OSM Aviation is a company with an ability to take on many different tasks due to the variety of experiences possessed by our employees.
During the month of May 2020 we were tasked with ferry flying two A321 aircraft from Canada to Slovenia.
Setting up such a process is complex and requires insight into many aspects of the aviation business. With the dedication of all involved staff and affiliated expertise it was, however, managed in record time.
Thanks to our connections and our database OSM Aviation has direct access to many thousands of pilots and our in-house built CrewMatch™ recruitment system can find the best suited pilots in minutes.
The two highly experienced Canadian pilots, contracted by OSM for the task at hand, are well-versed in ferry-flights, cross-atlantic flights and other intercontinental operations.
The planning phase was very interesting and intense. Contracts, orders, and agreements needed to be shaped, agreed and signed. Permits and 3rd party services needed to be assured before the final flight planning could be started. Once all was in hand, the flight was ready and cleared for launch.
The first flight was to leave Toronto Pearson Airport on May 7th at 1 minute past midnight (GMT). The routing was via Keflavik, Iceland to Ljubljana in Slovenia.
Our team was mostly observing from their homes around Europe, due to the Covid19 lockdown. Nowadays everyone with the correct flight number can track a flight via an app and VHF communication can be followed via specific internet sites. The show was on!
Thus ready we all monitored the flight on this early morning in May. The anticipation on our mutual chat site was very much like that of a NASA space launch. We had count down and tracked every communication including our own direct messages with the crew. Yes, we know that it was merely a flight, not very unlike the ones several of us have done thousands times of before…but this was our flight, inter-continental, controlled by us, a handful of people and not a large airline.
Once airborne the pilots set course towards the North Atlantic High Level Area (HLA) and its next destination, Keflavik, where the crew were to have the aircraft fueled for the second stage of the flight.
Blue Spruce Routes
During World War 2 a large amount of military aircraft were flown across the Atlantic from the United States and Canada, mainly to the United Kingdom. They followed routes that allowed them frequent stops along the way. These so-called Blue Spruce routes are still in force and can be used if an aircraft is not of the standard long-haul trans-continental type. Thus our flight was planned along similar routes as the aircraft flown across to support WW2.
Crossing Greenland at night requires a bit of planning too. The airports close at night and need to be requested to stay open as possible alternates for such flights in case of emergencies or other reasons preventing the flight from reaching its intended destination or designated alternate airport.
There are only a few suitable airports between the Canadian East coast and Iceland. They are both(!) in Greenland.
From South to North only 2 (3) are suitable for an Airbus321, Nasarssuaq (BGBW), Kangerlussuaq (BGSF), and only in worst case emergencies – Pituffik/U.S. Thule Air Base (BGTL) where you need special crew and aircraft authorization to land.
Our pilots passed Greenland in the window we had requested and landed safely in Keflavik according to plan.
After customs and fueling the aircraft now continued towards Ljubljana. Once over European airspace the route became almost direct.
The Covid19 situation has reduced the number of aircraft in the air to a minimum and, to our advantage, temporarily removed the need for slot times. Slot times are designated times to be at a certain position and mostly requires an aircraft to take off in a specific time window allocated by Air Traffic Control. This is done to allow the airports to absorb the vast amount of daily flights arriving by spreading them out over the day. Airspace congestion can also cause slot times and an aircraft may be required to enter a specific airspace in a small allocated time-window.
Very close to the originally intended time of arrival, the flight landed in beautiful Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The weather was nice and sunny but the airport was almost like a ghost town. Everything except the required services had been shut down due to the Corona virus pandemic.
The aircraft was to be parked and kept Airworthy until it is called back into service again. To that end it was received by the Adria CAMO (Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Organisation) who will keep the aircraft ready for its next operator.
The crew now had to get back to Canada. Although we had paved the way (as much as one can during these times) this was possibly the most exciting part of the operation.
The crew was assigned a rental car to get them to Vienna Airport, Austria. They crossed the border not long after leaving Ljubljana Airport. In their uniform, armed with crew badges, General Crew Declaration, Passports and protective gear, they were easily admitted into Austria. From here they continued to Graz where the booked hotel was closed (not informed during booking a few days before!).
Two very tired pilots now had to try and find another hotel, open and with vacancy. Luckily, after trawling through the city another hotel was found and a much needed rest period could begin.
Flights are scarce during these times, but our team had managed to assure seats from Vienna via Franfurt to Toronto. With no delays our two heroes made it safely back home the next day. They had, however, not been deterred as they did the entire trip again a week later with another aircraft bound for temporary storage in Slovenia.
OSM Aviation, having created a smooth and safe recipe for ferry flying, is ready for many more missions in the months to come. A large number of pilots have expressed their desire to fly such missions for us. We hope to take as many of them up on it as possible.
Airbus 321 Facts
Number of seats (one class): 220
Maximum Take-Off Weight: 93.500 kg
Maximum Range: 6.000 km