* T H E * A T L A N T I C * E X P E D I T I O N *
Ferry pilots warned him
about flying against the prevailing winds. The four and a half year long preparations
were spiked by sheer unbearable setbacks and multiple delays, and the Danes
steadfastly refused him permission to fly through their air-space. But in the
end, determination prevailed and Eppo
Harbrink Numan did become the first pilot in history to fly the
“In retrospect; this seemingly for ever drawn out period of preparations represented THE most antagonising period of my entire life. It is now 2007, and I still feel that way. Not me or anybody else could have survived that kind of mental and physical onslaught for a second time. It was utter idiocy to be on the brink of total exhaustion eight out of ten days for this long a period!”
Numan, at the time a
cross-border and nation-wide renowned and esteemed restauranteur from
Quite a feat? You bet!
Was he crazy to attempt such a flight? No, but this is a story about deter-mination, a story about triumph over some serious obstacles. Numan (EAA 73.82.72) was first introduced to ultralight aircraft while attending a boat show in 1982. He’d gone to the exhibition looking for a new windsurfing board. When he saw a Hangglider with a motorized trike hanging from the ceiling of the exhibition hall, and another one, its wing folded on one of these French ‘Deux Chevaux’ cars, and its trike on the back-fender. Any mans childhood dream come true! Wow, a foldable aeroplane on top of a car, ready for flight in 15 minutes.
Who on earth can resist that?
The sight rekindled an aviation
interest he had been harbouring since taking flight training at age 24. Numan
admits to spending the rest of the day harassing the folks at the booth with
one question after the other. When at the end of the day Graham Slater walked into the booth, the next
unfortunate chap to be cross examined by Numan, who directed him to Chris Draper of Medway Microlights. It wasn’t long after the
show before he made his way to the Medway flying school in
Maiden flight of the
Atlantic machine at Lelystad airfield
Learning to fly the ultralight provided an interesting experience for Numan and his instructor, especially his first attempt as pilot in command in a two-place ultralight, his instructor Chris Draper arms proudly folded in the back-seat kept yelling on final: ‘you can do it, you can do it’. Numan kept yelling back: ‘I can’t, I can’t, it’s been a year since I had my first, and but three hour’s of tuition. But Draper was adamant Numan could land without any further help or hints on his part. All Numan remembered from last years instruction, upon landing flare out the control bar all the way forward, which he did way too soon in one vigorous push. Numan also remembered if ones approach is off the mark go full throttle for another attempt. Which he also did!
The craft landed with a horrendous thud and instantaneously made a 60 foot uncontrolled jump. Numan had indeed remembered the full-throttle part, which sent them tumbling end over end upon its final landing, which literally found him and his instructor hanging upside down in the ultralight. Chris and Numan now tightly folded and unable to unbuckle their safety straps, yelling out at a farmer working the neighbouring field for help, who instantly came running to free them. Fuel had started to trickle over the craft and their clothes. After waiting three more weeks in vain for favourable weather Numan had to go back to run his business and take care of his three children.
Learning to fly was temporarily
put on the back burner. Eventually, with the further instruction of Daniel Vatinel at the Pizay airfield 40 kilometres
north of Lyon in
Daniel told Numan, ‘you be here tomorrow morning at first light’. Daniel being somewhat of a jack of all trades had welded the nose fork. And as if Numan had never done anything but fly, performed, grinning like the happiest of monkeys, one perfect landing after the other. At last, solo flying! What an overwhelming feeling and revelation that was. Like a tiny puppet Daniel stood at the end of the runway, cheering and egging me on at every take-off and touch down. I never wanted to stop. Me rookie, the all-time addict of the third dimension’
So, for a guy who tumbled a
Weightshift ultralight end over end the first time he tried, Eppo Harbrink
Numan has come a long way, literally and figuratively. While vacationing on the
What a wake up call!
Our Earth was even far more impressive and pristine from the air than it was travelling on the ground. I decided right then and there: ‘this is how I want to live! This is how I want to be enthralled every day for the rest of my life! I’ll become the roaming Gipsy of the international skies’. I wanted to do nothing but fly! Gobble-up the whole world in this manner. Strap a tent and a sleeping bag onto my single-seat trike, and go! Up, down, left, right, the ravishing landscapes of the planet were to be mine for ever.
“Which is exactly what I should have done”.
Make some minor changes to my machine, pack my gear and just go! Forget about the ego, forget about wanting to be ‘The first one ever to fly around the world’. ‘That was the part that got me, and in the end killed the beauty of it!’ So I stayed on my post, taking care of my business and the three children who I was raising by myself! Because as soon as I started to let people in on my plans, they started to plan it for me, at least they tried. They somehow managed to influence me to such an extend, that little by little I started to listen to them’.
‘Twelve pieces of silver?’
Ah, but you’ll need a sponsor! - “What sponsor?” - “My restaurant not make enough money? It, shoot, sure, shoot did!” – But Eppo, you’ll also need a PR agency! “Was my own mouth and intelligence not big enough to stir things up? Needed they to be? Couldn‘t I just quietly roam the world and pillage the skies?” No, no, no you’ll need a TV station backing the story otherwise, no company will sponsor you!
“I must have been stark raving blind, add nuts to that!”
I landed and later on that day (1983) told my sons, ‘hey, I’m going to fly this thing around the world.’ They first looked at each other and then at me, mouths gaping in disbelief. But I was too excited about the idea. I said to them, ‘hurry get into the van, we’re going to the bookstore to buy a map.’ I wanted to start figuring out if it could be done if you loaded the machine with enough fuel. I bought one of those tiny breast-pocket diaries with a map of the world hidden in the back and spent hours measuring distances with the tip of a nail file.
Conclusion, it could be done!
That same evening I sat silently beside the campfire, glowing on the outside, my meandering thoughts glowing on the inside. “Dad, anything the matter, you’re so silent?” ‘From that point on I was fixated on hopping around the world in my trike.’
on the parking lot of La Brachella just south of Propriano. Hop over
the fence and swim in the
When I returned to
Where had the free tramping Gipsy of the skies gone? Not into thin air, neither in the air, that was for sure! At least not yet!
Numan spent a couple of years
gathering materials for the flight, trying out different wings, etc. By early
1984 he thought he had pretty well outfitted the machine he’d use to make the
flight around the world. On vacation again in
‘Flying on a fixed throttle setting, with one half of my propeller gone the engine instantaneously went crazy, going way up in revs, the sudden extra torque yanked the control bar out my hands and in a split second the trike moved side-ways above the horizon, the trikes hang-point considerably below my left shoulder. I grabbed the control bar back into my hands and kept pulling and pulling, with my two feet pushing like crazy on the foot supports for extra leverage. For two years the tendons in both my legs were sore from the extreme effort. The ultralight first began to spiral, then spiral in ever more tighter turns, the last 180 feet the machine dived straight into the sea at about 1500 meters out the coast.’ The waiter a the local pizza place right on the beach of Campomoro, saw it all happen, yanked his hand away under a tray with six Coca Cola’s which splattered all over his guests, ran to his zodiac, started it up, and was going full speed on the water even before Numan hit the water. Quite a feat! Took a far away sighting on a house across the bay where he saw Numan splash into the water. ‘Was I happy to see his familiar face.’
‘My passenger asked what do we do with the helmets? ” Me: ‘Chuck em’ He, what ‘ll we do now? Me: ‘We’ll swim to shore’.
Numan was severely bleeding from his head wounds, sharks not being unfamiliar in these water, whilst taking off his pants and other clothes, they would have to swim about a mile to shore. All of a suddenly there were more zodiacs, 6 or 7, one being a fisherman with a doctor on board. It was another 5.13 miles to the helicopter who awaited Numan on the dock-side of Propriano. The fisherman constantly went full-throttle, the dinghy slammed onto the waves, which hurt like crazy on Numan’s back, every time the doctor told the fisherman to slow down, but every time the fisherman took a look at Numan profusely bleeding, then he went full-throttle again.
The helicopter crew had taken the
door out because they were told they had to pick Numan out off the sea. It was
another 20 miles to the hospital in
Oh, how sure one is at such a moment: ‘but my heavenly Lord, this can’t be true, thee knowest as well as I do it’s not my time yet, I still have to become an enlightened-one and save at least half of mankind’. No way José, thou art about to kick the proverbial bucket, and he was going to save the other half of mankind for me, rest thee assured and in peace my son!
Amazingly, both Numan and his
passenger survived, but Numan suffered from a severe concussion, broken nose,
two broken ribs, a broken eye socket, a broken vertebrae and numerous cuts and
bruises. After four days of dreadful, unprofessional and unfriendly treatment
at the local hospital in
Too often the standard answer in
“Good morning you lot, tea or coffee?”
‘I was severely concussed, had a splitting head ache and was not particularly over the moon having just lost my brand-new machine. I had been awake most of the night, and covered my head with the blankets to protect my eyes from the glaring hospital lights. They were yanked away, and I was yelled at; “you, tea or coffee?” I grabbed back the tip of the blanket and covered my head once more. Yelling in my ear: ‘OK suit your self’
Well, well, well, was this standard practice? Treat a badly injured patient in such a rude manner? ‘I am afraid it was’. Numan being a veggie, was during the entire weekend refused any kind of vegetarian food, something like an apple or some vegetables. Same patented ‘ah non’ word. As far as they were concerned he could damm well go shake hands with Old Nick. So for three days he ate nothing but French bread and boiled potatoes. ‘My back was aching like crazy and NO ONE of the entire hospital staff, upon my urgent and repeated requests even wanted to check it, take an X-ray of it, or, for crying out loud, at least take a short peek at it.
Nope, not interested!
I was absolutely flabbergasted,this was medieval-like treatment. To what kind of place had this helicopter crew taken me. A young female visitor to the patient in the adjoining bed bought me some Tiger Balm, which she kindly, ever so gently, rubbed on my back, (thank heaven for kind women) it had haematomata the size of a large pizza.
‘Speaking of which’
‘In the end I got so frustrated, and like a true member of the Roman Senate I wrapped a sheet around my naked body and shuffled, tiny step by tiny step out of the hospital. Get this; ‘no one even saw me leave!’ What a sublime dress-rehearsal, ‘Caesar’ shuffling off into the indigo of the Corsican night, going over the lines he would orate once back in the Senate if ever he got that far, inching his way down the hill to a local pizzeria. The left side of Numan’s head looked like a purple water melon that had won a prize on a local farmers contest. So to speak, hospital escapee Numan had a prize on his head. ‘Mind you, the one half of my face was swollen to such an extend that it was larger that the rest of my head.’ A nerve in my cheek had been severed, thus the prize winning melon hung like a sick pear on a drunk tree.
‘Romans and country folk, if I could please order a pizza?’
‘Sure, the proprietor took one good look at me, and stammered, on one condition M’sieur, I was to please eat it outside’. What can one do? What can one say looking like that. At the side of a winding road sat on a low brick wall, a full fledged member of the Roman senate, pizza folded in half, eating to his hearts content. ‘All the cars passing me, in which headlights I doomed up, stepped on their breaks to take a peek. It killed me to laugh, shear hot knife poking agony, but I just had to. To the next one that stepped on the brake, I shouted; ‘you too Brutus’.
This was fun!’ Ouch, Ouch, OOOOUCH!
When my daughter Lucinda, bless her heart, finally brought me some money, fresh pants and a blouse, after she was gone I needed some help to put the leg of the pants over my feet. In no way could I bend my back or lift a leg into my pants. The nurse, sitting three feet opposite me in the windowsill, just nonchalantly stared at my naked and unsuccessful efforts. I kindly asked if she could please help me put them on. Well now, nurses do see and have seen willies before! Don’t they? Arrogantly the wee Hexen got up, turned her nose in the air and walked off! Christ, I hadn’t asked her for that kind of help, not particularly in the mood, not particularly my type either! About a week later, Numan’s regular physician in Propriano the kind Mr. Francois Quilichini took a serious look at his back, took him half an hour. He did not trust what he felt and directed Numan to a friendly and professional private clinic, where it was discovered that Numan had also suffered a broken verte-bra and broken eye socket during that accident. ‘They literally took 80 X-rays at no charge. The radiologist happened to be a pilot too, remembered me from the local airfield. It was the chief Surgeon of the clinic who told Numan about the broken eye socket and vertebra’.
‘Yummy, heaven came back to earth! A large private office, and me leisurely sinking into a comfortable reclining leather armchair, the wounded and acing body drinking in the refreshing air from a dead silent airco, and a top of the bill chief Surgeon, beaming at me with his friendly smiles’ The icing on the cake? A darn, not to be rudely whistled at, pretty nurse walking in, after she had politely knocked on the door first, with a jubilee voice asking, if M’sieur cared for a drink?
“And thee shall not wanton!” ‘Guess not!’
‘First time since the accident I got treated with understanding and respect, and free of charge!’ Nine days after the accident, wanting to see if I still had the courage to fly again, I strapped myself into my other machine, my original single-seat, propped a big pillow behind my aching back and headed out over the sea, hoping I might be able to spot my two-place ultralight and start a rescue mission for the machine I wanted to fly across the Atlantic with. But that was not to be; the machine was now settled in water 240 feet deep.
is the ultralight I crashed with in the
The next 15 months were an
extremely difficult period, as he experienced many sleepless nights because of
serious medical and personal problems with two of the three children. Almost
fully recovered, Numan was vacationing with his eldest daughter in August of
‘85 when he was again filled with the spirit to carry on with his flight. He
recalls saying, “Hey, remember that crazy idea of my flight? I’m going to get a
new wing and a new trike and in the summer of ‘86, I’m going to fly the
GETTING STARTED FOR THE ATLANTIC CROSSING
From the start, Numan’s idea to
When preparations for the flight were not completed in time to depart in 1986, Numan continued working full time on various aspects of the project, often putting in 16-hour days and more than once falling asleep with tools in his hands. Putting in many hours of survival training as well. - In the spring of ‘87, Ralph Sonnenberg CEO of HUNTER DOUGLAS suggested that Numan take time to rest and visit some of the major air shows around the world and announce his intended flight, thus he packed his machine up and transported it to the Paris Air Show, the Dayton Ohio Air Show and EAA Oshkosh ’87 Convention. Along the way, Numan made numerous friends as well as some sceptics.
‘At the Paris Air Show in 1987, together
with his two assistants, Murielle Landberg and Rozemarijn Janssen most people thought the flight
was impossible because of the deformation and increased size of
Flight control at the Paris Airshow, hearing about Numan’s future
Atlantic plans granted
him the honour to be the first pilot, every morning and afternoon to open the
flying display of its Airshow. Once he got banned for flying 30 seconds to
long! - At EAA
Planning to overfly
Ah what the heck, and floored the throttle . . . !
‘I had to, either travel at full speed and crash into the trees at the end of
the road or make a sharp right turn going down hill. I had no brakes on the
machine so neither was an option. In a flash I decided to make a sharp right
turn into the field next to the road and hope for the best. The overgrown ditch
did the rest! Shoot! - On a muddy wheel
barrel, like a limp dead swan, my wing and trike were wheeled back to the farm.
Both were kindly transported back to
I HAD ENOUGH, MORE THAN, FOUR AND A HALF YEARS OF ENOUGH”
In a fit of total frustration I yelled at a Canadian friend, Dennis Darrach, at the time a personal assistant in the project.
“I am going!”
Eppo, how do you mean you’re going, you’ve got no money! “Yes I do”, making a 360, pointing at each and every one of the antiques filling my living room. I’ll sell them all. I thought his face would fall off. Within a week I had sold it all, way below its current value, to a neighbouring antique dealer. That hurt! Finally some cash to finish the last bits of necessary work on my trike and other preparations.
DEPARTURING, AT LAST
One day before departure my ADF still wasn’t working properly, what ever my electronics expert Ahrend Wijnrijg tried. How to get across the pond without an ADF? ‘Anyway, I had decided to go and that was final’ - On June 16, 1989, Numan arrived at Rotterdam’s Ziestienhoven-Airfield to finally begin what had now become a flight dedicated to environmental issues, including preserving the Stein Valley in British Columbia from logging and delivering an article for the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Of course, setting an aviation record held a certain amount of intrigue as well.)
At local time, after several hours of arguing with
airport police about having the proper permissions to depart, Numan headed out
along the coast to cross the
‘You’re not going, you don’t have the required special permission.’
“How do you mean I’m not going?” I was shocked beyond belief, because the airport’s public relations manager Mr. Wondelek had assured me he had secured all the necessary permissions. Had, on his own account, phoned to tell me so! Had, even invited me to a big airport personnel party the night before my departure. “I’ll introduce you and your project to the entire airport staff, and make sure they all come and wave you off!” Numan sat and waited, and waited. In the end, around 1.30, still not being introduced became so painful and embarrassing to some of the pilots sitting on his table, that one got up walked over to Mr. Wondelek and said; “hey you have not yet introduced Eppo Numan and his record flight yet, shouldn’t you do so now?”
The man never did.
‘What a horrible waste of my time, time I should have spent sleeping like a log. The last three months before departure had been killing, the last four years had been killing, I could have used all the sleep I could get.
“What a wnkrrr”
‘I could argue all I liked, the airport police would not let me depart and that was final. In the end the good man, because I kept staring him down and wouldn’t budge from his office, phoned the Dutch Aviation Authorities and handed me the phone, the official on the other end, whom I’d but called about once a year during the last four years, first let go of an extremely rude Dutch swear word and then replied:
‘We . . ($#$*&*^%) . . have had about enough of your project’
Numan: “Needless to say, I was emotionally
upset and besides myself in anger. In all earnest I contemplated right there
and then to dismantle my machine, drive the short distance to
Don’t we all, just love our bureaucrats? Name me a country where they don’t!
When ready to roll off the platform for the runway, thank God Numan’s friend Ben Pupping risked his fingers by yanking the fuel funnel off the tiny luggage carrier just in front of Numan’s propeller, which some inattentive mechanic had left there. Had it gone through the prop, he’d have to drive all the way back home for the spare.
The temperature had now risen to
such a degree that he might expect severe turbulence on his way to the Dutch
coast. Thank God he had but a third of the normal amount of fuel on board, for
10 minutes into his epic flight, flying over the
After a three hour flight Numan
Landed at Lydd airport
Having crossed the
Departing from Medway Microlights Stoke airstrip runway 06 - since we were still in the middle of a heat wave I decided to taxi all the way to the far end of the field, line up and go full power. Mind you, at the time, a grass runway of 2.530 feet, I rolled and rolled and rolled, but nothing happened, like that late afternoon I the US, my machine just did not want to take-off, still too hot! At such a moment one keeps believing that at any moment ones machine is going to take-off. Nope, nothing! I must have been going over 63 miles an hour (100km.) When to abort?
How about right now!
Snaking to Numan’s right all along the field was a ten foot dyke making a sharp turn to the left at the end of the field. Not having any brakes on his trike! “I was convinced I was going to smash into the dyke at the end of the field. The only way by which I managed to stop my machine was to steer sharp to the right followed by a sharp turn to the left, at each turn lifting one hind wheel as high as I could just before tipping over side ways”. Barely a few yards in front of the dyke Numan managed to stop his trike. It got him an applause though! - In the evening when the temperature had somewhat dropped, he tried again. As a safety precaution Chris Draper and one of his factory workers lined up half way the field, at the ready to dive for the side-wires of Numan’s wing in case the same thing were to happen again.
Unusual radio traffic!
Having taken off this late in the day, Numan aimed to make it to Simon Baker’s flying club at Hinton in the Hedges. ‘It got darker and darker, so I got lost. ‘Mumbling to myself, if I do not see an airfield soon I’ll put her in a farmers field and camp outside. Then, within minutes, right in front of me doomed the familiar cross of concrete runway, Worminghall airfield otherwise known as RAF Oakley. As of that moment some really weird radio traffic went on. Numan, believing he was in radio contact with RAF Oakley, an abandoned airfield with large blocks of concrete on the runways to stop people from landing there he was in reality in radio contact with Wescott airfield at the time a secret rocket facility or something of the kind, 5.75 miles apart from each other.
“Sir you can’t land here”
Numan: ‘its getting pitch dark and I am declaring an emergency, I just about have your airfield in sight’
“Sir, we do not have YOU in sight and YOU still cannot land here”
Numan: ‘I’m on final’
“Sir, we still do not have you in sight and you are strictly forbidden to land here”
Numan: I am on short final’ and that’s final’
“Sir we DO NOT have you in sight and you WILL be arrested if you land here’
Numan: ‘this IS an emergency, and I have just landed on your field now’
Nothing, a pitch dark spooky weird place for an airfield, no control tower to be seen, no other facilities, no nothing, no MI-5 to handcuff Numan, no interrogations in a UK dungeon, no lights, no sirens. ‘I remember sitting in my craft staring into the dark, what now. I was inclined to camp right there in the grass, when a Police car drove on to the runway.
‘Here comes the arresting team I remember thinking’
The Bobby explained to me what had happened. ‘Happens all the time sir’. He helped me park and tie my craft behind one of these huge lumps of concrete, and drove me to an affordable Bed & breakfast. I was to phone him the next morning, he would then drive me back to the airfield. And for his own private safety reasons, made me take-off from the grass, waving me goodbye!
Landing early in Hinton in the Hedges, I was exited about seeing Simon Baker, after all it was as a quest in my house, and in my bed that he and his wife had made their first baby, aha, aha! So now you know. ‘Whilst having a drink at the flying club counter, I told Simon about the ridiculous small amount of cash I had departed with and my misfortune at the Stoke airfield, he immediately reached under the counter got out the club’s cash-box, emptied it, and handed me 100 UK pounds! “Here you go” ‘Christ Simon you can’t do that, putting your hands in the till on my behalf’ Mumbling something of the sort. His reply?
“He was to be the judge of that, and yes he could”
That surely was welcome cash. That
same evening he and his wife took me to dinner. Dear Simon from these pages:
THANKS A MILLION that was one hell of a grand gesture you made! Any time you
need a bed to make another baby! Be my guest!” - Leaving Hinton in the Hedges
extremely early because of the hot weather, intending, as the crow flies, a 473
miles non stop flight to Stornoway
‘I could no longer control my
machine this was turning into a fight for dear life’. I had minutes ago passed
an impressive looking runway to my left (Liverpool John Lennon International). Which alas, was not on my roller map. I radioed
‘I was getting to the point of sheer exhaustion’
Finally the Cessna took off, in the meantime the Liverpool airport was in such a state of alarm, they decided to send two of these humongous yellow fire trucks to the side of the runway, in case the undersigned was going to crash and set the Northern part of the UK on fire. ‘The water spouts mounted on their roofs looked bigger to me than the Big Bertha guns from the First World War’ - After touching down on runway 27, honest to God here comes along a small yellow car with on top a huge flashing “FOLLOW ME” sign. It made me feel damn important, I followed it all the way to the terminal, where a crowd had gathered in front of on the first floor window cheering and waving. I hadn’t got a clue as to why’. Later I heard from two airplane spotters, that at the moment of my touch down the airport loudspeakers had announced,
“Landing now from London Heathrow BAA number such and such . . .”
All the passengers in the
cafeteria saw arriving was Numan’s tiny microlight. So they all had had a good
laugh. Mick Scrivens was so kind as to put
Numan up during his stay in
For agonising it was!
‘One day Stuart Elliot introduced me at the weekly Stornoway Rotary lunch, halfway through, the Gentleman sitting to my left, ND Mcleod, who casually uttered, “how much would it take to sponsor you?” ‘Mind you, by now I had hardly any money left at all, word must have gotten out. “Gosh sir, I have no idea, I muttered”
Would three thousand
I wasn’t accustomed to people
offering me such large sums of money. Decline?Take
him up on it? I felt embarrassed and overjoyed at the same time. That same week
the two of us were splashed all over the front page of the local newspaper,
both holding on to a cheque of 3000
‘My ever lasting gratitude, ND Mcleod you helped a historic flight come true!
Twice a day Numan went to see the
gentlemen of the MET office, driving them bonkers with all his, third degree or
else meteorological questioning. ‘One does get into an awkward state of
unreasonable urgency, once in the middle of such an undertaking. Sorry chaps
for the harassment!’ Unfortunately weather would detain him there for almost
four weeks. ‘After four weeks of delays, I was getting quite antsy about
staying in Stornoway any longer. I was quickly losing the good weather time for
So on my supposed last night in
Stornoway I slept on a mattress on the floor of the weather office. I wanted to
be sure the weather system we’d been following was going to hold. We’d followed
similar systems seven times previously, and none provided the weather I needed.
“When I awoke in the morning, the local weatherman said it looked good, but the
Somehow I trusted him, I had a better feeling about that man. And it turns out he was right. The day was one of the most beautiful weather days the Faeroes region experienced that summer, and the storm front passed over the islands at ”
Throughout his trip, Numan found
that once his nose wheel lifted off the runway, all his sheer unbearable
nervousness vaporized, distractions and disruptions were left behind as
none-existent. Cool as a cucumber I checked the oil pressure, the oil temperature,
and the cylinder head temperature, made a slow pass over the waving people at
the airfield, namely ND Mcleod and the local press, jovially waved back,
checked the compass and go, no time for nerves or anxiety. - I had a job to do,
fly the first leg across the
‘I soon learned to distinguish the significant difference between; uncontrollable nervousness, which usually started about half an hour before take-off, or deadly fear in the air, a hair-width away from an uncontrollable panic. A person in panic will just about do anything to end it, however foolish!
Like a self-assured busy-body general, ordering everybody from left to right, including myself. And oops, snap-crackle–pop like lightning out of a popcorn bag being struck with the worst nervousness I ever experienced. Had anybody asked me on the ground are you frightened, the answer would have been absolutely not. On the other hand being nervous? Hell yes! Before each and every take-off I was as skittish as a kite in a November storm? Had you asked me; “want to come and see tonight’s heck of a feature film, I would have gladly obliged, anything, so as to not feel these horrible rampaging nerves’.
“The uncertainty of maybe not making the next leg, to see four and a half years of agonising preparations gone down the drain. Fear for my life, no! In severe turbulence, yes, scared shitless! In those instances I usually could no longer control my machine. ‘A humble word of advice, never ever let your fear grow into panic, as of that moment, it may irresistibly urge you into taking life-threatening decisions. It always seemed that once my nosewheel lifted off the runway, it was just me and my machine, and the machine doesn’t know if it’s flying over pleasant meadows or icy water. It comes down to if the machine flies, all you have to do is turn the knob in your head that says you can do it. I frequently had doubts and fears, but you can only do it by believing you can do it.”
The leg from Stornoway, Scotland
to the Faeroe Islands, which was a first ever flight for an ultralight, was
also the first time Numan employed the use of his Loran unit on this flight.
“I’d given myself a deadline of 3 hours and 45 minutes for the Loran to start
registering a master and secondary station. The Loran-C brochure had claimed it
would work over an extremely large area, from the north of
So much for misleading hyped up sale stalk and strategy.
On the ground at Stornoway
airfield the Loran-C did NOT work. I figured if I couldn’t pick up a signal
within that time, I would return to Stornoway. At 3 hours and 15 minutes, I
started getting jumpy, but within 15 minutes I started picking up a weak
signal. I was flying at about 400 feet over the sea because of winds at higher
altitudes. About 20 minutes after the Loran started reacting; I noticed a cloud
on the horizon with a very sharp edge and remember thinking, that’s a weird
looking cloud.’ About 15 minutes later I realized it was the cliffs of the
‘Mon cher Eppo, tu est devenue un bon’
What Numan did not know, Yves Berger immediately grabbed the phone, and lured another Frenchman into chasing Numan to snatch the Atlantic record before him, whereupon the man jumped in his Mistral ultralight in a wild chase of Numan. Mind you, without any proper mechanical preparation plus a few faulty working instruments as well. However the man proved to be a highly trained and experienced pilot! Then why did he behave in such an irresponsible manner?
‘A chauvinistic nitwit? Maybe!
“Ok listen, to me love and pride
of ones country is fine, but a blind selfish happy-go-lucky chauvinism, one
that is willing to trample anything that comes in its way on the road to
personal or national fame, that kind of arrogant chauvinism I wholeheartedly
despise, and it could possibly be one of the reasons why so many Nations
harbour a dislike for the French. Having said that! Of course I know many, many
highly pleasant to be with Frenchman, I love lots of them, but the overall tendency?
Don’t get me talking! I stand corrected, please do! The sheer arrogant
insolence I have encountered during my many, many lengthy stays in
THE FLIGHT FROM THE FAEROES TO
Following his lengthy stay at Stornoway,
Eppo’s optimism about his flight received a needed boost when he was able to depart
Vagar Airfield after just five days. “After the frustration of waiting four
weeks in Stornoway for the weather, and then being able to depart from the
Faeroes after only five days it felt like I was there for only an hour. The
weather forecast had been such, that I would make it
Wait some more, or chance it?
I decided to go, however, much sooner than
expected, the layer of cloud got so low, it was squeezing me to the deck. I
just had to, for the first time ever, fly in cloud, not knowing how long that
would last. When finally I got through, I once more was squeezed in
between another narrowing layer of cloud. In the end I had to pass through four
of such layers before hitting blue skies. At one time I became sloppy in
watching my Turn & Bank indicator by being overly concentrated on my
I felt an awkward sensation in my butt, the
needle of the Turn & Bank indicator stood about dead vertical, and my air
speed indicator read 85 knots. Ouch! Caught out in a steep, dive bomber-like,
manoeuvre in cloud! Nice, very nice!
Landing at Egilsstadir on the East coast of
The absolute joy which
Numan experienced in Egilsstadir was soon to be replaced by utter frustration
after landing in
“He you, you flying to
“Upon landing, Icelandic radio and TV were there and lots of people were standing around. Off to the side I noticed this neatly dressed gentleman standing, waiting. After all hoopla of the press was over he walked up to me, handed me a piece of paper and said”
‘Will you sign this please?’
I looked at it and said,
why do I need to sign this, what is it? It turned out to be a telefax sent from
the Danish Civil Aviation Authorities. It read, ‘Eppo Harbrink Numan is not
granted permission to fly over
had been planning a flight from
One morning this retched Frog comes strolling over to the hanger where I was doing some work on my craft. Annoyed Numan pointed out to him: “Look, see I am flying under a French registration, secondly I am representing a ‘Good Cause’ concerning the restoration and protection of our natural world, it hopefully becoming a Human Right implemented by the UN, being an initiative of a fellow country man of yours Jean Carlier, as well as asking Lafitte what’s the big rush?’
“Ah, this record is not at all that important to me, actually I’m in a
hurry to get it over with, for I intended to participate in an ultralight rally
Wow, a snob as well?
“Numan, having worked on this flight continuously for four and a half years, wasn’t too thrilled about a Frenchman completing the flight before him, especially since Numan’s machine was flying under a French registration F 28 AO, especially Lafitte flying in a more sophisticated machine, especially Numan having departed 55 days before Lafitte did. No way, could my Hangglider ultralight compete with his”.
Most pilots would consider Lafitte’s
behaviour unsportsmanlike. One simply does not
undertake the same record attempt whilst a fellow pilot is struggling right in
the middle of it! In the end, when the International press got wind of Numan
being refused to overfly
“Of course, I kept contacting and
re-contacting the officials in
For, it contains photos of my flight from
Stornoway and your
No, the official said, he would not hand the roll of film back to Numan ever!
“In that case sir, I
will not hand you my roll of film”
and walked out! Had the man as much said ‘please’, I would have maybe let him nave the film. Months
later, in the Loftleidir Hotel’s restaurant in
Odd, to say the least!
Anyway, I wasn’t about to take no for an
answer,’ Numan says, they picked absolutely the wrong guy to go sparring with.
Having flown the North Sea and the
Brigit Bardot strapped in negligee to my wing tip? I’d comply! Fly backwards whilst knitting them a pair of socks? I’d comply! Fly on filtered hedgehog’s piss? I’d comply! No chance in hell they could refuse me now. The Danish officials agreed to look into it once more, put on their thinking caps and came back with the following list of requirements they wanted me to comply to, outlining a scenario under which they would definitely allow me and Lafitte to continue. It being a method I had many times before used to my great advantage! However don’t ever push your luck.
- One twin engine chase plane
- One pilot
- One co-pilot
- Search and Rescue insurance up to $ 1.000.000
- One Direction Finder in the chase plane (none to be found in Iceland)
- An HF radio in the chase
plane (none to be found in
of permission to continue the flight over
“For heavens sake, what
had flying in the
“Still, I would have given anything to give those bureaucrats the slip!”
One morning early Lafitte was gone, mind you
he had NOT YET complied to any of the Danish
requirements. At that moment he had no: chase
plane, no HF, no Direction finder, no permission from the
“Irresponsible sir, and under my breath, the bloody fool”
In the mean time, Lafitte managed to borrow a
lump sum of money in France, and was able to meet the Danish conditions just
before Numan and one morning early he continued on his flight, much to Numan’s
dismay. Also to the dismay of Lafitte’s Icelandic chase plane pilot, Lafitte
refused to listen to the directions he was given to descend through a large gap
in the clouds, so as to locate the Kulusuk airfield below. When after six hours
of flying up and down the coast he was unable to locate Kulusuk, he ran out of
fuel, and was forced to deploy his ballistic parachute over a small island just
out of the coast of
FOR YOUR INFORMATION - André Georges Lafitte,
apparently having absolutely no qualms about going through life as an imposter,
claims till this very day to have been the first pilot to have crossed the
Interested in some first hand and gingerly applied ‘Logique Française’ as to how he believes he can claim to have flown the Atlantic first? Let me enlighten you;
“. . . one could, or one could possibly consider, if maybe if, or
if one were to assume that, bla, bla, bla, the
“Come on let’s have it, end where?”
Aaaaaah now I get ye, let’s apply the Latin solution to the problem, let’s be creative and, oops shorten the width of the Atlantic a bit and make it stop at the east coast of Greenland. Bingo, bongo, what an interesting Geographical revelation, and how convenient to ones laurels and cabinet of medals. I must without delay inform the chaps at The National Geographic Society about this, for heaven forbid they aren’t aware of this. Which I did, but that’s another story in its entirety.
‘Send out a survey party?’
There’s even another
Frenchman (Guy Delage) also claiming to have been the first pilot to fly the
“. . . . French have a mould of sorts?”
One year later, Guy Delage flew in a flexwing ultralight
from Africa to
Still one year later, André George Lafitte did fly the
Atlantic with but one stop-over at the
The Frenchmen’s crash, of course, ended his flight and caused the Danes to take an even dimmer view of Numan’s flight. “Dimmer view? How do you mean dimmer view, they flat out refused to give me the waiver I was to be granted the very next day, told me the matter was now in the hands of their Ministry of Naval affairs. I had been an inch away from getting this darned waiver, but now, because of Lafitte’s crash I was back at square one. The irony of the matter being, had Lafitte NOT crashed, I would have gotten my waiver the day after, but by then he’d be so much further ahead, I’d never catch up with him.
Next Euro Song Festival:
Not that that would matter one iota in the
course of Danish history, considering the overwhelming amount of crap that festival has to offer. Panic
stricken I called my friend Erica de Wit, her words? ‘Lafitte has not made it
What a woman!
What on earth made the
Danes hand Lafitte a waiver one day before they were going to give it to Eppo
Numan? Numan had been the one who had departed first. Numan had landed in
This was outrageous!
The gloves were off. It was then, that CNN
picked up the story, Numan flat out told the interviewer the Danes had as of now
picked the wrong guy to go sparring with. And if he had to stay in
then Numan turn up the heat, as of that moment he did nothing but week in week
out, lobby via fax and telephone all day long. Day meaning, as of seven in the
morning till eleven at night, his Hotel room was littered with hundreds of
copies of the faxes he had sent, running up an astronomical phone bill. Eventually
after involving the Dutch Queen and the Dutch
minister of Defence Frits Bolkenstein, as
well as the highest levels of Danish government, and once the leading
“Mister Appo permission granted”
Thanks to my son’s fiancé Annemiek Poelman who talked her employer EQUITY &
LAW into granting me a loan on my house, I could now rent a twin
engine chase plane, equip it with a HF-radio, a Direction-Finder, get Search
and Rescue insurance and hire a co-pilot and pilot in command, the latter who would
later become the bane of the flight. By this time, however, almost six weeks of
good weather had passed overhead and I had had accumulated almost $20,000 in
phone and lodging costs at the Hotel LoftLeidir”. The HF radio, became a story
in itself, eventually I found one in
I had ordered the thing in the morning, and
the very next morning a Captain of Iceland Air knocked on my Hotel door, “here
you are sir” Jeeeeezzz, thanks man, was
all I could utter, pumping his hand. - Now that my waiver was secured, I asked
a photographer Joop Rijngoud, friend of Henk Stam to fly over to
“Ride it out, ride it out”.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, try flying my contraption,
try steering an all up weight of 990lbs for hours on end with your body leaning
all the way forward and your arms stretched out of their sockets”. Add even
minor turbulence to that, and it became killing. My machine would just not crab. Come crosswind plus minor
turbulence, it became highly dangerous to fly. The only way to solve it was by
flying huge pancake-flat circles, executed by ever so gentle half inch jerks on
my steering bar. Early into my record flight I had learned that in order to
stay on course in a crosswind coming from, say my left, I would aim my nose
almost straight into the crosswind, and little by little let it push me to the
right, whilst fighting it with the jerk-like movements on my control bar until
I had to succumb to making a huge flat circle, on, and on, and on, until
reaching my destination. My very last flight to
Half the time on such flights I was scared out of my wits in fear of loosing control altogether. Two years later it dawned on me after seeing spats with fins on the back wheels of a ‘Pegasus-Trike’ that the amount of ‘profile surface’ in front of the COG (centre of gravity) needs to equal that of the ‘profile surface’ aft of the COG, preferably a bit more ‘profile surface’ aft the COG in order to make crabbing somewhat easier. At the time no one had a cone-like fairing put on their trikes, so how was Numan to know he’d be the guinea pig for a thing, afterwards so logical and obvious as described above. Ok, his machine looked real pretty, but its far too long nose acted as a lever for the wind to push his craft way off its course, like flying a weather vane with its longest part pushed into the wind.
. . . Highly unstable!
The Centre of Gravity on Numan’s trike is at the back of the helmet of the pilot in red – clearly can be seen that the profile surface in front of the Centre of Gravity is considerable more than that of the profile-surface aft the Centre of Gravity.
Numan remembers one
In Reykjavik Numan also decided to install a Transponder by Mr. Thormunder, who in the end managed to come up with a Direction Finder, one THAT WORKED, and one that was free of charge, later into the flight that thing proved to be a definite life-saver.
After getting his waiver for Greenland Numan
sat staring out of his Hotel window waiting another month in vain for
favourable weather. During which period he somehow got wind of the fact that
Jean Carlier, who had gotten impatient with Numan’s delays, had struck a deal
with ‘Green Peace’
Here comes Frenchman ‘Numero Secundo’ throwing a spanner in the wheels. I had scalded Lafitte for the fact that I was carrying a concept article to the UN, its initial draft composed by NOTA BENE one of his fellow countrymen Jean Carlier, who had now boarded one of GREEN Peace’s vessels to go and present the article to the UN himself. Not once had he informed about my progress, nor about my setbacks. Because of HIS idea, introduced to me by Dennis Darrach, I had made the last minute decision to depart that same year, and in order to do so had sold all my stuff. Finally I could do something for the environment, to me that made ALL the difference!
Why did Carlier not have the common courtesy
to contact Numan to let him know what he was doing? Even worse, Carlier had NOT informed Green Peace
Carlier’s response, quote: “Numan could also give it to the UN”. Obviously not having any compassion for all the trouble Numan had been going through.
“Somebody please tell me what is this with the French? Why do they have such little consideration for the endeavours of others? I had stayed uncomfortably polite during the entire phone conversation, but as soon as I hung up I yelled and screamed in a primordial kind of rage, and started kicking my spare propeller around the Hotel room.
“I had had enough”
end staring out of my Hotel room window, hoping this bleak weather will change
realizing that weather would continue to be a barrier to furthering the
flight anymore that year, Numan packed his things and returned to
obtaining none, he made the decision to sell his restaurant in
June-3-1990, Numan enthusiastically returned to
‘Come on Eppo, you’re
coming with me, you are going to check out the Kulusuk airstrip and the
As preparations in
it not been for Erica de Wit a as well as
for my life long friend Henk Stam, who time
and again lifted my spirits by encouraging me in eon long phone conversations
to keep plodding on, and Henk performing the oddest of errands for my project ,
back in The Netherlands. In fact, Numan urgently insisted on another chase pilot,
but none was available. After three weeks in
‘It’s clear skies all the way to Kulusuk, get up, you’re going, your going!’
Pedantically faking an apparent
and urgent interest in Numan’s proceedings by awakening him at a God forsaken
early hour. Well, well the gent did have the capacity to show up early when
it so suited him, eye opener of the year. Wasn’t Numan the one to decide when
to overfly the longest stretch of water? And weren’t the skies in between
I definitely did NOT want to fly 457 miles
‘Shoot, shoot, shoot, an infrared image will at all times show a clear sky!’
‘This man, this sick self-important
uncooperative bastard of a chase plane pilot was interfering with my capacity
of sane decision-making! That, I will NOT ever forget nor forgive! I do hope,
that by now, he realises that one pilot lying to another about the weather is
outrageous, and severely frowned upon in all circles of aviation wherever in
the world, as most surely it is in
I’d figured as much!
. . . or trying to
agree upon a set of hand signals in case en route my radio would break down. I
got snubbed with, quote: ‘Those weren’t necessary’. On and on and on! However,
I was stuck with the retched fellow. The company renting out the chase plane
refused it be flown by another pilot. I forewarned
them things with this man would turn sour. They would not pay heed to my
premonitions and urgent requests. Numan:
‘upon my arrival in
Well hello there Mr. Hilmar Foss how come when a couple of hours later I myself casually asked the airport manager whether I could ‘please’ depart the following day (Sunday). The airport’s manager first reply was a question: ‘Are you the big hero?’ When I responded yes I am. The airport manager grinned from ear to ear, and replied:
‘You crazy man, of course I will let you depart on Sunday’.
‘Well now, isn’t that odd Mr Foss, you had just performed one of the most unforgivable acts of wilful sabotage anybody could ever encounter on a expedition. For you knew damn well the existing high pressure zone would have been perfect for over-flying the icecap the next day! And as a pilot from that particular region you also knew damm well we could have been grounded for weeks before another high pressure zone would come along. Let’s remember lad, I was in command of my own expedition. I had hired your services as a chase pilot, I paid your food and drink, I paid your lodging, I paid for the plane!
‘Who did you think you were?’
Ignoring Hilmar Foss’s lame protests Numan informed him once more they would be flying over the Greenland icecap the very next morning (Sunday), and ordered him and the co-pilot be on the platform the next morning, at 09.00hrs. sharp!
Hell no! From the adjoining Inuit village, where Foss and the co-pilot had spent the night, leisurely the both of them came strolling along at 13.00hrs. Four hours late!
‘I couldn’t believe their insolence,
flabbergasted and rooted in my shoes, I said something like: “Were where you
guys?” Can you believe it, I was being ignored, the gents
kept strolling along. First, before responding to me, their employer, their
lust for food had to be satisfied. Taking all the time in the
world to enjoy a copious lunch, thereby jeopardising the possibility of my departure
that same day. The day after the weather could have turned bad, which in
summer could have meant waiting another four weeks for another high pressure
zone. During that very same lunch, I informed Foss, I had, in order to save
weight and drag, dismounted his Loran-C and its antenna from my craft. Since
Loran-C definitely did at the time not work over
Without taking the trouble to check whether Numan’s information was correct, Foss threatened him with’
“No Loran-C, I don’t fly chase”.
Bulls eye, this bloke should be starring in a movie. By now, Numan had had MORE than enough of Hilmar Foss’s flagrant apathy and insolence towards his person and project, and angrily marched to the Piper Navajo he had rented from Helgi Jonsson and started to unload all of his luggage and spare parts. As Numan well remembers, half way through the unloading, here comes Hilmar Foss and the co-pilot strolling along, as soon as Foss saw what Numan was doing he started yelling like a pregnant pig in labour:
“You crazy idiot, what are you doing, what are you doing”
Crazy idiot? Now
that, was an insult Numan did not take lightly, and certainly not from an
employee! This was the straw that broke the camels back,
Numan jumped off the steps of the Piper Navajo and angrily asked whether Foss
was steering towards a fist fight of sorts? Foss, the chase pilot, just could
not keep his big trap shut, and continued to scream at Numan. Now what? Enlist
the falsetto pitched fellow in the local Nun’s choir? No Nuns to be found on
Later; was Numan sorry, ‘hell no, someone
should have damm near choked the living you know what out off that guy, I was
definitely not going to fly with him
anymore. Much later, after having made it to
“I hope it is true, I hope it is true!”
Thormunder my man, come here and
let me give you one heck of a big hug! Him, trumpeting
these words in my ears made-good all. We both sat their laughing our heads off
for minutes on end. So, it just goes to show, this Hilmar fellow wasn’t much
liked on home territory either. - In retrospect, Numan observes, “I did a very
stupid thing, I didn’t call the weather office myself that particular morning.
Because this bag of shit was so convincing I made the decision to take off. 25 miles
“Want to know what I was thinking? No you don’t”
Luckily I was able to climb on top and
continue the flight. Because the weather information I continued to receive
confirmed that Kulusuk remained clear, I was optimistic. “After rendezvousing
with me about three hours into my flight, my chase plane flew on to Kulusuk and
reported that weather was clear. I continued on, eventually spotting Big Gun
radar station and circling down from 8,000 ft., the altitude to which I climbed
to get over the clouds, to land in Kulusuk in beautiful weather. Needless to
say, we were all delighted at having completed the longest leg over water, but
later in the evening I asked Hilmar Foss, my chase pilot, about the clouds.
‘What about those clear skies you were raving about early this morning, I
asked, and he replied, ‘Well, would you have gone if you’d known there weren’t
clear skies? It was clear in
Needless to say, the short but not all too silent movie episode on the platform was putting the remainder of the flight in great jeopardy since neither pilot wished to continue flying with the other. With an excellent weather forecast for the next 24 hours, but without the needed chase plane, Numan was sure his expedition was doomed. Completely stressed-out, but filled to the brim with determination Numan called all through the night, constantly exchanging a new hand of coins for the payphone, making multiple calls to: Canada, the US, Holland, France, Germany, the UK, the Scandinavian countries, etc, in order to secure another chase plane, alas to no avail!
The Icelandic co-pilot was so kind as to offer himself as mediator by trying to bring Numan and Foss back on speaking terms. Numan remembers the co-pilot walking over to inform him: ‘Jeez Eppo you pack one hell of a punch, oh and by the way Hilmar is willing to continue to fly chase under the following conditions, presenting Numan with a laundry list as long as an elephant’s trunk which Foss wanted Numan to comply to.
Numan: “Boy, oh boy did I become the fall-guy of the century by stumbling into that trap. Our leading lady of the Nunnery choir, had amongst others the following on his list (mind you, it is now 2007, and since I did not keep a copy of his list, I have to do it by memory)”. The illustrious gent amongst others wanted:
- Double the salary than the one that was agreed upon
- I had to apologise . . .
- Promise not to disciplinary smack him anymore
- Plus another twenty or so petty conditions I have forgotten
To all of which Numan gruntingly complied by singing the list at the bottom and apologising. ‘Guess what, after Foss was handed the list, said he would let Numan know his decision the following morning. Morning came and the weasel blatantly refused to fly, the whole list had been a ploy to get back at Numan’.
“Hilmar Foss, go dwell in the land of . . . and eat shoes!”
Onto a more subdued
scene on the same gravel runway in Kulusuk the next morning ambled Pat Epps, one of the leaders of the Greenland
Expedition Society attempting to recover the B-17s and P-38s buried in the
icecap since World War II. Pat Epps and Numan had conversed while Numan was in
Pat Epps approached Numan and said, “Hey, are you that gutsy ultralight pilot I talked to? How are things going?” Numan exploded. “See that guy sitting there on the stairs of that Navajo? That’s my chase plane pilot. I slapped him and now he’s putting all kinds of restrictions on my flight and refuses to fly chase any more, and the darn weather’s just perfect!”
After listening to
Numan vent his frustration for about five minutes, Pat
Epps responded in his
“I heard that, I heard that, I quit!”
Hilmar, Hilmar, remember you had already
quit, quite adamantly so! So all the time you were just milking and milking
your nasty scam in order to sink my project. Shortly thereafter Foss returned
“Ok, here comes the man! Forcefully, like a lumber jack with a score to settle he strode towards me. Boy, if this is the guy who’s going to fly chase, by the looks of his body language he’s not going to do it”
“Are you Eppo the ultralight pilot”
The sound of which felt like being put through a third degree interrogation, when he bellowed: “Did you knock out your chase plane pilot?” - Shoot, shoot, shoot, word must have gotten round, the man appeared thus foreboding, if I’d said, yes I did, he’d probably never ever fly chase out of fear he’d get clobbered too. So there I stood grovelling, um-uh, um-uh, in a timid whisper, eyes cast down, yes sir I did’. Uproariously laughing, Doug Epps once more bellowed: “In that case Eppo, slapping me hard on the shoulder, I’ll fly chase for ye!”
“I’ll be darned!”
The thought alone, of anybody knocking out their chase pilot was until that moment unheard off, he judged it to be so outlandish, and ‘what-the-hellish’, that because of it he had immediately taken an enormous liking to me and my project. But hell no, was he going to show it, when he walked over to me, first tickle the victim to death. God did I come to love that man. Bless Mary and all the Saints in heaven!
Yippee ay yee, saved by the bell!
With the beginning of the Epps brothers’ involvement in Numan’s expedition, what had increasingly been becoming a tedious affair quickly turned into an exciting adventure. Doug Epps offered an Inuit mechanic a bottle of whisky to install the indispensable Direction-Finder in Epps’s Piper-Navajo. Initially Foss tried to prevent the mechanic from dismounting it out of the Icelandic chase plane. Numan, I told him to piss-off, or else, and dismantled the thing myself.
Doug Epps, becoming somewhat worried about Numan’s exalted state of joy: “hush Eppo, don’t worry, we’ll mount the DF in my plane, you go and take a flight to the site were my brother Pat is digging up a P-38. One of Pat Epps’s crew members, a congenial Icelandic pilot, flew Numan to their site to give him a look at the icecap and their project and, Numan suspects, to settle his jumpy nerves and get him out of the way while preparations were made to the new chase plane. Flying over, and landing on the icecap I took a good look at the surroundings, taking a recognisable point of reference from which I would cross Greenland the next morning, a coastal formation in the shape of a big capital letter ‘M’, which I later found back on my 1:50.000 map, and marked a line from that location straight over the top of ‘Sea-Bass Radar Station, located on the highest point of Greenland. Piece of cake! Peeking into that ice cold shiny hole Numan recalls, was ever so impressing, and it did for a while take my mind off my project. When back on the Kulusuuk airstrip, I anxiously ran over to Doug’s Piper and asked, ‘did you manage to mount the Direction-Finder, and did you get it working?
“Patience Eppo, no it does not work”.
‘How do you mean the Direction Finder does not work, it worked fine on the other plane!’ “Eppo, we need a specific type of circuit-breaker, I’m sorry, not one to be found on the entire airfield. My project sunk once again?
At such a moment one just does not give up hope, an object as tiny as a fly preventing me to continue? No way! I pressed Doug and the Inuit mechanic to come with me, and toothcomb the barracks and storage once more, after a two hour search the Inuit triumphantly raised his arm:
took a bout five seconds to put the thing into place and, oops the DF worked.
So, now I could finally get some direly needed sleep! So I thought, Doug: “Oh
no Eppo, first we must have a small party I your honour” No, I wailed: ‘tomorrow I must be
fit’, all to no avail. Epps’s home made remedy to soothe my nerves was to be
taken by the bottle, one at the time plus another one, also to be taken one at
the time. Get a few beers into Numan, and he’ll be just fine. Lamely I
complied, about 15 Inuit, Doug and myself, sitting knees drawn up on the floor
cramped into my small room, frolicking on beer. Shoot, I wanted to sleep, after
a couple of hours I send them all packing, including Doug. Walked over to my
craft, climbed in and did some ‘hangar flying’ whilst talking to it, in my mind
coaxing it over the top of
no more than a few hours of sleep I got up, got dressed, went over to the
runway, which was covered with a multitude of large pieces of gravel. I got out
the broom I had bought in
Doug: “He Eppo, if balls were tits, yours be bigger than Dolly Parton’s”
you just love the guy, finally time for fun and genuine excitement.
I was way over-dressed with polar layer such, and polar layer so, plus still
another layer on top of that. Dressed to the hilt, dressed to kill the
As Numan and Doug checked this with the Kulusuuk weather-man, Doug was in a kind of flippant happy-go-lucky mood towards the man, who immediately snapped back at Doug, “you better pipe down sir; let me remind you sir half of the world will be hawk eyeing this flight to the very last second sir”.
Pfieuw, what had this chap had for breakfast?
for the Danish Aviation Authorities the grapes were sour. The year before,
concerning my waiver, they were made to back down. I myself had made such an
internationally noticed stink, plus that in the end even their own leading
newspaper, Royalty and a Defence Minister had lobbied on my behalf to get this
darned permission to overfly
I had never taken-off from gravel
runway this coarse before, and never flown with a full
fuel tank as high as I would need to, to over-fly
No we don’t!
When you smell and breathe the pure air
there, then you really know we are polluting the world. You can literally feel
it in the bones of your nose. “Once you get past the coastline, the landscape
‘Now, all what was left, leisurely aim my
craft at the ever larger growing object, and relax, see if Doug can find me?
Mind you he had never ever used a Direction Finder before, so I was kind of
worried. Then, out of the blue, here comes this
“He Apple (Eppo), are you there?”
I can not describe how weird that is, here I was, already hours on top of the world, seeing nothing but my shadow, the intense blue sky and glaring white, flat as a pancake, snow where ever I looked. The same odd feeling I had experienced over the Atlantic set in, it truly felt like if one is the only person left on the planet. Not at all a panicky feeling but rather a comforting thought!’
Oops, cutting into my reverie, here comes this Southern accented voice of Doug Epps into my ears, “Hey Eppo are you there?” Christ it made me giggle! Yip Doug, I’m here, any reading on the Direction Finder yet. Silence, he was fiddling with it, . . . ‘ok Doug fiddle as much as you like, take your time, but get the darn thing working, which he did! The very next Southern accented gurgle I picked up: “Eppo, my rascal I got the needle pointing in your direction”
Those are among the most precious moments of my life, not because I was scared that he would not find me, the moment held a pleasant spine tickling eeriness, like the yummy, yummy anticipation feeling one gets just before unwrapping a birthday present.
“He Eppo, the needle says I’ve got you at my
”. He had been waiting
for me circling Sea Bass Radar Station on top of
Long before Doug and Numan rendezvoused,
Numan kept transmitting at five minutes interval on 121.6, the code that
triggered the Direction Finders needle to point dead accurate in Numan’s
direction. It could pick up my radio signal at a distance of 175 miles, quite a
feat for such a small gadget. After the
flight I found out I had been the guinea pig to test it, it happened to be the
very first one ever to come out of the DNG factory in
“He Eppo, I’m running low on fuel, got to go, see you in Sondy” - ‘Roger’
Despite everyone’s best efforts Numan’s landing in Sondre Stromfjord was not entirely uneventful. Numan: ‘I knew the Sondy airstrip to be at the end of a huge fjord, since I was flying with but the assistance of my roller map and my compass, which course I had to keep adjusting, because of the Earth’s variations. From afar I saw a fjord, and believed it to be the one I was looking for. Sondy radar kept directing me to the left, … ‘can’t be true I thought, I can see their fjord straight ahead. Their fjord veered of to the left and was therefore hidden from my view. Instead I was looking straight into the fjord located to their north, took some radio chit chat to convince me I was wrong. Since I had lost contact with Sondy radar, I could not ask them for a correction on the frequency I had spiked in my radio for their control tower. Upon descending I hit some severe turbulence Doug had forewarned me about, so I decided to descend over the fjord. Approaching RWY 10 at the far end of the field? Not a windsock to be found, so unfortunately I landed downwind, smack on the deck, … ouch way too hard.
Sondy tower lost radar contact with me, because I went down to photograph a glacier. Doug: “We were beginning to think he was lost when we heard he’d landed on the far side of the airport on the Air Force ramp, down wind with no clearance, and dropped in a little hard.”
SǾNDRE STRǾMFJORD (KANGERLUSSUAQ)–
After getting a standing ovation from the assembled Sondy airport staff, in the commotion Doug had put his hand-held radio on Numan’s tiny luggage carrier. Numan anxious to get hangar space as well as get out of all those suffocating layers of survival clothing asked: ‘where is the hangar?” Some mechanic pointed, and swoosh Numan was gone, he had urgently to see man about a dog!’
What the heck was that? Doug’s radio had shaken off and gone right through the prop, which on it’s turn had send the distorted radio remains right through Numan’s wing-sail, making a big hole in it. If anyone ever grovelling apologised and felt sorry that day it was Doug Epps. Numan: ‘not to worry Doug I’ve got just the thing on board for such an occasion, producing a can of spray-glue and a piece of spare sailcloth.
The next morning we took the wing off and glued the spare sailcloth in place, when upon remounting the wing on to the trike and about to put the compression strut back in place, I heard a discomforting rattle, I shook the compression strut a bit fiercer, and yes, something was rattling inside my compass, a discomforting sound that most definitely should not be there. Upon checking the compass appeared to be broken. That must have been the result of that hard landing, but, with a little help from Doug Epps, he was able to secure a used boat compass.
Handsomely paid for though!
Unfortunately it wouldn’t prove to be reliable. Numan: “We had it checked and compensated, on the ground it worked just fine!
On Sunday, July 1st, Eppo departed
Sǿndre Strǿmfjord, intending to fly to
Numan: “About ten minutes out of
the East coast of Greenland at
“I should have turned back there and then!”
But having experienced how well
the Direction Finder had performed in between
Contemplating, that from the
Greenland west coast at Helsingborg to
Here Numan got into a slapstick kind of situation over the radio with Sondy. After 15 minutes Sondy came back to Numan:
Sondy: “Sir we were not able to locate captain Epps”
Numan: “Hm, aha, the rascal is not to be found eh! Now let me think, did you look in the breakfast room?’
Sondy: “No sir we did not”.
Numan: “Well go and see if he is there’.
Sondy: “Wilco sir”
Another 15 minutes later:
Sondy: “Captain Epps is not in the breakfast room sir”.
Numan: ‘Would you then please go look in the library’.
Sondy: “Wilco sir”
Another 15 minutes later:
Sondy: “Captain Epps is not in the library sir”.
Numan: ‘Would you then please see if he is in the hangar?’
Sondy: “Wilco sir”
And so forth and so forth . . . !!
This to and fro conversation went on, and on, and on, a hectic treasure hunt all over the Sondy airfield. No trace of Doug Epps to be found, they had forgotten to look in the Hangar. Doug and Steven Peterzen, an American ice-core drilling scientist, whom Doug had invited to come along to fly to Canada and back, were just about preparing to leave the Hotel for the airplane to depart on the agreed upon time, when a car from the tower came speeding up with a fellow yelling and waving, ‘Captain Epps, your buddy’s in trouble! Come quick!’ Epps was hastily whisked to the tower where he made radio contact with Numan who responded,
“Doug, Doug, is that you? My
compass broke, I’m lost, come find me.” Shoot, that whole procedure cost an
extra half hour before he departed in search of me. Dough Epps and Steven Peterzen quickly departed in the Piper
Navajo, upon reaching the west coast of
“Boy, did at that moment, I owe my
life to Steven Peterzen! All the while I was flying direction South Pole, the Gyro Compass I had bought in
Doug Epps to Steven Peterzen: ‘This can’t be true, Eppo can’t be that far of his course, I’m going to fly straight ahead’.
Steven Peterzen to Doug Epps: ‘But Doug no, Eppo Numan said he had severe compass trouble’.
Thank God for Numan, Steven
Peterzen managed to convince Doug to turn sharp left and follow the Direction
Finder’s needle. On the Direction Finder one finds another small needle
indicating whether one gets any closer. Numan kept transmitting every so often
on 121.6 - To Doug and Steven’s relief the second needle showed they were
catching up with Numan. Doug could not believe that Numan was that far of his
course, and already that far to the south. Three and a half hours later Doug an Steven located Numan 142 miles south of his course.
Instead of profiting from the 7 knot tailwind predicted by the Sondy MET
office, Numan was pushed to the south by a 27 knot north westerly wind cross on
the nose. So much for reliable weather forecasting, oops! - Doug and Steven flew in combination with Numan for as
long as Doug’s fuel would allow, helping him correct his course. Numan: “I
think I croaked, at least my voice did when all of sudden Doug came back on the
radio: “He Eppo, I’ve got to leave you now, I’ve got to find
Him lost too? Numan distinctly remembers his panicky high pitched “Wiener Sängerknaben-like voice squeaking back at Doug:
“Doug please don’t leave me”
Doug back at Numan: “And I need some fuel as well - Eppo you just keep the Sun at your nine o’clock and you’ll find Canada by yourself” - Like hell I will, I mumbled to myself, damm near largest East coast in the world!
“Anybody want another beer?”
Numan could plead all he wanted Doug had to leave. About half an hour after Doug left Numan the sky clouded-in. No more Sun to navigate by.
Doug did find
Dear ‘Side-Car’ my sincerest apologies for being such an ass.
Most of the east Canadian search
and rescue planes had been on standby! Eight hours and 45 minutes after taking
off from Sondre Stromfjord, a flight that had been projected to take about
4-1/2 hours, Numan landed in
I replied ‘Yes, sir, that I did.”
As a souvenir Numan was presented
with one of
“He looked ever so frail” she added.
“The next morning Doug let me fly
the Piper part of the way back to
Having completed his transition of
Danish air space, Numan bade Doug Epps, his new-found friend and good-luck
charm, farewell and headed of alone back to Iqaluit. Unbeknownst to him, it
would be the last time he’d talk with the jovial Captain Epps, who would die of
a heart attack in his sleep on
Or . . . . ????
After approximately a week of
weather delays in Iqualuit, Numan departed on July 7th, planning to pass over a
small airstrip at Quaqtaq (meaning tapeworm) and fly directly to Kuujjuaq (
Many Inuit will, like in the olden days, in Summer still sleep in a tent. One of them actually told Numan that up till very recently the entire village had been addicted to alcohol and drugs, whereupon four fierce and grim looking Elderly had put their heads together and taken action to turn it alcohol and drug free.
First they kicked themselves off the stuff, and subsequently the rest of the village. Quite a feat. As a substitute for their abuse they had embraced Christianity, thus on a Sunday sat mostly in Church, as was the case on the Sunday Numan desperately wanted to fly the next leg, and needed fuel badly. No way Hosé, he had to wait until , four hours in Church they sat.
Numan was soon to learn that his
flights over water would prove to be his easiest. Numan departed Quaktauq on
As he drew nearer to Kuujjuaq,
Numan noted the whole sky had literally turned into a menacing black, looming over
A airfield mechanic, Terry Smith walked over to check-out my weird looking contraption, “you got a place to stay?”
After work he took me to, what he
called their bunk-house, where I was invited to spend the night and have a
meal. The word meal took on a new meaning! Up North in the Bush they fly in
some quality cooks, young good looking females at that. I tell you the meals I
On the following Saturday, Numan
attempted to depart Kuujjuaq for Scheffer-ville, but was forced to turn back
because it was too turbulent. A week later, he took off again, not knowing that
by the time he landed at Schefferville, he’d swear he was never going to fly
the machine again. “Trying to follow the maps while fighting
turbulence really became a problem on this leg of the flight. I’d have
to suck my tummy way in, push in on the survival raft rolled onto my chest and
quickly try to study the map while controlling the bar with one hand. The
result was I became lost four times and fought the worst turbulence in my whole
flight up to that point. My chest muscles aced so much I believed it was my
heart kicking-up. I swore to myself if I made Schefferville, I’d claim the
record for crossing the
Once landed in Schefferville all of my clothes, up to the very last layer, were completely soaked with perspiration. I just had to strip down to get them off. Fussing about the platform in my underwear to hang my clothes to air- and dry out on the side wires of my Hangglider. I urgently needed a sugar and protein containing liquid. None to be had. I was too exhausted to even walk the short distance to the nearest bar, so I took a cab. Upon staggering into the bar I gurgled: “Liquid please, anything” - at first the man thought I was pulling his leg, but when he witnessed the speed with which I downed four super large cokes, he was convinced he better make haste with the next row of drinks I started ordering. Plus, if possible ASAP, I wanted an 7 egg cheese omelette with heaps of bread on the side.
The guy just nodded, “coming up”
I could see the question creeping
over his face, whether I might just have crossed the
I strolled back to the hangar to take a nap, anywhere, a Kingdom for a nap, after waking up I Strolled over to chat with the two Catalina pilots. First thing they said “boy, we had one hell of a turbulent ride” Numan: I had four and a half hours of the stuff, flying in that white thing over there” pointing at his machine. Needles to say the Catalina pilots were impressed. “Then I told them I had no intention of ever flying it again”. They assured me: “Go check with the MET office, it usually calms down towards the end of the afternoon.
had a soft spot for the Consolidated PB-Y Catalina all my life. I so well
remember chatting with te late JR. Wedekind
in his study in
We both got that right!
resolve to never fly again didn’t last long, however. After checking on the
weather forecast, the MET man had to twist my arm to convince me it was safe to
fly at the end of the afternoon, I was hesitant and frightened to fly that
machine of mine again. After a lot deliberation, I made the decision to depart
Schefferville that same afternoon. Passing a huge open pit Iron mine to my
right I then followed a long curving lake on the short two hour hop to
The short flight to Wabush that
evening was smooth and calm as Numan raced sunset to land in
‘Being guided in the dark, is an odd thing though, ultralight are not supposed to fly after dark, to me this was a second; arriving over the lake of Wabush, the town’s lights to my right gave me an eerie and an enormous feeling of homey-ness at the same time. It felt like I was the only person on the whole planet, thus cosy and snug I sat hidden under my Kayak-enclosure. Zooming over the lake, making a faint turn to the left to line-up for the run-way, its landing lights were already switched on, just for little old me’. Those were the moments that made it all worthwhile.
Numan was weathered in Wabush for
four days before he was able to continue on to Sept Isle on the
Weather, however, would again step
in to waylay his plans, for four consecutive early mornings, every time I was
lined up for take-off from Montreal, I would get fogged-in within minutes. En route to Teterboro,
Numan planned a stop in
Miraculously about a mile from
touch down on the runway, the turbulence lessened and he was able to fly the
machine to the ground. Numan spent one day in
Next morning came,
“Good morning New York control, this ultralight Foxtrot Two Eight Alpha Oscar, proudly yapping my call sign through my throat microphone, I just flew an ultralight across the Atlantic, and I’d love to do a victory turn around the Statue of Liberty to celebrate my arrival and then fly back up the Hudson to Teterboro, have you got me radar identified?”
Well sir how about that, congratulations sir, we do have you radar identified, and don’t worry sir, we’ll get you tot the Lady!
“As I circled the Statue a couple
of times, I had a real feeling of satisfaction at having completed my goal. As
I headed up the Hudson River, at the tip of
As soon as they heard I was the
first pilot to have flown the
Was it al worth it?
“Well now, to see my now deceased son
Leonard waiting at the gate of
‘THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE FLYING DUTCHMAN’
Whereupon I was whisked away by Dutch television to the airports VIP room. That stipulated its worth, as well as its importance to the spirit of aviation”.
I remember so well, back in 1984 one week before my crash, on an early morning in Corsica, my son Leonard had to go back to school in Holland and had to catch an plane from the Ajaccio airport, I said: “Come on let me fly you there I my ultralight!” - ‘But dad how about my bags?’ - “I’ll stuff them between my legs” - In a meadow close-by the Ajaccio airport we landed, up till today it breaks my heart to see my son running with two bags, jumping over the barbed wire, waving, and sticking up his thumb for a lift to the Terminal, a sight I will never forget.”
“Little big stuff like that, made it worth it! Little big stuff like that makes life worthwhile!
The mere wave of an arm?
“And off course the triumphant lopsided ‘mocking-his-dad-smirk’ when he DID made it over the fence, that too!”
However, would he do it again? That was a hard question for Eppo Harbrink Numan to answer. “The agony of the setbacks was indescribable. If you say was al worth it that means you had an attached value to the expedition before you started it. My first value was to circumnavigate the world for the pure beauty of nature. I got a lot of that, even though I didn’t go around the world. In the end I did it entirely for the environment, and I hope my adventure will give me the opportunity to spread the word about the importance of preserving our environment. Taking the step to fly for the environment isn’t a very difficult one if you are already mesmerized by the beauty and harmony of this planet from above. Now I’m at a new place in my life; I have peace of mind, having fulfilled my goal.”
Would he indeed do it again?
“If I had known what it was going to cost in money and agony, absolutely not. But I did it, and I was the first guy to do it, and by doing so, I proved that, flying an ultralight around the world was now a possibility”. Would he continue his flight to complete a round-the-world trip? “Yes, to further environmental issues, I would absolutely continue, or for that same reason make another trendsetting flight, as long as it will draw the attention of a large international public and the media for Environmental causes. Remember we do need to save this world, and we’re NOT doing it, not by a long shot we’re not”.
If someone would
provide sponsorship for me and a team to help with all the details. If somebody ever wants
to give me a medal for having made this flight, I’d only take it for having
persevered through al the preparations, and my stamina in
One morning, in the
The purpose of the flight - 1989:
To urge a change in the appalling direction mankind has taken with its reckless and greedy attitude concerning human life, its’ integrity, and the natural environment on this planet, which may have put us on a possible collision course with our own extinction. For today our Earth is rapidly turning into a death-trap for a multitude of life-forms.
Any man or woman with the fortitude to consider THE EARTH-MOTHER and her inhabitants in the way they originally presented themselves will conclude she tolerates little imperfection in matters of body, mind and spirit; nor diminution of their luminosity!
However, her assumed supreme being – MAN – gloats in degeneration with a remarkable lack of recognition for his sages, inner-voice and true self. These demand our constant and undivided attention, their neglect and rejection does not become us, and has set forth our present decline!
In this sphere, society is the ULTIMATE RESPOSIBLE STEWART of a constantly regenerating life-force. The blue-print of this life-force has assuredly not accounted for our persisting tolerance towards the misplaced self-importance of groups and individuals whom have gone too long unaccounted for, as the instigators of ignorance, misery and destruction.
Whilst our society freely indulged these consequences and wilfully imposed them upon a breathtakingly beautiful people and their surroundings, it saw fit to restructure the core of most continents, and ridicule its teachings.
is now that the tome has come for the RULING BODIES of our world to make AMENDS
Dare our society make a stand in the quest for such impeccability, that will save our sacred planet “THE EARTH MOTHER”
MAN HAS NOT SET FOOT UPON THIS EARTH TO LINGER IN MEDIOCRECY AND FURTHER CHAPION HIS EGOTISM.
FOR MAN IS SPIRIT, ERECT AND FULL OF HEART.
Eppo Harbrink Numan May 1989
This is what Eppo wrote 18 years ago, tell me now, what did we humans in the mean time do? As usual, nothing! The world-wide apathy to stop world population growth, let alone reduce it, can today be categorised as CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE, since ALL our present environmental threats and problems stem from the ridiculous amount of people living on this Earth.
THE ATLANTIC MACHINE:
Is a unique machine, specially
designed to fulfil the mission of a
Like most other parts of this expedition, however, building the trike didn’t go as smoothly as planned either, to say the least!
Three months later, the first plug was completed. When finally finished, building the trike occupied 18 months of full time work of 100 hrs. a week. Power for the Eppo Windmaster is a Limbach four cylinder, horizontally opposed, four stroke engine with dual magnetos driving a Muhlbauer MT 63 x 31-1/2 inch Ditch propeller. (Numan carried a spare propeller on his trike on many legs of the trip. Leading edges of both propellers were inlaid with steel to prevent damage when taking of from gravel runways.) Because the trike was specially designed, mounting the engine on the pylon tube, which is the usual engine position on a trike, would have seated the engine to far back, thus a separate engine mount was required - another time consuming and tedious job.
Numan’s original machine which
fell into the
Fuel on board the Windmaster was carried in a fibre-glass seat tank with a capacity of 135 litres (approximately 39 gallons), enough for approximately 11.5 hours of flight at an average cruise speed of 60 mph. Navigation instruments on the weight shift ultralight included a II-Morrow Loran, King ADF, Hamilton vertical card compass, Transponder, altimeter, Turn & Bank indicator, gyro compass, air speed indicator and Dittel 720 channel radio. Engine instruments included CHT, oil temperature and oil pressure gauges, hand throttle, foot throttle, choke, electric fuel pump, amp meter, fuel gauge, starter, generator, tachometer, carburettor heating system, 12-volt dry cell battery and Bendix Magneto switch.
One of the main pieces of survival
equipment Numan carried on board the Windmaster included a survival life raft
with hood (inside which was housed a compartment carrying various bandages,
medicine, and emergency food and water rations). Numan wore this life raft
strapped to his chest during al legs of the flight. (“For example,” Numan says,
“if I’d gone down while over flying
One example of the thought and
preparations which Numan put into planning this expedition is a roller map device which he designed to keep his
maps from flying al over the
© Mary Jones 1990 / Eppo Numan 2007
Web design, text and copyright © Eppo Harbrink Numan - 2007 / Web construction and Hosting Richard Bakker AHCS