How a Cape Air prop made the 'water jump' from Europe to the U.S.
Cape Air and Tecnam Aircraft are understandably proud of the Tecnam P2012 Traveller, the regional airline's first-ever new aircraft and the airframer's first joint effort with an operator on a new model.
The twin-engine prop, the result of a decade of collaboration between the companies, is due to take to the skies of New England between Boston Logan (BOS) base and Rutland (RUT) in Vermont in early December. The Traveller seats nine passengers plus two crew and is due to replace the carrier's fleet of 84 Cessna 402s in five years or less.
The first two Travellers are now on property at Cape Air's base at Barnstable Municipal Airport (HYA) in Hyannis, Massachusetts, a third aircraft is en route. Ten more are due by year-end. But how does a plane designed for hops of less than hour make the journey of more than 4,000 miles to get from Italy to Cape Cod?
Slowly but determinedly -- with multiple stops, safety precautions and grit.
“It was an exciting experience. I could never find the right words to [fully] express it," Tecnam managing director Giovanni Pascale, the pilot-in-command of one of the first two aircraft on the trip to Hyannis from Capua in Italy, said of the journey at an event showing off the aircraft on Wednesday.
Pascale, along with three other seasoned crew members, made the trip with five stops in three days. Their routing traversed 4,621 miles from Capua to Groningen (GRQ) in the Netherlands, on to Inverness (INV) in Scotland, then Reykjavik (KEF) in Iceland, Narsarsuaq (UAK) in Greenland, Goose Bay (YYR) in Canada, and finally down to Hyannis, where they landed on Sept. 25.
The longest leg was about five hours from Goose Bay to Hyannis -- a distance of 926 miles -- said Pascale.
To make the trek, the Travellers were outfitted with 119 gallon (450 liter) collapsable fuel tanks in the rear of the passenger cabin to complement the aircraft's nearly 200-gallon wing-tank capacity.
The journey was not necessarily comfortable. The crews flew the Travellers at an altitude of up to 13,000 feet on each leg, putting them more at the mercy of the weather than the standard commercial jet flight that can fly at calmer, higher altitudes. In addition, each crew member wore a safety suit and had oxygen tanks on hand in the case of an emergency. The pilots were essentially "locked in" to their seats when onboard, said Pascale.
Despite any potential discomfort, Pascale still described the trip as exciting and highlighted the legs into and out of Narsarsuaq as among his favorite.
“It was gorgeous," he said. "Flying over the fjords -- taking off from Greenland where there was just nothing, then flying over the Labrador Sea and approaching Goose Bay."
With Cape Air holding firm orders for 20 aircraft and options for 90 more, a lot more Travellers will soon be making the "water jump," as David Beaty described the transatlantic trek in his seminal 1977 book of the same name.
Dan Wolf, founder and CEO and Cape Air, said Wednesday that he wished he could have piloted one of the first Traveller flights to Hyannis. He was the pilot-in-command of the airline's first flight from Provincetown (PVC) to Boston on Oct. 16, 1989 -- 30 years to the day from the Traveller unveil.
"In modern history, 100 billion human beings have lived and [only] seven billion live today," he said. "If you think about the number of that 100 billion that have been privileged to get into an airplane and actually have the experience to fly over this beautiful planet, it is a very small number. It is a privilege and a blessing to be a pilot."