Malta – A Hidden Gem of the Mediterranean

Today we are off to Malta! We’ve seen rain the entire time we’ve been in Venice – it hasn’t stopped us from loving this destination but as pilots, we think about the upcoming flights.

The rain clouds climbed all the way up to FL280 before slowly lowering as we flew further and further from Venice, then FL250 before breaking away completely off the island of Ischia. It was blue skies from then all the way to Malta. We were able to take in stunning views of Sicily and Mt. Etna.

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We all arrived in Malta with beautiful weather and comfortable temperatures. We headed to the Pheonicia Hotel, our home for the next two nights.

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A pilot’s priority – keeping his baby clean!

Malta is always an unexpected highlight of the Journey. This little island, easily forgotten, is filled with unbelievable history, wonderful people and beautiful scenery. The amount of history on this island is astonishing. The history of the Knights of Malta and what they have left behind is to be visited by all.

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Maltese Sunsets

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We set out on a half day tour of Valletta, the capital city of Malta, and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1980. Walking through the streets of Valletta, we arrived at St. John’s Cathedral. From the outside the Cathedral looks quite bare but once inside you are overcome by every square inch covered in gold intricate detail.

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Then we set out for the Upper Barraka Gardens offering superb views of the Harbour below and the many different towns clustered together.

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Group shot in the Barraka Gardens

It was then off to Casa Rocca Piccola, one of the only non-converted palaces currently inhabited by nobility. Marquis Piccola, himself, gave us a tour of his home…what a treat!

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Marquis Piccola,still lives in the home to this day.

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Another friendly resident of the Piccola home

Ready for our last dinner in Malta at Chez Cyrille, a short walk from our hotel.

Next stop is Santorini, Greece!

A City Afloat – Venice, Italy

We had a direct flight route from Ibiza, Spain to Venice, Italy. It was nearly 700 nautical miles with the majority of it over water. A tremendous amount of ATC controllers with their Italian accents and buonjiorno and ciao greetings, squawk code changes and frequencies, I counted 16 frequency changes, brought us safe and sound into Venice, Italy.

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Wheels up from Ibiza

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Buonjiorno Venice!

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little in comparison

Upon landing in Venice we boarded our vaporretos – the local water taxi. Venice is built on swamp lands and lagoon, there are no cars on the island. The main form of transportation is water taxis or walking through narrow winding streets. We were off to our home for the next two days, the magnificent Hotel Cipriani – a historical hotel with stunning views and the only pool in Venice! During our transfer we witnessed a sort of “water ballet” as water taxis, ferries and delivery barges made their way through the waters.

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Water taxiing

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The Hotel Cipriani

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The Hotel Cipriani has amazing gardens

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The only pool in Venice!

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Happy Birthday Carolyn!

Today was a full day for discovery of Venice. This city evokes love and romance, even under the rain! A city tour was organized with visits of Murano, for its famous glass bowling techniques, St. Mark’s Cathedral and a number of unknown small walkways through the maze of canals in Venice. The history of Venice itself is fascinating. It was an independent, very knowledgeable and rich nation before joining Italy in the late 19th century. It was originally built as a merchant city due to its ideal location for traders.

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In Murano, learning the technique of glass blowing

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Molding the glass into a horse in under 2 minutes – amazing!

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The showroom is unbelievable

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Romantic Venice

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San Marco Piazza

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Inside St. Marcs Basilica

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Venice is also the forefront of art with a number of art galleries and musicians. Air Journey had arranged for the group to attend a Vivaldi concerto in one of the local churches. What a treat! It was an enjoyable evening with fantastic acoustics and excellent company.

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Venice Classical Music Concert of Vivaldi – unbelievable.

 Video from the Vivaldi Concert

Vamos a Ibiza! – Ibiza, Spain

We departed Paris for the Balearic Island of Ibiza, located off the coast of eastern Spain.

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On approach into Ibiza

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The two groups are parting ways today after a tech stop in Ibiza for the European group – the World Adventurers are staying in Ibiza, Spain after we opted out of traveling to Marrakech, Morocco, for safety reasons. Our main priority on all Air Journeys is the safety of our participants as well as their aircraft. Instead of Marrakech, we have added an extra night in Ibiza as well as a new destination to our itinerary – Venice, Italy!

Our flight was picture perfect, a blue sky with visibility for miles.

Upon landing, we transferred to Sa Punta, a small restaurant in Talamanca overlooking the old town of Ibiza. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We said our goodbyes to the Journey to Europe group as they headed back to the airport for their next flight. We headed north to our hotel, The Fenicia Prestige, located just outside of Santa Eulalia.

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Old Town Ibiza or Dalt Vila as it is known

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Last group lunch with both groups together

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Dine with a view

Ibiza is known to many as “party central”, however, the island itself offers more than just clubs and dance parties. Known for its traditional white fincas, or island homes, this picturesque island offers beautiful vistas, beaches and contrasting scenery allowing for a relaxing beach getaway for our group.

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Our Hotel – The Fenicia Prestige

After all settling in, the group headed to the Old Town of Ibiza, or Dalt Vila, for dinner at a local restaurant right in the heart of this fortressed town.

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On the agenda during our time in Ibiza, not too much. It is important to include relaxing spots like this in our itinerary to give everyone a chance to relax and catch up on work/family, etc.

One of the highlights of Ibiza is taking a boat over to Ibiza’s sister island, Formentera for the day, and that’s exactly what we did. We loaded onto two boats and set out to sea. The weather wasn’t picture perfect like the day before but we were optimistic that the clouds would burn off – and that they did! The sea was choppy but our boat captains managed them like champs and we were across to Formentera in no time, where flat seas awaited us.

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We anchored the boats in a bay and opted for a swim. One by one we gathered our courage and jumped into the frigid but beautiful clear waters – when I say frigid, we are talking 17’C or 62’F!

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Formentera Bound

After our swim back to the boats, we pulled the anchors and zoomed over to lunch at Juan and Andrea, a delicious beach restaurant overlooking the turquoise water. On the menu – paella of course! A visit to Ibiza is not complete without a traditional Spanish Paella – and what pairs perfectly with Paella? Sangria – many many pitchers of Sangria!

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Juan and Andrea for lunch

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The winds had shifted for our return to Ibiza and seas had gotten more rough but our Captains did a great job and brought us into port safe and sound.

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Dinner tonight was at the beautiful boutique hotel, Can Curreu, located in San Carles, that represents a traditional Ibiza finca. It is situated in the country-side of the island with its restaurant resting underneath an enormous olive tree, and the food…to die for!

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Happy Birthday Tom!

 

The next day was free to explore on our own – some chose to go into the old town of Ibiza for shopping, others went hiking overlooking beautiful vistas and others just relaxed at the hotel.

Tomorrow its off to an unexpected destination since it wasn’t originally on the itinerary – Venice, Italy!

Oui Oui to Paris! – Paris, France

Upon our arrival at Le Bourget Airport, we headed to the iconic Hotel Plaza Athenee, our 5 star luxurious hotel just a short walk from the Champs Elysee, and our home for the next 3 nights. Situated on L’Avenue Montaigne, it is a dream location for most women as all the big name designers hold their stores just across the street! Men watch your wallets!

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Scenic views from the Hotel Plaza Athenee

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At the hotel we were greeted by Dave and Carolyn. They are joining the Andy and Wendy from Paris through Turkey. It is always nice to arrive somewhere and see some familiar faces. The next morning we were joined by both Paulina and Lucy who are joining the Dean’s through Dubai. Welcome aboard all!

With a long flying day and the stress and focus everyone experienced during the Transatlantic Crossing, everyone dined on their own our first night, whether they chose room service, dinner in the hotel’s gallery or dinner in a nearby Parisian bistro.

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Dinner in the Gallery

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Seafood platter for days

The Plaza Athenee made our stay very special from the moment we arrived. Awaiting the group in their rooms was a chocolate Airplane and delicious cake created especially for us by the Plaza Athenee pastry chef – Christophe Michalak, one of the best in the world!

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Everything on this plate is edible – yummy!

We had a free morning our first full day in Paris, some slept in while others delved into the Parisian shopping scene. That afternoon, we departed on a private city tour of beautiful Paris with our guide Michel. We visited the Trocadero with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, St. Germain de Pres, place de la Concorde, le pont Alexandre est le pont neuf (two beautiful and historic bridges over the Siene), Notre Dame of course, and more. We were touring in a convertible bus – the visibility to the outside from the bus was superb even with grey skies at the start, but as the sun started peeking through, the driver surprised us by putting the roof down – a convertible bus!

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Breakfast with the Deans

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Truffle Eggs Benedict

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Thierry and Anais

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Almost guys

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Inside Notre Dame Cathedral

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Street Art

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All happy with the convertible bus

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That evening we made our way down to the Seine River banks in order to board the Bateaux Parisian Diamant for a dinner cruise on the Seine while passing all of Paris’ famous monuments illuminated at night. With beautiful scenery and great company, we all had a wonderful time!

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Sunset cruise on the Seine

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John and Karen

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Andy and Alex

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Jaysen and Orlie were joined by their daughter/sister Shelly

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Tom and Diann

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Lucy, Paulina and Warren doing the “natural” thinker pose

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Mike and Jan

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Our last day in Paris was free to explore on our own. Many opted for Museum visits, some climbed to the top of the Arc de Triumph and others just strolled Paris taking in the sights.

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We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Plaza Athenee’s Le Relais Restaurant before retreating to our rooms for some R&R.

This is the last stop all 8 airplanes are together, tomorrow we have 5 airplanes heading to Ibiza, Spain (2 of which are stopping in Stanz, Switzerland on the way to visit the Pilatus Factory) and 3 Journey to Europe airplanes flying to the African continent for a visit to Marrakech, Morocco.

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Pilot Briefing

Our Last Transatlantic Leg

We are ready to launch for our last leg of the Transatlantic Crossing. From Reykjavik to Europe, there are several choices available as tech stops within the range of our aircrafts. In making the choice for the best option, we review the fuel availability, distance, weather forecast and customs availability at all alternates.

This year, Stavanger was our choice! It was a great stop, efficient and sunny!

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They parked us at the beginning of the runway, a great spot for pictures!

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After a quick turn around, we are up in the air and on our way to Le Bourget Airport in Paris, France. We had a thorough brief on the ins and outs of flying into Le Bourget – the amount of traffic was incredible, Wendy, in one of the PC-12s, was tasked with alerting for nearby traffic, she eventually stopped announcing them since a new aircraft was spotted every few seconds. We went right over Charles de Gaulle Airport.

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Traffic, Traffic, Traffic

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Our Transatlantic Crossing Route completed.

A Visit in Rekjavik, Iceland

After an uneventful flight, we have landed in Reykjavik. The temperatures are warmer and there is civilization, we are happy.

We transferred to our hotel, the Hotel Borg, our home for the next 2 nights.

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First thing on our to do list – a beer!

We enjoyed dinner at the Fish Company, a great restaurant in downtown Reykjavik. Walking distance from the hotel and a must-eat destination when in Reykjavik.

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The following morning we set out on a full day tour of the “Golden Circle” in what the locals call their “super jeeps” – and super they are! These things are huge.

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We started the morning with a visit to the Blue Lagoon for some fun in the geothermal spa. These steamy waters are part of a lava formation and have become one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. Throwing on our swimsuits we quickly ran through the cold outside air and stepped into the geothermal bath. A quick visit to the swim-up bar, we were set to soak in the 102+ water. They have some white “mud” that supposedly helps heal and rejuvenate the skin – we quickly lathered ourselves up to ream the benefits. I think we all look YEARS younger, don’t you?

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G, Thierry and Warren ready for a swim

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Bob and Charlene

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Skin looks younger and makes you act younger?

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Jaysen

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Tom and Diann

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Delicacies of the VIP Suites at the Blue Lagoon

After a short drive to Pingvellir national park, we embarked on a discovery of its exciting highlights. First we stopped at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are cleary visible.

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The group with their fearless Viking leader Thierry

 

We then headed to the world famous Geysir geothermal area, a geothermal field where hot springs are in abundance, geysers explode and pools of mud buggle. We all stood there ready with our cameras waiting for the burst of water to shoot up in the air. The pictures don’t show the intensity of these water bursts.

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Climbing back into the super jeeps, we were off for a visit to the Gulfoss Waterfall, rushing water speeding past us. This is the first year we’ve seen snow at the waterfall on our Transatlantic Crossing in May – Reykjavik is currently a couple weeks behind for their spring season.

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Gulfoss

 

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We have two young adventurers joining our World Journey this year, Alex and Cami. To say they are adorable is an understatement. It is wonderful seeing their excitement for the different destinations we have visited – and this is only the beginning of the trip!

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Alex and Cami with a polar bear, Thierry promised that they would see one and would even be able to pet it – Thierry always delivers on his promises!

There’s always time for a little shopping!

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Tomorrow is our final leg of our Transatlantic crossing. We have a planned stop in Stavenger, Norway before continuing on to Paris’ Le Bourget Airport.

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All focused during the brief for tomorrow’s flight.

Our Transatlantic Crossing Continued

Today our flight will take us to Reykjavik, Iceland. The departures are spaced out again to ensure, as much as we can, that everyone receives what is needed for their airplanes to perform at their best.

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A little reorganizing before the departure.

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In Sondie, you can choose which way you want to depart based of course on the wind.

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Citation M2

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Citation Mustang

The Citation M2 took-off towards the ice cap while the Citation Mustang took off towards the fjord.

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In the past, our clients have found the leg from Greenland to Iceland to be the most fascinating. Along the way, we have to use position reporting, a procedure most pilots do not commonly use.

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First Stop – Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!

The Transatlantic Crossing is a dream for most pilots and one of the most interesting/exciting parts of our Journey. This year, weather is in our favor; so far. They had initially annouced snow showers but blue sky was peaking through as we came into Kuujjuaq. We had a nice tail wind throughout the flight so no complaints.

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Blue Skies but chilly weather, it was cold!

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We are spaced about 15 minutes apart which works out perfect for our arrival to each stop – especially with 8 airplanes

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We had a fast turnaround in Kuujjuaq, Canada for our tech stop and were back in the air in no time to continue our flight to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Formally Sondrestrom Fjord or “Sondie” for those of you who may have frequented the area. Our flight kept us off the coast of Canada.

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greenland kuujjuaq to Kangerlussuaq

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Beautiful views as your cross the Atlantic but certainly not a very forgiving terrain.

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A beautiful approach into Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

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We were all given the straight LOC DME approach into Sondie’s Runway 9.

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Hello Greenland – the land of ice and snow!

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a portion of our great looking fleet

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Mike, Jan and G traveling in the King Air

Once all on the ground, we settled into the Hotel Kangerlussuaq, our home for the overnight. The hotel is located right at the airport, great for the pilots who love looking at their airplanes. The hotel itself is a bit “basic” we should say, a huge change from last night’s Chateau Frontenac.

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Where to next? I think these times were calculated with faster airplanes in mind…

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We dropped our bags and headed to the Rowing Club or “Restaurant Roklubben” in Danish – Greenland is part of Denmark. We had a unique form of transportation to the restaurant. The truck was home to the former radio station of Sondie.

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On the menu tonight – Reindeer!

And They’re Off!

The 5th Around the World Journey has officially launched. Under gray skies and rain, the 8 airplanes set off towards Kuujjuaq, Canada for fuel before landing in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

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This is the first leg of the Transatlantic Crossing. Flying across the Atlantic takes patience, research, knowledgeable pilots, and did I mention patience? Weather moves quickly up there and having 2 alternates is a must on an Air Journey Transatlantic flight.

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They’ve launched! We can see a few of the airplanes on the screen flying towards Kuujjuaq. Don’t be fooled by the order, it is not based on speed. The order is decided by who is ready to launch first and what altitudes they would like to fly. It is important to space the planes accordingly so no one is forced to fly lower then wanted and have their airplanes perform under capacity. One of the Citation Mustangs was kept low out of Kuujjuaq and was forced to divert to Iqaluit for fuel in order to make Kangerlussuaq.

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On approach into Kuujjuaq

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Next stop…..Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (via Kuujjuaq)

A Gathering of Birds

Our 5th Around the World Journey launches from our usual departure point, the beautiful Quebec City, Canada. This is the perfect destination that offers a beautiful city, great history and a well located departure point that allows for multiple alternates if needed for our crossing of the North Atlantic.

 

We have an impressive number of planes on the ramp in Quebec, 8 total, as our Around the World Journey and our Journey to Europe cross the Atlantic together. This years RTW bunch includes two PC-12s, a Citation Mustang and a TBM 850. Our European journeyers include a Citation M2, a Cessna Conquest, a King Air and a Citation Mustang.

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Chateau Frontenac

We are staying at the beautiful Chateau Frontenac in downtown Quebec City.

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Throughout the years they have always been supportive and encouraging in our travel endeavors. This year was no different, surprising us all with a little platter of goodies with an aviation theme.

 

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The group gathered the night prior to our launch for a detailed pre-departure briefing for our Transatlantic Crossing. Because of the size of our group, we split the briefing into two, one for the Around the World adventurers and one for the Journey to Europe group. The route finalized was Quebec City to Kuujjuaq, Canada, for a tech stop, before continuing on to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Because of the number of planes, we have slots leaving Quebec City:

 

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Like every year, we have Concierge that is along with our Around the World flight to ensure the clients have the best possible experience. She flies ahead of the group one day prior to each destination by commercial airline.

 

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Tomorrow begins the official start of our Journey Around the World!

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