June 3,1990, Numan enthusiastically returned to Reykjavik,
raring to continue. As preparations continued, tensions
between Numan and his chase pilot began to surface.
To his credit, however, it was this chase plane pilot
who suggested that Numan overfly Greenland rather than
skirt around the coast and fight possible heavy turbulence
resulting from winds swirling around the mountains and
fjords. The differences between the two men, however,
would eventually nearly paralyse the expedition.
three weeks in Reykjavik, Numan headed out over the
Denmark Strait for Kulusuk, Greenland on June 22,1990
- a stretch of approximately 395 nautical miles over
"open" water - arriving there after 6 hours
and 58 minutes. The chase plane pilot had awakened Numan
early that morning to show him an optimistic weather
forecast. "It's clear skies all the way to Kulusuk,"
Numan recalls the pilot telling him as he produced the
most current infrared meteorological map. In retrospect,
Numan observes, "I did a very stupid thing, I didn't
call the weather office myself. Because he was so convinced,
I made the decision to take off. 32 miles out from Reykjavik
I hit a big band of clouds. Luckily I was able to climb
on top and continue the flight. Because the weather
information I continued to receive confirmed that Kulusuk
remained clear, I was optimistic.After rendezvousing
with me about three hours into my flight, my chase plane
flew on to Kulusuk and reported that the weather was
|| "I continued
on, eventually spotting Big Gun radar station and circling
down from 8,000 ft., the altitude to which I climbed to
get over the clouds, to land in Kulusuk in beautiful weather.
Needless to say, we were all delighted at having completed
the longest leg over water, but later in the evening I
asked the chase plane pilot about the clouds, and he replied,
'Well, would you have gone if you'd known there weren't
clear skies? It was clear in Reykjavik and clear in Kulusuk.'
He'd known about the cloud bank all along.
the initial elation about the successful completion
of this leg wore off, confrontations again erupted between
Numan and the chase plane pilot. After a heated argument
the chase plane pilot ended up on his back, at that
point, the remainder of the flight was in great jeopardy.
Neither pilot wished to continue flying with the other.
With beautiful weather forecast for the next 24 hours,
but without the needed chase plane, Numan was sure his
expedition was doomed.
the same gravel runway in Kulusuk the next morning ambled
Pat Epps, one of the leaders of the Greenland Expedition
Society attempting to recover the B-17s and P-38s buried
in the icecap since World War II.Epps approached Numan
and said, "Are you that crazy ultralight pilot
I talked to? How are things going?" Numan exploded.
"See that guy sitting there on the stairs of that
Navajo? That's my chase plane pilot. I socked him and
now he's putting all kinds of restrictions on my flight
and the weather's perfect."
responded in his Atlanta drawl, "Well, I can have
a Piper Navajo here in about two hours. You'll have
to pay for our expenses and my brother Doug will have
to agree to be the pilot, but I think we can fly chase
Two hours later
Doug Epps strolled onto the runway, within minutes the
deal was sealed.
Stromfjord - June 26, 1990
the beginning of the Epps brothers' involvement in Numan's
expedition, what had increasingly been becoming a tedious
affair quickly turned into an exciting adventure. Highly
renewed and greatly relieved, Numan departed Kulusuk
on June 26th to fly to Sondre Stromfjord on the west
coast of Greenland, landing there 7 hours and 9 minutes
you get past the coastline, the landscape of Greenland
gives the impression of being completely flat, but it
slowly rises to heights of 9,500 feet. The only way
I could judge my altitude in relation to the icecap
was to watch the shadow of my machine. Each time my
shadow started to grow larger I'd simply climb a little
everyone's best efforts Numan's landing in Sondre Stromfjord
was not entirely uneventful. After linking up with Numan
near Sea Bass radar station, Doug Epps had circled Numan
for some time, helping to correct his course to "Sondy"
as Epps affectionately called it.
took off about two hours after Eppo," said Epps,
"and even after I picked him up with the direction
finder it took me a while to spot him. He didn't make
a very good target, flying that white ultralight on
top of the icecap. Eventually I spotted him and helped
him correct his course directly to Sondy and then went
on and landed ahead.
I landed I gave him the radio signal for the Sondy tower,
but Eppo was busy fighting turbulence at the time and
couldn't dial it in on his radio. By the time things
settled down for him, he remembered the numbers incorrectly.
We were beginning to think he was lost when we heard
he'd landed on the far side of the airport on the Air
Force ramp, and dropped in a little hard."
a result of that hard landing, Numan's compass was broken
but, with a little help from Doug, he was able to secure
a boat compass. Unfortunately it wouldn't prove too
Stromfjord - Cape Dyer
Sunday, July 1st, Eppo departed Sondre Stromfjord intending
to overfly Cape Dyer on the Baffin Islands and fly directly
to Iqaluit on Frobisher Bay. As per usual, the plan
was that Epps would depart Sondre Stromfjord two hours
after Numan and link up with him via the direction finder.
As Epps was preparing to leave the hotel for his airplane
a car from the tower came speeding up with a fellow
yelling and waving, 'Captain Epps, your buddy's in trouble!
was hastily whisked to the tower where he made radio
contact with Numan who responded, "Doug, Doug.
is that you? My compass broke, I'm lost, come find me."
Epps quickly departed in the Navajo and 2-1/2 hours
later located Numan 142 miles south of his course, pushed
off course by a strong Northwest wind and averaging
about 37 knots. Epps flew in combination with Numan
for as long as his fuel would allow, helping him correct
his course. Eight hours and 45 minutes after taking
off from Sondre Stromfjord - a flight that had been
projected to take about 4 1/2 hours - Numan landed in
landing at Cape Dyer, Numan was immediately welcomed
to the North American continent by Epps and others from
Epps said to me, 'Congratulations, Eppo, you've crossed
the North Atlantic.' I replied 'Yes, sir, that I did.'"
completed his transition of Danish air space, the next
morning Numan bade Doug Epps, his new-found friend and
good-luck charm, farewell. Weather, however, would again
step in to waylay his plans. Enroute to Teterboro, Numan
planned a stop in Albany to clear US customs that airfield.
He ended up being delayed there six days.
Albany Numan filed clear to Teterboro, but near Poughkeepsie
he experienced his most frightening moments of the entire
flight. "As I approached a little airport just
past Poughkeepsie, I was caught up by very strong winds.
My air speed was indicating 60 knots, but my Loran was
indicating a ground speed of 85 knots. The winds became
so strong that for about 30 seconds I seriously considered
calling out a Mayday so they'd have an ambulance waiting
when I crashed. Not even during the horrible turbulence
on the way to Schefferville was I so fearful of crashing
as I was at that moment. I was sure I would be knocked
out of the sky.'' Miraculously, about a mile from touchdown
on the runway the turbulence lessened and he was able
to fight the machine on to the ground.
spent one day in Poughkeepsie. Early the next morning,
August 2 1990, Numan departed Poughkeepsie and was radar
vectored to Teterboro. In radio contact with New York
Control, he said: "Hey, guys, I just flew this
ultralight across the Atlantic. I'd like to do a turn
around the Statue of Liberty' to celebrate my arrival
and then fly back up the Hudson to Teterboro. How about
replied. "You're kidding! Congratulations! Of course
we'll get you there."
I circled the Statue a couple of times, I had a real
feeling of satisfaction at having completed my goal.
As I headed up the Hudson River, to my dismay I began
experiencing horrible turbulence. I thought, 'Not again
in turbulence!' I turned around and crossed over the
Verrazano Bridge hoping to make Linden Airfield, but
the turbulence became so bad I simply had to put her
down in a park on Staten Island. It was a Federal park,
and within minutes I was surrounded by various authorities.
Fortunately for me, a police helicopter pilot had noted
the sudden wind shift ten minutes earlier and verified
my story, saving me from God knows what. The next morning,
New York Control cleared me to depart the park and I
landed at Atlantic Aviation in Teterboro on August 3rd,
formally ending my Atlantic crossing."
he do it again? "If I had known what if was going
to cost in money and agony, absolutely not. But I did
it, and I was the first guy to do it."