and Hollywood Sign picture was taken.
How was your long-awaited arrival?
I landed, cleaned the aircraft, and prepared it for the intro flight and handover, so I was waiting for the buyer and his instructor. We checked the aircraft on the ground, they walked around, sat into the cockpit, I explained a few things, and finally the owner and I rolled over to the hangar where he would keep the plane, covered it, and put it away for the next day. I also took the usual handshake & handover photo, which I never miss. We did our first local flights the next day with the customer's instructor. We flew for five hours, went through the various maneuvers, practiced take-off and landing, discussed the instrument set-up and use. We had lunch at one of the airport restaurants during the training, so there was time to chat. When we were done, I could easily reach the Seattle airport from the nearby airport (which is also a Boeing site). From there I flew home on a commercial flight and he flew the Fusion back to their “home base”.
What will be your next similar adventurous journey, do you already have a plan?
It's constantly evolving as to what's in store for the rest of the year. I'm already sure I'll have to go to Wisconsin to hand over a Fusion aircraft, and also to participate a fair. There will be two more handovers in California, and it looks like I’ll be crossing the States in the other direction, from the West Coast to the East, bringing a Fusion back to Florida.
Thanks to the features of Fusion the interest is unabated and I keep receiving many demo requests from all over the country: Nevada, Arkansas, Alabama, Massachusetts and so on…