Since we first made it to the Faroes in 2015, we’d been itching to see if we could make the trip across the second North Atlantic stretch from there to Iceland. Short answer: On a good day, we can! On a bad day, you wouldn’t catch us trying…
This is going to be a photo-heavy post. I have run out of superlatives!
This was part of a long tour of Europe that we completed in May 2016 – our full route is below:
From Vagar in the Faroe Islands, we crossed the Atlantic to arrive at Egilstadir, the closest airport on Iceland’s eastern coast and also one of only four where it’s possible to enter Iceland from another country (from a customs & immigration perspective – the others are Reykjavik, Keflavik and Akureyri).
This flight was the longest over-water stretch we’ve ever done, and once again we were grateful for our liferaft, immersion suits and other survival gear rented from SEMS Aerosafe for the trip. Given the likely water temperature in the North Atlantic at this time of year, you want to give yourself every chance in the event of an engine failure.
We spent 3 days exploring the Faroe Islands and timed the day of our departure to Iceland to coincide with a gap in the weather. We’ve never been so obsessed with forecasts as we were on this trip, and we’ve probably never visited places where the weather is as changeable and unpredictable as it can be in the Faroes and Iceland! We swear by Autorouter and their excellent interface with the Telegram phone app, which is really good for weather and route planning when out and about.
Our main weather concern for this trip was icing. ‘YC is fully equipped for instrument flight so she can deal with a lot, but (like most light aircraft) there is no deicing capability so it’s very important to stay clear of cloud and moisture when the air is at or below 0 degrees C. Icing is one of the few things that will make a plane stop flying mid-air! In the UK in May it doesn’t tend to be an issue until you get up very high, but in Iceland you need only climb a couple of thousand feet before the temperature hovers around zero, even right into the summer. Our threshold for setting out on a flight when this far north was therefore considerably higher than it would be at home.
We first visited Iceland in January 2015 (flying in commercially) and were bowled over by the winter scenery. We’d seen lots of photos of green valleys in the summer but we weren’t really sure what to expect in between seasons. As it turned out, we arrived during the first week of the year with sustained daytime temperatures above zero, so we were lucky enough to watch the transition between spring and summer.
Our first glimpse of Iceland (about 100 nautical miles out) confirmed there was still plenty of ice and snow around. It took us a while to be 100% sure that we were actually seeing mountains and not just a continuation of the clouds – it looked pretty awesome as you can see!
I don’t think I’ve ever said “WOW!” as many times in such a short space of time as I did whilst flying over Iceland. It absolutely blew my mind. Every time I looked it just got more and more amazing!
We descended into the valley and approached Egilstadir airport, which is an experience in itself. We were the first GA arrival for quite a while – so much so that the guy in charge of fuelling couldn’t remember how to work the AvGas pump. Having just used rather a lot of fuel coming across the sea, we were keen to get some more before we set off again! He eventually won and afterwards we had a picnic outside sitting on YC’s wing (trying to keep crumbs out of the cockpit, which failed spectacularly on colder/windier days later in the trip…!).
J had been in command for the leg from the Faroes as the weather over Vagar was less than perfect, but it was unusually warm, clear, calm and sunny when we reached Iceland, so I gladly took over for the stretch from Egilstadir to Akureyri airport on the north coast. It was a 1.5 hour flight with many more “wow” moments. It was particularly special for me to be able to take charge of the flight and see how much J enjoyed being able to give his full attention to the scenery for once. He had the camera out the whole time, too!
We took a less-than-direct route in order to see Lake Myvatn, the Askja caldera and Holuhraun lava field. I can now add ‘the snow-covered crater of an active volcano’ to the list of ‘interesting stuff I have flown over’.
The descent into the valley at Akureyri was rather interesting – serious turbulence coming off the mountains as they were being hit from all sides by strong winds. On the ground at Egilstadir it had been nice and calm, but up at altitude there was a lot going on!
For weather reasons, we spent 5 days based in Akureyri and exploring the north of Iceland with a hire car. It was an excellent way to spend a week, it’s a country of incredible scenery and variety and we were so pleased to be there again. We didn’t get to tour by plane as much as we’d hoped as the weather didn’t allow, but to have reached Iceland at all was an achievement and we made the most of every moment. A highlight was a visit to Husavik, where we were privileged to see humpback and minke whales!
Norway is next 🙂
- ICAO code: BIEG
- Elevation AMSL: 75ft
- Runway direction & length: 04/22 – 2,000m
- Runway surface: Tarmac
- Landing fee (at time of visiting): A super-cheap 800 ISK!
- Facilities: Toilets and briefing room in the terminal. Fuel, customs & immigration but not a lot else!
- Transport links: We just refuelled and didn’t try to get into town, but it’s clear you’d need a taxi to do so
- ICAO code: BIAR
- Elevation AMSL: 9ft
- Runway direction & length: 01/19, 2,500m
- Runway surface: Tarmac
- Landing fee (at time of visiting): Landing and 5 days’ parking was around 10,000 ISK
- Facilities: Toilets, shops, cafe and car hire desks in the main terminal. Fuel, customs & immigration available with prior notification and around the time of commercial flights
- Transport links: We hired a car at the airport, it’s about a 15-minute drive into town