Dash for a Cure

The Story Continues ...
Flight Log
Entry #118 : 3/18/2012 7:39:00 AM EST
Final entry, sorry it's late! Sunday, March 11th, 2012 -- Wink to Mineola, TX With daylight savings time last night, it’s still dark at 7:30am, but I check the weather and we’re clear here. Unfortunately, as forecast, there’s a storm going from south to north through eastern Texas. If I take off between 9 and 10am, I should arrive after it is through the area. I actually took off at 10:30am and flew through clear skies most of the way across Texas – it’s a BIG state. I saw the storms ahead and the Mineola weather was 500 feet overcast, close to minimums. It hadn’t moved through as quickly as forecast. I was cleared for the approach from 20 miles out and got everything set up. I had asked Wayne about an alternate airport if I couldn’t get in here and Tyler was only 12 miles away, with an ILS approach. So, if this GPS approach didn’t get me low enough, I had a good option. All went well on the approach, Wayne had turned the lights on so I’d have the best chance of seeing the runway and I did with 50 feet to spare. I landed and we hugged. We had a busy afternoon going over the details of his upcoming world flight routing. We also flew in his Bonanza to test his newly installed HF radio. We had good reception from Iowa and New York but only marginal transmission to New York. A little tweaking will be required to improve the output. Monday, March 12, 2012 -- Mineola, TX to Gainesville, FL Three hours down and all the storms are behind me. Only an hour and forty minutes to go and I’ll be home!! Wow, back to normal after eleven months of traveling. It has been an amazing trip. This morning I got up at 7:15am, an hour late due to daylight savings time. I checked the weather first thing. The trip home was do-able by a northern route. The southern route was still blocked by a line of thunderstorms. But, if I went by Montomergy Alabama, I’d stay to the north of the storms and be able to get home. I filed the flight plan, packed and walked to my plane. The weather here was 800 foot overcast, so I needed a void time to get out. I gassed up, called approach for my clearance and took off. It was a smooth climbout through only one thousand feet of clouds. I was cruising on top of the cloud layer at 7000 feet with a 10 knot tailwind. I’d borrowed Wayne’s weather antenna as mine wasn’t working. I could see the line of storms ahead. They were staying south of my course. I had some minor deviations around some small cells and went through some medium rain, but most of the storms stayed to the south. Now it’s a clear smooth flight the rest of the way home. Ahh, it’s good to land at my home airport and be home.

Entry #117 : 3/11/2012 5:15:00 PM EST
Thursday, March 8th, 2011 California to Texas This flight has been absolutely the worst of the past year. For the last two and a half hours I’ve been flying between 105 and 112 knots into a 40 to 50 knot headwind component and it’s been very bumpy. At this rate, I’ll have to stop for fuel before I reach Texas! Incredible! Normally, heading east, one gets a 30 to 40 knot tailwind. Yesterday the forcast winds showed a forty to fifty knot tailwind. But, I wanted to spend the day with the family. I’m very glad that I did, but I’m suffering today. This continued for another three hours. As I was approaching El Paso, I saw clouds and what looked like showers ahead and the temperature was below freezing. I saw Las Cruses airport to my left, so, I cancelled IFR turned left and landed. I got gas, checked weather and filed another IFR flight plan. The weather showed freezing above 7000 feet, but not below. I questioned whether I would make it past the El Paso showers, but was ready to turn around. After that, the temperatures and rain looked compatible. Ice was my main worry. I took off and climbed to 9000 feet. As I approached El Paso the showers turned out to be a sandy haze from all the wind. No rain and the clouds were higher. I continued feeling that I would make it. After an hour, I could see lower cloud ahead. I had to get down to 7000 feet. ATC gave me a deviation and a descent to 8000 then to 7000 feet. Unfortunately, the temperature was still below freezing, not as forecast. I wouldn’t be able to get below 7000 feet until passing Midland about 100 miles ahead. I wasn’t ready to go VFR. Suddenly there was a slight shower and ice on the windshield. I didn’t want to wait for any accumulation, I’d been looking at an intermediate airport, Winkler County, and turned that way, started a descent and call ATC to cancel IFR. After landing at this empty airport, I heard a voice over the radio, “do you want avgas?” I said no, just tie-down. I walked toward the building and a man came to the door and told me to wipe the stickers off my shoes (I had walked across the grass and there are stickers everywhere). He turned out to be the airport manager, Charlie. He’s lived and breathed airports and flying all his life and has been here for over 20 years. We had a great discussion over dinner and he dropped me off at the hotel. In the morning we again had more interesting talks over breakfast and he drove me back to the airport. Many times the unexpected turns out okay. Small airports will increase your faith in the good of people. Here Charlie was most helpful and friendly. I have found that it’s the same most places in the world. I checked and rechecked the weather, waited for the temperatures to increase, called Wayne and headed out. The biggest worry was the first part with some light rain showers between here and Midland. After that it cleared up and warmed up and I could pick up my IFR flight plan and fly through rain to Wayne’s airport, east of Dallas. The first half hour was good visibility with the cloud layer above 4000 feet and the icing layer at the same place. I had to stay about 3800 feet (1000 feet above ground level) to stay above obstacles. In the oil field there are lots of towers, mostly short, but some high ones. Then I got into misty rain and low visibility. With icing above me and towers below, I made the decision to turn around. Twenty five minutes later I was back on the ground and Charlie was helping me to tie-down. If that rain south of Midland didn’t blow through, I wouldn’t make it today. I continued watching the weather. At 3pm I made the no-go decision and called Wayne. Another night in Wink, TX. This morning the cloud layer is 1000 feet above the ground and lower at other airports in the area. The temperature is 3C (37F). I won’t be going anywhere before noon. There’s still a slight chance that I’ll be able to fly to Dallas today. We’ll see. No go again today. Charlie and I had some long conversations about politics, religion, the history of the west Texas oilfield and life in general. It was an interesting day. The west Texas oilfield has been a history of booms and busts. Right now, with the new Gulf and Alaskan oil closed, it’s booming here. The flat scrub land is crisscrossed with power lines and small wells bobbing up and down. There are parallel dirt roads where oilmen check the wells daily. Pilots fly the pipelines at 300 feet to inspect for leaks. One pilot came here for fuel the other day. He wasn’t going to fly much longer due to the weather and most of the other pilots hadn’t flown that day. The local town, Kermit, is busy and restaurants are doing well. But the infrastructure isn’t good. Most kids leave after high school. Many of the oilfield workers come in trailers and don’t buy homes. They are highly transient. Normally it’s sunny, hot and dry. The rain that we got two nights ago, which was only a trace, is the first in two years. The weather channel even called this “freaky weather” with a low that won’t move. And, I get stuck here! It’s been interesting.

Entry #116 : 3/6/2012 8:22:00 PM EST
March 4th, 2012 – Hawaii to Stockton, California Four and a half hours down, less than twelve to go. The winds haven’t been as forecast. I was supposed to have very slight headwinds changing early to tailwinds. I’ve had 10 to 15 knot headwinds all the time. I certainly hope they change. I had originally scheduled to depart at 1am to get into Stockton before dark. But decided that I needed more sleep, so changed my departure to 3am. The alarm woke me up at 2:05. I’d slept well. I checked winds and weather and the handler, Air Services Hawaii representative Shanna, picked me up at 2:20 am as planned. I preflighted the plane as we waited for the USDA representative to come and sign me off. Finally I jumped into the cockpit and started the engine. I couldn’t reach Honolulu departure from the ground, but it was VFR, so I could depart and get my clearance in the air. Everything was good with the run-up, so I lined up and took off. It was pitch black with overcast skies at 4000 feet. I stayed on the instruments and followed the published departure procedure. I reached Honolulu departure, they gave me my clearance and I climbed to 7000 feet on my way. I had a few bumps going through clouds and when I turned my head to look left behind me, I saw an orange three quarter moon in the western sky. By its light, I could tell that I was above a cloud layer. Honolulu wanted me to confirm HF contact prior to losing communication, so I reeled out the antenna and called. No answer on either frequency. I called back on VHF and told them that I didn’t have contact. He gave me a third frequency to try which worked beautifully. I heard him loud and clear. Honolulu stayed with me for another half an hour, then handed me off to San Francisco radio and wished me a good flight. I figured out my first few reporting points and gave them to SF radio. It was cold and dark, I turned on the heat and checked the winds; terrible, a 10 knot headwind component. I didn’t want to do much while it was dark, I would change batteries, charge the satellite phone and download the JPI when it got light. I didn’t want to move things around and maybe drop something in the dark. So, I looked outside and enjoyed the stars and moon. I called SF radio at the first reporting point but didn’t hear a reply. I tried again, then tried the secondary frequency. Nothing. I called on VHF, but no-one was within range. A few minutes later an airliner called me on VHF, it wasn’t easy to hear, but I got the information across and he transmitted it to SF radio. I looked up and saw a bright spot on the eastern horizon. Yeah, daylight, already. I knew I’d feel better as night turned into day. It was a beautiful sunrise with a few reddish clouds and blue sky above. At the next reporting point again I had HF transmission problems and a New Zealand airliner relayed the information. Afterwards, he asked what kind of plane I was and how long I had to go. I got the idea that he didn’t like the idea of sitting in a small plane for 15 hours. Finally I have good HF communication and I continue reporting twice an hour. As seven hours approaches running on the ferry tank, I start feeling how much gas is left and watching the fuel pressure gage. I want to use as much as possible without running it dry. After seven hours and twenty six minutes I finally switch to the left-wing tank. Now I can relax and I’ll only switch tanks on the hour. I’ve got over 11 hours of fuel remaining for less than eight more hours of flying. The HF with San Francisco continues well. I also try Scott, a ham radio buff in Hawaii that I’ve been trying to reach all across the Pacific. Unfortunately again today, we can’t hear each other. I eat half my sandwich and a few macademia nut cookies that Air Services Hawaii gave me and drink water. I’m feeling pretty good and keep doing my leg exercises. After my last HF reporting point I couldn’t reach the VHF controller nor the HF controller. Two airliners tried to relay, but the controller just replied that I’d reach him soon. Finally he relayed a squawk code. Then he asked me to ident and finally we were in communication. It was night as I came over the brightly lit bay area. San Francisco and Oakland airports were to my left, San Jose and others were to my right. The controller kept pointing out Boeings and Airbuses descending around me and going above and below me. He did a great job. Someone had advised them that I was at the end of a 15 hour flight and they took good care of me. I was finally handed off to Stockton tower who brought me in ahead of an MD80 and another jet. I landed and he welcomed me to Stockton. After shutting down, I got out on wobbly legs and was greeted by Larry, a Bonanza pilot that I’d met at Oshkosh (he’s a friend of another earthrounder, Wayne). Larry got me to the hotel, had a beer with me and then I slept soundly. Monday, March 5th, 2012 – Top Gun Aviation and to LA The reason for flying to Stockton was to visit Top Gun Aviation and to get my gear actuator fixed. In Perth, we’d put an “old” spring into the actuator. Since that time, Tom, at Top Gun, had obtained a new spring and we’d set this date for it to be installed in the Mooney. They are knowledgeable and quick. I was out by noon. Larry and I had spent the time talking about flying around the world. He’s going to be flying with Wayne, in Wayne’s Bonanza, later this year. It’s a charity flight for Wings of Hope. More details will soon be available. I’d already filed a flight plan this morning to head to Brackett Field in southern California so that I could spend a few days with my brother and his family. It’s so easy be back in the US. I just pulled up www.fltplan.com, entered my information and voila, the flight plan is complete. I checked the weather and notams and I’m on my way. Boy, is it good and easy to be back home!

Entry #115 : 3/6/2012 10:31:00 AM EST
Thursday, March 1st, 2012 – on Christmas Island I’m using the local phones and can’t reach anyone. The Kiribati oil company contact isn’t answering his phone and the airport manager isn’t available. Finally I reach the Kiribati switchboard and explain that I need avgas today. She seemed to think that I wouldn’t arrive until later today. That might explain why they weren’t at the airport to give me fuel when I landed yesterday and why they didn’t contact the airport about my arrival which they said they would do. Hmmm. I asked that they contact me at the hotel for refueling today. This is only a small island with about 5000 people. Captain Cook is the only hotel and everyone knows what’s going on. It wasn’t too long before the woman at the desk knocked on my door to say that the van with the fuel was here to take me to the airport. Off we went. Refueling was quick, efficient and expensive. It’s almost the most expensive on this trip, just behind Muscat and ahead of Djibouti. $1010 for a barrel. That’s $18.30 per gallon. I’m looking forward to filling up in Hawaii at ONLY $7 per gallon! While I was gassing up a man came up and started asking questions. He turned out to be the former Airport Manager and I went to see him after completing the refueling. His name is “Weather” and he is extremely knowledgeable and friendly. He was the airport manager for 14 years and loves the airport. Although retired, he still works as the “tower” controller most days. He lives at the airport and can’t believe that the current manager is allowed to live 20 kilometers away without any transportation to the airport. She works from her house. It seems there are a lot of politics in play here. Weather called the airport manager and I explained that I’d spoken with Brian and he was okay with me departing at 6:30am on Friday morning (tomorrow). She asked about avgas and I said that I had already been refueled. She said that she needed time to check with others and would contact immigration and customs and get back to me this afternoon. It was 11am. Weather called the customs person and he confirmed that he was awaiting the airport manager’s approval before completing the paperwork for my departure. I walked the old taxiway that I would be using to get from the ramp to the runway. Brian’s crew was tearing up the normal taxiway for resurfacing. There was lots of grass growing and some small trees starting, but I cleared off the worst stones and it looked good enough for me to taxi out. I returned to the airport “hut.” Weather and I talked on and off. Then he asked what I was going to do tomorrow, if the paperwork wasn’t approved. I acted dumb, although I’d been thinking seriously about my options. He said that I could give the customs payment to Brian and depart without paperwork. I agreed but said that it would be better if the customs guy would come here for the payment. Also, I didn’t want to put Brian in the middle. Weather was definitely on my side and would help me to depart. That was positive. Friday March 2nd, 2012/Thursday March 1st, 2012 – to Hawaii Mark and Brian gave me a wonderful send off. Mark drove me to the airport and checked the runway while I loaded the plane. “Weather” wished me well and I wished him all the best in his future job and in New Zealand. Brian stopped by to show me a picture of the Mooney that he used to fly. We all took pictures by the plane and said goodbye. I checked everything, started up, taxied out and took off. I circled back and waggled my wings at the group that was waving. After all the angst of yesterday, I’m on my way and smiling. I could see dark clouds ahead right away. Very little showed on the storm scope, but I deviated slightly left to avoid the worst of it. I was in medium rain for a while and came out the other side, but saw another cell ahead. Again, little was showing on the storm scope but I deviated again. This time the rain was stronger and lasted longer. Finally the clouds started to brighten and I came out the other side to blue skies. I’d tried reaching San Francisco radio after takeoff, but I’d reeled in the antenna before entering the stormy areas. Now I reeled it out again and heard them right away. I received my clearance and gave them the next reporting point. Several minutes later they requested my position which I gave them. The winds are over 30 knots out of the east, which was forecast, but I only have a 10 knot headwinds component, so I’m cruising at 136 knots groundspeed, which is slightly faster than I’d flight planned. That felt better than the last flight leg. I email Wes to report on the HF reception and settle down for the flight. Several minutes after my next report with San Francisco radio, they call me back again and ask for my present position. I’m beginning to wonder what’s wrong, but I didn’t ask, I just gave them my latitude and longitude. I called Air Services Hawaii and advised them that I ‘d be about 45 minutes early and could they advise customs. Coming into Hawaii airspace I was given a new squawk code and started talking on VHF with Honolulu approach. Things were familiar again. They handed me off to tower and I did a visual approach into the 10,000 foot long runway on the west coast of the big island of Hawaii. I was happy to be back in the USA.

Entry #114 : 3/2/2012 9:55:00 PM EST
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 – Pago Pago to Christmas Island, Kiribati I’ve flown almost five hours and have five and a half to go. This is the first break I’ve had to write anything. Right from the start, I’ve been zigzagging around clouds to avoid thunderstorms. Everything went well for the departure. The airport was empty as no commuter planes were scheduled. The security guard stopped me as I was entering the customs and immigration area. I explained what I was doing (and I had my captain’s shirt on), so he let me go. I’d already cleared everything with customs, immigration and the airport police last evening. I took off from runway 05 with an eight knot wind down the runway and climbed over the island to the northeast. Already, on the east side of the island I could see my first thunderstorm. The weather this morning had shown only one major cell and the forecast was for dissipation. This one looked like it was in its final stages, but I still wanted to go around and not through it. On the other side I could see a buildup ahead. And this continued for the first four and a half hours. In between storms, I reeled out the HF antenna and tried to make contact with Auckland Radio. Faleolo, the Samoa control around Pago Pago did not answer when I called after departure. It must have been too early for them to start. So, I didn’t have an IFR clearance. Yesterday evening I made another modification to the HF, recommended by Wes, and I was convinced it would work today. I could just pick up the Hawaii time announcement on 15,000 Megacycles. But it was faint. I made calls to Auckland Radio, assuming that they could hear me (which they have been able to do on the past few flights). The only good thing about these storms is that I have an overcast layer of clouds keeping me cool. I remember this flight leg in 2003, I roasted in the cockpit, it was so hot. With the thunderstorms behind me, the sky is clear and it’s starting to get hot. I have sun shields covering the windows where the sun is coming in and hopefully I won’t roast this afternoon. Unfortunately, the headwinds have been a little stronger than forecast. Not impossible, I don’t have to turn back, but making the flight about 40 minutes longer than planned. I’ll still arrive before dusk on Christmas Island. I’ve heard other stories of pilots circling the island to alert someone to turn on the NDB and lights. Every 30 minutes I would call on the air traffic control HF frequencies and listen. Once I heard San Francisco radio very clearly. I tried calling, but he didn’t hear me. I had also set up a schedule with a ham radion operator, Scott, in Hawaii. We’d talked during my 2008 flight to Guam. Unfortunately, I had no contact with him either. One hour and thirty minutes before my arrival I finally talked with San Francisco radio. It was very clear and he heard me clearly. He gave me my clearance and I explained that I couldn’t reach Faleolo on departure and hadn’t talked with anyone until now. We kept in contact until I reached Christmas Island by VHF radio. A commuter was departing and I would arrive about 20 minutes after he left. Perfect timing for having people at the airport as most airports are only manned when commuter flights are scheduled. What a beautiful site, this small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 10 and a half hours from Pago Pago! I was happy to stretch when I got out. Immigration, customs and quarantine met me at the plane and I gave them all my paperwork as well as my departure forms. The airport manager came to see me, “we have a problem” she said. In her office she explained that there is a landing permit required and I didn’t have one. I agreed and explained about the process that I had gone through to get information and to contact this airport. I showed her the list of phone numbers that I had tried over the past three weeks and which didn’t respond. I told her about the email contacts and the last one with the avgas representative who said that he would contact the airport about my arrival. The only good news is that Wednesday, today, is the only day that arrivals and departures are permitted. Phew, lucky for me. But, she told immigration and customs not to stamp my paperwork for departure. I walked out to the ramp and tried her direct phone number again from the satellite phone, it still wasn’t working. Within the island, the phones worked, but not from outside. I told her that I often work with pilots doing long-distance flights and if she could help me to get this information, I would pass it on to others to avoid this situation in the future. Unfortunately, she gave me no further information. I asked for an email address where we could obtain airport information, notams, contacts, etc. She could give me no internet address. She said not to worry and started working on my hotel reservation. We loaded my bag and me into the back of a pick-up with 5 other people and drove me to Captain Cook hotel. During the evening I met Brian. He’s the project manager for the runway reconstruction. Apparently there is a notam for the runway closure. Unfortunately, even the people in Tarawa approved a US coastguard plane to land here last week. Also, three days ago, a ferry flight landed. Each time the workers are required to pull off the runway, increasing costs. His company is threatening the airport manager with charges for their cost over runs due to these issues. Each time they pull off it costs them $10,000. Luckily for me, they don’t work on the runway on Wednesday due to the commuter flight. He said that I didn’t cause any problems, but that the airport manager is getting stressed about the situation. He knows that the airport and island phones don’t work (from outside the island) and his company has its own communications set-up. He said that a Friday 6:30 am departure would be good for them, before they start putting equipment on the runway.

Entry #113 : 3/2/2012 1:54:00 PM EST
Monday, February 27th, 2012 – Tonga to Pago Pago I had an early breakfast and the shuttle drove me to the airport. The first plane was at 10am and I arrived at 8am, so people were just starting to arrive. One person from Airport Operations drove me from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. Here was the office for flight planning and payment and I’d parked my plane on this ramp. I filed my flight plan and paid the fee. On the ramp I talked with the avgas people and told them that I’d taxi over. I’d emailed Sam, who works for Chatham Pacific and had confirmed avgas for me. While I was preflighting a person started walking towards the plane. It had to be Sam. I got out and he gave me a very warm and friendly greeting. Sam is very big, like most Tongans, and very helpful. He was flying off to Fiji, but took the time to meet me. He said everything with the avgas and payment was prepared. I gassed up and paid then taxied over to the international terminal to get stamped out of the country. I thought all was going well until I was intercepted on my way to the immigration office. A man said that I had to come to his office to fill out paperwork. I said that all I needed to do was see immigration and I was ready to depart. My departure time was in 20 minutes. I continued walking. He said that I had to come with him to prepare the General Declaration. I said that I had mine prepared and asked if he was a handling agent. When he said yes, I said that I’d paid my airport fees and didn’t need his help. Inside, the ground services person who helped me on arrival saw me through security, took my paperwork and passport and said he’d handle it, but that I had to go with this man to pay the bills. They were exorbitant, totaling $600. I told them that I’d paid the fees at Airport Services, so they reduced the bill by $100. I was able to depart, only 10 minutes late. I’d seen the satellite weather forecast yesterday evening and later in the day the storms were predicted to get worse, thus the rush to get off as early as possible. While taxiing, the tower asked if my HF was working. I said that I’d done the work recommended by my expert and we’d test it after take-off. When we did the test, I could hear the reply and was ecstatic. Finally it’s working. Hawaii would not let me depart their airspace, to fly to California, if HF wasn’t working, so this was critical. This flight was less than four hours and I had plenty of avgas, so my only worry was the weather. I saw the first storm, very black clouds but no lightning strikes. It also looked like it was dissipating and I was worried about down drafts. I deviated west where it looked lighter and more open. There was a little rain and no bumps; ahead there were some isolated cells that I could deviate slightly left and right to get around. I saw several Tongan islands below me; they looked peaceful and relaxing; what a get-away with such hospitable people. After several deviations it was pretty clear ahead. I had been in VHF radio contact with the airports on the various islands as I crossed over and when I was transferred to Faleolo (Samoa) airspace I asked for another HF check. We tried twice and he heard me, but I didn’t hear him. Hmm, back to Wes after arrival at Pago Pago. When I landed in American Samoa in 2003, there was a tower controller. As I looked at the available frequencies now, it doesn’t show a tower. Faleolo approach and tower was with me until I changed over to Pago Pago Unicom (open frequency where everyone reports their position) then I was to call them back once I landed. The runway was the same, but the taxiways have been added and are enormous. I remembered the layout of some of the buildings, but no-one was there to marshall me to parking. I saw some small planes and parked by them. Customs didn’t come out to see me, so I got out and walked to find someone. I was actually at the wrong end of the terminal, later I found where I’d parked back in 2003. There is also a new hotel, plush, nice, expensive. There is a new military reserve unit next to the airport and this new hotel caters to the military at $139 per room per night. Now I had to get down to work and get avgas confirmed on Christmas Island or find another option to fly to Hawaii. I checked my emails and had one confirming avgas, but it was on Tarawa, a different Kiribati island, about 1000 miles further west. Kiribati island cover a large area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Christmas Island is one of their eastern most points, Tarawa is far to the west. Having avgas there wasn’t going to help me. They now understood that I meant a different airport and gave me phone numbers and an email address for avgas at Christmas Island. I sent out emails and tried calling, but the “lines” were not working, none of the calls would go through. I was developing a flight plan to go through Tarawa; which required a 10 hour flight there then a 15 hour flight to Honolulu. I didn’t want to do this, but it was my last option. Finally, mid-afternoon, I received an email from the Kiribati Oil representative on Christmas Island confirming avgas. I gave him my arrival time and prepared my flight plans. Phew, finally. This would only be a 10 hour flight then 8 hours to Kona, Hawaii, a much better option. I headed to the airport to file my flight plans and to gas up for tomorrow’s flight.

Entry #112 : 3/1/2012 11:39:00 PM EST
Saturday, February 25th, 2012 – off to Tonga I got up early to check the weather; everything looked good, including the winds at 5000 and 10000 feet. The last few days had showed a relatively strong headwind but this morning it shows a slight tailwind at the start of the route changing to a slight headwind as I get closer to Tonga. The intertropic convergence zone with thunderstorms has been to the north of Tonga and the satellite weather is still showing it there this morning. A beautiful morning to fly! I make tea and check emails. Arthur has made it home and is happy to be back in his own bed, but has wonderful memories of New Zealand. We had a fantastic time, especially flying in the mountains on the south island. I’m so glad that we could share it. Actually, I’m glad that I had a number of different co-pilots on the trip. They each enjoyed their time doing some international flying and each learned something new. It was great to share their experiences. Jo, the customs inspector, called to say that she was free and could come to the airport earlier than planned. Great, we packed up and headed there straight away. She was efficient and I was pre-flighting in no time. All set, big hugs to the family and I hope it’s not another nine years until we see each other again. I hop in and fire up. Everything looks good, I run on the ferry tank for a while to make sure there is no air in there and I back taxi to the end of the runway.   Chapter 19 – from New Zealand to Hawaii With the wind and cool temperature, I climb quickly, rock my wings as I pass over the terminal and turn left on a northerly heading. Christchurch information gives me a squawk code and says there is no reported IFR traffic on my route. I climb to 5000 feet and settle in for the trip. At my first waypoint, KALAG, I called Christchurch Information on VFR, but had no response. Time to switch to HF. I reeled out the antenna and the frequency was the same as coming to New Zealand, 8867. I didn’t hear much static and throught that I might still have a reception problem. Wes, my HF guru, had emailed me a potential fix, which I’d done, but not tested. Now it looked as if that wasn’t the problem. I called Auckland Radio and gave my position report. No answer. I tried fiddling with several buttons and reeled out more antenna. Still no reception. I gave “operations normal” transmissions and listened on 121.5 on my VHF radio, in case anyone tried to call me . After a while I realized that it was an assumption on my part (since it had been the case with my previous HF transmissions) that Auckland could hear me. If they couldn’t they might send out Search and Rescue people. I had to make sure they could hear me. I called on 121.5 to ask if anyone could make a relay for me. A New Zealand airliner answered and made the relay. They confirmed that Auckland was receiving my transmissions. I thanked them and said that I would continue making “operations normal” reports. Well, that feels better. Now I know they can receive; but I still need to work on my reception. I had seen two potential stormy areas forecast for my route. Now I can see them ahead. With a slight left deviation I can pass behind them and not get any bumps. With less than four hours to go, it’s time for a little lunch. Helen has prepared homemade cheese, which is delicious, and garden plumbs, which are very juicy. That’ll keep me going. Well, I passed through them with no trouble at all and I’m over half way there still with slight tailwinds, yeah. The fifth hour was about two hours long. The groundspeed kept decreasing from 150 to 145 to 135 to 129 as the winds changed. Everytime I looked at the GPS, the estimated time enroute stayed the same. Now I have less than two hours to go and things seem to be stable. I called Wes, my HF guru, on the satellite phone. He was out dancing with Sandy for their Friday night out. He gave me a few things to try, but I still couldn’t receive anything. Then, when I returned to 8875, I heard a voice giving a report. I couldn’t understand all the words, but I had reception. As I look ahead, there are low clouds, but no cumulonimbus growing. That’s great; let’s hope it stays that way. The people of Tonga are extremely friendly. The ground crew escorted me to immigration and customs. Then I taxied the plane over to the domestic ramp to park and they drove me back to the international arrivals. I was walking up and down looking for an information booth or hotel information and another person helped me, made the reservation and got me a taxi to the lodge. Most helpful here. Amazingly the lodge is between groups and I have the place to myself!! The waves are breaking on the beach as I write; it’s relaxing and beautiful. Unfortunately, their internet isn’t working. Maybe that’s a good thing now-a-days. I’ll relax and enjoy the scenery! I chose a small lodge on the south coast away from the major town. This is very relaxing, but without a car, there is no touring. However, with just a day, I can enjoy the beach, waves pounding on the rock formations, and talk with the locals. Using the satellite phone, I finally reached someone at Kiribati airport. I’d tried many times from New Zealand, without luck. I’d reached the tourist phone and they’d tried to send a message to the airport. I explained that I wanted to land there for avgas. Although the connection was very bad, I heard him say that they didn’t have any avgas. He was trying to give me a number for more information. After several repeats, I finally got the number. I’d been texting Wes about the HF, so asked him to contact Thom, another earthrounder pilot about avgas in Kiribati. Hopefully I’ll have news this afternoon. Without internet, communication is difficult. Right now the power is out for three hours. When it comes back on, the manager will pick me up and take me to her office to use her internet connection. These people are most hospitable. I finally got the number for the tower in Kiribati airport (or so I thought). The tower controller, a woman, will check. When I call her back, she confirms avgas. Great, now I feel better. But, there were people in the background and she was giving instructions to a plane. Christmas Island airport usually isn’t that busy. I started to think that maybe it wasn’t the right tower. When the owner took me to her work place so that I could use internet, I checked the satellite weather and forecast. It wasn’t all that bad. Some cells, but not too big. If I needed to deviate, it should be to the west around them. Wes had sent a recommended fix for my HF reception problem and a lot of people from New Zealand sent best wishes for my crossing and were watching the SPOT as I made it to Tonga. Sorry I didn’t have time to respond, but I will when I get a good internet connection.

Entry #111 : 2/20/2012 12:00:00 AM EST
Monday, February 20, 2012 – heading north in the Mooney With a big hug to Jo, we climbed into the plane and fired up. I was back in the Mooney after a week in the Cessna 172 and we were heading into a valley to cross the Southern Alps in the Mooney. We’d mapped out the course with Megan yesterday evening and Matt had called with the weather this morning. It was looking good here in Wanaka and on the coast in Haast at the other side of the pass. Overall the clouds over the mountains looked pretty high, so off we went. At 3000 feet we flew over Lake Wanaka and everything looked as it had each day that we’d flown in this area. We headed up the river and over the airport of Makarora and made our radio calls. As we started up the valley, I stayed to the right hand side and we looked ahead. The valley narrowed and we could see the saddle that we needed to pass over. There were lower clouds on the other side and mist and rain. It didn’t look good. I dropped the gear and flaps and slowed down (as Matt had taught us) as we approached the saddle. I stayed as far right as possible and started a slow turn to the left so that Arthur could look into the pass as I continued turning. He said “no, it doesn’t look good.” So, I continued turning and we returned down the valley, heading back. Better to be safe. We’d seen conditions like that with Matt and Arthur didn’t think a Cessna 172 would have made it through there. We were bummed, but started on plan B which was to cross the Lindis Pass and follow the high-tension lines around Christchurch. It took a while to get our bearings, as we hadn’t done the detailed planning on this route, but found a road, crossed the pass, found the wires, and headed northeast. The mountains got lower and we felt good. Entering Christchurch airspace, we made our radio calls and continued north-north-east. Ahead we had a choice, to go around the coast or to try another pass through these eastern mountains to Nelson on the north coast. I found a valley on the chart and discussed it with Arthur. There was one high pass, but another valley to the east looked lower which then joined the western valley a little further north. That looked good to us both. As we got close it took a while to pick out the right entrance but once we were sure, we headed into it, following a road, river and wires. At the top end, we turned left then right and joined the main valley. The mountains were higher, about 7000 feet, we were below the clouds at 5500 feet and descending as the clouds got lower. We received the Nelson weather which was 3000 feet broken and 4000 feet broken. We hoped that the clouds would stay high enough until we got out the north end of the mountains. But, we always had plenty of room to turn around. Arthur stayed on the chart, I followed the terrain on the GPS and after two turns the valley got wider. We were down to 3500 feet as we came out the north end of the valley into the open area just south of Nelson airspace. We had a slight deviation around restricted airspace, then set a course directly to Motueka. Even though we were below Nelson airspace, we gave a call to let them know where we were. They said to stay clear of their airspace which we had planned to do. Ten miles from Motueka, we started calling on their frequency. There were several training planes in the area and we saw one in the pattern. We followed it in, landed and parked. We were proud to have done our first VFR flight through the mountains alone. Now we have a day in the Abel Tasman National Park before heading north to Auckland.

Entry #110 : 2/17/2012 10:52:00 PM EST
Friday, February 17th, 2012 – Stewart Island After a very successful morning of fishing and touring the forests of several smaller islands around Stewart Island, climbed back into our trusty Cessna 172 and headed north. We followed the coast for a while seeing rugged and jagged cliffs alternating with beautiful beaches. There are very few houses along this coastal area, but a few hardy souls enjoy life here. After Nugget Point we turned north and inland and followed the Clutha River. The southern area is fertile with lots of farms, then we saw orchards and finally we returned to the dry area that we’d seen several days previously. After gassing up at Alexandra we followed the Manuherikia River northeast to St. Bathans, a very small mining town, then crossed over a pass and down the valley back home to Gordie Hill Station. Saturday, February 18th, 2012 – to Mt. Cook The weather looked like it was going to deteriorate as the day progressed, so we opted for an early start to get the best possible conditions to see Mt. Cook. We took off and headed north, through valleys and over saddles with Megan explaining what we were seeing and where to head. We kept climbing as the terrain to the north was getting higher and we needed to finish at about 9,000 feet altitude. There was not much wind and the air was relatively smooth. After we crossed over the Landsborough River, we could see the Mueller Glacier to our right and the Douglas Glacier on our left. The whole time we could see Mt. Cook ahead, which kept getting bigger and bigger. As Mt. Cook passed off to our right at 12,316 feet, we could see a helicopter letting passengers out for a walk around on the Fox Glacier. We continued around Mt. Cook to the north and east sides, over more glaciers before descending down the Tasman Glacier as we headed to Mt. Cook airport. The views were spectacular. Being mid-summer, the glaciers are a little “dirty” with a layer of soil and rocks on top, but still huge. We landed at Mt. Cook airport and headed into the village to read all about the history of its discovery and attempts to climb it: Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, reaching 3,754 metres (12,316 ft). It lies in the Southern Alps, the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island. A UNESCO World Heritage site and popular tourist destination, it is also a favorite challenge for mountain climbers. The first European known to see Aoraki / Mount Cook was Abel Tasman, on December 13, 1642 during his first Pacific voyage. The English name of Mount Cook was given to the mountain in 1851 by Captain John Lort Stokes to honour Captain James Cook who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770. Captain Cook did not sight the mountain during his exploration. The Southern Alps on the South Island were formed by tectonic uplifting and pressure as the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates collided along the island's western coast. The uplifting continues, raising Aoraki / Mount Cook an average of 7 millimetres (0.28 in) each year. However, erosive forces are also powerful shapers of the mountains. The severe weather is due to the mountain's jutting into powerful westerly winds of the Roaring Forties which run around approximately 45°S latitude, south of both Africa and Australia. The Southern Alps are the first obstacle the winds encounter after South Africa and Australia, having moved east across the Southern Ocean. The height of Aoraki / Mount Cook was established in 1881 by G. J. Roberts (from the west side) and in 1889 by T. N. Brodrick (from the Canterbury side). Their measurements agreed closely at 12,349 feet (3,764 m). The height was reduced by 10 metres (33 ft) when approximately 12-14 million cubic metres of rock and ice fell off the northern peak on 14 December 1991. Mt Cook lies in the center of the distinctive alpine fault, a 650km long active fault in the Southern Alps. It is responsible for the uplift of Mt Cook and is considered to move every 100-300 years . It last moved in 1717. Sir Edmund Hillary spent a lot of time in this region and used it when getting prepared for his Mt. Everest climb. He is revered in New Zealand and his face is on the NZ $5 bill. Clouds were starting to appear and the wind was picking up out of the west. We took off and headed south down the east side of the Tasman River and Lake Pukaki. The land is relatively flat and barren but they have salmon farms in the lake and river. We landed at Omarama for a gas stop and watched gliders being towed up. This is the center for glider flying in New Zealand and competitions are held here annually. From here we could follow the high tension wires home to Gordie Hill. We were extremely lucky with the weather. Megan said she’d never had such a smooth flight around Mt. Cook (and two days ago she’d said the same thing about Milford Sound). Both can have a high density of sightseeing planes and helicopters but on both days we had the places to ourselves.

Entry #109 : 2/16/2012 1:18:00 PM EST
Thursday, February 16th, 2012 – to Milford Sound and Stewart Island What a morning! We flew between the peaks and over glaciers to the west coast; there were magnificent views of the glaciers and mountain lakes, some with waterfalls. Then we landed on a beach at low tide and finally flew down the coast into Milford Sound. This is very narrow by the shore, but opens a bit after that. We hugged the south shore as departing aircraft stay close to the north shore. The visibility was great and the air was unusually smooth. We could see the runway ahead and there was no traffic so we continued past the airport a little way into the valley beyond, still hugging the south shore and descending a little. Then a relatively tight left turn to set ourselves up for final. Power off as we descended to the other side of the trees, then ready to add power if we hit sink before the runway. Endng with another smooth landing by Arthur. Here we sit at the end of Milford Sound with towering peaks all around us. Amazing! After a light lunch we climbed in again and headed down Arthur pass and wound our way between valleys, around two big peaks, Mt. Irene and Coronation Peak and over George, Caswell and Charles Sounds . Ending up over Doubtful sound, named by Cook because he thought it was just a bay and not a sound, we turned east, descended, flew over a low pass, descended over a hydro plant that supplies energy to Invercargill and finally landed at Manapouri. It looked like Wyoming with a flat valley but mountains on one side. It was beautiful. After gassing up and having tea and Jo’s date cake, we took off again and flew south to Stewart Island. This flight was over a rich farm valley between low hills on each side opening up to bays on the Southern Ocean. There we flew about 15 miles across to Steward Island, flew down the rugged east coast and landed at the airport on a quiet bay. The small town on the bay had maybe 50 houses and Megan told us the whole island only had 8 kilometers of road.

Entry #108 : 2/15/2012 1:32:00 PM EST
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 – Flying around Wanaka to Milford Sound Matt is educating us while we are flying. He’s quietly and systematically explaining about contour flying and staying on one side of the valley, tight to the hill, to allow plenty of room to turn around if necessary. As we approach a saddle he explains as he starts his turn that we do this to allow both a crossing of the saddle or a return up the same valley if the next valley doesn’t look good. He’s always keeping his options open. The views are spectacular and I’m videoing left, right and straight ahead to capture the mountains, valleys, lakes and small mountain strips. We fly over a lake as Matt heads towards another sheep station strip. We fly around once as he explains the lay of the land, the strip and how to fly the approach to make the most use of the available space. We fly low over the hills and make a descending turn before lining up with the runway and landing. We get out to stretch our legs and take some pictures. Walking up a little we see a hangar nestled between two small banks. The walls are only 3 feet high and the ramp descends to the floor between the hills. Small, economical and excellent protection against strong winds. Take off and fly down the valley to Wanaka. Matt makes the radio calls, Arthur flies and I take videos and pictures of the views. After gassing up and checking the weather, we head towards some valleys that will take us to Milford Sound, but are ready to turn around if necessary. As we head up one valley and the clouds are looking pretty low ahead, Arthur asks if he should descend. Matt answers no. I ask when we make the decision to turn around. Matt says in a few miles. Obviously Arthur and I are unsure of the situation. Matt starts to explain how to safely explore in these conditions. He says to slow down to about 70 knots with 20 degrees of flaps; the Cessna 172 flies happily and smoothly with low power in this configuration. We proceed slowly forward, staying on one side of the valley, close to the mountain. There is one saddle that we can’t get over, so we continue to look at another to the left ahead. It looks ok, but Matt says that we’ll continue to keep our options open as we turn. We proceed into the next valley staying close to the right side. As we look ahead, the clouds are lower and it doesn’t look good. We have plenty of room to turn around and return back up the first valley. Arthur and I both feel comfortable and safe with this method of exploring although neither of us have done it before. We return over another lake, up another valley and decide to land on another sheep station strip. Actually this is a red deer station. Red deer are a large deer that is farm raised for its meat. The history of this is fascinating: Sir Tim Wallis (born 9 September 1938) is a New Zealand businessman and aviation entrepreneur. He pioneered live deer capture from helicopters, which led to a significant industry in New Zealand. He was a leader and international representative of the deer farming industry. Wallis also founded the Alpine Fighter Collection and the Warbirds over Wanaka air show. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994 for services to deer farming, export and the community. Pioneer of the live deer recovery industry in New Zealand's South Island, Wallis built an aviation empire around helicopter operations, pulling valuable animals out of the rugged high country.[1] For many years he held monopoly over the rights to commercial hunting in Fiordland National Park. Moving into deer farming during the 1970s, he was among the first to see the potential of the industry in New Zealand and his farm, Criffel, became a centre of excellence for high quality genetics and served as a model for many other farmers. The world's first deer auction was held on his farm in 1977.[2] His company, Alpine Deer Group forged trade relationships in Russia, Korea and Hong Kong that saw exports of velvet, antler, pizzle and even live deer to Asia. The strip was difficult to identify with all the brown grass but we landed and got out to walk around and look at the deer fences which need to be about eight feet high to keep the deer in (or out – off the runway). We returned to Wanaka for lunch and visited the museum, then returned home for tea. It was an amazing day for the sites we saw and for the mountain/valley flying that we are learning. The weather this morning looked low overcast and I figured we weren’t going anywhere, so I started working on emails and documentation. Matt called on the radio to say that we’d meet at 9:30am for coffee and discussion about today’s flying. Once there, he said the weather further south was looking much better and that we could make it to Mandeville and spend the day in their shop and museum. We headed out to the planes (another couple from England, Bob and June, were in the second Cessna 172 and would also fly to Mandeville today). We headed down one valley at about 3000 feet with excellent visibility. Matt called Queenstown information and tower with position reports and we continued over their airport and turned south east over a beautiful lake nestled between two mountains. At the end of the lake we flew over an old steam train that was making its way back to town – the engineer waved to us! Slowly the clouds descended and the visibility deteriorated. We descended to 1900 feet, stayed below the clouds and close to the right side of the valley. Ahead it looked like a small rain shower. Matt pointed out the saddle we would normally pass over but it was a little tight to the clouds, so we continued down the valley and the long way around. All was quiet in the cabin as Matt slowed the plane, dropped the flaps and focused on the weather ahead. I was filming the whole time and felt comfortable that we always had enough altitude and visibility. Finally we saw the valley opening up ahead and knew that the airport was within reach. I asked Matt afterwards and he said that we were almost at his limit before turning around. One must always keep a healthy respect for the weather and mountains. A Tiger Moth was departing as we were landing, then Bob and June arrived. We had an enjoyable hour touring the Croyden Aircraft Company Ltd. They have a Beach Staggerwing restoration well underway. A Fox Moth and several Tiger Moths are in process with about ten fuselage structures already welded. There is a Comet which is progressing slowly and a number of planes stored in the adjacent hangar waiting to be started. The museum hangar houses several Tiger Moths and Rapides, a Fox Moth, as well as a selection of other old aircraft. They have a replica Pither which is believed to be the first powered plane in New Zealand. Although it is undocumented, there is much anecdotal evidence and many believe that it flew before 1911. Who would believe that all this could be on display in the south part of the south island of New Zealand! We had a great time. Off again, heading north and back to Gordie Hill Station. The weather had improved, but we had a little rain on the left side of a valley as we stuck to the right side, heading north. We circled a gold mine/dredging operation as we arrived at Alexandra for a gas stop. Another amazing day of flying in the valleys of the south island.

Entry #107 : 2/14/2012 11:58:00 PM EST
Saturday, February 11th, 2012 – Masterton to Omaka After lunch with Kerry and a look at the weather, we headed out, VFR across the Cook Strait to Omaka. The ceiling had lifted and it was looking brighter. With a good briefing from Kerry and looking at the charts, we only had to navigate down a valley, under Wellington airspace, across the strait to Omaka airport. Less than an hour. The fields in the valley between the higher tree covered hills to the west and the lower brown hills to the east were a beautiful scene. Everything was neat and pretty. The farm-boy in Arthur was enjoying it. I called our position as we reached the first visual reporting point on the coast, then at the second reporting point. There were no responses, so we continued over the airport then landed on runway 12. There were three grass runways which were a little difficult to pick out as everything was brown in this area. But, all around we could see the green vineyards of the famous Marlborough wine area. After shutting down, we walked to the open aeroclub hangar and found Chris and John, two locals who were manning the phone and holding down the fort until the chief pilot returned. There were two completely rebuilt Tomahawk airplanes in the hangar – they looked new. Their panels and interiors had been complete redone and they had new paint. John explained that the 300 member club needed new trainers, but couldn’t find anything better than their existing Tomahawks for these grass runways, so, in Kiwi fashion, they rebuilt them completely and now have two almost new looking Tomahawks. The museum was close-by, but would take several hours to visit, so we’d save that for tomorrow. When we started talking about accommodation they suddenly remembered that there was a wine festival going on and all hotels would be booked. Travis, the chief pilot, had returned and he started calling some hotels, John started calling some B&Bs and both worked frantically to find us a place for the night. After lots of “sorry, no vacancy” Travis found a room and reserved it. We jumped into John’s car and he drove us there before we lost it. What helpful local pilots. Arthur sees this as aviation the way it was in the US in the fifties – only low wooden fences around the airport, small hangars with knowledgeable and helpful people working in aviation, and the spirit of aviation at every field. He’s really loving it here in New Zealand. In the morning we visited the museum – it’s world-class. Absolutely superbly done. Each plane is in a setting where it brings out the plane, its history and the type of flying it did. So far the museum covers WWI planes, but a second hangar for WWII planes is in the planning. The planes are beautifully restored and displayed starting with an Italian Caproni Ca2, which is a parasol monoplane, built in 1913. They have a fabulous depiction of Baron von Richthofen’s plane being looted after finally being shot down by an Australian gunner. Incredibly, many of the items have been recovered and are displayed in various museums. One of the pilots from the AeroClub, John, invited us to lunch on his vineyard. His wife, Jenny, prepared a simple but delicious quiche, salad and desert, all with homegrown vegetables. Their house overlooks the airport and vineyards. But, they call this “moving into town” as they used to live and work on a sheep station further south. Although we would consider this still country living, for them it’s “in town.” Following the wonderful lunch and vineyard tour, we loaded up and flew around the coast and south to Kaikoura which is renown for whale watching. The airstip is 2200 feet long and narrow (for me) with an approach close to hills and luckily a good wind down the runway. There we were again welcomed by the local aero club. Had tea and muffins together and chatted. Sunday, February 13th, 2012 – Kaikoura to Wanaka After tea and chatting with the local pilots, I tried calling several motels for accommodation. Unfortunately, for different reasons, things were not working out. Babara, the president of the aeroclub, said, “I have a solution, you’ll come home with me!” We tried to refuse, to no avail. We packed our bags into her car and headed home. She said we could use the car, go shopping for anything we needed, have a beer by the beach then return home for dinner as she was having some people over! We did all that and had a fantastic time. The beach area is beautiful with mountains on one side and black pebble beach in front of the town. It was a little cool, but we enjoyed a beer while listening to the waves. At dinner we met some paramedics, friends of Barbara who’s a nurse, that had moved from congested old England (64 million people) to free and open New Zealand (only four million people in about the same land mass). They’ve been here for ten years and love it. The next morning we went whale watching. We agreed that we are glad that we did it, but wouldn’t go out for a second trip in the afternoon. It’s checked off our list and we’ve seen a whale. After an interview with the local press, Barbara drove us back to the airport. The weather is forecast to deteriorate tomorrow. I’m torn as we had emailed another woman pilot and were going to visit her and her husband’s air park, just west of Christchurch. But, if we go there tonight, there’s a chance we won’t be able to depart the next day and get into Wanaka. We have a seven-day tour of back-country flying lined up. We can’t risk not making it to Wanaka. So, I filed an IFR flight plan to Wanaka and send Pam and Ces a “sorry I can’t make it” email. Pilots understand these weather decisions, but it would have been nice to meet them. We thanked the people who helped us at the Kaikoura, Barbara, Ernie, and Nick. Nick is new to the area and has just qualified as the Whale Watching pilot. He’s personable and helpful and a great new asset to the aeroclub. We climbed to 8000 feet as we received our clearance from Christchurch information. We were on top of clouds which became pretty solid as we proceeded. After Christchurch, we climbed to 10,000 to stay above the minimum safe altitude and continued southwest. As we approached our arrival descent intersection, I asked the controller if we could plan to start the arrival procedure. He said no, there would be a significant delay and to stay outside of controlled airspace. Although the clouds were mostly scattered in the direction we would be proceeding, I didn’t like the idea of trying to stay VFR, descending between mountains with potentially more clouds into an area with which we were not familiar. Arthur agreed, so I started a hold procedure. I called the controller explained what we were doing and asked when we might expect a clearance. He said to contact Queenstown tower and we’d receive one. That wasn’t such a “significant” delay. We were cleared by the tower to commence the arrival procedure and report entering controlled airspace, which we did. We were in clouds during part of the descent, then below clouds with good visibility. We followed the approach between two sets of mountains and into the valley beyond and Arthur spotted the airport. The active runway was opposite our arrival direction, so we turned away from the airport to continue our descent and join the downwind for runway 11. Someone called us to advise us that Matt, our host from Flyinn, was on his way to pick us up. Everybody is friendly and helpful around here. We landed parked and unloaded.

Entry #106 : 2/13/2012 1:45:00 PM EST
Saturday, February 11th, 2012 – Masterton to Omaka After lunch with Kerry and a look at the weather, we headed out, VFR across the Cook Strait to Omaka. The ceiling had lifted and it was looking brighter. With a good briefing from Kerry and looking at the charts, we only had to navigate down a valley, under Wellington airspace, across the strait to Omaka airport. Less than an hour. The fields in the valley between the higher tree covered hills to the west and the lower brown hills to the east were a beautiful scene. Everything was neat and pretty. The farm-boy in Arthur was enjoying it. I called our position as we reached the first visual reporting point on the coast, then at the second reporting point. There were no responses, so we continued over the airport then landed on runway 12. There were three grass runways which were a little difficult to pick out as everything was brown in this area. But, all around we could see the green vineyards of the famous Marlborough wine area. After shutting down, we walked to the open aeroclub hangar and found Chris and John, two locals who were manning the phone and holding down the fort until the chief pilot returned. There were two completely rebuilt Tomahawk airplanes in the hangar – they looked new. Their panels and interiors had been complete redone and they had new paint. John explained that the 300 member club needed new trainers, but couldn’t find anything better than their existing Tomahawks for these grass runways, so, in Kiwi fashion, they rebuilt them completely and now have two almost new-looking Tomahawks. The museum was close-by, but would take several hours to visit, so we’d save that for tomorrow. When we started talking about accommodation they suddenly remembered that there was a wine festival going on and all hotels would be booked. Travis, the chief pilot, had returned and he started calling some hotels, John started calling some B&Bs and both worked frantically to find us a place for the night. After lots of “sorry, no vacancy” Travis found a room and reserved it. We jumped into John’s car and he drove us there before we lost it. What helpful local pilots. Arthur sees this as aviation the way it was in the US in the fifties – only low wooden fences around the airport, small hangars with knowledgeable and helpful people working in aviation, and the spirit of aviation at every field. He’s really loving it here in New Zealand. In the morning we visited the museum – it’s world-class. Absolutely superbly done. Each plane is in a setting where it brings out the plane, its history and the type of flying it did. So far the museum covers WWI planes, but a second hangar for WWII planes is in the planning. The planes are beautifully restored and displayed starting with an Italian Caproni Ca2, which is a parasol monoplane, built in 1913. They have a fabulous depiction of Baron von Richthofen’s plane being looted after finally being shot down by an Australian gunner. Incredibly, many of the items have been recovered and are displayed in various museums, including this one. One of the pilots from the AeroClub, John, invited us to lunch on his vineyard. His wife, Jenny, prepared a simple but delicious quiche, salad and desert, all with homegrown vegetables. Their house overlooks the airport and vineyards. But, they call this “moving into town” as they used to live and work on a sheep station further south. Although we would consider this still country living, for them it’s “in town.” Following the wonderful lunch and vineyard tour, we loaded up and flew around the coast and south to Kaikoura which is renown for whale watching. The airstip is 2200 feet long and narrow (for me) with an approach close to hills and luckily a good wind down the runway. There we were again welcomed by the local aero club. Had tea and muffins together and chatted.

Entry #105 : 2/11/2012 2:49:00 PM EST
Monday, February 6th, 2012 – Whangerei to Auckland The weather was not good the morning of my departure to North Shore, near Auckland, so I filed an IFR flight plan over the phone. At the airport I added some avgas, kissed the family goodbye and climbed into the cockpit. Interestingly, part of the clearance was information on a flight coming into Whangarei and its location, altitude and time at three different points. I calculated that I would be below it and wasn’t worried. I took off and circled the airport as I climbed and then crossed over the airport and headed south. Christchurch Information gave me updates on the other plane then handed me over to Auckland approach. I’d picked a point where I could continue VFR and the clouds were breaking up, but still below my altitude. ATC let me continue my descent to where I could cancel my IFR flight plan. I was listening to North Shore airport’s frequency and there were a few planes in the pattern, but not too many. I called in my position and intentions, joined the pattern and landed. Sue had given me taxi instructions, then I saw her car and she guided me to their hangar. Richard was there and I gave them both a huge hug. We only took a few minutes to talk as we’d planned to do my next oil change here. We pushed my plane into their hangar, next to their Mooney, and started the job. Richard also greased the undercarriage and checked over the engine to make sure everything was looking good. Then we headed home for lunch. Sue and Richard are both pilots and I asked lots of questions about VFR flying in New Zealand. It’s a great help to have local knowledge when flying in another country and I picked their brains for two days. We poured over charts and they gave me some recommendations on good places to visit as I headed south. The next day Sue took me on a tour of Auckland and I saw the beauty of this harbor city from Victoria Point, a high-point on the north shore. We had lunch at the Ardmore Aero-Club with Dee and Edith, two more women pilots and 99s. We swapped stories and Edith took us to the New Zealand Warbirds hangar to see all the planes and history. We also met Rob in his hangar as he was unloading a Yak that he’d just bought from England. We had a look at the Electra that he was rebuilding – it looked magnificent with all the polished aluminum. There were 13 years work in it and he figured another two to go before he’d be flying. The next morning I had a very short flight around and under Auckland airspace to Ardmore Airport. It was sunny and perfect for this VFR flight. I videoed the cliffs, the harbor, the city of Auckland and the hills that I flew over as I approached Ardmore. Sue had briefed me on the reporting points and I listened for traffic and made my calls. There were about four planes in the pattern. I joined on the non-traffic side, did a pattern and landed. Luckily it was not too busy. I found Harry’s hangar and parked next to Max’s Cherokee Six. Max was there to meet me, gave me a huge hug and reminded me of what I’d said when I first landed at Ardmore in 2003. I’d just crossed the Pacific Ocean, was happy to be down safely and said that I’d never do that again! I’d stayed with Max and Anna in 2003 waiting for my Dad to arrive by the airlines. This time they are hosting me as I await my mechanic/pilot/friend, Arthur, to arrive. He’ll be joining me for my tour of New Zealand, both islands this time. We spent all afternoon chatting and catching up; it was great to see them again. The next day Arthur arrived and wasn’t jetlagged; he’s slept extremely well on the plane and was ready to discover these islands. Today we just walked the Botanic Gardens as he’d been sitting for almost 30 hours and needed some exercise. With Max and Anna he learned about New Zealand life and history. After a great night’s sleep we spent a day at Ardmore Airport. Arthur was thoroughly amazed. He’d never seen so much outstanding workmanship and so many different planes being restored in one place. Everywhere we looked there was a restoration project going on. On hearing a plane take off, he turned around and there was a Spitfire climbing out. Later we’d be standing by its hangar when it returned and he got a closer look at it. During the afternoon he saw a Mosquito restoration project and received a guided tour and explanation of the project. This, when finished, will be the only flying Mosquito in the world. Earlier he’d been in a hangar that makes parts for P-40s and was doing a 100 hour inspection on a Corsair. During the day we also visited the NZ Warbird museum and he learned all about their war years, part of history that he hadn’t heard before. It was a fantastic day topped off with an evening of discussion with Max and Anna. When traveling, staying with locals is always better than being in a hotel. One can really learn about everyday life and what’s going on in a country. This was a great introduction for Authur. Saturday, February 12th, 2012 – from Ardmore heading south For the first time in about four days I woke up to cloudy skies and rain. This was forecast, but not what we wanted for our first flight heading south over the beautiful New Zealand countryside. I started to work on the IFR flight plan, it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to fly below the clouds, VFR, and see the beauty of this country on this first leg. But, the forecast is for clearing as we head south, so we’ll land at Masterton and hopefully things will be better. Max drove us to Ardmore and we met John, a journalist. He interviewed us both, especially Arthur and his impressions of the Ardmore Airport. Then we loaded up and jumped in the cockpit. I gave Arthur a briefing of the route, charts and exit procedures. We received our clearance from Auckland on the ground and off we went, into the clouds at 600 feet. We were just on top at 6000 feet, going in and out of clouds from time to time. After about an hour, we could see a peak to our southwest and a volcano crater to the east, both sticking out of the clouds. Further south the clouds became broken and we could see rolling hills only a few thousand feet below then a beautiful farming valley with fields and a town. That only lasted a few minutes and we were back in solid clouds. The controller called and told us that we were out of radar contact, there was no IFR traffic around, we could change to the local frequency and cancel our IFR flight plan on the ground. I confirmed that we’d be doing an approach and descending through the clouds and did he want that communication on the local frequency? He confirmed. Based on the minimum safe altitude, I knew there were hills on the east side of the approach, so down we went and I kept checking the terrain page in the GPS. The hills appeared behind us as we descended below 3000 feet and we finally saw the ground at 2000 feet. We circled the airport and landed on runway 06. As we taxied to the ramp, we saw some people by the hangars, although with the overcast and rain, not many were around and no-one else was flying. When we got out of the plane, Kerry, 99/instructor and vintage plane pilot, greeted us. Sue had given me her name and I’d called her this morning. She was going to be at the airport anyway, so she waited for us to land. Two others, Clive and Paul, reporters and photographers, were there and got our story. Then Kerry walked us to the museum and gave us a guided tour. It is full of flying WWI planes, all in beautiful condition. Kerry flies three of them in airshows. My favorites were the Sopwith Triplane and the RAF FE.2b a two-seat pusher fighter bomber with the pilot and gunner seats in front of the 160 Hp, six cylinder engine. Even Arthur hadn’t seen many of these planes before; it was an amazing tour.

Entry #104 : 2/3/2012 7:55:00 PM EST
Monday, January 30th, 2012 – Lord Howe Island to New Zealand We got a great night’s sleep listening to the wind rustle through the palm leaves. The driver picked us up to return to the airport by 7am. Stan was there and did the exit procedures very quickly. The avgas man showed up (our apartment manager’s dad) and emptied his tank. I’d already received all but five liters of what I’d planned, so we had enough for the flight. Luckily we’re departing the country, so tax comes off the price and it only cost A$2.53 per litre instead of A$2.88. On the mainland I’d been paying only A$2 per liter (US$8/gal). The runway is 10 (almost easterly) and the wind is very strong and gusty out of the northeast. The first part of the runway is protected by a hill then we would be really buffeted by the winds. I advised Taylor what would most likely happen on departure. With the wind, we climbed like an elevator and were only bounced around a bit, then it was a smooth climb to 7000 feet. Brisbane Center wanted to make sure we were in HF (high frequency) radio contact prior to losing VHF radio contact. So, I put out the antenna and made the call. I could barely hear the reply. Brisbane center called us on VHF and said that they could hear us clearly on HF. Even though we couldn’t receive very well, they let us go. I was worried that they’d make us return until we corrected the reception problem, but was happy that we could continue. I checked with Taylor, that she was ok with the situation, and we continued. We flew on top of an undercast for most of the flight. It was very smooth and Taylor enjoyed the peacefulness of the long flight – she wasn’t worried or bored. We ate muesli bars and chocolate covered macadamia nuts – yum, yum. Five and a half hours later we came over the northwest coast of New Zealand as Taylor commented on the wave quality for surfing. I was in contact with Christchurch information who said “no reported IFR traffic” and we started our descent through the clouds. The weather was good VFR, so I didn’t plan to do the approach. There were other planes in the area, so we all reported our positions and kept good separation. After landing I taxied to the ramp, saw two official looking people and shut down the engine. We sat in the plane with doors and windows remaining closed. New Zealand, like Australia, is very serious about customs and making sure no bugs, seeds, plants or other foreign materials enter their country. Normally Kerikeri airport is not an airport of entry but the harbor is. My cousin’s wife, Helen, had contacted them and I’d filled out the appropriate paperwork to be allowed to enter here. It was much easier and more economical than flying all the way to Auckland then back north to here. The biosecurity person motioned for me to open the pilot’s window and he leaned in with the spray can and sprayed the cockpit for a few seconds. He gave us the immigration forms to fill out and said we could do that while we waited. Then in the office they did all the forms asked about our trip and what we were bringing into the country and wished us a good stay in New Zealand. I confirmed with them that I could also depart from this airport later this month. That would make the trip to Tonga much easier. Helen was there to greet us and gave me a huge hug. It had been nine years since my last visit. Their grandchildren were here also, a big change from last time. We chatted non-stop. My cousin, Richard, had been out diving and fishing and came home with dinner. We had a fresh lobster dinner and fresh fish for breakfast the next morning. They have always been interested in aviation and the eleven year-old grandson is getting that way also, so one afternoon we all went flying. It was fantastic for Gareth who spotted lots of things on the ground and had an amazing sense of direction and location. Helen loves plants and has a part-time job as a guide in the Puketi Forest nearby. We did a day and a night walk and she showed me a diversity of plants and birds. The Kauri tree was logged for timber and tapped for its gum. They grow very straight and tall and were perfect for ship masts and the gum was used for varnish. Only 2% of the trees remain and they are now protected. We saw a fantail bird as well as a tomtit heard many other birds. On the night walk we saw many spiders, very active at night, and weta which are similar to very large crickets, but brown instead of green. Another cousin lives in Whangerei, where my aunt (my dad’s sister) used to live. Dad and I visited during my 2003 world flight. It’s less than 30 minutes between the two airports, so I flew down and stayed several days with cousin Susan. Other family members were visiting, so I also met cousin Christopher and partner Laura and cousin Rebecca, Richard’s daughter. Susan and I shared many stories about our parents who had only seen each other twice since World War II. Once for a Garratt family reunion in England in 1987 and then in 2003 when Dad and I flew to Whangerei. Susan had her memories and stories from her mom and I had my dad’s stories. It was fun sharing and we both learned more about the family history.

Entry #103 : 2/1/2012 5:30:00 PM EST
Sunday, January 29th, 2012 -- Byron Bay to Lord Howe Island, Australia Unfortunately it continued to rain for the next two days. We went on walks, swam in the bay and caught up on all the news. Rusty is a surfing instructor and was a world champion surfer. He’s one of the early “greats” in the surfing world and surfing culture which started over 40 years ago. On my last night there was a live band performing with the 40 year old film “Morning of the Earth” by Albert Falzon. As Rusty was in the film and going to be performing with the band, we had tickets to the event. For me it was amazing to be involved with this surf culture that I had only been aware of from a great distance in the 1970s. Insiders all knew Rusty, the history, the movie and songs, everything. It was great to get a peek into another culture from a close range and to see the movement being carried on by the next generation. The next morning Taylor and I were departing for Lord Howe Island. We all drove together to Ballina airport under cloudy skies with no rain. Arriving at the airport, only two helicopters remained; so I guess the major disaster is over. Rain is still expected for another five days, but not in the same quantities as during the last week. We push the plane to the gas pumps and I fill up the main tanks and show Taylor the preflight preparations. With all the rain we’d had, I checked the tanks for water before gassing up and I start to check them again after gassing up. Unfortunately, the first quick-drain doesn’t close correctly and continues to drain gas. I plug it with my thumb and start thinking. I ask Taylor to plug the drain while I get the tools. As I’m doing that, I explain the problem to Rusty and Tricia so they don’t get worried. I take the quick drain plug out and Taylor again holds the hole plugged while Rusty and I examine the quick-drain. There is a tiny piece of sand in one of the holes holding it open. We pop the sand out it moves normally, so I check the o-ring and reinstall it in the tank. I check the other tanks and there is one very small drop of water that I show to everyone. Thomas, a friend of the family and German balloon pilot and glider pilot, arrives in his motor glider. He’s going to take pictures as we fly past the Byron Bay cape and lighthouse. With hugs all around, we jump into the cockpit. I explain all the safety equipment and exit procedures to Taylor as we’ll be heading straight out over water. She’s excited and not in the least bit worried. We call for our clearance and takeoff. The beaches are beautiful from the air and I hope that Rusty got some good photos as we flew together past the cape a few times. Then we say goodbye, turn and head southeast as we call Brisbane Center again and let them know that we are on our way. There isn’t exactly a clearance here; they say “no reported IFR traffic in the area” and I continue per the flight plan. They did ask for an additional “operations normal” call between waypoints and we were able to communicate on VHF all the way. Taylor hadn’t flown in a while but picked up the feel again very quickly. She did the climb, level off, and straight and level with visual and instrument references. We flew through a few clouds to give her the sense of what it’s like without visual references and with bumps. We reviewed the instruments, navigation and communication. It was a busy two and a half hours. Then we saw the islands in the distance. Actually, we saw the volcanos first. They were under the clouds, but still big. Then we picked out Ball’s Pyramid to the east. There was a plane departing Lord Howe Island and flying our direction to Brisbane, so we gave position reports until we were clear of each other. Then we flew around the island and Balls Pyramid to take pictures before landing. The water colors around the island changed from a very deep blue to a light green along one beach. The vegetation was a lush green. They’d received plenty of rain. The approach was rocky with gusty crosswinds as advertised. I put it down solidly and we taxied to the busy ramp. There was an ambulance plane ready to depart and a small commuter ready to start up. We were marshaled to a grass parking spot. Our apartment manager, Gay, was there to greet us and drive us to the lodging. There are no taxis on Lord Howe Island, so each accommodation picks up and drops off its guests. It also provides transportation to dinner and the restaurant provides the return transportation. The island is very small and bicycles are available to rent, but we just walked everywhere. First stop Ned’s Beach. Taylor had brought two facemasks and snorkels, so in we went. The water is about 24C (78F). Even before we started swimming, we saw two different types of fish. Once we looked through the masks, we saw many varied colorful fish, including parrot fish, two types of Wrasse fish, pencil fish, Kingfish and many others. We even saw a very small reef shark. The coral was extremely colorful with dark green seaweed moving with the swells and yellow, orange and red algae attached to the coral. We swam around the bay and were constantly amazed every direction we looked. Back on the beach we talked with some of Taylor’s friends from Byron Bay who had just finished snorkeling also. We all recognized how beautiful this untouched bay was and how lucky we are to be able to enjoy the sea life. Mellissa recommended that we also swim in a bay on the other side so we walked over there. It was only about 20 minutes and we were back in the water again. This bay is more sheltered and the water was slightly warmer. Unfortunately, the coral isn’t as vibrant and the fish match the browns of the coral. But we did see a Cod fish, which is poisonous. It would put out its fins as we swam close and it was hiding under a coral out cropping. Normally there are large green turtles in this bay feeding on the grassy sandy bottom; but they weren’t to be found. After dinner, just at dusk, we returned to Ned’s Bay to watch the return of the Mutton birds. They spend November through April here and on the mainland then migrate to Siberia from June through October. They are birds with the longest migration in the world. When here, they fly off for the day and catch fish, then return to their burrows at dusk. We saw their burrows in the ground and one was actually cleaning the entry way and throwing soil and leaves four feet into the air. The fun part was watching them land. There is a very strong on-shore wind and they are circling above our heads and landing crosswind to waddle over to the undergrowth behind us where their burrows are. They circle and dive then decide not to land and climb again. When one finally lands, it’s more of a stumbling few steps then they sit for a few seconds before they waddle off in the direction of the undergrowth. It was fascinating to watch and wonder about why nature created this bird that loves to fly and catch fish but doesn’t land very well.

Entry #102 : 1/31/2012 3:01:00 PM EST
Thursday, January 26th, 2012 – Sydney to Byron Bay On the rainy day, yesterday, I’d planned and filed my first IFR flight plan in Australia. I’d checked the charts and planned to listen to other airports’ weather as I travelled north, using them as alternates if the weather was bad in Byron Bay. It had been terrible the last three days with flooding and more rain forecast. But, the forecast for this afternoon is reasonable with ceilings over 1000 feet and only rain showers. I’d left the approach charts in the plane, so I’d check them when I got to the airport. Alasdair and Valerie had me at the airport by 11:30am, plenty of time before my 12:30 departure time. And, the forecast weather improved later in the afternoon, so I wasn’t worried about departing a little late. I gassed up and did the pre-flight while explaining everything to them. Valerie was a flight attendant and is very much an aviation enthusiast; she wanted to know everything. She’d gone for a flight with me in 2003, but the weather was not conducive for a flight this trip. After seeing them off, I returned to the plane to depart. First I got out the Australia approach charts. Unfortunately, I had most of the bigger airports, but Ballina, my destination, wasn’t there, nor were my alternate airports. I’d seen a flight school as we arrived, so I made a bee-line for their offices. They were extremely nice and helpful and used the internet airservicesaustralia.gov.au to print out all the approaches that I wanted. That was quick. I have to thank David, who is interested in flying around the world someday, and Jordan for their assistance. I headed back to the plane, started up and contacted ground. After running up the engine and doing all the cockpit checks I finally received my clearance. It included the Bankstown six departure. It was not in my GPS. Ugh. I called ground and told him that I didn’t have the departure procedure and could he talk me through it (often they are simple procedures, climb to altitude and head on a specific radial or direction). He said no, but that I could depart VFR. I didn’t want to do that as I hate being in unfamiliar territory waiting for a clearance. I said that I would taxi back and obtain a copy of the procedure. Jordon printed it off for me (and yes, it was a simple climb, turn, proceed on heading). Rules are rules and I had to have a copy in the cockpit. I thanked him again and headed back to the plane. This time I received a revised clearance (different from the flight plan that I’d filed), so I took the time to find all the intersections and was finally ready to depart. After a 15 minute wait for IFR traffic, I was finally taking off and climbing into the clouds. Sydney approach handled me at first, then Brisbane Center took over for the rest of the trip. There were very long periods of time with no communication on the radio. I was happy when the controller called someone else; that told me that my radio was still working. I had 20 knot headwinds at 7000 feet and was in and out of clouds and rain. The flight was to be about three and a half hours with lots of quiet time as there weren’t many planes flying. With my late departure I called my next hosts from the satellite phone to give them my revised arrival time. There was a Virgin flight ahead of me landing at Ballina. He received weather and traffic information from Brisbane Center, so I took note. Listening to the other airports’ weather as I flew north, the coastal weather was sounding acceptable. As I got closer, I could see a clear coastline to my right, but lots of clouds ahead. I turned towards the initial approach fix and started down. The controller was pointing out one plane that was somewhere close to where I was heading; but he wasn’t talking to him. He asked me to try to contact him on the common traffic advisory frequency. I told him where I was and that Brisbane Center wanted to talk with him on their frequency. I returned to Brisbane Center who told me that the plane was now clear of my approach path and I started the approach. As I was on short final with the runway in sight, the Virgin plane was sitting on the taxiway, waiting to depart. He’d done a quick turnaround. After landing, I back taxied to the taxiway as the Virgin plane back taxied to the end of the runway. On the ramp, the operations manager called me on the radio to advise me that there was no parking. With the storms and flooding the grass parking was closed and they had three rescue helicopters on the hard parking with four more to arrive. There was no parking available. I taxied to the avgas pumps to park for a few minutes. I shut down and found my friends outside the fence. I explained the problem and they joined me to talk with the operations manager. He again explained that it would be impossible to park for the night. There were many hangars with plenty of space between them and the taxiway. Tricia and Taylor knew the owner of the flight school with several of the hangars. He was very obliging to let me park in front of one of their hangars for several nights. The manager didn’t have a problem with me parking there. We tied down and headed home. I’d met Tricia along with daughter Taylor and husband Rusty during my 2003 flight. Taylor had taken an introductory flight with me and loved flying. Since then she has taken lessons and has really caught the aviation bug. She is excited about flying with me to Lord Howe Island and on to Keri Keri, New Zealand. The only problem being that there isn’t room in the plane for her surf board!

Entry #101 : 1/26/2012 10:05:00 PM EST
January 25th, 2012 -- Sydney, Australia Valerie and Alastair live on Elizabeth Bay, one of the many bays in Sydney harbor, and have a beautiful view of boats traveling back and forth. I joined them for their daily swim in the natural sea pool in front of their building. Sydney is a vibrant city making full use of all the harbor and views. After a bus tour to get our bearings in the city we did a ferry tour to see the city from the harbor and obviously to see the Opera House from all perspectives. What an amazing piece of architecture, with a stressful history as it was supposed to only cost $7 million and the total costs were over $100 million. We also toured Darling Harbor, Circular Quay and the botanic gardens with many open gardens for walking and picnicking. The last day was reserved for the Sydney Eye tower and the world renown aquarium. Unfortunately, it was the first overcast and rainy day we’d had in two weeks of traveling. But, we went to the top of the Eye tower in the morning and although the distance view was diminished, the harbor and city areas were a beautiful site. The historical explanations were interesting and humorous. The shark aquarium was most fascinating with a number of different types of sharks and rays swimming above us as we walked through a tunnel under the pool. Heinrich returned to Germany after two weeks with the most freedom of flight he has ever experienced. Nothing like his flying in Europe. It was significantly different from Judy and Kabir’s experiences; but they each got something out of their various flight legs and I enjoyed sharing the cockpit. Due to the poor weather, I stayed an extra day in Sydney and will head to Byron Bay, the most easterly point in mainland Australia tomorrow. I was there in 2003 and took Taylor for a Young Eagles flight. Since then, she has taken flying lessons. Now, she’ll be joining me as we cross the Tasman Sea to Lord Howe Island and New Zealand.

Entry #100 : 1/25/2012 1:27:00 PM EST
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 -- Kangaroo Island to Mildura The temperatures on Kangaroo Island have been up and down. When we landed the first afternoon it was a very acceptable 22C (74F). As I expected it to be much hotter, I took my jacket with me, just in case it got too cool in the evening. That first evening it did get cool and having dinner on the windy coast was quite chilly. The next day on the west end of the island, it peaked out at 39C (about 110F)! But, as we drove eastward, it cooled down a little. The next day on the east end of the island, it only got up to 33C (96F). This morning we have overcast skies for the first time. The forecast is showing scattered and our destination is clear. We’re thinking that it’s just coastal clouds and clearer at the airport (which turns out to be the case). It’s quiet at the airport, but will get busier as a commuter plane arrives in one hour. We depart with no problem and climb on top of the thin layer and cruise northeast to Mildura. It starts to get hotter in the cockpit, indicating that it’ll be hot on the ground. From 50 miles out, we hear another plane going in to Mildura, but nothing else. We make our position reports as we approach, land and park. With no-one around, we walk to the terminal and call a taxi to the hotel. Heinrich continues to be amazed at the freedom of flying in Australia. No tower, even with commercial planes arriving and departing. No landing and parking fees, except at the major airports. Relatively cheap avgas (A$ 2.00 per liter, US$ 7.60 per gallon) about half the price of European avgas. Vast areas with no airspace constraints. We’ve flown VFR over all of Australia with fantastic weather and no required communication. He is really enjoying flying here. Mildura is on the Murray River and is the “Mississippi town of Australia.” With the water and irrigation there is lots of farming and vineyards. We take a relaxing ride on a 100 year old steam driven paddle boat and get a good history and view of the area. This is the first “real” town we’ve been in since leaving Northam on the west coast. We walk around and compare prices. Most things here are a little expensive, with the exception of fuel. However, we’ve found food and wine to be extremely expensive. An ice cream cone, one scoop, is between four and five dollars. A normal bottle of wine is between A$20 and A$30. Lunch is minimum A$25. With the Australian dollar on par with the US dollar, these prices seem a little steep. The next day we’re heading south to Kyneton, just north of Melbourne. Barry, a student learning German, that I’d met in Bamberg, had invited us to visit him and tour the area. As we’d emailed, he had planned a packed few days visiting the west Victoria coast and the city of Melbourne. We heard planes coming and going from Kyneton but no-one was in the pattern at our arrival time. We landed and parked on the grass. One pilot showed us around and confirmed that someone would be here during the weekend for our departure to gas us up. Visiting this area with Barry was like having our own personal tour guide. He showed us the area, explained about the geological formations and how they affect the weather, land and agriculture. Along the limestone cliffs of the coast line are amazing rock formations. The most interesting is called the Twelve Apostles, which are isolated “statues” of limestone just off the coast that remain after the rest of the land around them has been washed away. There aren’t twelve any more as some have finally succumbed to the water and waves. Further down the coast is what has been titled “London Bridge.” These are arch formations; but the end connecting to the coast finally fell several years ago (leaving a honeymoon couple stranded on the other end). Thus, London Bridge has fallen down. Driving the coastline was windy and beautiful. The vegetation changes from scrubland on the coast to tall trees 20 miles inland. Much of this area is a National Park. North of the coast is good farmland. The next day we took the comfortable train system into Melbourne and toured around. The waterfront is beautiful with modernized wharf areas and an absolutely magnificent botanic garden nearby. From the top of a monument we got a superb view of the main boulevards lined with 100 year old elm trees. Many of the “older” buildings remain intact to maintain the history of the development of the city and country. It was too soon time to depart again. Barry drove us back to Kyneton airport where we gassed up and took off to the northeast. We climbed to 9500 feet to be in smooth air above the clouds. After crossing the continent VFR without any airspace problems we were now headed through several cities’ airspace. I called Melbourne Center and received a squawk code and clearance through Albury then Canberra’s airspace. Then we were cancelled. It was time to start down and under Sydney’s busy airspace. We’d figured out a route that kept us clear and I called Sydney radar just to make sure we were alright. There was a broken layer of clouds by the time we arrived and a small rain shower to the east of our position. We followed the highway to the mandatory reporting point and called the tower. Actually, I’d called them 10 miles early to make sure they knew we were arriving and were unfamiliar with the area. There were a few other planes in the area but we were there first, landed and taxied to parking. What a huge airport with three parallel runways and one cross runway. There were businesses and hangars everywhere. The ground controller gave me instructions for parking and I recognized the area from my 2003 visit. We tied the plane down and found my friends at the terminal. It had been nine years since I’d been here for the first time with my dad. So it was with fond memories that we reunited and drove home.

Entry #99 : 1/17/2012 3:00:00 AM EST
Sunday, January 15th, 2012 – Coober Pedy to Kangaroo Island The Wilpena Pound is a huge oval rock formation with high ridges and a lower valley in the middle. It seems lush and green, but difficult to access. Despite early amateur theories that it was some kind of ancient volcano, the actual Pound is sedimentary rock in the form of a large syncline. Wilpena Pound is a natural amphitheatre of mountains located 429 kilometres (267 mi) north of Adelaide, South Australia,Australia, in the heart of the Flinders Ranges National Park. Attempts at farming the Pound failed during the early 20th century. Following this the tourism potential was recognised in 1945. After departing the area, it was only another thirty minutes to Port Pirie, our gas stop. Our destination, Kangaroo Island, doesn’t have avgas, so Claude advised stopping here. In the past, avgas has been available 24 hours a day, but only with the gas company’s carnet, or avgas card. I tried to get one from BP before leaving the US, but they issued a standard credit card which doesn’t work here. Luckily, things have been changing and at Ayers Rock and Coober Pedy, they now accept credit cards. Claude already told me that Port Pirie accepts credit cards, thus this stop. I heard a fair amount of traffic as we approached, so we figured there was a training school here. The last plane departed the area just as we arrived. There are three runways, one turf, one gravel and one sealed (black top). After landing and gassing up, we met the locals at the flight school. Earl pointed out the club house and indicated that food and coffee was available inside. We had a quick break before continuing to Kangaroo Island. After departure at 2pm, the air over the land was hot and turbulent. It was very bumpy. We headed towards the bay and had a smooth flight over the water, southwards. We were west of Adelaide and listened to the controllers, but didn’t hear any local traffic as we came in over Kangaroo Island and approached Kingscote airport. Again there were three runways with only the main runway sealed. I’d called the manager several days ago and been directed to park on the grass to the west side of the terminal. There were already three other Mooneys parked there! Must be a Mooney convention! Actually, they were the Mooney pilots that I’d met in Perth. We met them the next morning on their way out. Kangaroo Island is a pristine wilderness with soaring cliffs, dense forest, towering sand dunes, wetlands and massive arcs of bone-white beach. Remarkably, over half the island is native “old-growth” bushland, most of it preserved and protected. It is a true wildlife sanctuary. Owing to its isolation from the mainland, the island has suffered less from the impact of European settlement and retains more than half of its native vegetation. Today more than one-third of the island is declared Conservation or Nation Park and it has five significant Wilderness Protection Areas. Many of the animal species are nocturnal. We were advised to drive very carefully and slowly at night. We see many kangaroo bodies along the side of the road, obviously hit by cars. When we return from dinner the first evening, we see more than ten kangaroos along the road or crossing the road. On the far southwestern tip, in the Flinders Chase National Park, we see hundreds of New Zealand fur seals and Australian seals. They are swimming in the surf or sunning themselves on the warm rocks. Many of the little ones are exploring, not too far from mama seal, and the males are bellowing from time to time. It was fun to watch them up close. At another reserve we finally see Koala bears. They are all asleep in the trees. They settle themselves in the fork of a tree with their arms around one tree limb and their back and butt supported by another limb. One awoke and climbed a little higher, the others just continued sleeping. We didn’t see bees, but certainly learned a lot about them. Ligurian queen bees were originally imported from Bologna, Italy, in 1884. Since then no other breeds of bee have been introduced to Kangaroo Island; therefore, all present-day honeybees are descendants of those early imports and thus pure Ligurain. They are unique and mated queen bees are regularly exported overseas. There are a number of vineyards on the island and we tried the local wines at dinner time. They are not bad; but, as with everything in Australia, pricey. Dudley Winery has vineyards on the eastern peninsula of Kangaroo Island and was one we enjoyed. On the southeastern tip is Cape Willoughby Lighthouse. Its construction in 1852 guided the safe passage of sailing ships through the treacherous Backstairs Passage and heralded the beginning of the booming shipping trade. It has been a fun and informative stay on Kangaroo Island, tomorrow we head to Mildura, the “Mississippi River town of Australia.”

Entry #98 : 1/16/2012 4:57:00 PM EST
Saturday, January 14th, 2012 – Ayers Rock to Coober Pedy The hotel complex is getting old and is being refurbished. It’s certainly not up to today’s standards; and the prices exceed the quality. However, one can’t pass up seeing Ayers Rock when visiting Australia, so the sites were worth it. The next morning we departed before 9am, when the sightseeing flights start. We had the route chart and knew where to fly, where to make the radio calls and what altitude to fly. It was a superb view of Ayers Rock and the Olgas. We made our last radio call as we turned southeast and climbed to 7500 feet. We were headed to Coober Pedy. I’d heard about Coober Pedy, but never visited. It’s an opal mining town where people started living underground to get out of the 35 to 45 degree Celsius (100 to 120 degree Fahrenheit) summer temperatures. Flying in from the north, we could see these mounds of dirt everywhere, with holes beside them. We were to learn a lot about opal mining. The town looked like it had lots of normal houses, so I wondered about the underground living. Upon landing there was one person standing at the gate. I introduced myself and asked if he was the avgas person or the airport manager, both of whom knew we were arriving. He said he was awaiting another flight. I said that we hadn’t heard anyone on the frequency. He was from our hotel and said that if his flight didn’t arrive, he could drive us to the hotel. I wondered aobut his accent, not really Australian. It turned out that Günther is German, so he and Heinrich hit it off immediately. After gassing up and parking the plane, Günther drove us to the hotel. Since he did tours, and since I’d booked one, and since he and Heinrich were enjoying talking in German, we asked if he could do our tour this afternoon. It was absolutely amazing. All the mines are individuals, no large companies. Two people can dig two to three holes and day and do the inspection to determine if there is any opal. They use a big drill and make a hole about three feet in diameter and go down about 90 feet. Then one person is lowered into the hole and does the inspection, visual and by scraping as the opal stone will make a different sound when a tool is passed over it. Thirty three kilometers north of Coober Pedy is the Breakaways Reserve. This is a low range of colorful exposed sandstone outcrops. The lookout points provide spectacular views over what was once an inland sea. Further north is the famous Dog Fence, which is the longest fence in the world. It stretches over 5300 kilometers and was constructed to stop dingos from traveling from the north, cattle country, into sheep country to the south. The desert-like moonscape along the fence, with its fossilized shells, grey, soft clay dirt and cracks that appear to be bottomless, has been nicknamed the “moon plain.” Upon returning to town, we visited an underground home, an underground church and an old mine. The old homes were dug by hand, so the rooms were smaller and the ceilings lower. The newer ones are done by machine, so the ceilings and rooms can be made almost any size. Fresh air is piped in from above. These homes, without any air conditioning, have an average temperature of 23 to 25C (76 – 80 F) year round as well as providing protection against sometimes devastating storms. We also learned a lot about opals, their quality and value and how they can be sliced very thin and enhanced with a black backing and a clear quartz cover. Pure opal has many colors and changes with the light. Black opal is rare and represents only 10% of all the opal, therefore is much more expensive. It was absolutely an amazing stop. Due to the high temperatures, we departed early the next morning. We circled the town to take pictures then headed east to a huge dry lakebed and then southeast to Flinders Range and Wilpena Pound. I’d originally planned on stopping here, but the runway is gravel with hills at both ends. With hot temperatures, even a morning departure could be difficult. So, we’d see what we could from the air.

Entry #97 : 1/15/2012 2:01:00 AM EST
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 I have a new copilot, my good friend Heinrich from Germany. He’s an earthrounder and Mooney pilot and wanted to tour Australia. So, he joined me in Perth and will fly with me to Sydney. Today we covered one third of southern Australia from Perth to Forrest. We flew for five hours as the land changed beneath us. In Perth it is wooded and green due to having storms and water. There are two rain catchment areas which provide water to Perth and through a pipeline, originally built in 1901, to Kalgoorlie, 300 miles east of Perth. Just east of Perth, in Northam, where Claude lives, is a farming area but mostly brownish land. The wheat has been harvested and the sheep are grazing in the other fields. We took off from there and continued over farmlands and the pipeline until Kalgoorlie. Continuing east the farms end as there is less rain and it becomes desert with scrubland and red soil. There are dry lake beds everywhere, but in the rainy season they fill very quickly. As we fly further east we see the ground change again and there is no more scrubland, just empty desert called the Nullabor (meaning no trees). Forrest Airport has two long blacktop runways and the “town” has four bungalows. There are two people who take care of everything. Right now Tanya and Claus are our hosts. This grew to be a seven-house “town” and a stopping point for planes and trains as well as a meteorological station. Currently many general aviation and ferry flights stop here when crossing Australia. By car it’s a two and a half DAY drive to Perth; unbelievable. It takes five hours just to get to the main east-west road. It’s quiet and peaceful. We walked a little, sat and listened to the wind and visited the museum. It must have been a difficult life, years ago during the exploration of Australia and the building of the railway. It’s not easy today. The train stops once per week, on Mondays, to deliver the groceries and another stops on Fridays to pick up the mail. However there are trains passing by about seven to ten times per day heading from Adelaide to Perth and visa versa. It was a quiet pleasant stop, but I would not want to live here. It’s over six hundred miles east of Perth, but still on Western Australia’s time zone, so the sun rose at 4:30am. We were up and ready to go very early. After a 7am departure, we headed south to the coast. Claude had shown us pictures of the cliffs in this area and we wanted to see them. There were clouds and the visibility was not a good as yesterday, but it cleared after we turned east and we had the most fantastic views of these sheer cliffs descending 300 feet into the sea. There are distinct rock formations. There is a section of white rock that represents 25 million years of the earth’s existence. Above that is brown rock which is the last 25 million years. Amazing. We turned northbound and had a two and a half hour flight over barren scrubland with dry lakebeds to Ayers Rock. No people, nothing. The Nullabor has no trees and as we continued north, we crossed an area with red soil and schrubs and then red dunes as we had seen in Namibia, where Heinrich flies gliders. We could see Ayers Rock from over 70 miles to the south. We picked up the weather and started to hear other planes calling in on approach or departure. I called in at 25 miles south, 15 miles south and made more calls as we got closer. As we were arriving from the south, Ayers Rock was to our right as we descended and we flew over the hotel grounds five miles east of the rock. A jet was arriving from seven miles to the east and we were only a mile south, he asked us if he could go first. I thought that was a little much, but said that we would circle. I didn’t realize that he was also going to do a 10 mile final, then backtrack on the runway. We had to circle twice and extend the downwind and I was really mad. Heinrich called it arrogant and I agree. Even the person on the ground, who had heard the whole conversation, said it was unusual. We could easily have landed and been off the runway before he turned final. Ayers Rock airport and facilities are not cheap; we been told this by many people. The landing fee is $55 and parking is $38 per day. But, the gas bowser accepts credit cards, which made things easier. We picked up a rental car and headed to the hotel complex, which isn’t cheap either. I’d been here during my 2003 flight. It’s not changed much, but everything is done by paid tours now which are very pricey. Luckily with a car, we could do everything on our own. Just a walking tour was over $100 per person. Because it was cloudy, we skipped the sunrise and sunset viewings, but walked around the rock. The overcast kept the temperature relatively cooler and without too many flies. In 2003 it had been exceedingly hot with hundreds of flies buzzing around your head all the time. Only in the cooler mornings and evenings are there no flies. We were lucky today. The Olgas are another set of rocks, actually 36 domes, to the west of Ayers Rock. It was a sacred Aboriginal men’s ceremonial site. We drove there then did the two walks between the domes. It is different from the single magnificent Ayers Rock, and also fascinating to see it from different perspectives.

Entry #96 : 1/13/2012 3:59:00 AM EST
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 – Port Hedland to Northam (near Perth) I woke up at 4:30am and did the preflight. All looked good. I started the engine and radioed that I was taxiing to runway 32 (not that anyone was listening). The sky was starting to light up and there were a few clouds around but mainly clear with no wind. Engine check and takeoff climbing slowly but smoothly with a left turn on course. How easy is this? No paperwork, no clearance, just a nice morning VFR flight to Perth. Ahh. At first I leveled off at 5500 feet, but the winds were slightly unfavorable. As I’d have higher terrain ahead, I continued up to 7500 feet. I started to have a slight tailwind, yes. Only a few knots, but better than nothing. I settled down for the flight. At first it looked like just under seven hours, but as the time went by and the tailwinds improved, it’s down to a six hour and thirty minute flight, wow. I called Claude on the satellite phone. I could see high clouds ahead and wondered what the weather would be for arrival. He had clear skies but strong 20 knot winds out of the south. I confirmed my arrival time as 11:20 local and couldn’t wait to get there. Actually the high clouds were a relief, they kept the sun and heat out of the cockpit. I continued. Things have been getting better and better. The tailwind is up to nine knots and my ground speed is 116 knots. Why couldn’t this have happened on the way to Bali? That’s ok, I’ll take it. The ground is mainly red sand. I fly over the hills, topping out at 5300 feet. On the other side is more red sand. Every once in a while I see a lake marked on the GPS. It’s a dry white mark on the ground. I guess when they get rain, it becomes a lake, but that isn’t very often. This hasn’t been a smooth flight. At 7500 feet it’s been slightly bumpy the whole time. I’m glad that I started early, as the heat of the day increases, it will get even bumpier. Much better to be down before noon. Only an hour and three quarters to go, but it’s starting to get bumpier at 9:30am local time. I’ll be glad to be on the ground and with friends! From fifteen miles out I make a radio call to Northam Airport. At ten miles out I receive the winds, down runway 14 at 20 to 25 knots. That’s blowing pretty hard, but at least it’s not a crosswind. In no time I’ve landed and Claude is directing me to parking. I jump out and he gives me a big hug. It’s so good to finally be there after three very difficult days. I’m exhausted. Claude introduces me to Roger and Ivan from Northam Aviation Services, the local aircraft maintenance shop. I explain my problems and ask if they’ve worked on Mooneys and have the special tools for checking the gear. Ivan brings the tools. Yep, I’ve seen those before. Great. I’ll stay here and they can work on my Mooney gear and check the engine/magneto problems. They’ll be finishing up with a Cessna after lunch, and they can start on my Mooney this afternoon. Fantastic. Claude and I head to lunch. Ivan takes the actuator out and apart and there’s the broken back clutch spring. I have my old one which we put in. The next day the gear moves up and down! I’m elated. Roger is working on the engine. Looks like there are two leads from the magnetos to the spark plugs that have been rubbing and, from time to time, shorting out. He replaces the leads. We also check compression, magneto timing and generally give the engine a good inspection. The second afternoon, I’m outside doing a run-up and everything sounds great. The engine monitor agrees that everything is operating correctly. Unfortunately it’s very windy and I don’t want to do a test flight. Actually, the next two days are extremely windy and across the runway, so a test flight is out of the question. Finally on Saturday morning the wind is calm. Claude and I head to the airport and I get to go flying. I’m ecstatic as the gear comes up and I can climb and fly at normal speeds. Ahh, it feels so good. This last week has been extremely difficult. Now I can explore Australia.

Entry #95 : 1/8/2012 1:23:00 AM EST
Two updates, please read the one below before this one. Monday, January 2nd, 2012 -- Bali to Port Hedland After a shower, I went to the restaurant (to get wifi) to check the weather. There were a few isolated storms between Bali and Port Hedland, but nothing big. The winds looked less than 10 knots and very changeable. Oh well. I headed to the reception early and there was Yoki. I picked up my box breakfast and we were at the airport in 15 minutes. He helped me to undo the tie-downs, then took my passport and headed to the immigration office. The avgas guys showed up with two 55 gallon (200 liter) barrels. I really didn’t need it all, but as the flight had been so long yesterday, I didn’t have enough reserve with only one 55 gallon drum. So, I had to take two. It cost $3 per litre. That’s less than Europe this summer, but more than Malaysia and Australia. Luckily, with the bladder tank, I could take it all. If you open a barrel, you pay for it all even if you can’t take it all. Some pilots have to leave half a barrel – boy that hurts! Everything was going like clockwork, I was wondering what would go wrong. Yoki returned with my passport. Naya gave me my package with my outbound General Declaration. Now it was time to pay the bills. The avgas guy wanted $1200. I counted out the $100 bills. He wouldn’t accept bills older than 2006 and five were from 2003. I couldn’t believe this. I asked Naya if he would accept the 2003 bills and he said yes, phew. The navigation, landing and parking was $221, visa $25 and handling $385!! Yep, you pay for the service. But, last night and this morning, it was worth it. I counted out the bills. I gave his helper my left over Indonesian currency and shook hands all around. It was 7:30am and I was ready to depart. The tower let me start up and taxi right away. I barely had time for all the cockpit checks and I was cleared for departure. There were other planes landing and taking off, this was obviously their busy time. I climbed slowly and made a turn to the southeast on track. Climbing over water, I wasn’t in as much of a rush as yesterday, climbing over hills in busy airspace. So, today I climbed slower and kept the engine temperatures under control. After yesterday’s flight, I was ready for the speeds, fuel flow and temperatures, so it wasn’t a shock. They settled down when I finally leveled off at 7000 feet. It was clear ahead but the winds were again unfavorable. But not much, only a few knots. After two hours I could see the first buildups ahead. I flew around them easily. Then there were a few more. For an hour and a half I circumnavigated buildups with no problems. Finally it was clear blue sky ahead and only three hours remaining. I saw lots of ships below, I guess this is a major shipping lane. As I approached the coast, I saw lots of ships anchored. They must be waiting for entry to the port. I’d been talking with Brisbane on HF, but at 100 miles out I could talk with Melbourne Center on VHF. I could see the airport from 20 miles away and listened on their frequency, nothing. I asked Melbourne if I should cancel my IFR flight plan in the air, they said no, I could reach them on the ground. As I came over the coast, it got very bumpy from the heat of the earth and thermal activity. I was glad that I’d been over water for the flight. It would be good to depart early tomorrow to avoid the worst bumps. After landing, I taxied to the ramp and saw two people waiting for me. I stopped at parking position one (the rest of the ramp was empty). I knew that I had to remain in the cockpit until the spraying had been completed. I opened the pilot’s window a little bit and the quarantine person asked for my spray can. I said that I thought he supplied it. He said he’d go and get one. I closed the window again, saying that I knew that I had to wait inside. They both laughed. When he came back he said four seconds four minutes. Meaning to spray for four seconds and sit inside for four minutes before opening up. Although I put the reflective screens in the windows, it got pretty hot in there. Finally they let me out and we started the formalities. I handed them my General Declaration and passport. They asked some questions and one of them looked into the luggage compartment and checked out my luggage. They confirmed that the Bali teak wood was ok and the Dead Sea mud, as it was a pre-packaged make-up, not real mud, was ok. Luke called the airport manager to confirm that I could park overnight and then called the fuel supplier who happened to be at the airport. Better for me to fill up now rather than in the morning. That was it, I was in the country and free to go. Less than half an hour and painless. Ahh is it good to be back in an aviation friendly country. I didn’t know that Port Hedland was a booming town. It has iron ore mines and can’t keep up with Chinese demand. Trains pass through every three minutes full with ore. The hotels are full. I heard several people say that I’d be lucky to find a hotel. I’d checked hotels on the internet several week previously, but with all the problems and long flights, I hadn’t bothered to make a reservation. Shane, the fueler, triend calling the hotel across the street from the airport, but no-one answered. Once I was fueled and tied-down, I headed that way on foot. They didn’t have any rooms and didn’t have the phone numbers of other hotels, but I could take a taxi into town. Their rooms, just a normal hotel, were $300 per night. The others in town might be less. The taxi ride to town was $35. All three hotels were full. I had the taxi drop me off back at the airport. A $50 taxi ride. An airliner had just dropped off passengers and some organizers were collecting their groups. I asked about hotels. They both said that they didn’t know of anything available. Well, I’ve slept in the plane before, I can do it again. Ugh. In the airport I found Wi-Fi and contacted Claude to advise him that I’d be arriving about 11:30 the next day. I got a few other emails out before the terminal was deserted and Wi-Fi was switched off. I also got a sandwich at the coffee bar and saw that the price for a small can of beer was $9. The cashier said, “welcome to Port Hedland pricing.” Exorbitant. I guess that’s what happens in a booming town. I took the time to reorganize the cockpit, remove the ferry tank, sort out the cockpit and make a sleeping area. I was parked by the Royal Flying Doctors Service hangar. A plane with crew and a patient was waiting for another plane. When it arrived, they loaded up and took off. That happened once more in the middle of the night…

Entry #94 : 1/7/2012 8:00:00 PM EST
Sunday, January 1st, 2012 What a terrible New Year’s Eve. Although I had a nice time with Capt Siva and Rani, I had to get to bed early. With a 7am departure, I needed to get up at 5am. I had five phone calls between 10pm and 2am. I couldn’t believe it; each time I would get back to sleep, the phone would ring. I’d had problems with my credit cards today and they decided to try to reach me to check if I’d used it…. Ugh. This is the fifth time on this trip that they have stopped my credit cards, even though I advised them before my departure of my plans and countries. It has been frustrating, but tonight is even worse. I finally get some sleep between 2am and 5am, then it’s up to shower and look at the weather. Actually, during one of the phone calls, I’d checked the satellite weather for the route to Bali. It looked reasonably good except for a large cell between Surabaya, my alternate, and Bali. This morning’s satellite weather shows the same conditions. So, the departure is a go. I head downstairs, not expecting to find my box breakfast, but, surprise, they have a sandwich and fresh French fries for me, on a plate. I explain that I can’t take the plate with me, so they provide plastic containers. Capt Siva and Rani arrive to drive me to the airport. They actually stayed up until midnight (but can sleep later today). I had one last bathroom stop, then we pulled the plane out of the hangar and I did the preflight. I’d lost some avgas out of the wing tanks due to the heat of the afternoon sun, but with the ferry tank in the back, I wasn’t too worried. Capt Siva had received the weather from the met office and it looked like I’d have quartering tailwinds most of the way. That would be nice. We held hands and Capt Siva said a very nice prayer for my flight and onward journey. I do believe, although I don’t go to church any more. This morning it sure felt good to hear those words and have that support. I know that many other people pray for me daily. Two people in Europe gave me little guardian angels, which I now keep in my cockpit. As Carol Foy (my 2008 world flight co-pilot) often said, there is something other than aerodynamic forces that keeps us flying; and that is faith. Thank you all. I taxied to immigration, who had come in early for my departure. It was a very quick process and I was taxiing for takeoff. I had the departure procedure and the rest of the clearance was as filed. I climbed slowly and departure gave me a westerly heading to stay out of Kuala Lumpur’s big international airport airspace. This is the wrong direction and I was headed out on a 10-plus hour flight. I certainly was not happy as this continued. I asked for a left turn, more on course, and finally he let me turn to 220 degrees, then south, at least a little better. On the JPI engine monitor, the temperatures were high. I slowed my climb and kept the cowl flaps open to keep the oil temperature as low as possible. The cylinders head temperatures were high also. Everything was wrong and this was only the start of the flight. As the controller turned me onto my airway heading, I picked up a bit of a tailwind and felt better. I’d got the temperatures under control and was finally level at 7000 feet. My air speed was 100 knots and my fuel consumption was just under 10 gallons per hours. These numbers were terrible. The flight leg was still doable, but certainly not what I’d expected. At the FIR boundary between Malaysia and Singapore, I was already 30 minutes behind schedule, mainly due to the westerly heading and the very slow and long climb to altitude. When I was south of Singapore and on the airway to Bali I had a three knot headwind. My ground speed varied between 96 and 103 knots. The leg to Bali would be close to 11 hours. At my higher fuel consumption, I had enough fuel for 13.5 hours. Still doable if the weather was good, but very tight, close to my limit, for going to the alternate. Also, I was stressed and mentally and physically tired. I had to hold constant right rudder pressure due to the torque with the gear down. I started looking at options. There is an airport at about the halfway point. It’s public without any avgas, but I could rest and continue tomorrow. I send Capt. Siva an sms via the satellite phone asking for any other information on this airport. He was also going to send me updates on the weather as I get closer to Bali. His response is that it is for emergency use only. Well, that’s the only reason I’d use it. Also the weather is looking ok for my first alternate and still some storms in the area. I continue. As I get to five hours and close to making the deviation decision. I’m feeling better. The engine temperatures have stabilized the actual ground speed is between 103 and 107 knots, depending on winds, which have been mostly a light headwind. My feet are getting use to alternating and holding pressure on the right rudder pedal. So, overall, I’m feeling as if I can handle another five and a half hours. My decision is to continue and I feel it’s the right decision. I’ve been making my position reports with an approach by VHF then on HF with Jakarta radio. Contact has been good. As I enter the stormy area, they aren’t too bad. Some bumps, medium rain and no thunderstorms. I continue, deviating a little to avoid the worst of the storms, to where I can see clearly and go around them. With three hours to go, I look at the alternate vs going to Bali. If I continue to Bali and the weather is terrible, I can still make it to my second alternate, but not my first. I would need to deviate to my first alternate before going to Bali. The weather is continuing to be only rain and no thunderstorms, so I continue. I put the Bali automated weather into the second radio. Nothing yet, but hopefully I’ll hear it early and be able to make a deviation decision early, if necessary. I’m coming in over islands as I get closer to Bali. Some are volcanic with high elevation, but the airway keeps me away from the high peaks. Finally I can receive the Bali weather and the visibility is over 10 kilometers with scattered clouds at 1800 feet. Good. As I continue, I get into very dark clouds and light rain. I can see the high peaks below me and I’m talking with Bali director. This is a new term for me and he does the same function as our approach controllers. He’s talking with numerous jets arriving and departing. I’m wondering how I’ll fit in with their sequencing due to my slow speed. He asks me about my speed. I explain about the gear being down and that 100 knots is my maximum. He gives me direct to the Bali VOR and asks me to call him when I’m 30 miles away. After landing, I taxi to the east end of the airport where there is a ramp for small planes and helicopters. My handler Naya is there and marshals me to parking. I get out of the cockpit feeling very relieved and needing to stretch. He welcomes me to Indonesia and offers me a beer! Capt. Siva must have told him that I like a beer in the evening. I thanked him and said, not now. After everything is complete, then I’ll happily have one. One person took my General Declaration and passport to the offices. The others helped me push my plane to the parking area and tie it down. When the first person returned, I was good to go; customs and immigration had been completed – and I hadn’t even been to the offices! They presented me with a “captain’s plaque” with my name on it made out of Bali teak wood. Wow, it looked nice. Thank you. Naya called a hotel, but it was $180 for the night. I said that I only needed a three-star hotel, nothing fancy for one night. But, I needed wifi. He found a less expensive hotel and Yoki drove me there. Within half an hour of landing we were out the airport gate and heading to my hotel. I was sitting in the back of the van drinking a Bali beer and eating my cold French fries.

Entry #93 : 1/6/2012 4:00:00 AM EST
Saturday December 31st, 2011 – yesterday, it felt as if it were two days long Ugh. We returned to the airport at 9am to start checking out the problems. I’d called and sent emails to Arthur, my mechanic in Florida, to explain the situation. We were in a holiday crunch with a 13 hour time lag between Malaysia and the east coast of the US. At the plane, I took the belly panel off to check out the actuator and motor. I sent pictures to Arthur and Tom, from Top Gun Aviation in California, a Mooney undergear and actuator specialist. He’d worked on my gear twice over the last five years, so we knew each other a little bit. As Tom was still up in the evening his time, I called him and he gave me a list of things to check. After talking a second time, it looked like we’d isolated the problem and he gave me the solution. I performed the modification but we needed jacks to check the gear. By the time they arrived and we were ready to put the plane up, it was time for an afternoon meeting. Capt. Siva had organized a pilot meeting with EAA members, aero club members and the Director General of Aviation in Malaysia. I had to clean up and get ready. It was a fantastic meeting with Capt. Siva explaining about EAA and aviation in Malaysia. The Director General also spoke about the growth of general aviation and told us that 2011 was the 100th year of aviation in Malaysia as the first plane had landed on a field in Kuala Lumpur that year. The field is no longer there, but it was where the twin towers now stand. I gave my presentation and answered questions for the press. Hundreds of pictures were taken. It was a terrific get together for pilots in the area and it was indeed a privilege to meet the Director General. Some of the pilots were going flying after the meeting, so I headed back to the plane and we did the gear retraction test. At least, we started the test. We got the Mooney jacked up. I already had the book open to the test page and I jumped into the cockpit. I did everything in sequence then pushed the gear override switch which should start the motor and the gear should start moving to the up position. After a second, the circuit breaker popped. I couldn’t believe it. I really thought we’d solved the problem. I did the sequence a second time with the same result. We lowered the plane and took it off the jacks. They needed to other planes in the hangar and the Mooney was in the way, so couldn’t leave it up on jacks. I was bummed. I was so convinced that we’d found the problem and corrected it. But, I had a second problem, so I started working on that. The number two bottom spark plug, running on the left magneto had failed during the last flight. Although after landing, I checked again and it was working. During the day I’d changed the spark plug, but it still wasn’t working. So, I wanted to continue that analysis and testing and see if we could determine the problem. I ran without one lead on to confirm that it was the number two bottom plug on the left mag. I switched the plugs, top and bottom and the bottom still failed. So, it was either the left mag or the number two bottom lead from the mag to the spark plug. I wrote everything in an email to Arthur (as our phone connection hadn’t been good enough for him to understand all the details). When we got back to the hotel, we talked. He was going try to order new parts and get them in FedEx today (Friday, December 30th) so that they could be through customs here on Tuesday. We’ll know more in the morning. Saturday December 31st, 2011 – today, it felt as if it were also two days long In the evenings, I can talk with the east coast, my mechanic, Arthur. In the mornings, I can talk with the west coast, Tom, the gear actuator expert at Top Gun Aviation. So, first thing this morning, I called Tom and gave him the results from yesterday. He wanted me to check the gear actuator motor. He didn’t think that was the problem, but better to rule out the simple items before moving to the complex actuator. After checking that the motor ran when not connected to the actuator, we knew that it had to be a problem with the actuator. Tom had worked with a Mooney pilot in Australia and would contact him by email and see if he could find a Mooney Service Center somewhere. Within a few hours, we had a response. There was an aero club near Perth with six Mooneys and a shop that worked on them. How opportune. I was planning to visit a friend near Perth. Arthur wanted me to check the number four cylinder plugs. The bottom was fouled. After cleaning it, the engine ran great. So, it looked like that problem was solved. With the engine running, I knew that I had to get to Perth. We called the avgas supplier. It was New Year’s eve and we should gas up as early as possible. I checked everything under the belly and closed up the panel. I recowled the engine. I reinstalled the ferry tank and preflighted the plane. Everything was in order. The avgas arrived and I filled the wing tanks and put an extra 30 gallons in the ferry tank. I wasn’t sure of the speed nor fuel consumption to Bali, but wanted to have plenty of avgas. During the last two days, Kabir had been looking into his options. It was best for him to fly back home and not continue with me to Indonesia. So, this afternoon he headed to Kuala Lumpur International airport and I filed my flight plan and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Entry #92 : 1/4/2012 4:00:00 PM EST
Good news, the gear is working again and the mag problem was caused by a faulty lead which has been replaced. Will do a test flight today and we're ready to continue. But, this week is for Perth. Following is the update from where I left off in Kuala Lumpur. Thursday, December 29, 2011 We’re cruising along at flight level 80 (8,000 feet) and have departed the Cambodian coast heading southwest to Malaysia. We were smiling after an expensive but only 45 minute departure procedure. We knew the handling was $300 even though the company representative never showed up and the airport personnel helped us with everything. The navigation fee was only $116. The extra, unexpected bill was a government invoice for $250. When I asked what it was, they just kept saying the government charges. We walked out to the plane smiling when another person caught up with us and explained that there was an additional charge. They forgot the invoice for ground handling. I wanted to preflight, so I asked Kabir to go and settle the bill. With the preflight complete, windows washed and luggage stowed, I waited for Kabir. He returned relieved that the formalities were finally over. He took some pictures and jumped in. This last bill was $274 but they wouldn’t take some of his $100 bills. They were too old. I’d told him about that, but good for him to experience it himself. We are reporting the intersections along the airway and communication with Bangkok control is clear; they acknowledge each position report. We only have three and a half hours to go. We picked up a box breakfast at the hotel, so I enjoy a fried egg sandwich. There are buildups to the south but our direction is looking clear. The satellite weather this morning showed no storms all the way to Kuala Lumpur and the airport forecast also indicated good weather for our arrival. We were hoping for the best as this is monsoon season and normally they have storms most afternoons. Our contact in Kuala Lumpur, Captain Siva, has planned a flight in front of the twin towers, if the weather cooperates. We’re hoping for some good pictures. What an afternoon… The rest of the flight went well but we were fifth in line for arrival at the airport. They kept us at 10,000 feet too long and when we could finally descend, it was quite fast as I maneuvered between clouds to keep us in smooth air. Then they asked us to slow down to our slowest speed possible, while still descending. I slowed down to 120 knots and dropped the gear, then continued descending. The best way to lose altitude in a Mooney is with gear down. Then they asked us to level off at 5000 feet, which we did. As we started the ILS approach, they asked for fastest forward speed. That isn’t possible with gear down, and as we were going to rendezvous with another plane and not land, I brought the gear back up…or so I thought. As we continued the approach, the speeds weren’t right and it felt sluggish, then I noticed that the “gear unsafe” light was on. The gear wasn’t up, nor down. I tried the handle, but the gear didn’t move. The tower and our accompanying plane were trying to reach us. After trying to diagnose the problem, I decided to do the photo shoot and fly-by, then look into the problem afterwards. So we broke off the approach and joined up with Captain Siva in a Socata TB10. He guided us toward the twin towers in the center of Kuala Lumpur. He had received special permission for us to fly around the towers with his plane and do a photo shoot. I concentrated on the towers and flying although my mind was frustrated by the gear problem. The other plane could see the gear and confirmed it was halfway up. We circled two times, wow, what a site. Very few people get this opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up. After the first time around, I noticed the circuit breaker for the gear actuator had popped out. I made sure the gear handle was in the down position and pushed the circuit breaker in. The gear motor ran and the gear went fully down. I checked that they were locked down. The other plane confirmed that our gear was now down. We finished the second time around the towers and returned to the airport. What an unbelievable experience.

Entry #91 : 1/1/2012 4:00:00 PM EST
January 2nd, quick update for those without Facebook: Yesterday was an exhausting 11 hour flight with headwinds and rain. After a great night's sleep, I'm ready for another 7 hours to Port Hedland, Australia today. I've already advised customs of my arrival. Then on the Perth tomorrow. Everyone is on holiday, so I haven't been able to call the shop yet, to advise them of my problem. Let's hope they can help.

Entry #90 : 12/31/2011 4:34:00 PM EST
Happy New Year to all. I'm sorry the blog has not been updated. I lost the password in a corrupted file. Lots has happened!! Major problem with gear and have spent 2 days in Kuala Lumpur analyzing and testing. No good. Must fly to Bali and Australia with gear down. The good news is that I've found a Mooney Service Center near Perth and should be with them next week. Following is the Cambodia update. Will get the Kuala Lumpur updated, hopefully tomorrow. Thanks for your patience. Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 I was lucky to spend a nice, quiet family Christmas with Norm and Lec north of Bangkok in their house in the area called Khao Yai. Norm and I toured the area on motorcycles. It’s cooler there at altitude and with a wind blowing through the hills. Returning to Bangkok, we met with my next co-pilot, Kabir, from Boston. We spent the afternoon with charts and flight plans making sure we were ready for the next few flights to Cambodia, Malaysia and across the intertropical convergence zone making two stops in Indonesia. On Tuesday morning Norm drove us to Bang Phra airport and explained about a VFR departure. He’d also called the international airport, 20 minutes south, to advise them of our arrival, need for avgas and next departure to Cambodia. So, everything was prepared. After a big hug it was time to go again. What a wonderful relaxed Christmas. Thank you Norm and Lec, I look forward to returning to Thailand. Kabir and I jumped in the cockpit and back taxied on runway 05. It was already 30 degrees but we climbed nicely with an easy left turn to avoid the hills ahead. There were quite a few bumps from the winds coming over the hills, but we continued climbing into smooth air. I called the tower one last time to thank them and Norm and we headed south. The visibility was only two kilometers, so we had to pick up our IFR flight plan and were given a clearance by U-Taphao approach. Due to other traffic, we did the VOR 36 approach and taxied to parking spot one. We got out, but no-one came to meet us. The tower was close by, but fenced in, so we couldn’t just walk over. The tower controller had already asked what our plans were upon arrival. I told Kabir that patience was needed at each stop. Sometimes people come right away and sometimes they don’t. Within 10 minutes a truck arrived. We asked for, and within another 20 minutes received, the avgas. Then they took us to the office below the tower for the flight plan filing and weather briefing. Then we were bused to the airport authorities to pay our bill. After quick immigration and customs stops, we were driven back to the plane for departure. Less than an hour and a half total. Kabir thinks I’ve been exaggerating previous difficulties at international airports. After departure, we’re given direct to the FIR boundary (country border crossing point) then direct to destination. The winds are unfavorable, so any shortcuts are appreciated. We are transferred from Bangkok control to Phnom Penh control and only have 45 minutes remaining. This is a very short flight. In no time we’re coming down the glide slope, landing and parking on the ramp. Three people show up immediately and ask for our General Declaration which we hand out through the door. This is a little unusual. We get out and start answering their questions. After chocking and securing the plane we take the 100 person bus to immigration where they leave us and tell us to pass with the other tourists. We get our visa, pass immigration and have to fill in the arrival document that tourists arriving by the airline fill out. The customs agent doesn’t want our General Declaration. This is not a normal arrival for Kabir to learn how international airports work. But we get a taxi and head to the hotel. We wandered the streets and had a local Cambodian dinner. We don’t have to fly tomorrow, so we can try different foods. Our day in Siem Reap was amazing, we saw three temples, first and most famous, Angkor Wat. It was built for king Suriyavarman II in the 12th century as his state temple and capital city. It is the best-preserved temple and remains a significant religious center. It also appears on Cambodia’s national flag. The two others, Angkor Thom and Beng Melea were also both constructed in the 12th century, but slightly different and still interesting. Beng Melea has huge trees growing around all the stones and is thought to have served as a prototype for Angkor Wat. Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire and covers an area of nine square kilometers. We then drove to the floating market which consists of a community of boat dwellers who move with the rising and falling waters in the river and lake. It’s now the end of the rainy season, so the water is still high, but it will go down during the six month dry season and the boats will move towards the lake as the water levels decrease. There is a floating school, a floating basketball court, floating markets and many floating houses. We head to Malaysia tomorrow.

Entry #89 : 12/23/2011 9:30:00 PM EST
December 21-23,2011 – several days in Chiang Mai We spent two days touring around Chiang Mai and the countryside on the outskirts. It is extremely clean with small street vendors everywhere, especially food vendors. Although the US health departments recommends against easting at these places, we had to try several different dishes. They were very tasty. We tried to stay on cooked food and off any raw vegetables. The fruits were also delicious, especially the pineapple. Thursday we had a full day of visiting: an orchid farm, an hillside village, riding an elephant, rafting down a river and a 2-hour trek in the hills. The other group participants were from Italy, Switzerland and Germany and they were all in their 20s, so we were the “old” pair. The sign for rafting even said that it was only for over 10 and under 50 years old! The countryside was lush green and beautiful. The river was down from its high point, now it’s the start of the dry season, but still running fast. The hills up north are very steep and up to 7000 feet high. Absolutely beautiful scenery. The flight from Chiang Mai to Bang Phra was a little slow due to headwinds. The controllers were very difficult to understand, but with a few requests for repeats, we finally understood what they were asking. The area north of Bangkok was still flooded for 60 miles. It was a huge area still underwater. The farming and industry has been devastated. Over the water south of Bangkok we were at 1000 feet and direct to Bang Phra. I cancelled IFR 15 miles west and called the tower. Worawoot, the Thai Flying Club Manager, answered the call and told us the weather and using runway 05. Norm, a Mooney pilot/earthrounder had given me instructions for runway 23; however it comes in over a hill and runway 05 is a much easier arrival. After landing I did an oil change and Norm drove us to his apartment in Bangkok. Judy has to return to the US tomorrow and Kabir, another pilot, is joining me for the next few legs. Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone. More next week.

Entry #88 : 12/21/2011 8:00:00 PM EST
Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 -- Finally departing Calcutta We preflight, get in the cockpit and call for startup which is approved right away. Then more fun and questions. What is our takeoff minimum? I say 200 meters. Legally in the US it would be zero zero. But, I don’t think they’ll accept that. What are our landing minimums? I give them the number from the approach chart. Right now the visibility is 750 meters. We wait about 15 minutes while they ask more questions and review the rules. Finally the ground control says that non-scheduled flights require a minimum of 1000 meters visibility to depart and we can shut down. He’ll call us when visibility improves. We shut down. The visibility is down to 400 meters. The few planes that takeoff disappear into the fog pretty quickly. We sit in the cockpit and wait. And wait. We call every once in a while, visibility is up to 500 meters. Then 750 meters. They won’t let us go until 1000 meters. Don’t call again, we’ll call you when the visibility is above 1000 meters. We hear other calls and it’s up to 850 meters. Now it’s after 10am. Finally, he calls and gives us startup approval. The visibility is 1000 meters. We start up, take the clearance and taxi to the end of the runway. One plane lands and we’re cleared for takeoff with a right turn on course. Once we’re at 4000 feet, we’re above the “soup” and the climb is easier. We level off at 9000 feet and set everything for cruise. Phew. We’re headed out over water right away. Unfortunately, the engine isn’t settling down to its normal “hum.” I play with the rpm and mixture and finally let it run with a little higher fuel flow to keep the vibration down. We leave Indian air space and start talking with Bangladesh. The signal is very weak and he relays through another plane that we are not permitted in his airspace. I read the permit number which is relayed back to him. We only have 22 miles to go to be out of his airspace. The plane that was relaying is out of range and we can’t hear him very well and we continue. I breathe a sigh of relief when out of his airspace and we call the next controller. We’re in smooth air and cruising along with a ten knot tailwind. After a few hours the engine settles down to its normal hum and I can back off on the fuel flow. I really don’t know if it’s me that doesn’t settle down or the engine. Over Myanmar there is a long distance between normal reporting points so the controller starts asking for time “abeam NDBs.” First we have to understand what he’s asking for, then find the NDB, then do the calculation. It took a while, but finally we gave him the required information. I was happy when we could use the GPS and report time to the next intersection. Finally Yangoon control gave us a “direct to FIR boundary” which cut off two legs of a triangle and we were only an hour and a half from landing. The landscape over Myanmar was interesting. Along the coast it was flat and the area of the spring 2008 tsunami disaster. Further east it climbs to 7000 foot mountains. With beautiful valleys and rivers it really was gorgeous to fly over. Over the mountains we passed into Thailand, talked with Bangkok control and were in radar contact for the first time since departing Calcutta. He handed us over to Chiang Mai approach and we started descending. I remembered this from the 2008 flight with mountains on the left or west side and coming in on the ILS 36 approach. In no time we were on the ground and taxiing to parking space 15. The AOT (airport of Thailand) representative asked if we wanted to be tied down and wheeled over huge cement tie-down blocks. No storms were expected but always better to be tied-down than not. He drove us to the terminal and took us to immigration and then customs. He showed Judy where she could change money as I finished the customs paperwork. As we landed after 4:30pm, we had to pay 900 Thai Baht ($30) for customs. If we’d landed before, it would have been free. If we hadn’t had a late departure… From the time we landed to waiting for the taxi is less than one hour. No difficulties what so ever. Unfortunately there was a traffic jam in town and the taxis were backed up, so we had to wait half an hour for a taxi, but then only a fifteen minute drive to the hotel. Ahh, dinner, a beer and a good night’s sleep.

Entry #87 : 12/20/2011 8:40:00 PM EST
Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 Yestereday’s arrival at Calcutta went well with an arrival procedure and ILS 01R approach with visibility reported at 1800 meters. After shutdown at parking spot 13, at about noon local time, the representatives from Indian Oil Aviation came very quickly. We asked for avgas. They said it was available, but pumped by air pressure slowly. But, they would obtain the barrels and bring it to the plane. Two other companies could offer the handling. They left to get the avgas. We cleaned up the cockpit, emptied the pee bottles (on the grass behind the plane) and waited and waited. An hour and a half later another representative came and asked what we needed. We explained that his company representative had left an hour and a half ago and was bringing a barrel of avgas. He said that there had been a shift change and he received that information. It takes a while to obtain the avgas, but it would be here. At that time the first representative returned in his car (without the avgas). They would get it in 10 minutes. Off they went. This time the avgas arrived on a trailer. One guy held the air pressure on the barrel while the second held the spout in the airplane wing tank opening. Each time we filled a tank, the pressure had to stop so that we could move the spout to the next tank, then build the pressure up again. Finally we emptied the drum and paid the manager. I asked if they did handling, no, only the two other companies. They departed. As no handlers had arrived, we walked to the terminal. On my 2003 trip every time I arrived, handlers would swarm around the plane for business, now they didn’t seem to care. I knew that we had to get to the tower to pay our fees and file tomorrow’s flight plan. The question was how to get there. As we passed the international arrivals I asked a person sitting taking his break. He pointed to the tower, but said the only way there was through international arrivals and pointed to that door. In we went and to the first immigration officer. I told him who we were, that we’d just arrived, needed to get to Air Traffic Control to file a flight plan and pay fees, and depart tomorrow. We really didn’t need immigration today, just to get through to ATC. Well, that was the start of another two and a half hours of waiting and explaining. After having as many as seven people listening and advising, we finally had one spokesman who seemed to know what to do. He explained that he was actually doing tomorrow’s paperwork to facilitate our departure. Even though we were tired and wanted to get to the hotel, he wouldn’t let us go, so we had to do all the paperwork. He also got customs to do their paperwork. Finally it was complete at 4:30pm and I could go to the ATC office. There the knowledgeable person only took about 20 minutes and $60 to do all the paperwork and let me go. He told me that I needed to get the final security stamped paper back to the ATC office or I couldn’t depart tomorrow. I asked how, after passing security, I could get the paper back to him. He agreed that I couldn’t return, so I could leave the paper at Apron Control, near Customs, on the ramp. We were done at 5:15pm (after landing just before noon) and headed to the taxi stand. We agreed on a price and headed to the hotel. How long will it take, I asked; we knew the hotel was only 12 miles from the airport. One and a half hours he responded. I asked if I heard correctly. He explained that the hotel was far to the south and we had to go through a very congested area. We sat back and witnessed more amazing driving with the horn blowing over 50% of the time. Next morning at the airport: With all the paperwork, security let us into the building, step one. I saw the sign for immigration and we headed that way. First desk, for first class passengers (normally also for crew), we stopped and presented our paperwork. He asked for the boarding passes. We started the explanation again. He took all the paperwork and asked us to wait. Within 15 minutes he returned with approval. He kept some paperwork and insisted that he needed to keep the flight plan. I insisted that we needed the flight plan. He made a copy for me but kept my carbon copy. He stamped the General Declaration papers and we were good to go. Off to Customs. After a little explanation, the customs guy knew what to do, stamped the General Declaration documents, found the entry paperwork from yesterday, found a special number that he needed from a book, that had also been done yesterday and explained about security, upstairs. I said, yes, I knew that we needed that important paper and stamp in order to depart. One other customs person said that he would meet us ramp side and accompany us to the plane to remove the customs tape that had sealed the plane last evening. Upstairs we went to what should have been the last stop before the ramp. The security guard had us speak with the manager, who had four stars on his shoulders. He looked at all the paperwork and said that we need the airport manager’s stamp on the ATC document. Absolutely could go no further without that stamp. He put someone with me to escort me to the Airport Manager’s office. Back through customs and immigration to the main terminal and to the office. She looked at all the paperwork and said that she wouldn’t sign because there was no ATC stamp on the ATC paperwork. She ordered us to go to ATC and get that stamp. We went outside the terminal and along the road to ATC. There another person was behind the desk, he looked at everything and explained, calmly, to my escort, that ATC didn’t have a stamp and didn’t stamp their paperwork. The signature was sufficient. We trooped back to the Airport Manager’s office. She said that we needed to pay parking. I explained that I’d be told to do that at Apron Control after passing customs and proceeding ramp side. She sent someone with us, across the hall, and we completed that paperwork and I paid $30. Back to the airport manager’s office where she signed and stamped my paperwork as required by the security person. I heard her talking with other people, the visibility was 50 meters and the airport had no movements. No departures and no arrivals. So, I knew that time was no longer an issue, but we still needed to complete everything. The customs person (who was waiting for me on the ramp) found us in the terminal. He gave me his permission to take off the customs seal and enter the plane by myself. I shook his hand and thanked him. I figured he was tired of waiting for us. My escort and I headed back to security. We passed screening and the chief asked for the security paperwork. I explained that I thought he provided it. He said no, he stamped it. The airlines provided the paper. We went to his desk and he showed me a paper. He didn’t have any copies but gave me blank paper and I wrote the document with carbon paper, two copies. He approved, stamped and signed the paper. I explained that ATC had said that I could leave the security document with Apron Control and they would pick it up. He told me that I had to carry it back to ATC. With my escort, we proceeded one more time backwards through customs, immigration, the terminal and outside down the road to ATC. I handed the paper to the person behind the desk (another new person). I asked him if everything was ok. He checked my number in the book, nodded and said yes. We returned to security. By this time my escort is smiling and talking a little and explains that he is vigilance manager. I wondered how we made it through all those departments without being stopped each time. I said that I sure found it easier walking around the airport with him and he could accompany me any time! We made it back to security, with smiles and handshakes all around we are sent though the door and out to the ramp.

Entry #86 : 12/19/2011 10:02:00 AM EST
Two log entries. Unedited, too tired. Hopefully you'll enjoy; see below before you read this one. The gas guy now started to double his price. I said no, we’d agreed on $100 and he was taking extra from the avgas price, that was enough. He argued, I got out of the car. He said to get back in and I paid half and the second half when on the ramp. With the permit, I proceeded through the guards at the door and luggage screening. At the security it was again a full screening (on the women’s side) with all paperwork being reviewed. I finally made it out to the ramp. Three security guys were between me and the plane and they also looked at the paperwork, just as the gas guy showed up in his vehicle. I was allowed to continue and gave him the second $50 in the car. We got the plane ready, preflight and hook the trailer up to the avgas guy’s car and see them off. Then get into the cockpit. We reviewed the weather together. I told Judy the current weather and poor visibility. The forecast came through with about the same visibility but with a two degree temperature dewpoint spread. That was the limiting factor. We both decided that it was too “iffy” and the weather could seriously deteriorate while we were enroute. This was a “no go.” It was 7pm and dark outside. What to do. I had the permit, only for today’s date, to get back to the tower. Best to go to the tower and get all the new paperwork done tonight. Neither of us wanted the hassle of getting back into the airport, through security and to the ramp that we’d had yesterday. So, both of up opted to sleep in the plane rather than take a hotel. That tells you how bad the hassle factor is. I got all my paperwork and headed back to the tower. I went to the gate at the base of the tower. Previously, when I was with the gas guy, they wouldn’t let us through this gate (maybe due to the car). This time, they checked my pass, checked my backpack and let me through. I explained that I would be back in an hour and was it ok to return this way. They assured me that I could return by their gate. Not going through passenger security would be fantastic. Up the steps and with a smile I greeted the tower controller again. There were actually two guys, so one continued with the planes while the second did paperwork. I told him that with the forecast for Calcutta, we’ll stay the night and depart tomorrow morning. He explained that although we had done the flight plan, he hadn’t received our clearance through Mumbai. As Nagpur was not on our original permit, he couldn’t let us depart. That’s ok, we aren’t leaving anyway, but we need to clear it up before tomorrow. He explained that the agency for permits is closed until 10am local tomorrow morning… He asked how we had departed for Nagpur when we didn’t have a permit to come here. This back and forth explanation continued for over half an hour. He called several agencies and finally received approval for our flight to Calcutta. Now we could do the new flight plan and parking invoice. Again, lots of paperwork for an additional $1 for overnight parking. He approved the flight plan. I asked when the shift changed and would the next shift have the information that we had approval to depart. He assured me that they would communicate all the necessary information. He said that we would have to relocate the plane to a night parking area. No problem, I said good night and I’d call him for startup in the plane. The return through the gate security guards was easy, there were smiling and waving when I arrived. Then I walked to the plane. Judy was stretched out across the two front seats updating her blog report. I said that all was ready, but we had to relocate the plane. We taxied following a “follow me” truck to our new parking area and shut down. It was almost 9pm and we were both ready for rest. We rearranged the cockpit as best we could both found make-shift pillows and tried to rest. Within a few minutes I had a call on my phone. It was a friend of Eddie’s, from Egypt, who lived in Nagpur. Eddie had advised him that we were in Nagpur and he was calling to see if he could help. I assured him that we were ok and would depart early in the morning and were fine. That was so nice of both of them, but there was no way Judy or I wanted to leave the ramp. We started to settle down again and a jeep with three men arrived and came to my window. They asked if we wanted to go to arrivals and a hotel. We said this was a technical stop and we were departing at 0300, an early departure and staying in the plane was easiest and best for us. They accepted that and wished us a good night! Off they walked and we settled down again. Judy slept off and on, I got a solid four hours between midnight and 4am as well as an hour before and after. Overall, I felt fine. We both felt a bit stiff, but had plenty of time to walk around and get ready for the flight. An hour and a half before departure, I called the tower. They were obviously aware of our issue and said they were preparing the clearance and to call back in another hour. One hour later they said all was ok and gave us the forecast at Calcutta which was 2000 meters visibility and a 10 degree temperature dewpoint spread. We were good to go. Just before engine start, another person showed up and asked for more information for his paperwork, then he left. We had a slight scare when he told us to taxi to stand 2 on the ramp. I waited there, then asked if we had to shut down (thinking it was another security check). No, he continued our taxi. One arrival and we were off… ahh. Actually, the morning had been very peaceful, but it was still good to be off and heading to Calcutta. We are an hour and a half from arrival. We have not been able to reach Calcutta control, but have relayed our position and arrival. Hopefully all will proceed smoothly.

Entry #85 : 12/19/2011 9:55:00 AM EST
Sunday, December 18, 2011 un-edited, too tired, hope it's ok What a morning! It’s 1:30 pm and we’ve been in the air only half an hour. We left the hotel at 5:30 am and started the exit process before 6 am in the Airport Managers office. The rest was pure torture… We received the pass to get into the ATC office and tower for the paperwork. Once there, the tower advised me that I needed a customs stamp on the flight plan, even though this was a domestic flight. I walked to the international terminal, got through security with the pass that I had and found customs who stamped my flight plan. I asked if I needed immigration or anything else (while I was in that terminal) and he said no. I walked back to ATC and climbed to the tower. There he started doing my paperwork, in between his other jobs, explaining that they are on reduced manpower during the night shift and normally this would be done downstairs. As 7am came around, the next shift started and we went downstairs to complete the paperwork. There the office was busy with pilots and others walking in and out and asking for information. Finally he started the paperwork. I knew it would be a lot of time and paperwork for not much. It finally totaled $35, which I happily paid. We had all the stamps and paperwork and returned to the domestic terminal for the bus to the plane. In the airport manager’s office he called for the bus. I asked about avgas and he started calling the operators. After four phone calls he said that no avgas was available. I said that was not possible. This is the aiport where all piston engine planes stop because they have avgas. We worked on this from 7:30 until 8:30 am and our departure time was 9am. Our only option was to fly to Nagpur and get avgas there. Since Nagpur was our alternate on the existing flight plan to Calcutta and since our driver was there, we headed though security. The driver would meet us airside. The security was also pure torture. Even though we had our captain’s uniforms on, they insisted on making us wait in line and going through my bag for nail clippers (although they are legal size). More of a wonder is that they didn’t bother about the bottle of water that was in there. We made it to the gate and the driver was waiting for us. You’d think we were ready to go. The guard stops us at the gate and says we’re missing the immigration stamp and approval. I explain, patiently at first, then less patiently, that I was told it was not necessary for a domestic flight and we’re going to Calcutta. He talks with his boss and the position gets more firm. After another half hour, the airport manager shows up and explains that there is an airport halt due to a Minister who is departing. That’s causing some problems and extra security. Finally, he accompanies us back to the ATC office. We cannot fly to Nagpur as it’s our alternate, we must file a new flight plan. The change in flight plan was not easy as Nagpur was not on our permit; but we listed it only as a technical stop and it was accepted. Because we were behind schedule, we had to pay more parking. More paperwork for $1.00. Luckily the guy was logical and just added $1 to the previous paperwork; he didn’t want to fill out a new form either. But he said that he really should. With the flight plan approved, we were taken to the plane. We shook hands all around and thanked them for their help. After pre-flight we jumped in the cockpit and called for startup. We were given a time in one hour and ten minutes when we could start up. I checked to make sure I understood, then we got out again. Obviously there was still a hold due to the Minister. We watched the ramp which was empty. There was no noise. No planes starting, taxiing or landing. We saw people walking towards us. First a security guy who left within a few minutes. Then two security, one calling himself vigilance. They left, then another guard showed up and he stayed. He’s obviously been assigned to stay with us. The re-fuelers were only a short walk from the ramp, so I walked over there to talk with them. He confirmed no avgas but it was available from Indian Oil, off the airport. He called and I talked with the handler. He was coming to the airport to look after another plane and could supply a barrel of avgas if we could download it. I assured him that we could. That was terrific news. Since we couldn’t depart anyway, let’s hope the avgas arrives and make best use of this waiting time. At 0600 z, our start-up time, noise started again. A commercial plane landed and taxied to his gate. The airport was open again. We decided it would be preferable to get avgas here and skip a stop at Nagpur if possible, so waited another hour. I returned to the fueler who had just called our contact. He could not obtain fuel today as it was Sunday, but he did confirm that it would be available at Nagpur. That was it, we’d fly to Nagpur. I returned to the plane and we called for startup and headed out. Phew, we were on our way. Not to Calcutta, but at least to where there was avgas and half way to Calcutta. Now, flying at FL 090 the visibility is much better than advertised, maybe even 10 miles, and we’re only an hour and a half from Nagpur. I said that I’d prefer that the flight last 12 hours. That way we’d have more peace a quiet. Let’s hope all goes well at Nagpur. Nagpur was not easy. We were the third in line of three planes landing at Nagpur and they have no radar. Everyone was reporting position and the tower was giving descents and approach clearances. During the arrival, the tower asked our intentions at Nagpur. I said that depending on avgas and weather, we planned to depart this evening to Calcutta. Our permit did not include Nagpur and Ahmedabad let us depart to Nagpur only as a technical stop. The tower said that we must pay landing and parking at the tower. We had to hold then do the full ILS approach. We parked and no-one was around, so I started walking to the tower. I was intercepted by the airport authority and security. I was told that I had to go through immigration to get to the tower. I explained that this was a technical stop and I was not supposed to go off the ramp. Also, I couldn’t do the flight plan in the tower until I was assured of avgas and weather. So, avgas had to be first. He called Indian Oil and luckily they came very quickly. I knew that it would be a 55 gallon drum and I had the syphoning equipment. I just hoped that we could get the drum high enough to syphon most of the avgas into the wings. We started the process and it went very well into the right wing then we moved to the left wing. As it slowed down, we paid the bill and started working on the tower issues. It was 5pm local time with a four hour flight, that would put us at Calcutta at 9pm. The visibility usually started deteriorating about that time. We were getting close to not departing. The avgas guy said that he could get me to the tower and back, for a price… Off we went. Getting off the ramp and into the tower isn’t the problem, getting back to the ramp is. He assured me that he could get a pass to get me back. We went to the tower. Again the painful process of tons of paperwork for a small bill. It turned out to be not so small this time, $142. I prepared the flight plan as the tower controller called for Calcutta forecast for my arrival time. The current weather was already down to 1500 meters visibility. They were preparing a new forecast, so he would call me on the radio with the information. We started back to the ramp.

Entry #84 : 12/17/2011 6:24:00 AM EST
Friday, December 16th, 2011 Muscat to Ahmedabad, India The nice taxi driver who showed us around Muscat yesterday, Suleman, was sitting outside the hotel waiting for us with his usual smile. We loaded the trunk and he sped, at usual, to the airport. Since I’d been through the process yesterday, it was easy to find our way. The security even let us carry a large bottle of water through, which was nice. We arrived at the operations office and they knew that N220FC was departing today. Settling the bills was relatively efficient then the operations person walked us through immigration and to the exit gate. We took a last toilet break and were escorted by a different person to the crew bus. I kept repeating that we needed to go to the briefing office to enter our flight plan. He said that dispatch would meet us at the plane. Now that doesn’t happen. But, he had the driver drive us to the plane. Obviously no dispatch or anyone else was there. I started loading the plane and asked Judy to stay on the bus so that the driver wouldn’t leave. I also asked him to call and tell them that we needed to get to the dispatch office. The American pilots and crew for the plane parked next to us showed up. I walked over and asked what they had done for the flight plan. Universal Weather had taken care of their handling and entered the flight plan. But, their handler showed up in a pickup truck and nicely drove me back to the briefing office. There the women entered my flight plan with a smile and were more than happy to help. The handler drove me back to my plane. Phew, that was the only problem, everything else with Oman Air handling had gone very well. We let the bus driver go and finished loading the plane. Startup, clearance, taxi and departure all went smoothly and we were climbing to 11,000 feet and headed to Pakistan airspace. The hand-off to Karachi control went smoothly, but he didn’t like our choice of airways and changed the routing a little. Only four hours to go, not bad. Also, we are so close to the Pakistani coast that all communication is VHF today, no HF. Judy is disappointed. She’s on these next few legs to learn as much as possible before her 2013 world flight. That’s ok, we’ll be using HF when crossing to Thailand. Over India the land is very dry, but as we proceed inland I see more green, then farmlands. Ahmedabad is in northwestern India, not too far from the coast. I’d been watching the weather while I was in the Seychelles a week before coming here. All three airports in India had bad weather and were IFR most of the time. All of these were due to low ground fog, there was no problem with clouds, just very low visibility. Our first stop Ahmedabad was usually marginal VFR. The second stop, Patna, was low IFR all day, every day. There was no way I was going to be able to land there. I finally contacted Saudimini, the India Airways pilot that helped me with the India flight planning for my 2008 flight. She sent me LOTS of great information. The most important of which was that general aviation planes can’t land at Patna if the visibility is less than 2200 meters. Patna hadn’t had visibility that good the whole time I’d been watching it. I had to ask Bo to change the India permit. There was no way we were going to be able to go there. The alternative was Calcutta; who’s weather I’d also been watching. It was usually IFR but with better visibility than Patna. Unfortunately a big airport in not what want you in India. The paperwork is unbelievable. But, we didn’t have a choice. So, when we first listened to the Ahmedabad weather on the radio, I was pleasantly surprised to hear they had 5000 meters visibility. Wow, this was going to be much easier than I had previously thought. That’s better visibility than they have had for the past week. I plugged the arrival procedure and approach into the GPS and asked for lower as we’d been flying at 11,000 feet. We continued down and he gave us the final intersection on the arrival then the ILS approach. Judy looked ahead for the runway while I stayed on instruments. She finally saw it about two miles out. It was hazy, but not as bad as expected. After landing I parked and within a short time the first bus showed up. There were two customs people who wanted to know how much avgas was left in the tanks and other people wanted to offer their handling services. I said that I thought handling wasn’t mandatory here. He agreed and departed. He didn’t even try to offer his services for a price. The customs guy said that immigaration would be out to see us. We re-packed, cleaned up the cockpit and waited. Finally another bus showed up. The immigration people looked at our passports and we were asked to accompany them to the terminal. One person seemed to be facilitating the process. Because we didn’t have an address for the hotel and their internet system wasn’t working, that process took a little time, but we finally moved on to customs. They asked if we had any other equipment on which we needed to pay duty. I didn’t think so, but obviously I don’t know what is taxed and what isn’t. The final bill for customs was $16. All the time and paperwork for not much return. The nice man who had been helping us had called the hotel and they were sending a bus to pick us up. He drove us to the domestic terminal and showed us where we needed to go for departure in two days and we paid for a receipt for the bus back out to the plane (another $20). I asked who he was and thanked him for all his help. He was the Airport Manager for the international terminal and said that he was happy to help us and that it was his duty. We took pictures with him and thanked him again. He was a huge help. Overall the process took 2 ½ hours, which isn’t too bad for entering India. The half hour bus ride to the hotel was eye-popping for Judy. She’d never seen such chaos on the street nor heard so many horns blowing. But, we made it and had a wonderful chicken curry dinner. Unfortunately, for me, our hotel is in a “dry” area, they did not serve beer. I’d had no beer for two evenings in Muscat, so was really counting on one this evening. The manager at the restaurant told us how to get one, so I obtained a “permit” at the desk and headed out. We found the hotel, but unfortunately they would only serve their guests, not others. So, no beer tonight. However, a store would be open tomorrow. Success today, I have a beer sitting in the fridge for this evening! Yeah. We head to Calcutta tomorrow, more from there.

Entry #83 : 12/14/2011 4:10:00 AM EST
December 13th, Seychelles to Muscat, Oman One hour down and all is proceeding very well. I’m running on the rear tank. I put 45 gallons in there. With full mains, that’ll give me 18 hours endurance for a 13 hour flight. Plenty of extra in case I need to deviate around storms. It’s also a good test before the Pacific. I have more weight in the plane now than I’ll have for the Pacific and I moved as much forward as I could. It was a smooth rotation with no problems at all. I turned out on course and climbed slowly to FL 070. The other islands in the Seychelles are beautiful to see from the air. I gave the controller the estimated times to the first few waypoints and he said to call again at BOMOB, 200 miles away. OK, I’m on my own, no checking in every half hour. After that call, he said to call at CLAVA, another 240 miles away. I’ve got the HF antenna out and can hear the others pretty well, the frequency is a little congested with a lot of flights calling in. Wes has set up a schedule for talking on the HF radio. That starts in another hour. It’ll be good to talk every once in a while to keep me going. I just went through my first cloud for the night… first there were a few bumps then I could see the strobe lights. I shut them off until I was out the other side. A friend, Bill, was in touch by satellite phone, we were each sending short text messages. We’d followed the weather patterns and trends for the last few days and both felt that the weather was acceptable today. I had a choice of routes and we’d both picked the most easterly route. He would send me actual updates and recommendations as I was flying. There was an almost full moon and early on a relatively clear sky. I could see the first storms as they were building or declining. I was able to deviate around them visually. Then there were a lot of clouds and lightning strikes on the storm scope. Bill’s recommendation was the circumnavigate these to the east. I had to deviate about 35 degrees northeast around first big storm. When I thought I was around the side of it, I turned north again. Then there was another one. I could see that it spread out quite far to the east, so I started deviating westward. Then as I saw the size on the storm scope, I had to deviate further and further west. I finally got around it and could return to northbound direction. I had a few more bumps, but was out of the worst of it. Bill confirmed that from his real-time satellite views. Then, it was just a matter of staying awake for the last 7 hours. That was difficult. I kept as busy as I could, I stretched, massaged, ate cookies and candy, drank water. Unfortunately, the HF propagation was not good and I was unable to speak with Wes; but it kept me busy trying different frequencies. The last two hours were relatively easy as I was in VHF contact with Muscat and had more to do. The three or four hours in between were very difficult. But, I didn’t nod-off and made it! That was one of the most difficult crossing that I’ve had! The approach was fascinating, just as the sun was coming up behind me. I came over the last mountain at 11,000 feet and was descended to 9,000 then 4,000 feet very quickly. The controller was giving me vectors to the ILS final and had to get me down to 3000 feet very quickly. Then straight in and land. I’d been required to get in by 7am local time, before their busy period. Thus the night flight. It was the only way to get the permit to land in Muscat, Oman. In two days I need to depart by 8am, again their requirement for the permit. But, we’ll need an early departure for the six hour flight to India, so that hopefully everything will go smoothly.

Entry #82 : 12/11/2011 2:10:00 AM EST
Saturday, December 10th, 2011 -- to the Seychelles I arrived at the airport at 6:30am for an 8am departure time. There was no-one around. When I’d been here earlier in the week, to install the ferry tank, the place had been packed in the morning. Also, when I’d arrived last Sunday, the tower controller told me that everyone started work here at 6am. I needed customs, health and police (immigration) in order to depart internationally. I climbed to the tower. A different controller was there. I said that I was scheduled to depart at 8am and that the controller last Sunday assured me that everyone started work at 6am. He said that he’d call the required people. I can’t even gas up until I got the customs paperwork. I walked out to the plane to get the cockpit organized. Today’s flight is only about four and a half hours, but I need to get everything ready for the 13 hour flight to Muscat, Oman, next week. Earlier this week I went to the airport and put the Turtlepac, ferry tank, into the back seat and plumbed it in to the fuel system. I’d tested it in Florida, before leaving, to make sure everything worked but wasn’t planning on using it until the Pacific Ocean crossing. I had however thought the occasion might arise when avgas wouldn’t be available and I might need it and now is that time. Originally I’d planned to fly from the Seychelles to Salalah, Oman, about a nine hour flight. I’d stopped there on my 2008 flight and had barrels of avgas waiting for me. When I contacted the avgas people earlier this year, they said that they were no longer supporting avgas at Salalah Airport. This meant that I have to fly to Muscat, a 13 hour flight. Thus the Turtlepac. I’m going to put about 15 gallons of avgas in the ferry tank today and run on that for over an hour to make sure everything is ok. I need to move the life raft into the front right seat for weight and balance purposes and to make it easily accessible. I move more weight in front of the right seat to reduce the load in the luggage compartment. It’s a little congested, but that’s what I want to test on today’s short flight. Once the cockpit is organized, I head back to the tower. He’s only been able to contact the police who will come out. The other departments have only had the answering machine on. He keeps trying. I see the avgas guys by the plane, so I head back out. The chief has talked with customs who said that he can go ahead and gas up. Wow, is that nice. We get that job out of the way and I get rid of more $100 bills. One has a mark on it, which he says won’t be accepted, so it needs to be changed for two $50 bills. He has to write down all the serial numbers on a piece of paper that I have to sign. I also had to sign four other documents after the fill up. He has to see customs to get his authorization for selling tax-free avgas, so we all head to the terminal. The customs guy has arrived, so he starts stamping my General Declaration forms and the gas guy’s paperwork. The police arrive and take my passport for review and stamps. Finally the health guy arrives and stamps the health section of the General Declaration. All the paperwork is done, but they say there is a “prestation” for their work, and make the sign for money with their thumb and fingers. They hum and haw and I ask how much. Normally, 60,000 Ariary per department. About $30 each times three departments. I pull out my money. I happen to have one $100 bill (that the gas guy didn’t want) and three $20 bills and three $10 bills. I ask which they want. They choose the $100 as that will give them a little extra for the Saturday work. I’m fine with that as I know that I won’t be able to use it anywhere else and the $20s and $10s will come in handy. So, I remind them that they must share (with a smile) and give one guy the $100 bill. Everyone is happy and they want to come out and inspect the plane; that is their job after all. So, we all troop out and I open the baggage and point out my luggage and the life raft and extra tank, etc. The customs guy walks around then says that there is no door on the other side. I said yes, this is the only entrance. When everyone is finished we head back to the terminal, I shake hands, thank them and head to the tower. He hands me the receipts as I’d already paid his $16 invoice for landing and parking. It’s unbelievable that the most important part, landing and parking, is the cheapest. I gave him a big tip. Finally, three quarters of an hour late, I was ready. I started up and ran the engine from the rear tank. I wanted to make sure there was no air in the lines before switching to that tank in the air. I ran for over ten minutes without a “hic up.” I guessed it was ok, but would have preferred a bit of coughing just to prove that the air was out of the lines. The coast is magnificent. I thought the same thing on arriving. Absolutely breathtaking with mountains and cliffs as well as azure blue/green bays. Ah, it was so good to be flying again. Overall, I guess it wasn’t that difficult a departure, but it’s no nice to be up here away from it all. After leaving the tower frequency, I was in VHF communication with Tana Information giving the estimates to intersections and my destination. As soon as I was at my cruise altitude, I switched to the rear tank and monitored fuel flow. I reeled out the antenna and made sure I had HF communication with Tana Control. All was proceeding well. Before the FIR boundary I switched to Seychelles and they gave me a VHF frequency. We did the next few communications on VHF, 350 miles from land, then went back to HF. Once I entered the Seychelles Approach area, things started to get busy. There were lots of planes arriving, some within minutes of my estimated arrival time, and some departing. Wow, it wasn’t this busy in 2003 when I was last here. I finally got through to the tower and gave him my position and arrival time. When I was ready for descent, I told him that I could take a visual approach. I came in visually over some low hills (not the 4000 foot peaks that were in the clouds) over some bays on left base and finally turned final between the hills and the bay. What a beautiful approach. In 2003 I was a bit sick. I’d eaten something bad the previous evening and was just able to hold it together to do the approach and landing. I don’t remember it looking this beautiful. I taxied to the ramp and parked by the marshaller. I knew that I had to sit in the plane until the health person came out. She didn’t take too long, handed me an aerosol can through the pilot’s window and asked me to do a short spray and stay inside for ten minutes. After a few minutes she started handing paperwork in through the window. The customs woman came out also and gave me more paperwork. I did it all while roasting in the cockpit. After ten minutes I was about to get out when the marshaller signaled that I must relocate the plane to the north ramp. This ramp looked a little full. In 2003 it was almost empty, just my Mooney and another plane. We did two Young Eagles flights from this ramp. I followed him and parked on the ramp to the north along with several business jets and small commercial planes. The immigration was quick and I was calling my hotel for pickup. Ah, it’s beautiful here half way up the mountain overlooking the blue bay with waves breaking along a reef. Everything is very green, like a rainforest, as there are light showers from time to time. After a long walk I have a delicious home-cooked fish meal with a fresh salad. I’ve been afraid to eat salad for several weeks now, so it’s fantastic to have fresh vegetables again.

Entry #81 : 12/9/2011 12:20:00 AM EST
December 5-9th, 2011 – a week in north Madagascar I received bad news from Bo this afternoon. Yemen is refusing a permit through their air space. We’d need to work a diplomatic solution, which I don’t want to do. I was very upset. Oh well. Now we’ll have to work things out quickly. I figured out a flight plan and sent it to Bo right away. Now I just have to worry and wait. I don’t even have Oman or India permits yet. This is where things get difficult. But, we still have a week and some countries don’t issue permits until a day or two before a flight. This is going to be an anxious week. Two hours later. Well, good news came quicker than I expected. No India permit is required as I’ll be so far from their shore. Now I just need the Omani permit. Phew. Back to documentation. I took a day trip to La Montagne D’Ambre National Park. It’s only 35 kilometers from Diego Suarez, but up at 4500 feet (instead of sea level) and in a rain forest. It’s so close and so completely different. The information says to pack for rain and cold, so I did. As soon as we started the walk, it started raining. But we were mainly in the forest and the trees sheltered us. As with the other parks, a guide is required. This time it was Charles. He was quiet but knowledgeable and found lots of interesting insects, chameleon and lemurs. With the rain, he was thinking we wouldn’t see lemurs, but half way through the walk, we both heard them at the same time, then looked up and saw them. Apparently there are seven different lemurs in this area, but five are nocturnal. We saw both the others. The first group moved quite quickly through the trees. The second just stayed in one area and played. One was larger than the southern lemurs the other was a bit smaller. They also had different colors. Unfortunately, they were too high up in the trees and too far away to photograph. I was lucky that I’d been able to see lemurs up close in Berenty. We saw the smallest chameleon in Madagascar, less than one inch long. It’s mostly brown and only changes to different brown shades, no greens. . It was too tiny to really get a good look at it. We saw other various sizes of chameleons that had the full scope of colors. Most were green today clinging to wet green plants. We also found leeches, or should I say they found us. I had four on me at different times. Three bit into me and it’s like a mosquito sting; there’s no question when they are there. We started at a mountain lake on top in a volcanic crater and followed it down through three different cascading waterfalls. Walking in between these points gave us the time to see everything else. It was fascinating and educational. During the drive up and back there were definite signs of deforestation. Lots of cut-off stumps protruding from the ground. There were also a few signs of new growth. For the drive up there, the chauffeur had bought some donuts. When he finished, he was about the throw the plastic bag out the window. I stopped him and asked him not to. Then I explained that it’s not good for the environment to have all that plastic blowing around and it doesn’t look good either. He put it in the door pouch. I don’t know what he did later, but maybe he’ll think about keeping Madagascar beautiful. Arriving back at the hotel I was hit by lots of emails with bad news from Bo. Muscat, Oman, was being difficult. They weren’t approving the dates or arrival or departure times. Bo had gone ahead and made decisions in my absence. I contacted him right away and added what I could. We submitted an option which isn’t great, but hopefully will be accepted. Unfortunately, it’ll mean an all-night flight from the Seychelles to Muscat. One more day in Madagascar. The food has been amazingly good thanks to the French influence. Being on the coast, I’ve had lots of fish. But, they also have “zebu” or ox. I had that the first night and it’s good also. The bays and views are stunning; it’s a beautiful area of Madagascar. Unfortunately, as with the rest of the country, it’s poor. This is the low season, very few tourists, so it’s pretty quiet. They have elections next year. People are resigned that not much will change. The corruption is bad and they don’t expect it to go away. It’s unfortunate.

Entry #80 : 12/4/2011 10:33:00 PM EST
Sunday, December 4th, 2011 I’m flying northeast, along the coast to northern Madagascar. I’m in clear smooth air but unfortunately have headwinds. Twenty knot tailwinds were forecast, so I’m bummed. The winds might change as I get further north. My departure wasn’t so bad this morning. It’s nice being at a small airport where I can go straight to my plane. I entered the “terminal” building as others were entering to take an Air Madagascar flight. The aid gestured me to departures. I said that I was the small plane on the ramp. He let me walk through arrivals and out to the plane. Easy! The “pompiers” (fire engine guys) came to collect the extra chocks they had brought since it was very windy when I arrived. I checked the plane and went to the commandant’s office. I paid the $81 fees and he asked how my stay went. I said that I had enjoyed Berenty Reserve very much and thanked him for his help. He had a sign on his desk from Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Successful Managers.” I’d read that book back in my working days I think about 20 years ago… I wondered when he had taken the course and how Steven Covey’s courses had made it to Madagascar. As I returned, the gas guys showed up, so I took on 193 liters, 51 gallons. On arrival they told me the price had just changed that day, December 1st, and it had gone up over fifty cents per gallon! I said that I wanted the price from yesterday. They explained that it changes on the first of each month. I wished I’d known that earlier… Then I headed to the “tower.” They don’t have a tower here. It is in a normal building. They said that a tower is planned in a few years. The tower controller came to see my on arrival also, he said no-one else was coming in, so he came to meet me. Today was a different controller but very efficient. He took my flight plan and got the weather at Diego Suarez, my destination. He transmitted the flight plan by morse code to Tana. Then, he confirmed receipt by cell phone. I got a picture of him at his desk with a computer, a cell phone and working on the HF sending morse code. He explained that HF is the one he counts on most. Cell phones and computers can go out, but HF always works! The Air Madagascar flight came in. There is no other movement allowed while it is on the ramp. I saw why when it got there, its parking place blocked the entrance taxiway to the ramp. It is the only way this Boeing 737 could get in and turn around. I had plenty of time to get everything prepared and take pictures. After he left, I back-taxied and departed. The weather was showery and there are mountains to the north and west, so I stayed over the coast. I kept checking the terrain page on my Garmin GPS, but given the false position of land (by over a mile) on the east coast, I wasn’t going near any mountains on this coast. After about half an hour of rain and in clouds, I’m in clear air with a beautiful view of the coastline. It’s much greener on this coast and there are farms and towns dotted along as I head northbound. It was a general comment that I heard quite often. Things work up north, not always so “down south.” Not that many people go all the way to the south coast and there isn’t much there. The first two hotels I tried yesterday didn’t have working internet. The third did. I talked with a French tourist. She said everything works “up north.” But here, she couldn’t get a phone or the internet to work. I’m looking forward to being back to normal in Diego Suarez. Two hours down, in clear air, and now I have a cross wind. It is swinging around and soon I should have the forecast tailwind, yeah. There is some weather ahead that I saw on the satellite picture, but it should be clear for my arrival. Hhmmm, winds are not as forecast. I got a slight tailwind for a while but the strong southerly wind never appeared. Oh well. Just over an hour to go. There are forested mountains below that I can see between the broken clouds. There are signs of deforestation and also new growth. Let’s hope that a lot of new trees are being planted. I got a weather report and it’s still good at my destination. The alternate is a few hours away, so I wanted to deviate early if necessary. The descent and arrival were interesting as I had been flying north at flight level 110 above a cloud layer. I was ready for descent and had made contact with Diego tower and had cancelled HF contact with Tana Control, but there are mountains on the south side of the airport and the minimum safe level is only 7000 feet. I descended to and stayed at 7500 until on the north side of the airport where the clouds were more widely scattered. I could see the sea and islands and descended. At four miles north, I called the tower again and turned towards the airport. I was shocked to see the hills/mountains so close to the airport, even on the southeast side. As I turned from downwind to final, I was very close to them. The tower had been telling me the winds were 320 degrees at 16 to 18 knots, then 280 at 14 to16 knots. I was lining up for runway 30. As I turned final, the tower said that the last winds were 160 degress at 16 to 18 knots. I requested a repeat and he repeated the same numbers. I checked my groundspeed and I definitely had a headwind. I found the windsock and it showed a strong wind almost down the runway. I said that I was on short final for runway 30 and landed. Hmmm. After parking the avgas guys showed up as usual. I said that I needed to wait until next Saturday as I was leaving the country and needed paperwork for tax-free avgas. They showed me the price. It was $1.4 per liter. I jumped for joy and was ready to kiss them. I said that I hadn’t seen those prices since in the US earlier this year. Then they saw their mistake and said no, that was jet fuel prices. They found the avgas sheet and my price will be $2.8 per liter. I was not so happy, but still, it’s better that what I paid this morning, $3.9 per liter. I checked in with the tower and prepared everything for next Saturday’s departure. He assured me that all departments, customs, police, health, avgas and tower would be available at 7am; they start at 6am. He also called the hotel for me. They had sent the car to pick me up from the arrival of Air Madagascar at 9am this morning. I explained that I had just arrived. They’ll send the car again! Well, this is the first real town I’ve been in. Or, maybe it’s the first time I actually made it to the town center, beyond the red dirt roads with huts on each side. Actually, the road was good from the airport all the way to the hotel.

Entry #79 : 12/3/2011 5:25:00 AM EST
Three log entries just made, start from #77. Time for the evening walk. There are two nocturnal lemurs in this reserve. One, the mouse lemur, is very small. At 7:10 pm we set out again and finally found one. It was tiny and didn’t move much with the light on it. Later we found the second, the white-footed sportive lemur. Unfortunately this one wasn’t sportive and didn’t move either. They were probably just waking up and getting ready for their nighttime activities. Although this reserve is absolutely full during the normal season, there are only three cabins (of the 30 available) occupied tonight. So, the dining area was pretty empty. It had been a long and tiring day, so off to bed early. That also means up early as the sun comes up before 5am. The days are very hot, so it’s best to walk and see the animals early then take a siesta. We saw all the lemurs eating their breakfast and two white-footed sportive lemurs sleeping in the crooks of trees, but with eyes open watching us. We were disturbing their daytime rest. Eugene had shown me fluted leaf bugs the previous night and today we saw more but also some that had already transformed into Euphorbia butterflies. They were side by side on a small branch. The white bugs would transform soon and the red butterflies will fly away. Absolutely amazing. We also walked by some holes in the path which he explained is where the boa constrictors live. They are nocturnal. I said that I was happy he hadn’t told me that last evening! Baobab trees grow slowly and can be over 400 years old. When I pointed out what I thought was a baobab, Eugene said no it is a false baobab or Maringa tree. It is good for mustard but is not even the same species. Sure looked like one to me, but its trunk is grey and a baobab is more brownish with horizontal branches. There is also another tree type over 400 years old in this area, the Tamarend. We saw some flying fox bats hanging upside down high in a tree. I didn’t expect to see them flying when a predator, a black kite bird, came by. They all started making noise and flying about. I got some great video. They are the largest bat in Madagascar with a wingspan of up to 1.2 meters, over three feet. We also saw crocodile, which were imported years ago but now live in the rivers and two types of turtles, that don’t move much in the heat! By 10 am it’s already very hot, so time for another siesta. It’s hot in the huts and the electricity only comes on from 5am until 8am, then 11am until 3pm and finally 5pm until 10pm. The fan feels great when the generator is running, but the hot air blowing through the cabin when the windows are open is oppressive. Still, it’s better than no breeze at all. And, I’m lucky to be here to see all this! Finishing off the stay there, we saw the sifaka lemurs “dancing.” They are the only lemur that walk on their hind legs, all the others walk on all fours. Their front arms are much shorter, so when they need to travel on the ground, they skip or dance along on their rear legs. It’s fascinating to watch. The return trip was another 2 ½ hours along the potholed road. Ugh. But, what a fascinating time. I’d so glad that I went.

Entry #78 : 12/3/2011 5:20:00 AM EST
Dec 1st to Andorka and Ft. Dauphin After checking everything and calling Hubert to confirm my arrival, I backtaxied and took off. I was rather nice to fly low level, 1500 feet, down the beach and VFR, instead of high and IFR. I still had to check in with Tana Control on HF and give them 30 minute operations normal calls. For a while I was flying over water over a mile off the coast, over a bay. I happened to look at my Garmin 430 instrument panel mounted, certificated, GPS. It showed that I was over land. I took a video from one side showing water, panning over the GPS showing land and over to the other side showing water. I want to send it to Garmin or Jeppesen, whoever is responsible for the database. I got a picture of the lat/longs at this point. Then I checked the backup, Garmin 396 GPS. It showed me over water. Later, the Garmin 430 showed me over water when I was over land and the 396 again showed everything correctly. I’m guessing the 430 database has the west coast of Madagascar depicted incorrectly. I’m glad the airports are in the correct position! As I came to the waypoint that I had entered using Hubert’s lat/longs, I started to see buildings, so finding it wasn’t going to be that difficult. As I flew over the first time, the kids were all playing in the playground; I believe there are over 100 orphans. I went further out and descended and slowed down as I turned back for another pass. I tried to video and fly and turn at the same time, but it was a little bumpy and difficult. I could see that the kids were all lined up in the playground this time. They had spelled out CAROL and were all standing in formation. Wow, I had to get that on film. I made eight more passes to get it on video and camera. Hopefully I got some good shots, but it wasn’t easy. Once I passed at 500 feet with gear and flaps down. Finally I cleaned up and waggled my wings as I passed and started climbing to the east. I hope the kids enjoyed it and the adults also. It was a little difficult, but I had fun and I sure hope the pictures turn out. I know Hubert wants to use some on his website. Another hour and I was in communication with Ft. Dauphin tower and cancelled with Tana Control. The wind was 22 knots, but almost down the runway. With the beach in front and the mountains behind, this is a very picturesque place. Upon landing I was welcomed to Ft. Dauphin by the ground personnel. They all knew when I was arriving and departing. All information is sent ahead here in Madagascar. The chief of the ground personnel asked me to follow him to the supervisor’s office. There he welcomed me also and asked what I would be doing and where I would be going. I explained about getting to Berenty Reserve. He told me to see the people at the Dauphin Hotel in town. Their pickup arrived with luggage for the next flight, so they gave me a ride back to the hotel. There I met the person who had emailed me yesterday. We worked out the details and I was on my way to the reserve within an hour of landing. The drive is much worse than to Isalo. The roads were like Kenya 15 years ago. The driver said there are 2000 potholes in the 90 kilometers between Ft. Dauphin and Berenty. I believe him. The guide told me about the different areas we were driving through as we went from the wet area of Ft. Dauphin to the arid section further to the west on the other side of the mountains which separated the regions. There were eucalyptus trees along the road. Eugene pulled off some bark, it has multiple “soft” layers and the locals use it as toilet paper! Another species of eucalyptus was citronella, that we and the locals use for keeping mosquitoes away. Early on, we stopped for fruit and got two bunches of bananas, two pineapples, seven mangos, and a bunch of litchis (a sweet very juicy fruit similar to a plum with a spiny skin) for the equivalent of $2.50. This area is rich in farming and fruit and the people don’t go hungry. They do work very hard. We saw people carrying heavy loads down the road and walking for many miles. Towns usually have one day during the week as market day. The people from outside these villages walk to town to sell what they have and to buy what they need. We saw hundreds walking down the road, with piles on their heads, returning home. Some walk up to 20 kilometers to market once a week. Some were carrying loads of wood. I asked about deforestation. Eugene, my guide, said that trees are now replanted and this cutting is permitted. As we got to the arid region, he pointed out trees, the triangular palm which has leaves growing in three directions and the Didier race which has very small leaves growing up the trunk with a thorn between each leaf. There were also bags along the road. This area is rich in mica which people collect and leave in the bags to be picked up by trucks going by. We also passed a plantation growing miles and miles of sisal for chord and carpet production. We finally reached the reserve and I was shown to my cabin. After an hour’s rest to wait for cooler temperatures, we set out. I couldn’t wait to see my first Lemur and there they were. They were just coming down from the trees after their siesta. They rest during the hot daytime also. First I saw the ring-tail lemur then the Sifaka and finally the brown lemur. They look just like in the pictures and National Geographic and Nature shows with their tails raised high behind them as they walk. They sit in the trees in very relaxed positions reaching out for a thin branch and munching the leaves. Some of the young were still on their mother’s backs as they normally give birth in September and aren’t independent until about six months old. We also saw different birds, chameleons catching insects and changing colors and heard cigales making lots of noise. We had a break and rest before the evening walk. Hubert and I had set 7pm to talk again on the satellite phone. The connection was good and he asked me if I could see what the kids spelled, CAROL? I said yes, it was very clear and that I got good photos of it, but the video is not so good because of the bumpy air. He said it was very moving for the people on the ground. For the kids it was the first airplane they had ever seen. He said many people were crying for joy. Wow, I was moved doing the flying and knowing the situation down there, but didn’t realize what it meant to them. I told him that I had hoped it was good for them and that I too was happy to be a part of it. Unfortunately my phone started to lose satellites and we couldn’t hear each other and finally lost contact. I was so happy to hear that it was well received on the ground. Thinking about it later, it makes sense that they haven’t seen planes. The few that carry tourists and business people go to Tulear, along the west coast, but further north or to Ft. Dauphin, my next destination on the southeast tip of Madagascar. None would fly over Androka on the southwest tip as there are no major towns there.

Entry #77 : 12/3/2011 5:10:00 AM EST
Nov 29th Today is a walking trek in an area of Isalo National Park. Breakfast at 5:30am and off at 6am. Well, we’re on Africa time, so the coffee doesn’t arrive unti 5:55am and the guide and car arrive at 6:20am. No rush here. Actually, it gets very hot during the day, so the earlier we start the better. The car drops the guide and me off at the entrance to the walk at the foot of one of the majestic rock formations. We have a bit of climbing, steps and rocks, but it’s cool and relatively easy. On top is a fantastic view of the flat land behind us and the valley and next ridge ahead. There’s a creek flowing in the middle with lots of green vegetation showing. We’ll be heading that way. As we walk along, the guide tells me about the local tribes and their burial traditions (putting the bones up in the high rock walls) as well as pointing out trees, fruits, shrubs and fascinating insects. I think the insects were the most interesting. Some photos are already on Facebook. When we arrived at the first pool and cool shade area, it was still early and I wasn’t ready for a rest, so we kept on going. We had a long walk along a mostly flat sand and rock path in the valley to a small forest. There was a camping area, well laid out with cooking areas and stone tables and benches with a thatched roof above. A number of trekking outfits offer overnight treks of 1 to 5 nights and these campsites are set up to facilitate the experience. They even had flush toilets, I was expecting pits! We continued on to a cascade and later more pools. By now I was hot and tired. I put on my swimsuit and enjoyed the cool pools. We had passed two other groups during the walk and there was another group just finishing with their swim and departing as we arrived. In total, we saw twelve other people during the four hour walk. This is the start of the low and rainy season. So, tourism is just tapering off. The temperatures are in the low 90sF/low30sC during the day and 70F/20C at night. They haven’t had much rain yet, but it should start in December. Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 After another quiet and simple evening and dinner, I got a good night’s sleep and returned to Tulear/Toliary. I didn’t have a return bus lined up, but at the lodge, they said they could organize one. I insisted that it be from Antannarivo, the capital, to Tulear, direct, no stops. Meaning a tourist type bus, not a taxi Brusse, as they call the local bus packed with locals and lots of luggage with stops at most villages. The woman said that the local guy would accompany me to where the buses pass and if there is room, he’d get me on one. Tourist buses usually have 6 people plus two drivers. Taxi Brousse have 15 people. He’d taken my money, only half the price of the trip up, so I thought something was fishy, and we waited at the intersection. After about 30 minutes the first bus came by. It wasn’t overpacked and had two spare seats. It was a taxi Brousse, but not that badly packed. I asked if it was direct to Tulear, no stops. He said yes it was. Should I believe him? Obviously not, but I got on. I climbed over people and got in the middle. The precious window seats weren’t going to be given up. We started out, then stopped almost immediately. One more person wanted to go to Tulear. He got the last middle seat. Off we went. It was proceeding reasonable well for the first hour and a half, then we turned off the main road onto a side street in a village. They started untying the strings holding the load on top. I asked the driver how long and he said 15 minutes. Well 30 minutes later we started up again. An hour later another stop for unloading. It was amazing the huge sacks that came off the top. One looked like it was full of sandels or flip-flops. This is how all the local villages get the wares that they sell. A huge pile of buckets were off-loaded. The final pile was pretty impressive. Off we set again. I started seeing the distance to Tulear on the small stone signs beside the road. Only 54 more kilometers; I felt better. I could last that long. On arrival I found my hotel. They said air conditioned rooms were 15,000 Ariay more per day. I said I’d take it (for a total of $40 per night I wanted air conditioning). With wifi in the room, I settled down to update websites and find my way to Berenty Lodge tomorrow. A swim, a beer and dinner, everything updated, I was ready to head out again. Hubert and I had talked by satellite phone. They had arrived in Androka. He had the exact latitudes and longitudes for the village. I told him that on looking at the charts, I’d found that it was in a restricted area. I’d have to check with the tower tomorrow morning, then call him again. We agreed on 7:30am. Thursday/Friday, December 1st and 2nd, 2011 I awoke early, before 5am, and checked the weather, it was going to be a little cloudy at my destination, but should be clear down the coast. Ok for this VFR flight. Just about everything in Madagascar is paid in cash, not many places accept credit cards. And their exchange rate is $1 to 2000 Ariary. So, a lot of 5000 and 10000 notes are required. Yesterday I’d found an ATM and got 600,000. I was thinking that might not be enough, based on Isalo National Park prices, so I went back this morning. I got another 200,000, but then my next transaction was refused. Ugh, here we go again. This is the third time on this trip. At least I now have a good Visa contact that will straighten it out quickly. At the airport I checked in with the tower first thing. He said it was ok to fly through the restricted area, great. I paid the landing and parking, $51 and also three days and nights for the guards, $20 each. I know that’s just extra money from rich pilots, but here at least it’s organized and the tower guy and Hubert told me ahead of time.

Entry #76 : 11/30/2011 4:20:00 AM EST
Nov 27th arrival in Tulear/Toliary Just as the pilots departed Hubert, Sylvie and 10 other people arrived. We took pictures and videos and more pictures. Then we unloaded the plane and put all the supplies in one of the cars. After a quick stop at the hotel, we went to the convent/school which supports this region of Madagascar including Androka, where our group is going. I need to explain the history a bit: While in France in May this year, I met this group and heard about their support for an orphanage “at the end of the world” on the southern tip of Madagascar. They said it’s like going back in time, there is nothing there. The local nuns help teach and keep over a 100 kids as healthy as they can. This French group, including two doctors, will stay between 10 days and two months to help the sisters. For the first time they have been able to bring medications into the country. It was transported by Aviation Sans Frontieres, a subsidiary of Air France, that provides this free service for many groups around the world. Without them, the medication would not arrive at its final destination and the doctors are no longer able to bring medication with them in their luggage. Air France transported six large boxes of medications. Hubert, a pilot/friend from Sens, and Sylvie, his wife, are a major part of this group. It was originally started by another of their friends, Regis. He was discovering southern Madagascar 14 years ago when he and his wife ran across this very poor village. They felt they had to help and over the years they have received more assistance and support from the local town and flying club near Sens, France. The group consists of 14 people this year and they brought all their own food, so as not to use the poor supply of local food. Everyone pays their own way and all donations received go towards buying the medications and the other logistics. This is no holiday for the participants, they are going to be working hard for two weeks. When talking with Hubert, Sylvie and Regis in Sens I said that I would be in Madagascar and maybe I could help bring some supplies. So, my part was small. I was asked to bring school supplies, paper, pens, pencils, notebooks and chalkboards. I found most of the supplies in the bazar in Istanbul, some in Izmir and the chalkboards in Cairo. Unfortunately, every time I found what I was looking for I bought out the store. They didn’t have much inventory. So, the group met me at the airport and we visited the nuns in Tulear before the group departed for Androka the next morning. For more information see www.androka.com which, unfortunately, is only in French. Nov 28th Yesterday evening, while getting some of the logistics organized with Hubert and Sylvie, my laptop’s touchpad mouse died. This is going to make updates and using the computer very difficult. I tried rebooting and using the internal problem solver, but nothing worked. Oh well. If I can find a computer store, I’ll buy an external mouse. I’ve asked Judy, the copilot who will be joining me in Muscat, Oman, to buy one and bring it. I’ve two weeks of no mouse until then. Luckily the laptop has a touch screen, so I can work around it for a while. This morning I got internet connection at the hotel and did the last three days updates on the website and Facebook. Unfortunately people get worried when I don’t do regular updates. Please don’t worry. I’m ok, it’s the Internet that isn’t available. Added to that, the SPOT tracker satellite isn’t picking up the route or arrival messages any more. So, people don’t even know where I am and the website isn’t showing that I’ve moved. Oh well. After the French group departed for their three day trek to Androka in southern Madagascar, I caught a bus to Isalo National Park. I’m staying in a little bungalow and have organized a guide for the next day and a half. Now I can get caught up with documentation (although without internet, it won’t be posted until Wednesday afternoon). Looking on the internet before coming here, it only showed VERY expensive hotels in the park, 200 Euros per day. A couple from Belgium, on the bus, had stayed at Momo Lodge and recommended it. It’s $15 per night in individual bungalow huts with breakfast included. The locals are great to talk with and it’s got atmosphere. With a little time to spare, I fixed the mouse problem. I dug into the control panel menus until I found the mouse settings. I changed a few of them and it works!! Weird, how did they get modified while I was using the computer yesterday evening? Anyway, problem solved.

Entry #75 : 11/27/2011 8:50:00 PM EST
Nov 27th The hotel had breakfast ready as promised at 6am. Unfortunately, she had given the internet key to another guest who was asleep, so I couldn’t check weather. During breakfast, she offered to get me a ride to the airport. That was nice. Upon departing, I left a tip for the employees. The airport was less than a mile away and I was going to walk, but it was nice to ride. Everything went very quickly and the meteo office gave me a complete weather package for my route. The woman at the office had been very helpful yesterday and today, but she wouldn’t accept a tip. I told her the guys yesterday had taken a lot of money and she deserved some also, so I left it on her desk. The “guard” who had said he’d watch my plane showed up just as I completed my preflight and was getting into the cockpit. I gave him the tip recommended by the local pilot yesterday. It puts one in a difficult position, if you don’t pay, something could happen to your plane or the next person’s plane. If you pay, you promote this kind of “work.” I decided it’s better for them to have something to eat. The departure was uneventful and I’d filed direct to Tulear as there are no airways. As I was climbing out, the tower started asking for estimates to 60 miles out, the limit of his service, and for two other points. First, I was climbing, second there were clouds and third I didn’t have the intersections in the GPS. I gave him the first estimate and asked him to stand by for the others. When the plane was on course in a good climb and I could concentrate on other things I asked for the two intersections again. The second was abeam an NDB. I plugged that in and took a SWAG at my estimated time at cruise to abeam that point. I gave that to him and asked for the other point. That wasn’t in my GPS or on the chart. When I told him that, he asked for my estimate to my destination. That was easy as it was part of the flight plan. After leveling off, I could check my estimates with a more accurate GPS calculation. I was a bit off and the winds were not as forecast. Instead of a light crosswind I had a 15 knot headwind. After I was out of the airport airspace, I was passed to Tana Control on a VHF frequency, but given an HF frequency for when I lost VHF. I reeled out the antenna, knowing that it would happen. When the frequency went quiet, I switched to HF. On both frequencies, the controllers are giving traffic information, location and direction. One would have to know all the airports to understand the information. As a lot of small commercial airliners are going to and fro off airways, there is a lot of reporting going on. The controller asks me for my estimate to a radial off a VOR. I am too low and too far from the VOR and I can’t pick it up. So, I start doing the calculations manually, using the chart and making estimates. Then I cross check my calculation with a GPS estimate to my estimated point. I give the info to the controller. This is definitely more difficult than flying on airways, where all the points are in the GPS and I just have to read the GPS estimated time to each point. I’ve passed my last reporting point and still have an hour and a half to go, so they ask me to report operations normal every half hour. That’s easier! I’ve been taking pictures of the land below; there are lots of rolling hills, very few trees and no roads. I’ve heard there has been a lot of deforestation, over 60%, but I can’t tell if this area was originally forested or not. It sure looks bare, but also like some of the scrub areas of Kenya. Occasionally I see trees in river valleys and there are some farms areas. As I fly south, many of the rivers are dry. But further north they were full and reddish/brown, similar to Kenya.