Chasing Ghosts: Excerpt

Chasing Ghosts

 Origins of the Atlantic Attempt

I was down in a small old house I have in France in August 1999, struggling to put together a novel and keeping half an eye out for two microlight pilots, Mike Blythe and Olivier Aubert, endeavouring to fly around the Pacific Rim. I had been the first man to fly a microlight around the world, completing the journey the previous year. Now I was following the attempt at a similar journey, in terms of distance covered, by two very experienced pilots.

Mike was a South African, and Olivier a Swiss. They each flew their own flex-wing, but operated as a pair, as much for company as for safety. Four years earlier, they had flown from Cape Town up the east coast of Africa and across the Mediterranean to the North Cape in Norway, the furthest north that Europe goes. They found funding for their flight in bits and pieces, and enjoyed the leisurely experience of the journey, never under time pressure as I had been because of the way I outlined my projects to sponsors, against the clock. If Mike and Olivier liked somewhere, they stayed to enjoy it better. Their flight around the Pacific took them up the west coast of South America, and they were due to go on up the North American coast via Canada and Alaska to Siberia, then down roughly the route I took on the world flight, through Japan and China and Malaysia and Indonesia to end in Australia.

They had all the usual adventures expected on such a flight, but as they reached the United States, the political problems of getting through Russia and Japan daunted them. The authorities in both these countries, for separate reasons, put the intrepid pair off. Mike and Olivier had seen what happened to me in Russia and could not find their own way through. At the same time the Japanese, who do not want foreign microlights flying through their country, opened negotiations (and closed them again, probably giggling as they had with me) by suggesting a landing fee at each airfield of $25,000. Mike and Olivier decided, mid-flight, they would change their ambition and fly around the Atlantic Rim instead.

It was a matter of a few days, calling on the precedent of my flight across the North Atlantic route, to get their permissions changed to allow them to cross Canada via Quebec, Labrador and Innuitland. They took a slightly different course to me to reach Greenland, flew over that, and then “hopped” to Iceland, adding a long flight missing out the Faeroes Islands to get to Scotland. Their new route would take them through France and across Spain, and essentially around the west coast of Africa to Cape Town. There was an epic quality that I would not have enjoyed myself in some of the flights they made in Africa, especially in those two dreadful centres of corruption, Nigeria and Cameroun. But while they were still in Europe I managed to get an invitation through to them from Villefranche du Perigord, and they stopped the night at my house to swap stories and dream. I had a flight in both their machines, just to see how they handled.

Olivier and I soon fell out. He believed I had too easy a flying life, raising sponsorship before making the flights I had done. In his opinion I should be more earthy about my flights and do it in a different spirit, seeking freedom, as he does it. And having heard from Keith Reynolds in England why Keith had left me in Siberia, Olivier wanted to challenge me about that too. He was sitting out on my terrace, chilling out with some exotic weed after we had aired blunt views about our different approaches to adventures, and Mike and I were chatting in the kitchen in a desultory fashion.

What was he going to do after he finished in Cape Town? He thought he would settle down for a bit and recover, financially as much as physically, and wanted to spend time with his family. We looked over possible flights, Everest, Pole to Pole, and eventually, the Atlantic proper, the way it was first done, rather than the way he and Olivier and I had done it, around the edges.

“What is the distance from St Johns in Newfoundland to Ireland,” I asked, idly, ” the way Alcock and Brown did it?”

Mike had a computer with a programme that enabled him to make this calculation easily. He mumbled away for a few moments.

“It looks like 1,915 miles,” he said.

“Is that nautical miles, or statute miles?”


“Do you know, that’s do-able!” I exclaimed, and then wondered if I had blurted out too much. Among pilots whom I thought would also have a go, when it was generally realised that we were capable of making such a flight in microlights, Mike was a prime candidate. But it did not catch Mike’s attention in quite the same way it caught mine. I was afire with the idea. In still air, which I would not have but you have to calculate that way, it would take more than 30 hours to make such a flight. How much fuel would I need? On my longest Atlantic hop, from Kulusuk in eastern Greenland to Reykjavik in Iceland, 450 statute miles, I had used 11 litres an hour with 8 hours, 15 minutes flying. I needed a safety margin, a big one, so if 30 hours used 330 litres, I probably needed 400 litres. I knew that a Frenchman, Guy Delage had carried 350 litres on his microlight flight across the South Atlantic back in 1992. Would current British microlight wings be capable of carrying the same load?

After I saw Mike and Olivier off the following day, heading for Spain, I drafted a one-page proposal which I had ready at any time to present to a potential sponsor. This is the gist of what I proposed:

The distance between St John’s, Newfoundland, and Shannon on the west coast of Ireland, is just 1,915 statute miles (3,064 kms). It was first flown in 1919 by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown in a Vimy bomber. They took 16h30m to reach Ireland, flying at 100mph with a tailwind. It is possible to cover this huge distance non-stop in a flex-wing microlight, flying at 65mph, and assuming a tailwind of a mere 15 mph (for which I will wait) and do the flight in 24 hours. But in the worst-case scenario, I would have a still-air speed of 60 mph, and no tailwind, taking 33 hours to reach Ireland. This is the same time as Lindbergh took, non-stop, to reach Paris from New York in 1927.

The microlight in which I want to repeat their flight is a Pegasus Quantum Sport 912, the same type of microlight I flew around the world in 1998. It has a Rotax 912 engine, developing 80 hp, and using 11 litres/hour; 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, dual ignition, it is one of the most reliable engines in the world. I will carry 400 litres of fuel, a tenth of A&B’s, but fly slower than them. Navigation would be by GPS – global positioning system – so I don’t need to fly in the ice-forming regions above cloud, as they did.

The flight will be made in June/July and take advantage of the better weather forecasts we have today. It is not really about being technically competent; my engine is so much better than A&B’s. It is about character and stoicism. For sponsors, this is a huge event, with a chance to promote themselves world-wide, repeating one of the most famous flights ever made, non-stop from America to Europe.

Over the next sixteen months, I wafted this idea in front of anyone I could find who might be interested in sponsoring it. Whenever I saw an advertisement for a product that aimed to come across to the public as adventurous, I found out who the marketing agency was, and wrote proposing they sponsor my flight. I culled biographies of rich and powerful businessmen from the financial pages of newspapers, especially if I saw they had a private aircraft, or really wanted to be a fighter pilot, and sent them letters with the idea.

Nothing came of it.

The year 2000 could reasonably be described as the worst of my life. Nothing seemed to work. I tried for jobs in television, and even if suited, at 57 I was too old. I got as far as a screen test as a financial reporter, ad libbing two minutes off the FTSE screen, and being deemed excellent. But it did not lead on to work. I lived by occasional talks drummed up by the London Speaker Bureau, and selling part of my store of shares.

It was towards the end of that year that I felt enough was enough. The following year, 2001, was not going to be the same. I had two adventures on the stocks, one to chase the ghost of an early American aviator, William Devoe Coney, across America, the second the flight across the Atlantic. Coney was the first man to fly coast to coast across the USA in a flying time of less twenty-four hours, though because of poor weather back in 1921, his elapsed time coast-to-coast was 57 hours, 27 minutes. I wanted to race that time in a microlight. I had got close once to raising the sponsorship for the Coney Run, which would have covered all my expenses and left me enough for the Atlantic, and even got as far as drafting a contract and sending it out. But the stock markets in which my potential backer was invested either went through the floor, or did not go through the floor quickly enough. Anyway, he called it off. Perhaps in the future, he said, but not now.

In the late Autumn I talked things over with my children, James and Jade. James, 25, was a First Lieutenant in the Army at the time, an Arabic specialist, while Jade, 22, was in her third year at Trinity College, Dublin, studying English and History. I told them I was dying of frustration and that I proposed selling my liquid assets and funding my own adventure. There might, I said, be a possibility that I could sell a TV documentary about one or other of the adventures, but in any case, I wanted to do them both, the Coney Run and the Atlantic. It was their inheritance I proposed spending, but James and Jade both agreed. They are accustomed to seeing me on adventures, and this was just another one. Jade might have worried about who was going to pay her university fees if anything happened to me, but I made adequate provisions against an accident in my last will and testament, which I always leave behind on such adventures.

I had an adequate aircraft, the GT Global Flyer, with about 550 hours on it. Of these, 405 hours were spent going somewhere on the world flight. There was at least another 650 hours of life before I would have to pay out for an major overhaul of the engine, so both adventures were easily within its current service life. The GT Flyer was a Pegasus Quantum 912, built by Pegasus Aviation near Marlborough in Wiltshire, and powered by a Rotax 912 engine, 4-stroke, 4-cylinder and dual ignition, one of the best engines in the world. It had carried 117 litres of fuel on the world flight, 50 litres in a belly tank, 25 litres each in tanks slung either side of me, and 17 litres on the floor of the cockpit. I needed to carry much more fuel than that, but would the wing take it? I phoned Dr Billy Brooks that autumn, the aircraft designer, whose name I had successfully put up for an award coupled to the Segrave Trophy. Billy mumbled while he made his calculations, and then said he thought the wing would take the weight. I asked if they could build me a fuel tank to fit on to my existing wing. He grew vague.

My relationship with Pegasus was an arms-length one. The company had been founded at least 15 years earlier by amalgamating a firm called Solar Wings which made hang glider wings, with other companies that built microlight trike units. I had owned 25% of Solar Wings, and had always used their wings while hang gliding or microlighting. When I flew around the world I had paid the market price for everything, including the aircraft, and during the flight the official Pegasus line was, “nothing to do with me, guv.” Pegasus boss Bill Sherlock was worried, as was most of the British microlighting community, that I would crash and burn in my modified aircraft. Pegasus disclaimed any responsibility for what I had done to make the GT Flyer capable of flying around the world, and for my flying it.

This attitude changed instantly once I had got back safely. From “not me, guv”, the company then spent more than a year, heavily advertising in the aviation media that they had built the first microlight to fly around the world. A photograph (my copyright but who cared? or even asked?) of me flying across the New York skyline was the centrepiece of the advertising. Unknown to me at the time, the company produced a limited edition of ten Quantum 912 microlights, all looking like the GT Flyer. I found it disconcerting to fly into a meeting at Popham, for example, to see four other aircraft almost exact clones of my own. It would have been nice to have known. I think it is reasonable to say that my flight around the world benefited Pegasus.

thought Billy Brooks would be excited about designing a one-off tank for a flight across the Atlantic. In fact, nothing happened for weeks. I phoned again and checked that it was possible to build one, and again Billy said it was. Next, I had a phone call, I think it was from Pegasus marketing man John Fack, with whom I had flown hang gliders for 25 years, demanding a formal letter exonerating Pegasus from anything I was going to do with the big tank. I sent off such a letter, nothing happened again for more months. I lost heart. If Pegasus were not interested, I still had one of their aircraft, but where could I find a fuel tank big enough for the job?

There are three significant microlight manufacturers in Britain; the other two are Medway Microlights near Rochester in Kent, for whom Keith Reynolds had been test pilot, and Mainair Sports up in Rochdale, Lancashire. Colin Bodill had flown a Mainair Blade 912 around the world. Mainair was owned by Eileen Hudson, widow of a man I had done a lot of hang gliding with, John Hudson, but the company was run by Jim Cunliffe. I had met Jim once, a big straight-speaking Northerner with a shy manner, when I saw Colin off on his world flight. Jim had been closely involved in Colin’s flight, and we hardly knew each other well. One day I phoned Jim and told him about my dilemma, saying I had no sponsors, was planning the Atlantic flight on my own using an aircraft built by his main rival, but would Mainair build me a huge fuel tank? Without hesitation, Jim said yes.

The more I talked to Jim, the better I liked him. I went through what I required in detail, and he was so friendly and helpful that I asked, in the end, whether he would rather I did the flights on his aircraft. He said he would. I told him I could not afford to buy a brand new Blade, costing more than £20,000, but I would find the money for all the modifications, including the big tank. In return, I would give him whatever publicity I could get on the Coney Run before the Atlantic.

“Will your wing be able to take such a load, though?” I asked.

Again, we went through the calculation stage, this time with Mainair’s chief designer, Roger Pattrick. After calculations, Roger said it would, but that the safety margins would come down. If I pulled more than 3.5G the wing would collapse. I could pull 3.5G with a 90 degree wingover, well outside the envelope of the wing, if I was so foolish enough to attempt it.

“What about the design of a tank? Guy Delage had one which was virtually part of his aircraft. Could you fit a 400 litre tank into a Blade?” I asked.

Again Roger said he could, but that he needed time to design one. I ended the conversation happy to have allies, and was particularly taken with Jim Cunliffe, an opinion, unlike others, I have had no cause at all to revise after all that happened.

I needed an organiser, and already had a volunteer. Two years earlier at the British Microlight Aircraft Association AGM, I had met Liam Abramson, a smart-looking South African living in north London. I was selling Global Flyer, my book about the world flight, and Liam came up to buy one. From the first he was very impressive, intelligent, decisive, and, I thought, full of character. He urged me to consider him as an organiser if ever I went on another adventure, and I filed away his name. His normal job was lecturing on the business side of music, but he assured me he would be able to fit whatever I needed into his working life.

When I decided on a shoestring budget that both adventures would go ahead, it was a terrific relief. Whatever happened, I could start to plan, and I felt I had come back to life. I phoned Liam and outlined what I was doing. Even though two years had gone by since his initial approach, he was keen to be involved. He had made a couple of microlight flights, in 3-axis rather than flex-wing, but I thought then that actually having experience of flying was secondary to being a good organiser. We met and came to an agreement. He would do the organising for the flights, and look after the media for both of them. I would not pay him a huge sum of money, just £300 a week for a set number of weeks, but the understanding was, if I raised any sponsorship money then his pay would rise to £600/week, much more reasonable income, plus his expenses.

Normally, I do adventures for what the Irish call the craic, because they are there. This time I wanted to involve a charity. I had met Nikki King at aviation functions, introduced to her by Tony Iveson, a former 617 “Dambuster” Squadron pilot and a friend. Nikki had the special attraction for me of being the daughter of Dave Shannon, one of Guy Gibson’s pilots on the famous Dambuster Raid in World War Two. She had recently taken over fund-raising for the Artificial Heart Fund, based at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The AHF was said to be one of the two foremost pioneers into artificial hearts (the other being a hospital in Texas) and it funded research into the use of artificial hearts. These were used either as a way of resting an existing heart which may suffer temporary damage, or as replacements for worn-out hearts. The supply of human hearts from accident victims was, of necessity, limited, and there was always a much bigger demand for hearts than there was a supply.

At that time in Britain, artificial hearts had been used four times. The hearts themselves, made in the USA and costing £50,000 each, were about the size of a human thumb, but the battery pack to drive it, worn outside the body, was somewhat bigger. The first use of such a heart in this country was on a 19 year old girl called Julie, who was thought certain to die when her heart was infected by a virus. But heart pioneer John Westerby inserted an artificial heart in Julie for just over a week, stopping her own heart and giving it time to recover. He later restarted her by-now rested heart and removed the artificial one. Julie recovered fully and went back to leading a normal life. AHF’s latest patient, Peter Houghton, who had survived 11 months when I met him with the functions of his real heart taken over by an artificial one, planned to walk from John O’Groats to Lands End to raise money for the charity, and to show how fit he was. I was to give him his first microlight flight.

Nikki was happy to allow me to associate her charity with my flight, essentially to raise its public profile rather than as a direct fund-raiser. I had no experience of raising money for charity through adventures, and we could not think of a way to do more than get publicity.

I started planning the flights in detail in early 2001, first the Coney Run and then the Atlantic. I spent as much time researching the Coney adventure as I did the Atlantic flight, and it threads through the Atlantic story. Much of February, for example, I spent in America, eight days in Washington tracking down the official reports on Coney’s 1921 flight, and ten days in his home town of Brunswick, Georgia, finding his grave and the original house he lived in, still standing. I would not have been able to take all the financial costs had it not been for the network of campanologists that I was introduced to by a girlfriend at the time, Elva Ainsworth, one of the country’s top bell-ringers.

In early March, Liam invited me to a reception at a legal firm in the City of London. He told me his brother John was an up and coming lawyer at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, a large international law firm. One reason I was invited was because of my world flight, as a “notable” pilot, and there I met a couple of American women pilots who were due to set out on an air race to Australia. At that reception I was introduced to a man who seemed central to the aviation establishment. He was called David Gleave, his card described him as chief ATC Investigator for a company called Aviation Hazard.

He was a client of Liam’s brother, which gave him great credibility, both in my eyes and in Liam’s. Gleave was very taken with the proposed Atlantic flight and volunteered his help, specifically with Canadian permissions. He seemed to know a great deal about the subject, who to speak to, the procedures to be gone through, and we welcomed his offer. He also volunteered two other jobs, to find us a large Russian aircraft called an Antonov 124 to get me and the microlight to America, and to get me permission to fly off an Antonov wing in my trike, when it is on the ground, of course, to demonstrate its flying characteristics.

From time to time over the next three months I checked with Gleave that all was well, both by e-mail and by telephone. I was assured it was, that there were no problems he was not capable of coping with, and he would let me know if there were. I met him again at the annual fly-in at Popham, full of charm and enthusiasm. It turned out that getting a lift to America by Antonov 124 just never quite happened, and nor did the wing take-off. But at least the Canadian permissions were going without a hitch.

There were two odd aspects about the flight that I feel worth recording. The first is that I now often saw Helen Dudley, the amateur actress who was then a PA in a City company, and who had been a muse on the world flight. We used to meet at her flat near Bow, or my house in Bethnal Green, for dinner. Helen had once had her stars read by my friend Stephen Lewis, a brilliant City economist whom I had known for 15 years, and trusted more than any man in the world. Fluent in both forms of Roman Latin and in Ancient Greek, Stephen had regularly led the institutional polls as best economist in the City in the 1980’s, and we had got to know each other when I was TV-am’s Financial Correspondent. Stephen had learned all the various forms of astrology in the certain belief that one cannot understand Greek or Roman (or Chinese) history without such knowledge. He thought Helen was very gifted in these airy arts – reading palms, astrology, tarot cards – in which I myself do not believe. But when a beautiful woman offers to read your Tarot cards, what do you say? One evening early in January, I picked nine tarot cards and Helen read my future. I do not claim to understand what it was all about, but they were these:

1. King of Staves – light colour, fair skin, slimly built. Likes me but is not getting involved with me. Cheers me up. Good at marketing.

2. Justice – Fairness, balance, taking the outcome as good. Fairness in a wider sense. Terrific if joint venture is to be entered. If marriage, would work. Agreement through discussion, even if I am honest and others are not, I am right.

3. Three Cups (R = Reversed) – A fun card (wedding? a child? house-warming?). Even a reverse is fun, frivolity or sex. Expected marriage. If an affair, marriage will not follow.

4. Strength – Someone ill recovers soon. Tired, down-hearted, then things will improve. I will overcome obstacles, even against pressure. Achievements and success ahead. It’s a good card for interviews. Quiet courage of the unexpected kind. Good wins over evil.

5. King of Swords (R) – Aggressive man stirs up trouble. Lawyer in opposition? Medical, professional man whom I will be against. May be evil because he cannot help it. Expect aggression, tantrums, even violence from this man.

6. Death – Never means death (except sometimes with old and sick). Means change. Current situation will change. Death of old self, new way of life. Initially unpleasant, even financial losses, a change in health, but always a chance to make good. Changes from unnecessary past rubbish to a new start.

7. Knight of Swords (R) – Tough, brave, intelligent, young man will help me soon. Assertive dark young man. Reverse is an aggressive destructive dark young man, or just active ambitious man, will come into my life. Arguments. Medical, surgical treatment soon.

8. Page of Staves – Intelligent, restless youngster shows up when I’m on a journey. Young visitors a long way off. Surprising news on the way about work and old friends, minor property matters go ahead now.

9. Six Coins (R) – Money shared out soon. May be the result of an inheritance. Too many people are draining me of energy. Also, could be in a good position to help out others.

Then Helen asked me to think of the most important question in my life this coming year, and pick a card. I thought the question was: Will I be alive at the end of it? I pulled a card called Magician. This is said to depict new opportunities, new relationship, more likely business than romance. There will soon be a chance to use existing skills, education, perhaps something in politics? Bold step, chancy element, but the card says, go ahead, have a go. Put ideas into practice, get rewarded. It presupposes self-reliance.

From time to time as this story unfolds, go back to this tarot reading.

The second oddity came from another woman, Judy Leden, a friend for twenty years ever since she came into hang-gliding, when she felt that I had steered her into becoming a great pilot. As she was at one time and simultaneously, the British, European and World Woman’s hang gliding champion, and also held, in three separate flights, the British, European and World distance record, she was undoubtedly great. In microlighting, in 1994, she and a second separate pilot, Ben Ashman, flew two microlight aircraft – each 100 kgs overweight – from London to Amman in Jordan. In the process, they raised £100,000 for a cancer fund commemorating a young Jordanian girl, Yasmin Saudi (Judy’s daughter was named Yasmin) whose death prompted the journey.

Judy’s book, Flying with Condors, was beautifully written and there was talk of it being filmed. Now married to another good pilot, Chris Dawes, and with two children, I had seen much less than usual of Judy in recent years. But she sent me a note before I left on the Atlantic flight, commenting on the feeling that sometimes comes over her when friends get into danger. Her husband had recently broken his leg hang gliding (in horrendous conditions) and Judy, who was 20 miles away, knew while it was happening that it was going on. She was already on the way to find him long before anyone else knew about the accident.

She told me that when she had last seen the great young American hang glider pilot, Chris Bulger back in 1985, she clung to him crying, as if she knew it was the last time she would see him; he was killed soon afterwards, ahead of their next rendezvous. Judy said she had these insights as a matter of form, even though she did not like them. Her 6-year old daughter, Yasmin, may have the same “gift”; Yasmin was at home when her mother took off recently into difficult conditions, and the nanny heard Yasmin say, at the exact time of take-off, “Be careful, Mummy”.

At no time during my world flight, or earlier during my Australia flight, did Judy have these feelings about me. She “knew” I was going to be all right. She told me that so far she had not had these feelings about my Atlantic Flight. It was a question of, so far, so good. I was not sure I wanted to know if Judy ever did get these feelings.

There was little risk attached to Coney, but much more to the Atlantic flight. Was I capable of doing it? I had been “on the road” for 121 days on the flight around the world, but never been more than 10 hours in the air on any one day. This is a lot of hours, especially as there is no automatic pilot and all the flying is “live”, but it was still less than a third of what I was planning in repeating Alcock and Brown’s flight. My normal daily diet on the world flight had been simple; eat and drink as little as possible in the morning so as not to want to go to the toilet in the air, chew gum all day, and in the evening eat and drink as much as I could.

Dr Carl Hallam, the BMAA’s doctor and a Blade 912 Flyer, was a former Royal Marine with experience of work in the Arctic. He suggested a number of precautions I must take:

” I am not an expert in the academic sense, although having worked for three winters in the Arctic, I am very conscious of the practical problems. I suppose that it is fair to say that if all goes well with electric clothing, that you will probably not get cold at all throughout your flight. However, at the expense of being tedious I would like to outline the mechanisms by which we generate heat and keep warm as this knowledge will make the experts advice more understandable.

We need fuel, but have no reliable fuel gauge, so P.P.P.P.P.P. is our only reliable safeguard (Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance).

To generate heat, all our food is ultimately broken down in our bodies into glucose, our actual fuel. When we move our muscles, we metabolise the glucose, carried in our bloodstream from our gut. This produces carbon dioxide and water with the release of energy, which actually makes the muscle contract and heat, which keeps us at 37C. We blow off the carbon dioxide in our expired air. The blood, acting like a central heating system carries the heat from the muscles to the rest of the body. The bigger the muscles, the more heat they generate; digging the garden or running on a hot day makes us very hot. Standing motionless on a very cold day will make us even more cold. Therefore moving the large muscles like legs and arms will be your only source of heat if other systems fail. I am anxious that you will not be able to do this, strapped into your Blade.

This whole process can only continue provided there is a sufficient supply of fuel. We are not talking about huge quantities here. Our daily ration pack in the Arctic provided 5,500 Calories in two meals which enabled us to ski with large packs both uphill and downhill, as well as keeping warm. These activities at minus 20C or less in fact made us very hot.

Various parts of the body can function below 37C, hands and feet for instance, but the brain has a very narrow temperature tolerance, and must be kept at or near 37C to function normally. Below this, one becomes progressively confused and ultimately unconscious.

The problem is the lack of a fuel gauge to give us an “at a glance” estimation of our nutritional state.

Bearing in mind the ‘reward’ aspect of eating, all you need do is literally fill a bag of all your favourite treats and munch your way across the Atlantic. This way you will undoubtedly consume sufficient calories and your spirits will be far higher than if you were sucking some awful sweet and sticky fluid through a tube. You MUST of course actually eat your goodies and not be so British that you arrive in Shannon with them still all wrapped up in the bag.

You will need at least two litres of fluid, either plain water or two litres of the rehydration mixture correctly made up that I gave you.

As for Heat Loss, at every breath we take in about 1 litre of air at say, 0 – 5C at night. We breathe the same air out at 37C. We have to heat every litre of air to 37C in order to exchange gasses in our lungs. That means, unfortunately, that however well insulated you are in trendy Goretex nicks, socks, Long Johns etc. we cannot prevent the heat loss of respiration. You can see the links that exist between heat gain and heat loss and the crucial role that fuel plays in keeping us warm..”

It is as well Carl Hallam did not consider the diet of Alcock and Brown on the original 1919 flight, with Alcock in particular partial to swigging whisky to keep himself warm in the air. I decided I needed to know more about the two principal ghosts I was going to race against, and the third, Charles Lindbergh, under whose flight-path I was going to travel.

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