6th August 2009 – Departure to Hawaii
Mike & James have left Los Angeles, California, and are now en-route to Hilo, Hawaii. The flight to Hawaii will cover a distance of 3,950km and is expected to take nearly 21 hours. Thank you to Ramona Cox for the following photos, and Matt Liknaitzky for the video clips below.
6th August 2009 – Hurricane Felicia could change departure planes
Hurricane Felicia, is continuing to gain strength far out in the Pacific. The National Hurricane Center says Felicia's maximum sustained winds have increased to near 140 mph, making it a Category 4 storm and a major hurricane. We will keep you posted as to what Mike & James decides on the departure.
4th August 2009 – Safe arrival in Los Angeles
What a birthday! Thanks everyone for the good wishes – I've never felt so loved before! And what a treat to get to see Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California all passing under the wing in a single day. I love cowboy films and we passed over more than a thousand kilometres of just the stuff I've seen in the movies – what a treat.
FIRST IN-FLIGHT ENGINE STOPPAGE
We had quite an interesting moment over Arizona somewhere when our left B tank ran dry – the first time we've forgotten to change tanks so far on the trip. We've always thought that in that situation the engine would splutter a bit, giving us time to swop tanks, but it just suddenly stopped dead. The prop keeps spinning though, and we were on to it like lynxes. It probably took us less than 3 seconds to get both A tank selectors and fuel pump switched on, and then another 5 seconds for the engine to restart. Of course those 8 seconds feel quite a bit longer though when you're up there and on your way down!
MEETING MATT AT AGUA DULCE
Our intimidation at flying into LA, some of the world's busiest airspace, was somewhat lessened by the fact that Matt Liknaitsky agreed to meet us in his Christen Eagle just to north of LA over an airfield called Agua Dulce. He timed it perfectly and it was awesome to see Matt from quite a distance doing massive loops over the field. We had a mid-air meeting and Matt guided us into LA by what he reckons is the simplest route, direct over a narrow “opening” over LA International, where we could see the Boeings arriving and departing in long lines to our left and right (port and starboard, for the sticklers!).
I've never been to LA before, and what a way to arrive. Obviously, having flown over much of the city on the way in, we already have a good feel for the place and it shouldn't take more than a couple of hours this morning for Mike and I to have a complete handle on it.
Ha, ha, this place is ENORMOUS, AWESOMELY EXCITING, quite INTIMIDATING and almost like ANOTHER PLANET (especially for platteland boys like me and Mike – who hail from Balogwan and Nylstroom respectively). Anyhow, we're ensconsed in a little “Motor Motel” just off Venice Beach and we're sure as hell going to try get a feel for the place asap, once we've attended to the important question of breakfast.
TODAY'S PLANS AND THOUGHTS OF HAWAII
Today we're going to give ZU-TAF an oil-change, put in new plugs, have the prop control motor bracket welded and generally give her a good look-over. Then we'll spend some time on the beach, explore a bit, look for pretty girls and so on. (Olivier, the girls here in California are generally at least 100 to 150 milliHelens hotter than those in Wisconsin). If the weather looks good and we feel we've taken LA by storm, then we'll head off for Hawaii on Thursday afternoon. If the weather looks iffy or there remain places here we haven't explored, we'll head off Friday.
Hawaii's another of these interesting legs where our endurance matches exactly our expected time of flight in no wind conditions (with more data now I see that in the absence of any wind at all on the Conakry-Belem leg we would actually have run out 25 minutes short!).
And on any weather report we'll have headwinds for the first 500nm, so we really do have to get it right. Perhaps we will get a chance to really get under the skin of this city after all!
See you later
4th August 2009 – Safe arrival in Los Angeles
Mike & James arrived safely at Torrance Municipal Airport in Los Angeles, California. During this leg they reached the highest altitude they have flow in the entire expedition, which was 11,155ft. They will spend some time here till the 6th of August when they will fly to Hawaii, which will see them cover a distance of 3,950km. Check back soon for more logs and photos from our two adventurers!
4th August 2009 – Mike's Log from Dalhart, Oklahoma
It is 6 am here in northern Texas and because of daylight saving it is still pitch black outside. We want to get airborne at sunrise today to try and avoid the weather that builds up over the Rockies. James and I are already tired – luckily we can sleep in the plane – taking it in turns obviously.
If you can, try to follow the live tracking as we fly into LA … the route is very interesting as we will be flying right over one of the busiest airports in the world – LAX.
James is really happy to receive all the birthday wishes … I did sing to him on your behalf!
3rd August 2009 – Dalhart, Oklahoma
So we're in a place called Dalhart, Texas. I thought we were in Kansas, until we arrived at our $45 motel where the Indian receptionist put me right quick, quick. This feels to me like the real America – not the rather artificial experiences I’ve had on the Yosemite rock faces and at Oshkosh. We arrived in Dalhart to a welcome from the guys who own Bailey Aviation Services. They supply the standard service at US airfields – hangarage for your plane, a free courtesy car, advice and so on. So now Bailey’s has got our plane in their hangar, sitting amongst their awesome “Airtractor” crop-sprayers, and we've got one of their cars, with no question of seeing a driving license, producing identity, a telephone contact number or suchlike. It simply a case of “take it and go”. And even then not until we'd quaffed a number of their beers on the tarmac.
Right now we're in a kind of a diner eating supper and there really are a bunch of quite strange people in here – but it'd be rude to start taking photos and so on, and we're also pretty exhausted, so we'll refrain.
Tomorrow we fly over the high mountains north of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, then on to Los Angeles. We've had a look at the airspace around LA on the computer while waiting for our food and it looks like mama's favourite spaghetti, with a whole lot of smarties thrown in, being the airports. In fact, we're so intimidated that we've asked Matt to come meet us just outside of LA in his Christen Eagle. That way one of us also gets the opportunity to do some aerobatics over LA on the way in!
It's as hot as hell here – when we landed to refuel at the Syracuse Hamilton County Municipal Airport it was 43 degrees on our Voyager. And it was a long day – up to Oshkosh we had 95 hours of flying with 94 hours of tailwinds – today we had a 10 to 30 knot headwind the whole way. With the heat we struggled to climb out after filling up, and to make matters worse we were racing storms into Dalhouse. Then the engine gave a bit of a hiccup on the climb-out, which has us a bit 'skrikked'. Ah, well we made it!
Its nearly midnight now and we're up at 05h30 tomorrow to make LA, so it’s time to sign off. Thanks to everyone for the messages, especially all my birthday messages. Only 10 minutes to go here. Never thought I’d have a birthday in Dalhart, Texas!
J and M
3rd August 2009 – Departure from Oshkosh
Mike and James departed from Oshkosh at approximately 16:45 today. For the lucky few who were watching the webcam next to the runway, we just caught them go past on their way to Sante Fe, New Mexico. This leg will take them about 10-11 hours to complete.
2nd August 2009 – James' Log
Today's an absolutely perfect day in Oshkosh and we started it by participating in an air to air photo-shoot. A couple of shots are attached. The “photoship” pilot was just so relaxed and competent and it was such a lovely day that we really enjoyed the whole process. There are definitely some things that the Americans seem to do more easily and better than anyone else. The shoot also gave us the opportunity to fly back into the airfield on a special “Prison” approach, which meant we could take some nice movie footage of the field. At least half the aeroplanes have now been packed up and flown off, but that still leaves more than 6 000, so it's not exactly “small town”.
Yesterday afternoon we spent some time checking out the engine, repositioning a GPS antenna, putting the Indigosat tracker back in a prettier position and generally getting our baby shipshape for the next couple of legs to LA. She looks set for the flight and in LA we'll do another oil change, replace the idle jets, have the prop control motor welded (at last) and of course give her a very thorough once over for the big Hawaii leg over the water. I think there'll be a bunch more eyes that've become aware of us here in Oshkosh watching us on that leg.
We had a great dinner with our family here last night (the Merkes's), including a bonfire which any South African braai master would have been proud of, and lots of fireworks. Then tomorrow morning we'll be off at 06h30 (11h30 UTC, 13h30 SA time) for Sante Fe and the next day on to LA. More from there.
May the force be with you.
Servus diabolicus dei