The flight to the Falklands/Malvinas appeared to be less eventful than predicted, as the Patagonian winds were in our favour today. The weather forecast, and calculations from our flight planning suggested that we would pick up a strong tail wind, putting our ground speed over 170 knots for some of our route, and making travel pretty fast over the long water crossing. This in itself made the leg less intimidating, our flight time shorter, and giving us less concern about not making it all the way!!!The weather en-route at first was not too bad, the visibility was good and the sky was blue, yet slightly overcast. It seemed like the black cloud of worry had been lifted from both of us, and we felt less daunted by this daft, crazy, idea of flying in a one engine aircraft over 400 miles of mostly sea. I am not sure where the added optimistic and less concern came from but Chris jokingly suggested that maybe the pilot Antoine de St Exupery was looking down on us, myself being more spiritually minded suggested God may have a guiding hand, or maybe my dad who had passed away many years ago, and strangely or not the idea popped into my head that his organ donor was also watching over us.
The flight was not too turbulent, in fact on about half of the flight route the weather was calm, and flying smooth although never got our predicted groundspeed of 170 knots, it was still pretty fast, more like 140-155. I soon forgot we had a life raft at the ready and was wearing a life jacket, and began to relax and enjoyed the view. Over long stretches of water in a small airplane, we have no radio contact with VHF or air traffic control so for a couple of hours of this leg we heard no one. Flying together, looking out over the beautiful ocean does not require much talking, as we were just enjoying the view, and hearing nothing at first was eerie, but felt very peaceful and almost surreal as we progressed along our course. After a while we began to hear muffled voices on the radio, and as we moved closer into radio range we could faintly hear people talking English. The language seemed bizarre, almost odd to me, despite this being MY language. But for the last few weeks we have heard nothing but Portuguese and Spanish voices both, on and off the airplane and somehow my ears have been tuned into these accents and tones. After a while the more I heard English voices across the sea, and the more I listened, felt like I was listening to an old friend from home. Although I have had twinges of missing my family and friends, it was not until now did I realized that I was actually homesick. As we started to get closer to Port Stanley the weather started to change, it looked less bright, and it began to rain. As the rain increased, we approached from the West of the island, and we spoke to island radar who asked if we wanted to “be embellished”. Neither of us had any idea what this was but said “yes please, of course” as it sounded good, very exciting. We maintained our flight routing over west of the island, talking to Mount Approach who were very clear and concise about our heading and altitude. We both noticed how green and lush the island was, it seemed bigger and better than I imagined. But exactly just like the pictures in the books and magazines I have seen over the years, it was both rugged and rural in some parts and but quaint and pretty in others. We both could not believe that we had finally made it to the Island so easily, without a problem, without a drama!!!!! We were both so totally delighted in achieving our goal of making to such an amazing place, when two typhoons pleasantly surprised us by flying alongside us (for a couple of minutes or so)!!!! They said hello by radio and gave us a warm welcome to the Island, and then continued on their way. Chris was beside his self!! Not only had he got to see two typhoons up close and personal (well about half a mile) but he was able to take a picture from our airplane window. I was at the controls PIC, (Pilot in Command) I tried to remain focused on not straying off course, as I was also really excited, and touched by the kind gesture from the two pilots. I stayed on course heading, flying towards a small farmland called Weddell Island( which would be very important to us later on in our journey).We were directed to fly over Fox bay, and then as we continued in, bearing towards San Carlos water, we were handed over to the Stanley Tower. The wind and rain picked up and although pretty confident in my landings, I really felt that Chris should be the one to touch down at this airport. Port Stanley was one of the significant, important places that Chris had continually talked about visiting when planning this donor awareness flight. It had been one of those many magical destinations that had been on his “bucket list”.
On landing in Port Stanley we were greeted by a friendly Customs man named Alan, and three hunky fireman who were kind enough to stand in the rain and pose for photos with Chris and I. Donna and Jane, the friendly air traffic controllers guided us to a hanger where we met by the welcoming FIGAS (Falklands Islands Government Air service) maintenance crew, who helped us to put over planne away safely out of the wind and rain. Ian, Stu and Robin were very sociable, and chatted with us, suggesting “must do” places to visit on the island. They called us a taxi and we headed off to our hotel, where I was looking forward to a hot shower and nice glass of wine. We finally made it, the Falklands had been one of our biggest challenges had achieved it safely without getting wet!!