We first visited the Faroe Islands in 2015, when we were lucky enough to go there to fly whilst viewing the total solar eclipse. It was a fairly last-minute trip (as crazy as that sounds) as a friend of ours was going up and had space for us to join. We had an unforgettable experience, but in the whirlwind we didn’t see much as the world had descended on the islands and everything was focused around timing our flight to coincide with the eclipse. We knew we would have to go back to explore this wonderful place properly.
We were keen to include the Faroes as a multi-day stopover on our Epic Tour, so we planned to fly in and hire a car. The location fitted in well with our other ambitions as the islands also make a convenient fuel stop between Scotland and Iceland (and in fact the only feasible one for an aircraft of our size). Here’s a reminder of our full route:
We spent the requisite half hour or so getting into our survival gear in Stornoway tower with a definite sense of deja vu. It being May, it was actually quite hot by the time we’d put on two layers of thermals and the rubber immersion suits, which are then layered on top with life jackets and assorted pockets and pouches containing whistles, lights, beacons and flares. It took some adjustment for me to get into the pilot’s seat and to figure out how to operate the rudder pedals through heavy walking boots, two pairs of socks and a layer of rubber!
I was especially lucky on this flight, as the weather conditions allowed me to be in command. With my new license I am qualified to fly under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), which means I can legally be in charge of the plane if certain weather criteria are met. J has completed additional instrument training, which means he can operate a plane under instrument conditions (IFR). For the layperson – he can fly in clouds and I have to be able to see the ground! It’s not quite that straightforward but it’s not a bad summary! For this trip we knew there would be plenty of days when we had no option legally but for J to take charge, so I was keen to fly as much as I could when the weather allowed.
Given the remote location of the Faroes and the challenging approach, this honestly isn’t a flight I would undertake on my own without an instrument-qualified pilot on board. I don’t think many people with a standard license ever get the opportunity to do it, so I was ready to grab it with both hands and enjoy the challenge – which it certainly was!
Flying long stretches over water in a single-engine plane is a little unnerving to say the least. We had taken every sensible precaution with survival gear, but you are definitely hyper-alert to every little noise from the engine when you know the only way is down, and that at the end point of the ‘down’ there is a rather chilly North Sea! It’s also a new experience for someone used to having a clear horizon to judge the attitude of the plane. When flying over the sea, everything is just blue and you can’t really tell where it ends and the sky begins! It definitely took some adjustment for me to maintain straight and level flight, but it was really good training.
The islands became visible about 30 nautical miles out, and incredibly I was in touch with Vagar airport from about 90 miles away – it’s nice to have company when you’re out over the sea. In contrast to the last time we flew into Vagar (when J did an instrument approach and we couldn’t see anything!), the weather was beautiful and we had wonderful views coming in.
J was a very bad passenger as he forgot that I needed to actually fly the plane and kept requesting odd bank angles so he could take better photos! I was resolutely uncooperative as flying still takes up a fair portion of my brain and I was keen to remain well clear of the cliffs!
He did a reasonable job anyway I think 🙂
The approach to Vagar airport is quite interesting, and not completely in a good way! Luckily I had excellent visbility and a lot of time to plan the visual join. From the direction we approached, this involves flying in a continuous curve over a waterfall and clifftop lake (beautiful of course, but as pilot-in-command you should really be looking at the mountains on either side to avoid flying into them!). You emerge from behind a large mountain and are suddenly hit by the turbulence from several more. I’d been expecting more violent bumps (as there were last time we landed here), so the slower undulations took me somewhat by surprise – they were incredibly strong and I really had to fight to keep my speed stable. It’s the first time I’ve felt close to the limit of my physical strength whilst flying, which is another reason I was glad to have a safety pilot on board!
As you deal with the constantly-changing wind direction and fluctuating air mass, you come around the corner of a second mountain and suddenly (hopefully!) the runway comes into view. Up until this point you’ve had to sort of trust that it is somewhere in the vicinity, all the while descending and hoping that this doesn’t prove to be a bad plan…of course you have maps and navigation aids to help reinforce the conviction that it exists, but it still feels considerably better once you actually see it in front of you!
My approach was remarkably stable beyond this point, but as I entered the final stages of landing the wind decided to veer by around 90 degrees, which I’m not ashamed to say threw me off and made everything a lot less pretty! This is apparently not uncommon, and indeed on our departure a few days later (after some deliberation from the controller) we were given two wind reports for the same runway!
“YC, take off at your own discretion, the wind…ummm…standby.”
There was a collective sigh of relief (definitely from me, absolutely from J and probably from the plane as well…) when I touched down. We were met by Jakup, the same guy who had welcomed us the year before! We recognised each other straight away – I don’t think he gets enormous volumes of crazy people in single-engine piston aircraft from the UK – and had a good chat whilst waiting for fuel and removing some of our layers.
We spent three wonderful days exploring the Faroes, managing to fit in a visit to Mykines, a tiny island with one village and no cars that is only reachable by an extremely bumpy ferry ride. Highly recommend this trip as long as you don’t get seasick – a more detailed description of the place is in this blog!
The islands really are absolutely stunning and relatively unspoilt. We can’t recommend them highly enough. Getting a hire car is definitely the way forward as the roads are good and the scenery amazing. We will definitely be back!
I could probably write for hours describing the beauty and isolation of the place, but instead I’m going to shut up and let the photos do the talking…
- ICAO code: EKVG
- Elevation AMSL: 280ft
- Runway direction & length: 12/30 (1799m)
- Runway surface: Tarmac
- Landing fee (at time of visiting): 180 DKK
- Facilities: Toilets, cafe & shops in the main terminal.
- Transport links: We hired a car from 60N at the airport.