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*  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 Atlantic Ocean in an ultralight or microlight aircraft.

“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!”

                                                     Stornoway Scotland, leaving for the Faeroe Islands, the first leg of the Atlantic – 1989

Numan, at the time a cross-border and nation-wide renowned and esteemed restauranteur from The Hague, Netherlands, attempted his first solo flight in a trike in Belgium , together with his friend Ben Pupping in 1982. ‘Thank God I never managed to take-off, but for a 200 feet uncontrollable lopsided hop. The bracket joining the trike to the wing was definitely the wrong one, I or anyone else for that matter could have gotten killed once airborne in that machine’. Since that time he’s accumulated over 650 hours in ultralight flight, including 95 hours and 38 minutes while flying his ultralight from Rotterdam to New York City. On August 2nd of 1990, the then 49-year-old Dutchman circled the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, the final leg of an Atlantic crossing that presented both adventure and adversity.

                     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 England (1982) and came home with two used machines, a single-place and a two-place flexwing ultralight.  

                                                                 Maiden flight of the Atlantic machine at Lelystad airfield Holland - 1987

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 France, Numan mastered the art of flying an ultralight and became an avid devotee of the sport, but not without another “memorable” moment. Numan’s, actual very first solo flight, one evening in his own single-seat at the Pizay airfield under the watchful eyes of Daniel Vatinel turned out to be minor disaster. ‘Broke off the nose wheel’.

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 island of Corsica with his two sons in August of 1983 Numan says he couldn’t stay away from flying his single-seat trike. One morning, while flying over the mountains and hills of the island and observing the morning fog hugging valley after valley, he was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. I was flying along and all of a sudden the whole world seemed to open up to me. It was so startling beautiful that I had to suck in big gulps of air. Wow, so THIS was our planet, this is how she presented herself, the overwhelming beauty of the landscape sledge-hammered me into an uncontrollable emotional state of sheer unconditional love for this awesome planet’.

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.’

Our tent on the parking lot of La Brachella just south of Propriano. Hop over the fence and swim in the Mediterranean, step through the bush and fly my Ultralight, what more can a man want?

                      When I returned to Holland, I started calling embassies to find out about getting permission to overfly countries. I started with the Chinese and Russians. The Chinese were delighted. So were the Russians, their entire embassy staff came out in full regalia to dine in my restaurant, proclaiming ‘you are a hero’. My reply ‘But I haven’t done it yet!’ Their unfaltering enthusiasm never lead to receiving a waiver. Not even after a waiting period of two years. Eventually I gave up the idea of flying around the world because of the ongoing bureaucratic hassles that would be involved. But I knew the most difficult, the most daring part would be crossing the North Atlantic. If an ultralight could make that part of the trip, then it could indeed fly around the world via the Bering Strait.  “So I set out to prove it could be done by flying the hardest part, the North Atlantic.”

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 Corsica that summer, Numan took tourists for rides to bolster his waning finances. On one of those flights, taking off from the Tavaria airfield just south of Propriano Numan was flying over one tip of the Bay of Campomoro to the other tip, at about 1,300 feet when, in lifting his visor to point out an interesting sight to his passenger, it separated from the helmet and immediately went through the propeller, taking off one of the blades.

‘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 waters, 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 Ajaccio, ‘so there I lay, stark naked, cold and shivering. I kept moaning to the pilot to fly somewhat slower, I was genuinely freezing, but like the fisherman, oops here we go full speed again’ Numan recalls the accident vividly, ‘I saw the water coming at me so fast I was convinced we couldn’t survive the impact. I remember opening my safety belt just before hitting the water, which threw me into all the cables and tubes. I was knocked out but regained consciousness after being submerged into the ice cold water. I remember being surprised and overjoyed at still being alive. Then I realized, the sheer idiotic contradiction, surviving such a rock hard impact, and then going to drown’. Plummeting down from 1300 ft. had knocked the last bit of air out of me and made me go very deep under water. I has to swim a long way up and my head was pushing against the sail of the wing and I could not find a way to escape, neither to the right, and neither to the left. I was stuck, so I was going to die! Drown!

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!

Hell no!

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 Ajaccio, Numan checked himself out. ‘I have never ever been treated that rude and nonchalant in all my life. It all started by a nurse and a doctor stitching me up whilst but yapping about their lasts night’s party, and the next morning asking the staff the use of their office phone to make a call to the Netherlands to let my family know I had had a bad accident. No way!

“Ah non”

Too often the standard answer in France when asked a question, they could not let an injured man make a free phone call home. All my money was left in my pants floating to the bottom of the Mediterranean. I had been flown in stark naked by helicopter. ‘If maybe anybody had an old pyjama or pair of boxer shorts.’ Nope, same answer! Patent pending and granted on the word! Later, a nurse took pity on Numan, and gave him two large coins for the coin-phone in the corridor. Bless her kind heart! The first coin the apparatus ate without giving Numan his connection to Holland, the second coin was just about enough to utter a few sentences and then he was cut off. The next morning at five am, the Hospital cleaning ladies, two boisterous loud mouthed types wheeling in a trolley loaded with stainless steel tea and coffee containers, slam, bang, slam, bang, rudely switching on the lights in all the wards, and yelling at the top of their lungs, …

“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.

                                 This is the ultralight I crashed with in the Mediterranean near Campo Moro Corsica August 1984 – Eppo with an Italian friend on the Tavaria airfield south of Propriano. And the one he had planned to fly around the world with.

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 Atlantic!”


From the start, Numan’s idea to fly the Atlantic was met with a great deal of scepticism. But Numan was convinced that it could be accomplished. Many aviation experts cautioned him about flying against the prevailing winds. But as early as 1982 when Numan first entertained the idea of making the flight, he’d phoned the meteorological stations in Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, Greenland and Canada and said, ‘Hey, guys, do you ever have near windless days up there?’ and they said, ‘Sure, during certain times of the year, one in ten days will be pretty wind free.’ Well, that’s all you need, one day and the patience to wait for it.”

The Rotterdam based company HUNTER DOUGLASdecided to sponsor the construction of Numan’s second craft. From that moment on, September of 1985, nearly every waking moment of Numan’s life was involved in making preparations for the flight, building the trike (see technical facts and figures) gathering instruments and survival equipment and attempting to secure the remaining sponsorship. On at least four occasions it appeared as if one or more major companies or organizations were about to commit to co-sponsoring the flight, but each time the financial backing fell through, frequently as a result of an intermittent bunch of overzealous (non delivering) public relations agencies. Numan, ‘boy what a bloody lot of nincompoops’

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 Greenland on the map. Most people think Greenland is 1.500 km. (930 miles) from Iceland, but it’s only 740 km. (458 miles). Nobody ever really took a good look at a globe. And as far the winds were concerned; people listened to the commercial pilots who fly at 30,000 feet. Nobody ever took the time to call the local meteorological offices.

I did!

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 Oshkosh ‘87, Numan proclaimed he’d leave from Le Bourget Field in the spring of ‘88 and arrive in Oshkosh in time for that year’s convention. But as those who watched and waited recall, EAA Oshkosh ‘88 and ‘89 both came and went with no word from Eppo Harbrink Numan. However, Numan did depart that year on a promotional tour through the US in an attempt to raise the remaining sponsorship, from Oshkosh back to Dayton and via Pittsburgh and Washington to New York.

Planning to overfly Niagara on his way to the Cleveland Airshow, he had to put his machine down in a farmer’s field because of severe turbulence, and was kindly invited in by Ferrel for one of the most copious lunches of his entire life, and allowed to doze off in the matrimonial bed. Intending to depart for Cleveland at the end of the afternoon when most of the heat and turbulence should have worn off. His craft did not want to take-off, it kept speeding along this narrow dirt road faster and faster, and still no lift-off. Odd thing though, does one believe in premonitions and omens or not? Lining up for take-off on that narrow country road, one of the farmer’s cows started to moo and wail as if the end of the world was nigh. I clearly remember it flashing through my head, might this be a signal NOT to take-off?

                      Ah what the heck, and floored the throttle . . . !

                      Numan: ‘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 Dayton. Ferrel the farmer had arranged a lift, calling in a favour from an old time friend. The trike was reparable ($12.500) but Numan would need a new crankshaft on the engine ad a brand new Hangglider wing. Back to the salt mines for him it was! Back, to trying to find a supplementary sponsor. Back, to one million and one things to be taken care of, it never stopped, producing a brand new set of cooling ducts, the engine had during the entire trip in the US been running far too hot. Once more being antagonised with one set back, and non-delivering PR Agent nitwit after the other, who kept telling Numan to keep postponing his flight to next year, and the year after, etc, ..


                      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 3:00 p.m. 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 English Channel. “After all the disappointments over the previous four years in getting this project of the ground, I was very upset by the events at Ziestienhoven. The airport police came around and said to me: “you, rudely pointing at me, you come with me!”  Pretty please, ever heard of? Nope!

‘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 Belgium and take-off from there. Serve them right, the arrogant and incompetent so and so’s.  I had to do some persuasive talking, but in the end the official backed down and sent me a last minute fax agreeing to let me depart. It being Friday, had we not reached the (the equivalent of: CAA / FAA) official in time, my departure would have been postponed till Monday. What a loss of face that would have been, the entire Dutch media were present, plus all my friends and other acquaintances.

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 Westland ’s greenhouses, his craft rapidly sunk from 1000 feet to 65 feet. ‘I could see the tomatoes shimmering through the glass of the greenhouses, it felt like I was about to join the waving mob of tomato pickers any second. Absolutely nothing happened when I went full power on the engine. I distinctly remember thinking, that if my journey was going to be like this, I was turning back there and then!  After what seemed like ages my machine inched itself back into the skies.

After a three hour flight Numan Landed at Lydd airport UK – ‘Numb and fully content I sat on a bench outside the control tower, plundered the coke vending machine and about six tons of bricks fell off my shoulders. I had done it. I had truly and finally departed after so many, many aggravating years. ‘Here I was in the UK, parked in front of my craft, I leisurely stretched out my legs, and let the late afternoon sun soothe me, and fell hook line and sinker in love with my eccentric looking machine. Boy I was going to do this, just you people wait and see!

‘Flying the Atlantic, what a blessing!’

                      Having crossed the English Channel, Numan attended the Biggin Hill Airshow, and the next day flew to Chris Draper’s Medway Microlight factory where his RAVEN-X wing had been manufactured, the very first one out of the factory at that. Numan stayed six days to fine tune his machine and was offered to stay at Chris’s house. One morning Chris rudely woke him up, his ultralight had been knocked over by a strong gust of wind and had to be taken apart and checked over. The first major financial set-back.

Hairy take-off!

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 Scotland. ‘Even as early as eight in the morning it got more and more turbulent, so I kept going up in altitude, in between Manchester and Liverpool is a corridor in which one is supposed not to fly above a certain altitude. Sorry folks, I cheated, anxiously gazing right and left for other aircraft, in hindsight not a very wise thing to do. But whenever I started to descend turbulence became absolutely murderous. Just past Liverpool it got so bad, Numan not aware he was flying into an active front as well.

‘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 Manchester and told them I wanted clearance for the airfield I had just passed. Manchester gave me Liverpool’s frequency. Immediately I told them that I was flying a Microlight flexwing and that turbulence was now so bad that I could not possibly let go of the control bar in order to change frequencies. “We understand your predicament and we’ll phone Liverpool to get clearance for you” Numan; ‘people often have asked me weren’t you scared over all that Ocean water? ‘No. but boy I was then, scared out of my wits, you try flying an aeroplane which is controlling you, and you definitely not it!’ - After about ten minutes Manchester got back to me, “Sir you’re cleared to land at Liverpool International” It took me about 20 minutes to get anywhere near a safe approach, at about 1000 feet the air became somewhat calmer, but low and behold a small Cessna lined up for take-off, kept lingering on the runway. I had to radio back to Manchester if they would please ask Liverpool to ask this damn Cessna pilot to get on with it. It was kept on hold, expecting me to land overhead. No way would I ever do that, unless the pilot himself would radio he was waiting for me to land, more arm-wrestling with my craft.

‘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 Liverpool, and he got free Hangar space at ‘AIR NOVA’. After a short week in Liverpool, Numan flew to Glen Forsa Mull in Scotland, upon landing on the grass strip running parallel to the water, whilst still rolling out, wobbling along comes the airstrip manager David Howitt on a wee scooter, purse in hand to charge Numan with the local landing fee. ‘Boy that pardner was fast on the draw.’ Since Numan’s ADF still wasn’t working properly, David Howitt moved heaven and earth to get somebody to fly in all the way from Glasgow to come and try fixing it. It was discovered the ADF did not have enough of a metal ground plate. ‘First was tested hanging long strips of aluminium foil from the side wires, which gave some minor improvement. So it was decided upon to glue the entire interior of my cockpit fairing with the stuff. It still refused to work. Numan arrived late one afternoon in Stornoway, Scotland. Where, when the airfields CO Stewart Elliot got wind of Numan’s plans to fly the Atlantic, he immediately offered Numan free hangar space and a room at his home. Holy Moly, one entire month, ones stomach filled with three brilliantly cooked meals a day by his wife Pamela Elliot. Coffee, tea, luncheons, scones, snacks, dinner, late supper or in between beer, YOU NAME IT and it would miraculously appear on my plate or in front of my hungry nose,  as well as being taken places to make the agonising wait somewhat bearable.

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 UK pounds suit you?

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 UK pounds. The Gods were with me that day.

‘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 the Iceland and Greenland portions of the flight. During the first week I’d been at Stornoway, I’d actually departed once but had to turn back after 16 minutes out to sea, because of dense sea fog.

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 Glasgow weather station said, ‘Well, sir, there’s going to be a heavy weather system passing over the Faeroes this afternoon. When I called the Faeroes, the weatherman there said: ‘yes, there’s a weather front coming, but I guarantee you it won’t be here before midnight.’ Ten minutes later I phoned him again and said, ‘Look, I’m jumpy as hell. Glasgow says different, are you sure?’ And he simply said, yes!

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 1:00 a.m.

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 Atlantic.

‘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 Scotland all the way up to the Coast of Canada.

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 Faeroe Islands. Obviously, had I been flying at a higher altitude, I’d have spotted the Islands sooner, but at 400 feet you don’t get to see things too far in advance. You can’t imagine my joy! I knew then I was going to make the Faeroes and wouldn’t have to turn back to Stornoway. After 5 hours and 45 minutes of flying, I landed at the Vagar Airfield. I proudly called my family and Yves Berger, a French aviation magazine journalist, who in the past had helped me get a French registration to my craft. I told him I had flown to the Faeroe Islands almost all the way on the compass. Congratulating Numan:

‘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 France is second to none!


                      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 to Iceland, but would have to fly under a layer of cloud, which, at the Icelandic coast was as low a 100 feet.

                      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 Loran-C. ( Long Range Navigation)

                      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! Hello there Ocean crossing sweetie-pie start breathing! Let go of the throttle, and easy, easy ease her back to a level position whilst hawk eyeing the Turn & Bank indicator. About the same time a lady from Iceland Radar Control, popped into my ears, “sir you’ve missed calling-in at the agreed upon check point, are you ok?”  The manoeuvre in cloud had cost me ten minutes, and had made me stray off course, I was now flying back to the Faeroes’, which I knew full well, but didn’t care one hoot about. Real nice though, to hear the concern in woman’s voice over the middle off the Atlantic

                      Landing at Egilsstadir on the East coast of Iceland, was probably one of the happiest moments of my whole flight, if the not the happiest. I was absolutely ecstatic. I was running up and down the corridors of the hotel yodelling and screaming and jumping up and down on my bed. Having completed the legs from Stornoway to the Faeroes and on to Egilsstadir, I absolutely knew that I would be able to complete the flight across the Atlantic. During all my planning and preparations I always had a definite conviction that the flight was possible. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t have doubts and fears sometimes, but on landing here I really knew it in my heart and my mind, and it was a feeling of absolute ecstatic joy!” Running up and down the Hotel corridor, kicking my legs sideways and practicing my yodelling skills.Hooha!

                       REYKJAVIC, ICELAND AUGUST 8 - 1989

The absolute joy which Numan experienced in Egilsstadir was soon to be replaced by utter frustration after landing in Reykjavik, however. Within moments after completing the difficult crossing from Egilsstadir to Reykjavik, Numan was met with trouble. He had to fly low over Iceland because of clouds. Omar Raknarson from an Icelandic TV station was going to do some filming of Numan, but couldn’t find him over the radio. He decided to land in the middle of nowhere, sat on the tire of his Fiessler Storch, a German WW-II STOL plane, smoked a fag, and listened if he could detect the hum of Numan’s Limbach engine purring in the skies. amazingly enough in the very end he did. On the very last moment the Egilsstadir MET office had said it was ok to fly over the top of Iceland, however it could be a tad turbulent. In a hurry, Numan stashed all his luggage in a plastic garbage bag and handed it to another pilot.

                      “He you, you flying to Reykjavik, drop this off at the local flying club, will ye?”  - Thanks!

                      Numan’s flight over Iceland proved not a tad turbulent, but extremely so. Without interruption Numan had to fight off turbulence to keep his craft on course. “It made my hands perspire to such an extend that the inside of my handlebar mittens became saturated with my vaporising perspiration, its silver lining condensing it, and was now dripping into the sender button of my radio. All of a sudden the thing shorted out. No more radio contact with the outside world. Shoot, for I definitely wanted to let Reykjavik control know, when and where I was, and get a hold of this filming chap as well. I undid its Velcro strap, pulled it out of the mitten and let it flap on its coily-wire in the wind, hoping that in this manner it would dry out. Finally, nearing Reykjavik, it was working again. Whenever I needed to transmit, I’d quickly let one hand go off the bar and grope for the sender button and then quickly grab back onto the bar. This was becoming one heck of a difficult and tiresome flight”.

                      “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 Greenland air space’. In the excitement of the moment I wasn’t too concerned, and I remember thinking, this can’t be too serious, I’ll take care of that in the morning.’ “But, Numan was wrong. The Danes were indeed serious and made it quite clear they had no intention of granting Numan permission to continue the flight through their air space. It’s too dangerous, was all they would say. Adding to the confusion was the arrival in Reykjavik of Lafitte in his bi-plane Mistral ultralight, a stubborn; I do as I please and to heck with the rest of the world Frenchman.

                      Sound familiar?

                      Lafitte had been planning a flight from New York to Paris to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, but had been denied permission by the Danes and Canadians. After learning of Numan’s arrival on the Faeroe Islands, had, upon being egged on by a French journalist, quickly jumped in his ultralight in a wild chase of Numan, and landed exactly one day after Numan in Reykjavik. Upon his arrival in Reykjavik, Lafitte was met with the same resistance from the Danish authorities as Numan and, needless to say, there was no animosity between the two pilots. - Numan describes it, “There we were, he being 49 and me 48, both of us old enough to be grandfathers, clamouring to be the first to cross the Atlantic. We were in the papers almost every day, Ottar Sveinsson from the local DV newspaper saw to that.

                      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?’

                      His answer?

                      “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 somewhere in Africa

                      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 Greenland by the Danish aviation authorities, their persistent attention became so overwhelming, the Loftleidir Hotel manager decided to install a special breakfast- and dinner- table right next to the reception desk, so they could hand him the phone over the counter. They got tired to constantly having to yell through the Hotel “mister Appo you’re wanted on the telephone” mispronouncing his name.

                      “Of course, I kept contacting and re-contacting the officials in Copenhagen hoping to get permission to fly over Greenland. What an uncooperative lot that was. My God, in each of the two years, previous to my flight they had given me permission to overfly their airspace in the Faeroes and Greenland in an ultralight. What all of the sudden was the big deal, why their change of heart now? One morning, eureka, I had an inkling as to why these relentless refusals were hitting me. The Danish Civil Aviation Authorities were possibly annoyed with me. For, back in the Faeroes I had refused to hand over a roll of film containing pictures I had taken from a commuter liner going into the gravel pit at the end of the runway and its passengers escaping down the slides. - Like I was an underling in some army, I was summoned to come to their office in The Faeroes, and snapped at by the official: ‘I want that roll of film’.


                      For, it contains photos of my flight from Stornoway and your Island. I will only hand you the roll after it is developed, or you promise to have it developed for me and after you’ve made your prints hand it back to me”. Numan nearly keeled over backwards, for the official blatantly refused.

                      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 Iceland, I did hand the film to another Danish official. “Coming to grips with the realisation that their pertinent refusals may have been a manner to put me in my place for not handing over that film” For, why else, had they given me permission in 1987 and 1988”.

                      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 Denmark Sea, I really felt I had proved something. So I played an old strategy on them, turn the tables so to speak. One morning I called the Danish aviation authorities once more and said: “Ok, this time you people name the conditions under which you will let me fly, anything, just name it”.  Now the bal was in their court. To refuse now, would portray them in the eyes of the international media as being highly unreasonable.

                      It worked!

                      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 Iceland)

  - Proof of permission to continue the flight over Iceland, Canada and the US.   

                      “For heavens sake, what had flying in the US got to do with flying over Greenland?” Search and Rescue in aviation normally is free! They set the same standards for Lafitte. In the mean time the Frenchman started to turn Numan’s adventure into some sort of race, a dangerous and new status quo within the adventure. At one moment Lafitte approached Numan suggesting they fly from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq together, a non-stop flight of 770 statute miles (1240km). The moment he found out Numan’s craft didn’t have the range, he dropped him like a sack of potatoes. Numan told the man flat out he would thereafter decline any of his exotic suggestions. However Numan admits, sitting in the Hotel Loftleidir bar with Icelandic pilots, brainstorming about the oddest of ploys to fool the Danes as how to fly to and over Greenland secretly. Boy, that was tempting to the extreme. Of course in the morning one comes to ones senses. All too well I remembered the urgent and wisely spoken words from a high ranking Dutch Airforce officer: ‘Eppo, please remember your flight is one of survival, and survival only’.  

                      “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 US or Canada nor Search and Rescue insurance. He just left one morning, departing on a 40 knots tailwind. “Gone with the wind” so to speak. Sixty miles out he encountered severe icing conditions and was forced to turn back, which took him six hours, nearly killing himself upon landing in heavy turbulence. Lafitte had figured the tail wind would give him the opportunity to fly non-stop from Reykjavik to Cape Dyer Canada. Gutsy fellow, but down-right as headstrong as a mule. Get a load of this, the next morning the Icelandic Aviation Authorities called Numan, what was Numan’s opinion on Lafitte’s flight of the day before? “Shoot, I wasn’t particularly unbiased, but gave it as honest a shot as could be expected under the circumstances. Ha, this was going to be fun!”

                      “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 Greenland, buckling his undercarriage and propeller.

                     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 Atlantic in an ultralight.


                      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 Atlantic were to end at . . .”

                      “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?’

                      “Hell yes!”

                      There’s even another Frenchman (Guy Delage) also claiming to have been the first pilot to fly the Atlantic in an ultralight. And, ‘oh-la-la’ will you believe it, for there’s a fresh out of the womb Frog on the horizon, proudly announcing that he is going the be the very first pilot to do so in the near future.

                      . . . . French have a mould of sorts?”


                      One year later, Guy Delage flew in a flexwing ultralight from Africa to Brazil. Now, that is one heck of a feat. Hold your breath, the same guy swam across the entire Atlantic a few years later. Which in my opinion is one of the most outstanding athletic achievements ever. Guy, bravo!

                      Still one year later, André George Lafitte did fly the Atlantic with but one stop-over at the Azores in a Pelican ultralight. Let’s be fair! Also quite a feat!

                      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:

                      Denmark, ZERO points, and vive la France

                      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 to New York yet!’ - Jeez Erica, how do you mean not yet? Dear Eppo, exactly as I said, not yet! “Shoot Erica, if only black magic were allowed at such moments I lamented. “Eppo you’re not listening, I said not yet!”

                      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 Iceland first. It was Eppo Numan who had come up with a workable solution first. “It felt as I was being deliberately backstabbed by the Danish Aviation Authorities. Once the going got tough, these nifty bureaucrats, wham bam thank you Mam, handed my dossier to the Danish Naval authorities”.

                      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 Iceland for years on end to get their permission, he darn well would. “As of that day I knew I was invincible. I would win this on sheer willpower. The kind of willpower one feels vibrating in every cell of ones body. Maybe a somewhat unwise thing to say to the interviewer, but I was in no mood for tea party phraseology, my blood was boiling. “Funny thing, one morning I’m looking at my self on CNN, guess what, after the notoriously undersigned, on comes Bush Sr. That rocketed me into a fit of hysterical laughter which send the Hotel running, whether anything was the matter’. They had put me before a US president”

                      Did 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 Copenhagen newspaper put the story on their front page, things started to move with landslide speed. The necessary paperwork was secured in exactly one single day! Six o’clock sharp the Hotel clerk woke Numan up, and read him the fax with the good news.

                      “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 Canada and since matters needed in my exalted state to be speeded up some. I bought an airline ticket just for the HF radio; it killed me laughing afterwards, my radio snugly strapped in a window seat. “Sir, would you care for another drink?”


                      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 Reykjavik, so we would have sufficient professional photos of the rest of the trip. Anxiously we awaited the mechanics to finish the installing of a special window to take pictures from, and put the honourable frequent flyer HF-Radio in its place. Who did it think it was, flying first class? During the long wait in Reykjavik, Numan decided to make some improvements to his trike. By starting to spray the nose and tips of his wing a bright orange, so that in case of an emergency over Greenland a search party had at least a chance of spotting him. He also had a B-bar extension to his control bar made, one with electrically heated hand-grips, so as not to have to lean forward, with his arms outstretched for hours on end, like he had to do when flying on a full fuel tank. Most experienced flexwing pilots will advice you about turbulence:

                      “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 Oshkosh took me twice the normal amount of time. I had to fly nothing but huge circles all the way. Fun? No!

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 instance in North Canada, on a 410 mile flight from Iqaluit to Kuujjuaq, when an hour past Quaqtaq he was literally flying sideways such as a Helicopter can do. He could either choose to fly up a river to the Kangursak airfield nine miles further. He definitely did not want to go there, for he was being pushed all over the place. The amount of muscle power needed to keep his machine even on that course was out of this world, that’s when he veered back North and floored the throttle running for cover, fleeing 68 miles back to Quaqtaq.

                      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’ France to take him on board one of their vessels to New York, so that Carlier himself could deliver the first draft of an article 31 proposal Numan was carrying on his fuselage. However, the final draft of the article 31 proposal was one hundred percent authored by Eppo Numan.

                      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 France that Numan was already three month en route promoting Carlier’s article, an article Numan would later rewrite to his own satisfaction (1990).  NOTA BENE, it was Numan who had the article translated into English and had it printed on a large sticker, so as to adhere it to his cockpit. When Numan informed Green Peace France about the truth of the matter, they were abhorred. Numan remembers calling Jean Carlier on board of the Green Peace vessel smack in the middle of Hurricane ‘Hugo’, telling Jean Carlier that if he got to New York first Numan would look an absolute fool.’

                      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”

                        Weeks on end staring out of my Hotel room window, hoping this bleak weather will change – Reykjavik 1989

On October-8-1989, realizing that weather would continue to be a barrier to furthering the flight anymore that year, Numan packed his things and returned to Holland. Remember, before departing in June of ‘89, Numan sold nearly all his home furnishings, including a number of pieces of rare, antique furniture, to help finance the flight. Still, by the time he departed in ‘89, he only had $2,500 in his pocket. “I planned to sleep on hangar floors, sing a song or do a dance for some fuel and food if I had to!” Returning to Holland in October of ‘89 Numan again attempted to secure sponsorship.

                      After obtaining none, he made the decision to sell his restaurant in The Hague. “People reading this might think I sold my restaurant to finance the trip, but that’s not completely true; it was about 50 percent of the reason. I sold it more to save my soul from being imprisoned in a profession for which I no longer had any compassion. I had owned and ran the restaurant for 20 years and had put my life into it for years, but now it was time to move on. Selling it gave me the ability to have some money and to thumb my nose at anyone who wasn’t willing to help me with my adventure. That’s not to say this trip didn’t cost me the restaurant because in a way it did. By being totally dedicated to working on preparations for this flight, I let my attention to the details of managing the restaurant slip, and I lost my way of life.”

                      BACK TO ICELAND

                     On June-3-1990, Numan enthusiastically returned to Reykjavik, raring to continue. After re-preparing the Windmaster to resume the flight, it was again time to begin watching the weather in earnest. Upon his arrival back in Reykjavik, Helgi Jonsson kindly offered to let Numan stay and sleep on a stretcher in his flying school, so as not to run up such an astronomical Hotel bill as he had done the year before, a quite, thoughtful and friendly person. ‘One day he casually said:

                      ‘Come on Eppo, you’re coming with me, you are going to check out the Kulusuk airstrip and the Greenland coastline” - and gave me a free return trip in one of his planes’.  The best piece of advice ever he gave me by pointing out, that when flying to Greenland, if ever, approaching the Greenland coast I happened to be lost. “Eppo to the left of Kulusuk Greenland is flat, and to its right it is mountainous, therefore if you see the flat ice-cap turn right and if you see nothing but mountains turn left. Lafitte should have listened to that!

                      As preparations in Reykjavik continued, tensions between Numan and his chase pilot began to resurface, his lack of commitment to my project, at times resulting in sheer blunt sabotage, would eventually nearly paralyze the expedition. “People were getting worried that I was becoming afraid to take off, but the problem really was that this fellow was driving me completely crazy by, on multiple occasions, not showing up when he was supposed to and arguing with me at every turn. There was no love lost between us.”

                      Had 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 Reykjavik, Numan headed out over the Denmark Strait for Kulusuk Greenland on June-22-1990 a stretch of approximately 457 miles over “open” water, arriving there after 6 hours and 58 minutes. The chase plane pilot Hilmar Foss had awakened Numan early that morning to show him an optimistic weather forecast.

                      ‘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 Iceland and Greenland the evening before 80% overcast? How come this rapid overnight change in the weather? ‘I knew full well knew ‘clear skies’ in between Iceland and Greenland were a rare event, on average not more than maybe three times in one summer, arising only when a Westerly wind blows over the Greenland icecap. The weatherman had explained this to us in detail the evening before.

                      I definitely did NOT want to fly 457 miles over the North Atlantic into a head wind, nor in the precipitation that the MET man had forecasted. Numan recalls the chase pilot produced the most current infrared meteorological map, waving it under his nose, luring him into going.

                      ‘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 Iceland! How dared this weasel-like nincompoop deprive me of the right to make my own decisions? How dared he lure me into flying? The year before, 1989, he had already started showing an unbearable amount of disinterested behaviour, now the same thing was happening in 1990. The man just kept piling one act of sabotage upon the other. For instance, we’d make an appointment at Sunday noon sharp to go over some details, he would then call me at eight in the evening to tell me he wasn’t coming . . .  

                      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 Greenland, I immediately checked if this ideal weather pattern would hold, for it seemed perfect to fly next day (Sunday). So, I told my chase pilot we were going to fly over the top of Greenland the next day. The damm bloke had the unforgivable audacity, quote: ‘No you can not depart tomorrow (Sunday), I already asked the airfield’s manager and he told me the airfield is closed on Sundays, and he and his co-pilot walked off.

                      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 Greenland.

                      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 Greenland, shoot! He most certainly had the face to go with it! Well than lad here comes! Boy oh boy, did then Numan loose his temper, he did however restrain himself by merely slapping Foss hard across the right cheek. Unfortunately for Foss, all Numan’s accumulated and pent-up frustration about the man was put into that one single slap, Foss went down! Rubbing his sore cheek he finally did shut up.

                      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 New York, I phoned Mr. Thormunder to thank him for his intervention on my behalf regarding the sponsoring of the Direction Finder, after all it had saved my life!’ Hesitantly Mr. Thormunder asked: “Did you hit Hilmar Foss?” Bashfully I responded, “why” in case he’d be sore at me for hitting what I believed to be an important business relation of his. I can still hear his jubilant voice in my earpiece:

                      “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 out from Reykjavik I hit a big band of clouds.

“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 Reykjavik and clear in Kulusuk.’ He’d known about the cloud bank all along.

                                  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 Reykjavik when Pat Epps phoned the flying school where Numan was staying.

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 Atlanta drawl, “Well, I can have a Piper Navajo here in two hours. You’ll have to pay for our expenses and my brother Doug will have to agree to be the pilot, but I think we can fly chase for you”. Numan says, I literally started jumping up and down. Within minutes the deal was sealed, at which point Hilmar Foss, who all the time had been sulking in the background and eavesdropping on our conversation, suddenly came running over screaming,

                      “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 to Reykjavik, and I wasn’t the least bit sorry to see the gent leave!” However, ‘I’ was the one STILL renting the Icelandic chase plane, I should have never let him take it back to Iceland. Two hours later when Doug Epps came cycling on to the scene, on one of those foldable bicycles, pedalling like crazy in far too low a gear setting, with his white beard, sparkling eyes and little round belly, it was just like Santa Claus arriving. At a distance I saw him chatting in earnest with his older brother Pat, whilst gesticulating wildly with his arms.

                      “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?

                      “NOOOOOO, ..!!!!!!!”

                      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:

                      “Found one!”

                      It 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 Greenland. Got out, covered it up, patted it, one last lingering look, and hit the sack.

                      After 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 Reykjavik for just such an occasion, I was worried one of the small rocks would go through my prop on take-off.  Diligently at two in the morning I swept about 400 feet of runway, and made a marking with my heel across either end. And waited for Doug to wake up. When all was ready and checked for the big hop across the icecap, and Numan about to climb into his machine  . . ,

                      Doug: “He Eppo, if balls were tits, yours be bigger than Dolly Parton’s 

                      Don’t 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 Greenland skies, this to such an extend I would only cool-off once in the air. Doug and an Inuit mechanic were fussing about, helping me fasten my polar collar onto my helmet with orange tape. Pfieuw, ‘I have to open-up my clothes Doug, I am perspiring like an ox working in a rice paddy. ‘When all things possible were double checked to my own and their satisfaction, about to roll onto the runway, in comes drifting Arctic sea fog, ever so slowly sneaking onto the runway and platform. Nervously I got out, and started pacing up and down, walked to a little knoll to peek out over the fog to see whether it would lift, it did not nor did it get worse, it just lingered like it belonged there. After two dreadful hours it finally lifted. Had it not, I would probably have to wait for weeks on end for another High pressure zone. So Doug and I strolled over to the MET to double check, since the forecast for the following day had not been particularly good.

                      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?

                      Remember; 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 Greenland. Had I crashed on top of Greenland, it would have proven their point, that in their opinion my expedition was far too dangerous! As of that moment, Doug wisely held his funny trap shut. Hell, grovel some more, why not? I genuinely feared, one word from this bossy weatherman and I my permission would be withdrawn. In the end the guy smiled and whished me good luck on my flight!


                      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 Greenland, 10.500ft. So, here goes floor the throttle, my ears perked if something would go through the prop. ‘Well now Eppo you be a good little pilot and fly diligently South along the coast to the to relocate the big ‘M’ you marked on your map, and ogle the floating icebergs. Once airborne, I would regularly talk to my self when things got exciting or scary, a proven remedy to keep me on my toes, as well as for my self-confidence.

                      Landing on Greenland, Numan says, really reinforced the intensity of his commitment to make the flight to call attention to mankind’s treatment of the environment. ‘Greenland has an absolute purity about it. It is pristine. It transmits a low inescapable throb of overwhelming purity reaching as deep as the marrow of ones bones. The Earth’s essence is made up of pure purity, it is its trademark, have we forgotten? This planet of ours oozes something so forceful, so irresistible, and yet so soothingly gentle like a mother comforting her child. It seems to say to you, here I am in my impeccable state of purity, how impeccable are you, and how are you treating me? Are you willing to live up to my standards? Do you respect my rules of thumb? My sacred guidelines?

                      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 of Greenland gives the impression of being completely flat, but it slowly rises to heights of 9,500 feet. The only way I could judge my altitude in relation to the icecap was to watch the shadow of my machine. Each time my shadow started to grow larger I’d simply climb a little higher.” Weird things can happen when one over flies the Greenland icecap, it is so mirror flat, that this constant staring at the horizon started to play tricks with my eyes, I could have sworn I was off my compass course, for the whole horizon seemed at times to shift with small jerks to the right. So I scrutinised the compass once more, I was absolutely dead centre on course. It got so bad that my whole body was screaming to me, follow the weird urge, and fly in the wrong direction. I had to force myself to stick the compass. In the far distance I detected a pin prick fly-poop-like speck on this never ending snow deck, now how is that possible? Humming to myself, I hope this is Sea Bass radar station, I hope this is Sea Bass radar station, the fly poop got bigger, then I knew, it is! What a lullaby luxury!

                      ‘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 Atlanta drawl of his:

                      “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 eleven o’clock”. He had been waiting for me circling Sea Bass Radar Station on top of Greenland. From where, he started giving me redirections to join up with him, until I yelled: ‘Doug I see a pin prick on the horizon”. The rest is history. After linking up with Numan near Sea Bass radar station, Doug Epps had circled Numan for some time, helping to correct his course to “Sondy” as Epps affectionately called it. “I took off about two hours after Eppo,” said Epps, “and even after I picked him up with the direction finder it took me a while to spot him” - Doug: “The little scoundrel didn’t make a very good target, flying that little white ultralight on top of the icecap.

                      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 Iceland, they had ever so generously loaned it to my expedition. That thing worked to perfection.

                      “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)– JUNE 26, 1990

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 Cape Dyer, and maybe later that same day fly on to Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay). Both situated on Baffin Island East Canada. As per usual, the plan was that Epps would depart Sǿndre Strǿmfjord two and a half hours after Numan and link up with him via the direction finder.

Numan: “About ten minutes out of the East coast of Greenland at Helsingborg my newly acquired boat compass started to act up. First it tilted a bit to the right, making me wonder, am I in some sort of turn I am not aware of? No, my craft was dead level, another 10 minutes later it started to tilt alarmingly; the ball tilted 90 degrees in the compass liquid. I immediately radioed back to Sondy and urgently asked them to get hold of Doug Epps ASAP and tell him to depart on the double, and decided to continue on my Gyro compass. Another minutes later, the compass stood vertical, and about five minutes later it flopped upside down. Good morning sunshine!

“I should have turned back there and then!”

But having experienced how well the Direction Finder had performed in between Iceland and Greenland, as well as over the top of Greenland, I had become so overly convinced about its outstanding qualities that I decided to chance it. I did not want to fly all the way back to Sondy and land with a near full fuel tank.

Contemplating, that from the Greenland west coast at Helsingborg to Cape Dyer Canada was but another 217 statute miles, not more than another 3 hours of flying taking the predicted 7 knot tailwind into account. And considering the amount time Doug could stay up in the air, I figured he could easily accompany me all the way to Canada by flying large circles around me whilst giving slight corrections on my course”.

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 Greenland, Doug picked up Numan’s signal from the Direction Finder, to his utter disbelief its needle pointed way to the left.

“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 Iceland for just such an occasion did not work properly either. I wondered why I kept seeing the fading Greenland coast looking looking over my left shoulder, it felt like it was chasing me.

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 Canada myself”

                      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 Canada, did fill her up, did warn Canadian Radar about Numan’s predicament. Numan: “After what seemed three centuries Doug came back on the radio: “He Eppo, put you Transponder on 1200 and push the ident button” Some five minutes later: “He Eppo, Canada’s got you radar identified, and they’ve assigned a special operator by the code name ‘Side Car’ to your flight, whom you can contact every ten minutes, and he’ll give you a correction on your course”  - Numan: “I drove the poor guy nuts, by constantly giving him my full call-sign and forcing him to do likewise” -  “Side car, this is Foxtrot two eight Alpha Oscar”. Upon my arrival at the Cape Dyer airstrip, he saw me on his radar over the field, I saw nothing, he had to keep convincing me my butt was right overhead the runway.

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 Cape Dyer. Upon landing at Cape Dyer, Numan was immediately welcomed to the North American continent by Epps Steven and others from the base. Numan recalls, “When I landed there were about 10 guys waiting to welcome me. They were all congratulating me, but there was really only one thing I needed to do. Unlike the Pope, I didn’t kiss the ground! “Doug Epps said to me, ‘Congratulations, Eppo, you’ve crossed the North Atlantic in a Hangglider’

I replied ‘Yes, sir, that I did.”

As a souvenir Numan was presented with one of Cape Dyer’s coffee mugs decorated with the symbol of Mercury! “The symbol of the messenger, quite befitting the occasion”. As well Dough and Numan both direly needed some fuel - none to be found on the Cape Dyer base. “We had to fly to Iqaluit to get some, where we were welcomed to Canada by a friendly Custom’s woman, however she insisted we remain on board Doug’s plane for first our passports had to be scrutinised and stamped. “You just missed Nelson Mandela by one day” she said! Shoot, we both would have loved to shake hands with THAT  man.

“He looked ever so frail” she added.

“The next morning Doug let me fly the Piper part of the way back to Cape Dyer to let me reconnoitre the route I would have to take later that day. From Cape Dyer to Iqualuit I had to do all my flying by topological maps, my compass broken and my ADF still did not work properly. Luckily, a couple of days after my arrival on Iqaluit I was able to purchase a first-class aviation compass in Iqaluit, which I wasn’t able to pay”.

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 August 2, 1990. (the day of Eppo’s arrival in new York) Odd thing happened to Numan when walking into the Iqaluit weather office, a handsome young lady called Pierette, told him a someone called Suzy from Switzerland had called her office to congratulate Numan on his Atlantic crossing. “Up until today I haven’t cot a clue as to who Suzy is!” 

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 (Fort Chimo). The weather gods had different ideas, however, as an hour past Quaqtaq, Numan encountered a fierce crosswind and was forced to return to the airstrip in the Eskimo village. What should have been a 6 hour trip to Kuujjuaq, Numan says, became a 5 hour and 5 minute flight to Quaqtaq.”


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 noon, 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 Sunday, July 8, 1990, headed for Kuujjuaq, a 4-1/2   hour flight. Upon leaving Quaqtaq The Inuit woman and their children all gathered around my craft, seeing the small compartment door in the nose wide open, dead silent, never understood why, and never noticed a thing, hid good-luck beads and a feather under my luggage. ‘Now ain’t that sweet!’


As he drew nearer to Kuujjuaq, Numan noted the whole sky had literally turned into a menacing black, looming over the village of Kuujjuaq, (Fort Chimo) moving in ever closer. “The cloud looked so damn black I knew if it would rain, it was going to be like a tropical downpour and would rain me right out of the sky. The only thing I could do was pull in the bar tight against my chest, and floor the throttle, pushing onward and hoping I could land before the rain hit. I kept talking to myself; closer and closer, final, short final, touch down, get off the runway, race along the taxiway and get into a hangar. The airport manager Robert Duchette came running up to me,  I quickly handed him my survival raft, yanked the radio plugs out off their sockets, unbuckled, got out, and at the very same moment it started pouring, “TROPICAL”. The weather gods really gave me a break there.

“About just”  

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 ate in Cape Dyer and Kuujjuaq, were among the very best I ever ate, and I’m not  sucking-up because the cook looked pretty. After may stay in the Bunk House, the airport manager Robert Duchette was so kind as put me up for a week in his apartment. Not much to do in Kuujjuaq, watch TV, make phone calls to the UN, the press and my children. Only when it rained I could take a short stroll outside, with fare weather I didn’t get further than 200 meters from his place before thousands of hungry mosquito’s homed in on me. I had to wear one of those mosquito hats, and spray my jacket and trousers with insect repellent. ‘Holiday? Hm, but for the meal!’

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 Atlantic then and there and never fly this retched machine again!

                      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 Nubian Desert. Not ever before had I experienced what the true meaning of thirsty to the point of being dangerously dehydrated was. I had been profusely sweating for four and a half hours non-stop. All in all, I drank four large cokes, four coffee, four tea, four glasses of milk and four big glasses of ice water, all within half an hour, such was the state of my dehydration!”

                      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.

                      I’ve 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 Dayton, where we discovered, we both had the same life-long cherished dream; buy ourselves a Catalina and roam around the world, maybe, even never come back, yes sir. “Those crazy half egg shaped windows so oddly slapped on its tail, wouldn’t you just want to string up a hammock in one of those, lay down, and succumb to a never ending day dream, ogling at the world beneath”. 

                      We both got that right!

                      “My 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 Wabash. “You get all your courage back once you’re on the ground. Mind you, five hours earlier I’d sworn I’d never fly that machine again, but I decided to get to Wabash and get rid of my fear flying over that bush and turbulent terrain. I was looking forward to flying over water again on the St. Lawrence.”

The short flight to Wabush that evening was smooth and calm as Numan raced sunset to land in Wabash. Had it not been for very last reflecting sunrays, I wouldn’t ever have found Wabush, thus was my misjudgement of the amount of remaining daylight, I had two hours to get there, should have been enough, but it took me 2.32hrs. The last half hour of the leg I was enveloped in total darkness, not a very pleasant situation to be in. So I radioed Wabush for assistance, thank God there still was somebody manning the station. “Sir we understand your predicament, we’ll turn on the airport’s strobe light for you”.  About 15 seconds later, a tiny pinprick of a light made its appearance far in the distance. I immediately radioed back; ‘sir I have your strobe in sight’ - an indescribable moment, it was too dark to read my roller-map and no light in my compass to go by, I had started to feel extremely uncomfortable. What a relief!

‘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 St. Lawrence River. He continued down the St. Lawrence, planning to overnight at Mont Jolie. An 18 knot crosswind over the tree-lined runway sucked his craft sideways almost smack into the trees, by going flat out full throttle he just about managed to fly out of this hazardous situation, his rear wheels going through the top of the trees. Some helpful tower personnel directed him on to Rimouski where he landed into an 8 knot headwind. From Rimouski, Numan filed a flight plan to Quebec, but with weather cooperating nicely he amended that plan and flew directly to Saint Hubert near Montreal. His next planned stop Teterboro, New Jersey after circling the Statue of Liberty.

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 Albany to clear U.S. customs at that airfield. He ended up being delayed there six days. Leaving Albany, Numan filed clear to Teterboro, but near Poughkeepsie he experienced his most frightening moments of the entire flight. “As I approached a little airport just past Poughkeepsie, I was caught up by very strong winds. My air speed was indicating 60 knots, but my Loran was indicating a ground speed of 85 knots. The winds became so strong that for about 30 seconds I seriously considered calling out a Mayday so they’d have an ambulance waiting when I crashed. Not even during the horrible turbulence on the way to Schefferville was I so fearful of crashing as I was at that moment. I was sure I would be knocked out of the sky.”

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 Poughkeepsie. Where he was contacted by CNN and ABC television. Both stations told him to call and notify their television and helicopter crews, as both stations wanted to broadcast Numan’s arrival at the Statue of Liberty live as well as nation wide. Whereupon Numan replied: “But sir, I intend to be airborne as early as four in the morning to avoid being fogged-in again, or caught out by turbulence”. The early hour was no problem the people from ABC and CNN said, and Numan was given the phone numbers of the television- and helicopter crews, and was urged to wake them up any time he saw fit.

Roger that!

Next morning came, August 2, 1990, Numan kept calling and calling, but nobody answered his numerous calls. He shrugged, “oh what the heck” and departed Poughkeepsie without any live TV coverage. Once more over the Hudson he requested to be radar vectored to Teterboro and was later passed over to New York Control:

“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 Manhattan, to my dismay I began experiencing horrible turbulence. I thought, ‘Not again in sheer incontrollable turbulence!’ I turned around and crossed over the Verrazano Bridge. In doing so, I hoped to make it to Linden airfield, a familiar place where I had staid three weeks back in 1987, just another nine miles down the road, but the turbulence became so bad, I simply had to put her down in Miller Field Park on Staten Island, a Federal park. Within 30 minutes I was surrounded by multiple Police authorities. First came the Park Police, then the Local Police, then the Federal Police, and last but not least the Air Police flew in on a helicopter, kind of amusing to be surrounded by that many different representatives of the Law. Aha, now which Police Force was going to perform the honour of arresting me?

As soon as they heard I was the first pilot to have flown the Atlantic in an Ultralight, all of them immediately became friendly and congenial and wanted to have their picture taken with me and my craft. All day, I waited for the Press to show up, they didn’t! It was the 2nd of August and Kuwait had been invaded by Iraq. Fortunately for me, the Air Police helicopter pilot took the trouble to check my complaints about the turbulence coming off Manhattan on my way North to Teterboro. “Sir we checked, and indeed the wind did suddenly shift as much as 180 degrees, you must have experienced quite a bit of turbulence flying past Manhattan!”  Thus verifying my story, saving me from God knows what. Even, back in 1987, I had experienced severe turbulence coming off Manhattan, as I well remember, I had to flee up East River, making a hairy U-turn to abort and go back to Linden airfield. The next morning, New York Control cleared me to depart from the park and I landed at Teterboro airfield, where I got free hangar space at Atlantic Aviation, August 3rd, formally ending my Atlantic crossing.”

Was it al worth it?

“Well now, to see my now deceased son Leonard waiting at the gate of Amsterdam airport with a big proud grin on his face, carrying a huge banner which read:


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 Iceland. I’d estimate I spent 300 hours of preparation time for every hour of flight time. That was the horrendous part. The flight itself was by far the easier part.”

                      One morning, in the Teterboro hangar New Jersey, the late Christopher Reeve came strolling over to check out my craft and read the following text on my cockpit:

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.

It is now that the tome has come for the RULING BODIES of our world to make AMENDS and GIVE WAY to the present awakening of a new universal consciousness and ancient slumbering wisdom.

Dare our society make a stand in the quest for such impeccability, that will save our sacred planet “THE EARTH MOTHER



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.


Is a unique machine, specially designed to fulfil the mission of a North Atlantic crossing. The wing is a standard Raven-X wing manufactured by Medway Microlights of Rochester, England, designed by Roy Venton-Walters. The trike suspended underneath the wing is a modified South Down International two-place trike, for which cockpit fairing Numan hired Yugoslav sculptor Franja Mora to design. At the outset, Mora, who now lives in Holland, estimated it’d take them approximately one month to make a mould for the cockpit, which is fabricated from Kevlar, reinforced with Carbon-fibre.

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 Mediterranean was powered by a Fuji Robin engine. In the course of building the second trike, Numan was swayed to use the Limbach engine, which he says performed flawlessly. However, because of the extra instruments necessary for that engine, the final weight of the machine reached 189 kg. (416 Ibs.), 39 kg. more than the 150 kg. for which Numan was aiming. That necessitated Numan’s registering the machine as an ultralight in France, where the upper limit for ultralights is 200 kg., thus the registration F28AO. Numan himself holds both Dutch and French microlight licenses.

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 Greenland, I could have used the life raft with its hood as a tent for warmth until rescuers arrived.”) Other survival gear included underarm life vests, an ELT with extra battery, survival knife, smoke flares, and signal rockets, al of which was carried on or in the flying suit which Numan wore at all times. Numan chose not to equip the machine with a ballistic chute because of the added weight.

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 North Atlantic. The Plexiglass box encased map-strips wound around two rollers at each end which allowed him to roll the map along as he completed each leg of the flight. The only problem with this device is that it required Numan cut al his maps and tape them together to form a single strip for each leg, a task which sometimes became tedious work.

                                      © Mary Jones 1990 / Eppo Numan 2007


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