Perth to Oshkosh

It took Ike Bartlett 155 hours flying time to go around the world in his Mustang II during the summer of 1999. By himself he crossed the Pacific going from southeast to northwest through Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, Midway, and up the Aleutian Islands. He crossed the Atlantic in much shorter, easier legs from Newfoundland, to Greenland, Iceland, and into Europe. From there he flew through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and then on to Asia. From India he flew to Indonesia and then turned south, finally returning to Western Australia. Crossing the Pacific he faced the difficulties of very long flights over open water and in the second part of his trip through Europe and Asia he faced political boundaries that prevent an easy direct flight. All of this he did with only three years flying experience and without an IFR rating.

His trip started in Perth, Australia where his job had taken him for a power generation plant installation project. Originally from St. Catharines, Ontario Canada his goal was to fly back home after he finished the job in Australia. Ike earned his Australian pilots license in 1996 and subsequently flew a Cherokee 180 around Australia. This got him interested in even bigger adventures and he began to look for a better cross-country airplane that was within his budget. In 1998 he purchased a Mustang II from builder Keith Copeland at which time it had only 36 hours on it. Ike himself had only about 250 hours total time when he started his long distance trip and not being IFR rated flew around the world VFR.

VH-MMC is powered by an IO-360 200hp Lycoming with a Hartzell constant speed propeller. After purchasing the aircraft he upgraded it to full IFR instrumentation, including VHF & HF radios, an IFR GPS, and lights. The airplane also has a single axis autopilot. Standard fuel capacity is 66 gallons in wing leading edge tanks coupled with the first 3 aft rib bays that are also sealed. For the trip he added a 39 gallon ferry tank that sat in the copilot seat. That gave him an 18 hour range at a lower power setting. His exposure suit and raft were stowed on the copilot side floor. Other baggage included a laptop computer and a change of clothes.

On July 19th, 1999 Ike left Perth and started east across the Australian continent for Queensland and the northeast coast. This leg alone was well over 2000 miles. He made his first night landing in his Mustang at Tennent Creek in the Northern Territories. This is in the center of Australia. The next day he landed at Horn Island Resort in the Torres Straight, North Queensland and prepared for his first overwater leg. On the 21st he departed Australia and crossed Papua New Guinea at 12,500 feet to get over the mountains. After refueling he then flew 13 hours over water to Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Most of his flying was below 10,000 feet at 50-60% power for best fuel economy. With 9 hours to go before reaching the Majuro Atoll his voltage regulator failed. This left him with a handheld radio and his battery powered GPS.

"The GPS batteries died at 30 miles out, just when I needed it most. I had been flying at 9,000 feet when I approached a great wall of cloud. I had been able to go around the rest, but not this one. I descended to 2,000 feet and tried to go under it, but the base just kept getting lower and lower. At 800 feet I was in rain but could see the water below and then it was gone. MMC became IFR without electric's. Me not being real happy at 800 feet, I climbed to 2,500 feet. As a virgin cloud flyer, I kept MMC basically level but had changed direction 30 degrees. After correcting that, I broke out of the clouds and there was the atoll. That was the worst bit of flying I have ever experienced. I really thought about putting MMC in a box and shipping it home. My handheld radio is not connected through the headset, so the guy at the tower must have thought I was a raving lunatic. I was yelling to speak over the noise of the engine and he had to say everything three or four times. I was shaken, but once on the ground I just focused on sorting out the electrical fault."

On July 23rd after being shipped a new voltage regulator Ike took off and flew 1400 miles over open water to Midway Island where he rested for a day. Midway was his nicest stop crossing the Pacific. The accommodations were wonderful as it is now geared towards tourism since the US military pulled out. He toured the island by air even though that really meant just flying around the traffic pattern.
Ike had selected 3 different airports in the Aleutians as his next stop depending on weather, which is always an uncertainty there. On the 25th he flew over 1600 nautical miles nonstop from Midway north to Dutch Harbor, Alaska over the open Pacific. This was his longest over water leg of the entire trip taking 11.5 hours. He said that he learned early on not to eat too much in the morning as that made him sleepy.

His next stop was King Salmon, AK where he entered the mainland of North America. After getting fuel and charts he headed for Anchorage. He landed in Palmer, AK which is slightly northeast of Anchorage on July 27th because of low ceilings. Here the weather threatened to disrupt his timetable due to fog.

"After talking to some bush pilots I decided to try it their way. To fly up through the mountain pass, they wait until there is a 200 foot ceiling. The Alaskan Highway is built about 300 feet above the river, so if you see cars, that's your new cloud ceiling. I didn't see any cars. The pass is wide enough to turn around all the way along, if you are in an 85 knot Cub or small Cessna. They didn't tell me that, nor did they tell me about the sharp turn - the one that I missed and ended up facing a glacier. A quick turn, and I found the correct way. After about an hour of scud running I saw cars and an airstrip. The next leg was similar but this time I had about 400 feet clearance and the river was heading down into Fort Neilson, B.C.."

He basically followed the Alaskan Highway and entered Canada at Beaver Creek, B.C.. At this point he had his first problem with customs officials. They wanted to charge him duty on importing his Mustang into Canada. They apparently did not believe that he was going to fly back to Australia. After a day of red tape delays he finally told them he was going to fly back to Alaska and around Canada. He would give their names and phone numbers to the Toronto papers. They could then explain to the reporters why a Canadian flying around the world in a homebuilt airplane was only denied entrance to his native country of Canada. They gave him a 3 day permit and told him to contact the Customs office in St Catharines.

Thursday, July 29th he landed in his home town of St. Catharines, Ontario near Niagara Falls. After getting some good sleep to recover from all of the time changes he headed for Oshkosh. He brought his raft and survival suit with him for crossing Lake Michigan but after the Pacific, 6o miles across a lake does not seem like it should have bothered him.

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