1/2 Way Around the World

Gaborone, Botswana
They made it! Leon Stoman and Al Pike successfully flew Leon’s brand new Comp Air 6 from Florida to South Africa.

Typical View from Comp Air 6 during Atlantic Crossing Crossing the Atlantic in a Comp Air 6

Leon Stoman, a flight instructor and experienced ferry pilot from Gaborone, Botswana, arrived at the Aerocomp, Inc. factory in Florida in March. With time out to attend Sun ‘n Fun, Disney World, and Oshkosh (the "Big Three" he calls them), Leon was able to build and test-fly his Comp Air 6 in just under 6 months.

Today, he’s flying the airplane all over the southern parts of the African continent.

Box it up to ship it home? Unthinkable! There’s no way that someone who has flown a Cessna 150 non-stop across the middle of the Atlantic would consider shipping his personal airplane home in a crate. So... Leon flew it home to Africa!

Joining him on the flight was Al Pike, a Merritt Island flight instructor who helped lay up the fiberglass kit components for Leon’s airplane. Leon jokingly says he took Al along "for insurance -- in case the parts weren’t made right". Together, the two friends enjoyed a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

After putting the new airplane through a very thorough test-flying program, the two pilots headed north, up the east coast of the US.

Their trans-Atlantic leg departed from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Following a 5:00 am night takeoff, they flew non-stop for 13 hours, crossing the middle of the Atlantic and arriving in the Azores just before sunset. "No boats, lots of clouds" is Leon’s simple way of describing the trans-oceanic flight.

From the Azores, they continued to the Canary Islands. The next day, they crossed over to the western Sahara and landed in Dakar, Senegal.

Except for one day crossing the jungles of Guinea enroute to Abidjan, most of their flight was over water. Al estimates that about half of their time was spent in IMC conditions, in uncontrolled airspace, and out of range of radio communications. Most flights were from 8 to 13 hours non-stop. Now, THAT’s endurance!

From Abidjan, they flew across the middle of the Gulf of Guinea to Libreville, Gabon where they just managed to land a few seconds ahead of a tropical thunderstorm. Leon was very thankful for the use of his ILS during that approach.

Al tells quite the tale about spending 10 days stranded in a little fishing village in Angola. Apparently, after crossing about 8000 miles of open ocean, one of the engine’s exhaust valves came unseated. They successfully made an unscheduled landing in Angola. It took 10 days for Leon to make his way to South Africa, where repairs could be made, then fly back to Angola in his Cessna 150 with the parts. Meanwhile, Al enjoyed the hospitality of a couple friendly South African commercial fishermen who opened their home to the stranded adventurer.

Once repairs had been made, the duo flew both the Comp Air 6 and Leon’s Cessna 150 across the final 2000 miles of southern Africa desert. Leon is now instructing flight students in S. Africa and Botswana, and Al has returned home to Florida where he is teaching at Merritt Island Air Service.

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