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Atlantic Crossing

Iceland to Greenland

On 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.

numan

After 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 clear."

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sea crossing "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.

Epps Brothers

After 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.

Onto 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."

Epps 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 for you."

Two hours later Doug Epps strolled onto the runway, within minutes the deal was sealed.

Sondre Stromfjord - June 26, 1990

With 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 later.

"Once 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 higher."

Despite 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.

"I 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.

greenland

Before 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."

As 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 reliable.

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Sondre Stromfjord - Cape Dyer

On 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! Come quick!"

Epps 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 Cape Dyer.

Baffin Island

Upon landing at Cape Dyer, Numan was immediately welcomed to the North American continent by Epps and others from the base.

"Doug Epps said to me, 'Congratulations, Eppo, you've crossed the North Atlantic.' I replied 'Yes, sir, that I did.'"

Having 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.

baffin

Leaving 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.

Home Straight

Numan 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 it?"

They replied. "You're kidding! Congratulations! Of course we'll get you there."

As 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."

Would 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."

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