24 Jul 1999 - Bruce - Cleveland

Here we are again folks. Last time I wrote we were shivering and shaking in Portugal [but that got hotter trust me!]. Right now I'm sitting in a hotel room in Cleveland hammering away at a laptop and we are 2 weeks into the tour and its sounding pretty exciting. Everyone will be sending in reviews so I don't need to tell you about that kind of stuff, but lots of people are curious about the pictures of the Plane that rod put out, so I thought I'd tell you a little bit about the 'Aces High gang' as Nicko likes to call us.

The Aircraft that we are flying is a twin engine Cessna 421B, which can seat up to 7 passengers and one Pilot. It will fly as high as 30,000 feet and is Pressurized, air conditioned, and yes it even has a loo! The C421 is a lovely plane to fly, I should mention at this point that I'm the Pilot, so I am somewhat biased, but everyone who has flown with us has loved it, in fact the only problem on some legs has been lack of seats, in other words we're full up mate!

The USA and Canada is a fantastic environment for what is termed 'General Aviation', which means everything that flies except Airlines, Military, and birds. We can fly into all the big airports or, like here in Cleveland and in Toronto, into the downtown airports which are sometimes just yards from our hotel or the show. We are not restricted by schedules, we can leave or arrive at any hour of the day or night, and we have NEVER lost a bag, mainly because we have to load them ourselves!

A typical flight sees Nicko, Steve, Rod, Alan{our tour manager} and Dimo Safari the photographer on board. If we have a night flight people usually snooze, but on many of the day flights we have sightseeing options and I'm always open to requests. We had a spectacular departure out of Montreal up the St Lawrence River to Quebec, and en route from Boston to Toronto Mr. Kodak made lots of money as we dipped down to fly over Niagara Falls. We shall be commuting around the Mid West for a few days now, so I have to drop Steve off after the show in Detroit, and then the rest of us will probably go to Chicago. Rod wants to go to the Grand Canyon, and on the way from Denver to Los Angeles we'll make a fuel stop in Las Vegas. Question? Will Rod win back the price of the gas on the tables?

Nicko is a fine pilot himself, which must be something to do with all that eye hand co-ordination that drummers are blessed with, so he usually sits up in the cockpit with me. Nick has let some of the recent experience requirements for his licence lapse so he can't actually fly as Pilot in command at the moment, but as soon as we get to LA we'll get him up in a trainer, get his nose back in the books, and we'll have him airborne in no time. I should mention that safety is a primary concern at all times, and ensuring the safety of the flight is something that I take very seriously. Every day we do a thorough pre flight inspection before we fly, and before we take off the engines and propellers are tested, along with the electrical systems and all the flight controls.

On this US tour I take along an extra pilot and we run the aircraft as a 2-crew operation. Although I very often fly the plane on my own (it is certified for single pilot operation) it often increases our efficiency and decreases stress when both of us work together. Joe Justice owns a flight school in Santa Monica California and is a charter Pilot himself, and he's the guy who is with us. Joe is a very relaxed guy and fits right in with the guys. Nicko is giving him Golf tips in return for flying lessons!

At the end of the US tour the plane will go in for a service check, and while mechanics are crawling all over it, it will have a satellite navigation system fitted and some radios modified in order to comply with European regulations. I am boning up on my Icelandic in preparation for flying across the big pond from Los Angeles to Paris sometime in August. I will fly the route with an experienced ferry pilot who has done the trip many times before. It's the same route taken by the bombers in World War 2
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