Adventure Flying Guide – Planning and Preparation

Adventure Flying Guide – Planning and Preparation

Basic planning techniques

When starting to plan for a new flying adventure, there are two things I’ll start off right away as planning aids. The first is a spreadsheet (can you tell that I trained as an engineer?) and the second is a Google map where I start to pin the planned stops and routes.

I use my spreadsheet as a place to note down all relevant information about the flight and planning; the route, leg distances, planned dates, fuel availability, permit requirements, etc etc. Initially it’s a good place to note down everything that needs to be done, to try and make sure nothing is missed. Once information starts to come in, and things begin to be organised, it serves as a place to record that and ensure it isn’t forgotten.

An example section from one of my planning sheets

The map serves as a great way to figure out distances and routes, to keep track of all the planned destinations, figure out which countries are crossed, and to look at in advance of the trip and get excited about!

Add example Google Map screenshot

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Route planning

When planning your route, there are a few basic things to consider initially. First is the range of your aircraft; obviously, any legs you plan to fly must be within your range, taking reserves into account. You also need to consider alternative airports; in remote parts of the world, an alternative may be a very long way away, and it may even be that the only option if you can’t land at your destination is to return to your airport of departure.

Flying from Cambridge bay (bottom left) to Resolute Bay (top), your closest alternate is nearly as far as the flight back to your origin; and they don’t have AVGAS! Returning to Cambridge Bay is probably the best option if you can’t land in Resolute.

When crossing international borders, consider customs and immigration requirements. Some countries, such as the USA or UK, will allow you to depart from any airport as long as you file the right paperwork. Most countries, however, require you to both exit and enter through an official “airport of entry”. Customs and immigration can work strangely in some places, so the best thing to do is call or email the airport in advance and ensure that they’re expecting you, and that the right personnel will be on duty for your arrival.

When planning your route, take airport opening hours into account. In North America you can generally use an airport 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, although not all services are available at all hours. However, in most of the rest of the world airports can have strange and restrictive opening hours. Most airports in the UK don’t allow any aircraft movements at night, and Greenland airports are closed on Sundays. Many Greek airports only open for an hour or so either side of a commercial flight movement which can mean that you can only use them for a short period, a few times a week!

skyvector.com offers an excellent interface for carrying out high level planning, reviewing airspace, checking distances and so on.

An example route on skyvector.com

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Scheduling

A trap that I nearly always fall into when planning a flying adventure is trying to do too much in too little time. When flying internationally, and to new and unfamiliar locations, plan for double the time you’d usually expect anything to take, and then assume it will take even longer for that. When trying to depart Douala in Cameroon, for example, it took so much time to get through the airport bureaucracy, find all the different offices for making payments and filing flight plans, etc, that we ran out of time to get to our destination and had to cancel the flight and try again the next day.

On international trips, a guideline I now use is to plan a minimum of two nights between any “easy” legs, and a minimum of three nights between any more challenging legs. A three night stop is good because you have a day to rest and recover, when you’ll probably not feel like doing anything, and a day to actually see some of the location you’re in. Of course, if you have the time to spend longer, that’s even better!

Any schedule that you put together needs to ensure you leave enough slack in the schedule to allow for poor weather, or unexpected events; and you need to be well enough rested to react to unexpected changes. For example, arriving in Al Ain, UAE, after two long days of flying we were expecting a couple of days to recover; however, the permit came in early and suddenly we had to leave at 4am the following morning on an 11 hour flight! The fact that we’d made an effort to keep well rested, despite the previous days of flying, meant we were able to jump at the opportunity and continue.

As mentioned in the section above, check the airport opening hours of your origin and destination. These may dictate what timings you’ll need to abide by, and even what days of the week it’s possible to make your planned flight.

The time of year also needs to be carefully considered when planning a trip. Crossing the Atlantic is best done in certain months of the year (usually no earlier than May), as is visiting the far north. The wet season in parts of Africa and South East Asia can cause problems, and summer in Australia and the Middle East can see temperatures exceeding 50 degrees C. If you’re on a long journey such as a round-the-world flight, plan your departure date carefully to try and avoid the worst of the bad weather seasons!

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Charts, flight data, and other aeronautical information

Charts

Paper charts are becoming slowly less relevant, but many people do still like to carry them. It’s often difficult or impossible to obtain VFR charts for locations outside of the “Western World”, but IFR charts can be obtained with worldwide coverage. Some areas might only have “High en-route” charts available, but those will do fine; ATC will direct you using them, just the same.

Jeppesen (as well as other providers) offer printed IFR charts and approach/airport plates for pretty much everywhere in the world. The AIP of a country (see below) will often have PDF versions of many or all of the available national charts that you can have printed in an appropriate size.

If you want paper charts, start looking early. Lead times can often be very long for ordering them, as fewer and fewer outlets are now keeping them in stock. For some countries, such as Thailand, unofficial VFR charts created by local pilots can be purchased online.

Electronic Flight Bags (EFB)

In more GA-friendly areas such as North America, Europe, and Australasia flight information is easily and conveniently available, especially in “Electronic Flight Bags” such as Foreflight, Garmin Pilot, SkyDemon, OzRunways, and AvPlan. Many more options are available! These are my preferred options for these areas, as all the information is there in one program, on one device. Make sure you have a back-up (such as another tablet), and a way to keep them charged, though.

Add example screenshots.

Many of these EFBs offer IFR en-route navigation data with worldwide coverage. For VFR flight, however, once you get outside of these areas things become a lot less convenient.

The Aeronautical Information Publication

My first source of information when planning a flight to a new country is the country’s Aeronautical Information Publication, or “AIP”. The majority of countries make this available online for free, although it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge tracking it down. An AIP contains what should be all the information you need to successfully plan a flight to a country; permit requirements, flight rules, airport information, charts, instrument approach plates and so on. There is an internationally recognised standard format for these, so once you get familiar with that, it’s pretty easy to find what you need.

An example of an online AIP

The AIP is split into Part 1 (General), Part 2 (En Route) and Part 3 (Aerodromes).

Your first port of call in the AIP will generally be “Gen 1.2 – Entry, Transit, and Departure of Aircraft”. You’ll typically find a section in here for private flights, covering what documentation needs to be carried, what needs to be done to obtain permission to conduct a flight in their airspace, and other requirements. Some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, also have bio-security requirements that need to be followed to protect their environment from invasive species; don’t miss these, as it could land you in trouble!

Next, check out “Gen 1.3 – Entry, Transit, and Departure of Crew”. More on this in the section below.

Part 2 (En Route) offers all kinds of useful information about conducting a flight in the country’s airspace. “ENR 1.1 – General Rules and Procedures”, “ENR 1.2 – Visual Flight Rules” and “ENR 1.3 – Instrument Flight Rules” are good places to start, to see if there are any major differences to what you’re used to. Outside of the more typical GA-friendly locations, all flights tend to be conducted IFR, or at least in accordance with IFR procedures; VFR procedures for countries often don’t really exist, or are very hard to find out without knowing some local pilots to quiz. “ENR 1.10 – Flight Planning” is a very useful section; most countries require a flight plan for all flights, and knowing how to file one is important!

ENR 6 contains navigational charts.

Part 3 (Aerodromes) should contain all relevant operational data for all licensed aerodromes in the country. It will include information about what fuel types are available (but it’s worth checking this directly with the airport; I once arrived in Lesotho, where the AIP had confirmed Jet-A availability, to find that it had been “on order” for the last 13 years”.)

GPS units

One of the best sources of information that I have found so far are the VFR-optimised hand-held GPS units made by Garmin such as the Aera 660. They offer world-wide terrain and flight data including in regions where nothing else is really available, and they present it in a very clear and easy to use format.

Add picture of Aera 660 on various pages

Other sources of information

Jeppesen offers “trip kits” for different regions, which is really mainly a re-writing of the AIP data for the countries in question. They’re quite expensive, but an easy way of getting a lot of data. We used one for our African flight, combined with a Garmin Aera 550, and between them they gave us most of the information we needed to know. In recent years, though, I have tried to use national AIPs, as they’re usually a much lower cost option!

Jeppesen plates for all of Africa

You can often find relevant data, particularly information about airport fees, from poking about on the website of an airport. It can be hidden away under a heading such as “Commercial” or “Business”. Contact information is usually to be found on the website as well, so you can get in touch directly and ask about anything you can’t find an answer for elsewhere. The website of a country’s aviation authority is worth checking out too, and don’t be afraid to email them and ask questions!

Other pilots are great sources of information and advice, so don’t be afraid to seek them out and ask. Pilot forums and Facebook groups are particularly good places for getting started.

Finally, accept that for some destinations you may not be able to get all the information you’re used to having in your normal flying. In Morocco we were scolded by ATC for not being familiar with the VFR reporting points, on arrival in the country; it turned out that these points were recorded in a hand-drawn chart on the wall of the ATC office, and apparently nowhere else.

Morocco’s VFR chart

VFR-specific data in particular is often not available, so even if you’re a VFR-only pilot, get used to reading IFR approach plates and charts because ATC will expect you to know about them, and will give you instructions using them!

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Permits, handling, visas and other logistics

Permits

AIP Part 1 “Gen 1.2 – Entry, Transit, and Departure of Aircraft” is your first source of information to find out about any requirements for flight permits. More developed countries, in Europe, North America, Australasia and parts of Asia usually don’t require anything more than a flight plan filed 24 hours or so in advance.

Some countries, such as Thailand, are not too difficult to get a permit for by yourself, following the procedures in the AIP. Others, such as Indonesia, are impossible unless you use a local company; and this of course comes at a cost. Indonesia is also notable for rarely issuing a permit earlier than the early hours of the morning on the day of your planned departure!

There are companies that specialise in obtaining flight permits for you, usually at surprisingly low costs; White Rose Aviation is one that I have used in the past with great success. Another company, General Aviation Support Egypt, don’t just provide permits but also help you with every aspect of the planning process at very low cost; they’re highly recommended.

One thing which is easy to forget is that you don’t only need a permit for the countries that you are taking off and landing in, but you may also need an overflight permit for any countries whose airspace you plan to fly through on the way. A website such as skyvector.com is great for high level planning, and checking which country’s airspace you’ll pass through; to understand whose airspace you’ll be in, check which “Flight Information Regions” (FIRs) your route takes you through.

Skyvector.com’s depiction of Flight Information Region boundaries

Handling

Handling may be a new and unfamiliar concept to pilots who have only every flown to small local airports, or have only flown in North America. In essence, a handling agent is a representative on the ground at an airport who will act on your behalf to take care of all the formalities, paperwork etc. The exact services they render will vary, so ensure any quote has the scope of their work clearly shown.

Handling is sometimes a very useful and good value service (for example, Romania and Bulgaria were excellent), and often an over-priced and monopolistic necessary evil (such as, say, Laos or Indonesia). Generally, if you can avoid using a handling agent, it will save you a great deal of money, but they can be very helpful in escorting you through all the various airport requirements; these can often be bizarre and almost seem designed to make handling a requirement in some places.

The first thing to check is whether handling is mandatory. In most of North America, Europe and Australasia it won’t be; although at larger international airports it sometimes is. Information can often be found in the AIP about this, and a call to the airport authority is usually definitive.

If you find that you do have to use handling (it is a mandated rip-off in much of the world), then shop around, and challenge the prices you get. In a lot of places they never get small GA aircraft such as ours visiting, and the lowest price on their scale is for handling a turboprop or larger. Obtain and go through the list of everything they say they’ll provide for the quoted price, and go back to them pointing out that you’re a very small aircraft with crew only, and listing everything you don’t need. It’s not unusual to end up with a much better price; in Thailand I negotiated a quick stop for customs clearance down from $600 to $60.

If you do end up using handling; make the most of it! Use the services on offer; flight planning, NOTAMs, weather briefing, ground transport etc, and get the most value for your money that you can.

Handling agents can organise transport, fuel, and even (for some reason) a baggage loader.

A cautionary tale; if you have agreed to pay in person, always have access to the correspondence showing the prices quoted in advance. Some companies (such as the awful agent we used in Turkey) will wait until you’re ready to go and then present you with an entirely different, and much higher invoice. Stand your ground!

Visas

This will depend heavily on what passport you hold! Obtaining visas varies by country, and by your own nationality, and is not something that can be covered in detail here. However, many countries offer visa-free entry for a short period (up to a few days, typically) for flight crew. Before starting to apply for visas, check this route (sometimes information on this will be in the AIP).

There are a few things that can catch you out when travelling by private aircraft that are different to travelling by airline. For example, if you usually enter the USA using the visa waiver (ESTA) process, don’t expect to be able to do this in your own aircraft; you need a full B2 tourist visa.

Fuel

Avgas is not available in all locations. If you need this fuel, then it’s important to contact each airport that you plan to fuel at in advance, and ensure that they have it available. If so, and it’s a remote place (for example northern Canada), then consider pre-paying to reserve what you need. In locations such as that, they can run out at short notice and with deliveries only coming once a year it might be a long wait if you show up and there’s none left!

Add gallery: barrel fueling, tractor fueling in Benin.

If the location doesn’t have Avgas, then your only option is to have it shipped in for you. The best way to go about this is to talk to a handling company there, and find out if they already have a contact for doing this. If not, then contacting a local fuel company and seeing if they can ship it there for you is a solid plan.

Jet fuel is much more widely available, so if you have an aircraft that burns jet fuel, life will be much easier.

Data service and communications

Make sure that you have a solution for mobile data and phone service in all the countries you’ll visit; it’s not essential, but it’s extremely helpful. My phone provider, for example, offers free international data (at 3G speeds and texts, and cheap calls, in almost every country. If you can’t find a deal that works with your usual provider, you can find online providers specialising in travel who will ship you a SIM card specifically to cover the countries and time period you’ll be travelling in.

A device such a Garmin InReach is an excellent back-up. As well as offering real time satellite tracking, it offers two-way satellite messaging that works anywhere in the world, even mid-ocean or in the wilderness. When I arrived in Lord Howe Island, for example, I found that there was no phone service on the island; it was howling with wind, pouring with rain, and I had nowhere to stay. I was able to message with my aunt, who could then phone and find some accommodation and a ride for me; priceless!

Some pilots carry a satellite phone on long trips. I have never been in a situation where I felt like a satellite phone was essential, but it can certainly be helpful for contacting ATC when outside of VHF range, if you don’t have an HF radio. However, it’s usually not an acceptable substitute for an HF radio in national regulations.

If you need to contact ATC when outside of VHF range, and don’t have a satellite phone, a method that I’ve had success with is to call on 121.5 for a message relay. An airliner or similar will often answer and pass on messages for you.

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Country-specific information

There are various country-specific peculiarities that can catch you out, and are easy to overlook until it’s too late. For example, in the US a pilot can activate the airport lights at night using the radio, typically 7 short transmit pulses on the airport frequency. Australia also has pilot controlled lighting of this nature; but the transmit pulses required to activate them are different! Five minutes out from an outback airport, at night, is a poor time to realise this; ask me how I know…

Another example are IFR flight procedures in UK and NZ. Unlike most places, in these countries you can fly IFR outside of controlled airspace without talking to ATC, and without a flight plan!

There are many other examples, such as the bio-security requirements which must be adhered to when arriving in Australia or New Zealand. Finding out about these local peculiarities can be challenging; the best way I have found is a review of the AIP, along with phone calls or emails to your planned airport of arrival as well as a general online search.

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Documentation and print-outs

Despite the digital age we live in, international aviation still loves paperwork. Print and carry several copies of your insurance, and a couple of copies of your aircraft registration and certificate of airworthiness, just for convenience. You’ll also need to become familiar with the “General Aviation Report” (GAR).

The GAR is a form that records basic information about the flight, aircraft, and flight crew. ICAO offer standard forms that can be downloaded in Word format. Fill in the basic information; aircraft details, pilot and crew details; and then print out a whole bunch to take with you. Some countries demand 4 or 5 on arrival, and some on departure, so you really can’t have too many with you.

Another useful document to print a number of copies of is the ICAO flight plan form. Some airports will want you to submit the flight plan to them in hard copy this way (although they’ll usually offer you a form to fill in, that’s not always the case, and it’s helpful to have copies anyway for easy reference).

Keep digital copies of the following, both “in the cloud” and on your smartphone and/or tablet. Maybe also on a USB stick hidden away somewhere!

  • All your aircraft documentation such as Certificate of Airworthiness, Certificate of Registration, radio station licence.
  • All your pilot documentation such as scans of your licence, and your medical.
  • Passport scans.
  • Insurance info, both for the aircraft and for you.
  • Scans of at least the last two years of aircraft maintenance logs.
  • Planning data; your flight spreadsheet, permits, all other useful documents and info (I tend to just keep this on my laptop/Dropbox).

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Medical and fitness preparations

Make sure you investigate vaccination requirements for the countries you plan to fly through; some courses of vaccination can take weeks or even months to complete, so can’t be left to the last minute. Take a record of your vaccinations with you, as some countries can demand to see these as a condition of entry. For example, Samoa required this during their measles outbreak in 2019.

If you need to take any medicines with you, such as anti-malarials or prescription medications, ensure that you check its legality in all the countries you plan to fly through. Carry enough for your trip, plus a little extra, but not so much more that it could arouse any suspicions with strict customs officers. Make sure you carry all required documentation with it such as prescriptions, and some countries require a doctor’s letter confirming what the medication is required for.

Make sure you’re well rested and in good shape before setting out. This kind of trip will wear you down mentally and physically; it is usually both stressful, and very tiring! If you end up in a survival situation, you also want to be in reasonable shape; not least for just making egress from the aircraft in a hurry.

It’s worth taking a first aid kit of common items, suitable for use in a survival situation if it comes to it (see the equipment page for more details about this), but also for day to day situations. Simple items like cold and flu tablets, ibuprofen, Imodium and so on are useful to have. Just make sure there’s nothing that could be regarded as illegal in any of the locations you plan to travel through. Simple over-the-counter medicines in the US or Europe can be restricted in other parts of the world, and vice versa.

Travel to new locations can expose you to unfamiliar pathogens, and prevention is better than cure. Practice good hygiene, washing your hands regularly and avoiding eating or drinking anything that you’re not confident in the cleanliness of. Unsettled bowels are not what you want in a light aircraft, after all.

It’s not unusual for people you meet to invite you to share a meal, so think in advance what you might do or say in such a situation to try and minimise any offence from refusal! Mentioning that you just ate, or maybe that you are a little unwell and don’t want food, are options to consider. In Senegal, Sophia’s request for some “local food” for lunch was taken very literally and we ended up in a dilapidated shack by the beach with one large pot of mystery meat and flies all over. Sophia was brave enough to have a meal, but took a large precautionary dose of meds as soon as we got back to our accommodation!

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Insurance

There are two main types of insurance to think about for a trip like this. These are aircraft insurance, and medical insurance.

Aircraft insurance can be challenging to obtain when you’re flying to other countries. Insurance in the USA will usually include cover for Canada and the Bahamas, and also Mexico. In Europe, insurance usually covers must European countries but no more. Once you start getting outside of these areas, insurance becomes much more difficult; this is probably the hardest thing to organise and you should start looking into this as one of your first activities. The insurance industry changes rapidly, so it’s not possible to give specific advice or details here.

EU insurance companies generally balk at providing cover for the US/Canada, and vice versa. One option that you can look into is getting separate insurance for each territory, if you’re doing an Atlantic crossing, from local providers. The more evidence you can provide of international flight experience, the easier it will be to get coverage.

Hull insurance is rarely mandated, but liability insurance commonly is, and different countries have different minimum amounts. For light aircraft, the EU generally requires 5 million Euros liability cover, the UAE 3 million SDRs (more on that in the next paragraph). This can easily be overlooked if you are used to a country like the USA, where there’s no legal requirement.

Many countries will require that you provide proof of insurance before they’ll issue a flight permit. Some countries, for example Turkey and the UAE, require that you provide this evidence with the insured value (specifically liability insurance) quoted in “SDRs”. The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves. The value of the SDR is based on a basket of five currencies—the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen, and the British pound sterling. It’s rare for an insurance company to provide proof of insurance in these units, but they should be familiar with them, so if you’re planning to visit a country that requires this, ask your company in advance.

For medical insurance, ensure that you find some that will cover all the countries you plan to visit, and that does not exclude flight in a light aircraft!

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Finances

Flying adventures can range in cost dramatically; a couple of weeks camping out around the USA’s Southwest will be drastically different to flying around the world, for example. This guide will not talk about how to fund your trip (that’s your problem!), but instead looks at the day-to-day business of making payments when flying abroad.

Cost information

It can be remarkably difficult to find information on expected costs. There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Check section GEN 4 of the national AIP; these are supposed to contain charges for aerodromes and en-route services. If they don’t, they’ll sometimes include a link to where you can find the info.
  • Check airport websites, usually under the “commercial” or “business” section.
  • Contact handling agents or airport authorities, ideally by email, so you get a response in writing that you can show if they try and charge something different.
  • Contact fuel suppliers to check the fuel price and availability.
  • Search online using a search engine; for example, Greenland airport fees show up using this method.
  • Ask other pilots!
  • Finally, accept that no matter how careful you are, you may well get shafted at some point. For example, the immigration staff in Laos wouldn’t let us in without an extra large cash payment, for which no receipt was forthcoming. This is fairly rare though and I’ve only encountered it twice in my flying career.

Pre-payments

Prior to arrival in some locations, you’ll need to make pre-payments for things such as flight permits, fuel (to ensure availability), or perhaps some airport fees. The best way that I have found to do this, unless they accept credit cards, is by using a currency transfer service such as Midpoint or Transferwise. They allow international transfers to almost any country, in a huge variety of currencies, for very low fees. I’ve used them for many years without any difficulties.

Payments along the way

Once you start an international trip, you’ll find that airports and airport businesses in many areas of the world (particularly the Middle East, Africa, and Asia) will insist on cash payments. This can be in local currency or, more commonly, in US dollars. Before setting out it’s worth obtaining plenty of US dollars and carrying them with you (keep them well hidden), based on your estimates before the trip of how much the various expenses will be. A critical thing to know is that many places will only accept latest series US bills, in perfect condition; no marks, damage, or blemishes, no matter how small! I was caught out by this on early trips; it’s not very helpful when you arrive somewhere like India and they spring this requirement upon you with no prior warning.

Be aware that many countries have a threshold of cash above which it is necessary to declare it to customs. US$10,000 is a fairly common threshold. Check on this before arriving in a country, and if in doubt, ask customs on arrival. If you break the rules, even inadvertently, the cash can be confiscated if they find it!

To get hold of local cash, I tend to use the Transferwise international debit card and use local ATMs to withdraw money. I’ve found this to be the best combination of convenience and low fees, and their mobile app is very useful for managing your international finances. You can also ask locals about the best places to exchange cash and usually find pretty good rates.

Where possible, it’s convenient to be able to use credit or debit cards for payment. A credit card with minimal international fees, and the Transferwise international debit card, are a good combination. Always have a couple of back-up credit cards (it doesn’t matter so much about whether they’re optimised for international use) in case you find your primary cards aren’t accepted; this can sometimes happen for no apparent good reason. Always ensure you have at least one each of Visa and Mastercard, too.

Maintenance payments

If you need to have major maintenance done when abroad, look into local regulations about sales tax in advance. You may well be able to get the parts, and even the labour in some situations, tax-free as an aircraft on an international trip.

Importantly, do not make your final payment to an organisation until you have everything you need! For example, complete and correct logbook entries; if you pay and fly on, it may be very hard to get the attention of an organisation that’s now in another country, to close out outstanding issues.

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Preparing the aircraft

Maintenance

It’s important to minimise the possibility of having any mechanical issues while you’re away on your trip. For a particularly long or remote trip, there are some basic things you can do to make sure it’s well prepared. All of these are on an “as needed” basis; if your tires, battery etc are already pretty new then of course there’s no reason to replace them.

  • Perform a thorough inspection such as an annual
  • Replace tires and tubes
  • Replace battery
  • Replace spark plugs
  • Inspect and replace hoses as necessary
  • Ensure that any weather seals are in good condition; the aircraft is likely to be parked outside a lot.

If you’re going on a long trip, you might run into the requirement for scheduled maintenance away from base. Plan in advance where and how you’ll carry this out; for example, if you need the assistance of a mechanic, make sure you identify one and book his time in advance.

As mentioned elsewhere in the guide, it’s worth carrying scans of the last couple of years of maintenance logs with you; these can be useful for reference if maintenance is required when away from home.

Aircraft equipment

If you’re flying outside of your usual region, check for any equipment requirements that your aircraft may not be set up for. For example, the US now requires ADS-B in many areas, and other countries such as Australia and New Zealand are set to follow their lead soon. Much of Europe requires a Mode-S transponder and 8.33kHz radio spacing. While not mandatory, having an IFR-capable GPS will also make life much easier.

For some oceanic routes, an HF radio is required. The only route I’ve found so far where it’s absolutely mandatory is between Hawaii and the US West Coast (they won’t allow you to continue your flight without a successful HF radio test on departure). A temporary setup using a radio such as an Icom 7000 is fairly easy to install, if you do need it.

A simple addition to any aircraft, that’s a huge help on long adventures, are USB charging ports!

Cockpit management

One of the most important features of your preparation should be how you set up and manage your cockpit. I’m a big fan of a minimalist approach; don’t have anything in the cockpit that isn’t adding significant capability or capacity for you. Whenever you’re setting up your cockpit, you need to be thinking about the worst case; imagine yourself trying to get out of it in a ditching, and you’ll soon see the importance of removing as much of the clutter, cables and so on as possible.

Think in advance about what you want to have access to during flight, and ensure that you have a specific place for it. Having a specific place means you’ll always be able to find it as soon as you need it, reducing distractions. Everything needs to be secure, so it will stay in place in case of turbulence or a forced landing.

Add photo: cockpit, properly set up.

Minimise the use of mounted accessories such as tablets. On long international trips I fly with two tablets (one as a back-up), but neither of them are mounted; they are put away in the cockpit side pockets when not in use. The same applies to their charging cables; stored in a side pocket unless in use, and easy to stow quickly in an emergency. With nothing mounted on the yoke, there’s nothing to bash your head on in a forced landing, and less to snag your clothing if you need to leave the cockpit fast.

A useful feature on flying adventures, particularly on long trips where space is at a premium (for example, when a ferry tank is fitted), is to add a couple of seat-back organisers to hang on the back of the front seats. I use one to hold my tools (pilot seat back), and the other to hold items that I might want to get at in flight such as Travel Johns, snacks, insect spray (for top-of-descent spraying when arriving in places such as New Zealand), and so on.

These principles also apply to the back of the aircraft. I pack my equipment for the flight into lightweight storage boxes by category, so it’s easy to find and access anything you need. These boxes can also be easily weighed and positioned so your weight and balance calculations can be done more simply. I secure everything using a cargo net and the existing cargo tie-downs in the aircraft.

Add photo: back of aircraft properly packed.

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