San Jose to Portland
Leg 1. 21 July. San Josť, California to Idaho Falls, Idaho. 4 hours 50 minutes.
The Swiss authorities required us to do a test flight of at least 5 hours over
land with a full load of fuel before attempting the Atlantic crossing, and we decided to
do it on the first leg of the journey. A long runway was needed for the take-off so we
left from San Josť International Airport instead of our 'home' base of Palo Alto whose
runway is only 2500 ft long. We could feel how heavy we were as we sped along the 5000 ft
runway but Flemming estimates that we lifted off after only 2000 ft.
Leg 2. 24 July. Idaho Falls to Dupage (Chicago), Illinois. 7 hours 21 minutes.
Violent afternoon thunderstorms are notorious in the Mid-West, so we left really early. At 5.39 a.m., it was only just getting light as we took off. There were more clouds than forecast over the Rockies but not too many to prevent us from flying VFR next to the beautiful Grand Teton range as the sun came up behind it. In an hour we were over the Rockies and another hour and a half later we had reached the flat farmland of the Mid-West. We were above Cheyenne country when we saw the first clouds of a warm front beneath us and we continued to fly over them as we entered Nebraska. Four hours out and 200 nautical miles to the west of Omaha, our stormscope picked up the first signs of electrical activity. We soon had to make a 20-degree turn to the right to avoid an extended cluster of CBs. The stormscope continued to light up on one side then the other for the next one and a half hours, but by the last hour of the journey we were past them and it was a smooth flight between cloud layers the rest of the way.
Leg 3. 29 July. Chicago Dupage to Ithaca, Upstate New York. 3 hours 22 minutes.
There were already huge thunderstorms over Lake Erie when we took off at 7.45 a.m. so we flew south to avoid them. We could see Chicago's high rises beneath us on our left and downtown Meigs runway before heading over the south of Lake Michigan. For the first hour we were between cloud layers at 11000 feet. We had a good tailwind giving us a ground speed of about 175 knots. There was another thunderstorm stretching 50 miles wide between Erie, Bradford and Franklin in Pennsylvania, so we did a 10-degree turn to the right to avoid it. Our ground speed rose to almost 200 knots. Gaps in the clouds beneath us allowed glimpses of flat farmland until about 15 minutes before Ithaca, where the terrain became more hilly and there were as many forests as fields.
Leg 4. 31 July. Ithaca to Portland, Maine. 1 hour 53 minutes.
We made another early start but it was raining hard as we drove to the airport. It decreased to a drizzle as we were about to take off but we soon flew into another heavy downpour, and I gripped my seat and gritted my teeth during the bumpy ride. After a year of enjoying VFR conditions in sunny California, this was not my idea of fun. However, the weather (and my mood) improved by the time we reached Portland which was just overcast. We taxied over to Northeast Avionics where our immersion suits were waiting for us. The original idea had been to rent them but, after a quick calculation, we decided to purchase them at $300 each, instead of paying $210 for 3 weeks' rental plus the cost of freighting them back to the U.S. Flemming tried on his suit. It was pretty bulky and we realized that we would have to wear them up to the waist with the top and sleeves tucked around us during the whole flight to the Azores. There was no way we could don the trousers in an emergency in the limited space of the cockpit.
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In Portland we picked up our two immersion suits for the North Atlantic crossing