It was a cold February morning on the way to Europe in a single-engine Cessna 210. I was enjoying the performance and steady rumble of the big-bore Continental IO-55O engine. I had my little red booklet on the dash where I continually scribbled down speeds, fuel burn and temperatures as part of my performance log.
I needed to know the airplane’s exact performance prior to the long overwater legs ahead. The back seats were filled with survival suits, rafts, and even a hand-crank fuel pump for fueling the airplane in Northern Canada. I was northbound to Milwaukee— one of my favorite overnight stops before launching into Canada.
Though I’m not much for superstition, I do have rituals. In fact, most ferry pilots have rituals. My ritual involved having a tomato-bisque dinner prior to the first day over water. The next morning, I would don my survival suit and cross an icy Lake Michigan on the way to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.
Ferry flying has always been one of aviation’s most mysterious and thrilling career paths. I receive questions from people all the time wondering how to become a ferry pilot and how to prepare themselves for long-distance flights. My answers are usually the same: planning, knowledge and precision. Although you may not be taking an exotic airplane to an exotic location, the same skills I’ve learned on ferry flights can also apply to a new private pilot. Because of my exposure to far-northern climates, I’ve learned a lot of lessons from ferry flying that could help prepare pilots for the adventures of winter flying.