1st August 2009 – James' Log
Phew, I see that the break we've taken from daily updates has had the consequence that at least one person is going to buy a composite aircraft. I figured it may be serious, but not that serious, so here we are, back again, in the midst of a bombing mission which is going on outside. Check out the photo I've just taken to capture how hectic things are here in the war zone.
So the good news is that Michelle from Flight Permits in Durbs has eventually charmed the dude in the Marshall Islands and we've now got the permission to land there. His original attitude was, “There's no avgas in the Marshall Islands”. Then, when Michelle told him that we would use mogas, he said, “There's no aeroplane in the world that runs on mogas”. Then the responses simply stopped. Anyhow, her persistence has paid off. An all in all the terms aren't really all that onerous.
They look like this – we have to pay cash, no credit cards; landing fee is USD23,76; parking fee is USD3,35; handling fee is USD175,00 (compulsory – a pity, but not totally prohibitive); and 100 US gallon (385l) gasoline is USD566,50 (not too bad out there in the mid-Pacific, I suppose). Anyhow, that means we're almost home and dry, in principle, on permissions, and all at a more or less reasonable cost and effort. Also, there're a bunch of people here at Oshkosh who have offered to help with people they know in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and so in if we do run into problems. We're pretty sad that we won't be getting to see the Sydney Opera house, but hey, we'll see the KL Petronas Towers instead!
INTEREST AT OSHKOSH
The response to our mission here at Oshkosh has been absolutely awesome. Our talk was poorly advertised and attended, but people who come past the plane love it and can spend hours asking questions. Americans are pretty verbose people and of course they can also spend hours telling you about what it is they're up to, so one has to be a little mean with one's time. All in all it's been a lot of fun and a very warm experience being here in this way.
SUPPORT ALONG THE WAY
As appears from the photos we were met by a great crowd at Oshkosh. We're staying with the Merkes family, whose house feels like home away from home. Apart from the Merkes's, though, on the day we left SA we hadn't arranged to meet a single person along the way and we hadn’t booked a single hotel or even ascertained the name of one. Yet since our second night in Conakry we haven't arrived anywhere without a welcoming party and at least a meal with someone local. In Belem it was Robbie Weich and his friends, Gilberto, Octavio, Hugo, small Gilberto and Octavio and others, in the US Virgin Islands we had a great home meal with Curtis White and his wonderfully warm, hospitable and culinary English/South African wife, in Fort Pierce we were met by Don and Susan Moseley who guided us up past Cape Canaveral in their Cirrus, through the storms, to the Phillip Larkin Airfield in Palatka and put us up in their beautiful and gracious Florida home. The next day we met up with Chris Haarhoff in Kentucky and he guided us through the storms, also in his Cirrus, to Oshkosh itself. Now we've no end of offers of accommodation both in Colorado, en route to Los Angeles, and in LA itself.
I’m definitely beginning to have fantasies of just keeping on at this for the rest of time – I feel as if people would just look after us wherever we go. It's so great to feel how warm and generous people are when you're on a mission like this and I keep reminding myself myself how important it'll be to remember afterwards.
OUR PROBLEMS IN CONAKRY
We haven't had an opportunity to explain properly what happened with the military police in Conakry. Put simply, I had the bad fortune to have a military policeman walk through the camera lens in a public street in the evening while following shooting some children who had walked past Mike. As a consequence of this infringement of national security we were frogmarched from place to place, eventually to the headquarters of the national military police, where they found some senior official still in his office at after midnight. We had to answer questions there for a couple of hours, then were sent off back to our hotel, without our camera, and told to return the next morning. The entire thing of course was a farce, and really rather a sad and disillusioning one. For me the absurdity was illustrated at a point where, after no less than 15 or so policemen had been handling our camera vigorously for a number of hours, one guy suddenly decided that it should only be held through a plastic bag, to protect finger prints. Then the others had to do likewise. Things were initially no less nasty the next day but, in true African style (I hate to use these words, but they just seem to fit the experience so obviously) things suddenly started to change. While maintaining the ongoing threatening atmosphere, the very large and clearly senior lady interrogating us (she had the surname Camaro, which is the same as that of the President, who's sister she claimed to be), came and stood behind me and held by hand at one point. Later we all swopped cellphone numbers and so on. Very weird. Anyhow, it allowed me to send a couple our captors a couple of pretty acid text messages as we finally rolled off down the runway.
It all ended without our signature of some incomprehensible handwritten statements in French, the deletion of about 3 seconds of recording on our camera, and then our release back to the hotel, where we set about stealing a whole parcel of bread rolls for in flight cuisine!
Its 17h30 now and time to head off back to the Merkes's for what looks like being a going away feast of some note. Tomorrow morning at 6am we do a “photoshoot” flight for the EAA here, then we have the day to ourselves. Monday on to Santa Fe, Tuesday to LA and then, if the weather plays ball, Thursday to Hawaii. One other good piece of news is that it looks like although we'll have a headwind out of LA, we should have a tailwind for most of the flight from 4 hours out or so. Please hold collective thumbs.
1st August 2009 – Mike's Log
We have been at Oshkosh for 3 days now and at last I feel like I have caught up on my rest. I am surprised at how long it has taken me to feel OK again … I guess it was not just the lack of sleep but also the stress and the change in the time zones.
Last night we attended the international visitors party hosted by the EAA and as can be expected the beer and laughter flowed … It looks like there are about 200 South Africans at Oshkosh this year – usually the largest numbers of international visitors are firstly from Canada, then South Africa, Australia, Germany and the UK. I heard total numbers of attendees at about 700,000 and over 10,000 aircraft.
Yesterday at midday the AirbusA380 departed … that is one huge aircraft although somehow once I had walked around underneath it, it's not quite as big as I imagined it would be. One thing that amazed me is how slowly it can fly. I heard someone say that it did one of the flypasts at just 105 knots – it just looks so incredibly slow I guess because of it's size.
In the afternoon James and I did a presentation at a forum in the Honda pavilion where one of the people who attended our talk was CarolAnn Garrat. She flew around the world in 7 days in a Mooney last year … quite humbling to realise how many people have flown around the world before and how quickly some of them have done it. Have a look here http://www.alsworldflight.com/index.php.
Near to where the Sling is parked is another special aircraft … we met the pilot – a guy by the name of Art and he is flying from the south pole to the north pole – have a look at http://www.airventure.org/news/2009/090617_polar_pumpkin.html. That is one thing about Oshkosh – you meet interesting and crazy aviators from every corner of the globe.
We are supposed to leave Oshkosh tomorrow morning to head west but there is bad weather across large parts of the USA so we have decided to delay our takeoff until Monday. Another change is on our route … instead of flying over the Rocky mountains we have been advised to deviate slightly south to Santa Fe and avoid the unpredictable weather and strong winds that can make flight dangerous when flying quite low over the Rockies.
Yesterday we also had an opportunity to watch the airshow for the first time and it was quite something. What I love the most is watching the second world war fighters (especially the Mustang P51s) flying. The airshow is really world class with aerobatics, huge formation flights, jets and then attractions like simulated bombing runs and simulated pylon racing …
It is now 10 am and James and I are off to the show to sort out a few technical issues on the Sling. Once we are at Torrance in LA we will be doing an oil change, welding the cracked prop controller mount and giving the Sling a really good inspection in preparation for our Pacific crossing. I get the shivvers every time I think about it …
That's it for now
30th July 2009 – Sling spotted in fly-over of Oshkosh
Although a lot of us wish we were at Oshkosh now with Mike & James, AvWeb was nice enough to make a fly-over video clip to give us an idea of how huge this show is. See if you can spot the Sling approximately 3min into the video clip in the centre of the four square buildings. Look for 4 small red tents to lower left. The sling is on the left of the grass square to the right of the red tents. Thanks IndigoSat for pin-pointing the Sling's position.
29th July 2009 – More news snippets from Oshkosh
See the latest news snippet from Oshkosh on Mike & James flying the Sling around the world by clicking here….
28th July 2009 – Our arrival at Oshkosh
We arrived in Oshkosh yesterday evening at 7pm local time to a great welcome from the South African contingent. Thanks Rob McFie. Flying in was a real experience – ATC does the talking and, due to congestion, aircraft are not allowed to answer. That means that there is no use of call signs, just visual aircraft identification. It goes something like this – “RV…no, low wing yellow aircraft mile south of FISK, rock your wings…nice rock…turn 90 west now for runway 36…Cessna behind, orbit right and give 1 mile spacing…blue Lancair behind rock your wings…yeah…and then use FISK railway routing…yellow aircraft change tower frequency 118.9, g'day…etc”. And everyone just flies. They land two aircraft a minute, mostly pretty mediocre pilots, non-stop, except during the airshow times, pretty much for 7 consecutive days!
At last now we'll (hopefully) get a quiet moment to sit and catch up on thoughts and write some responses to the incredible messages we've been getting. Right now we've got to head off to the show though, so you'll have to be satisfied with some shots to capture what we've been up to for the last few days.
29th July 2009 – First article from Oshkosh about Mike & James
Our first report from Oshkosh with pictures of Mike & James have made the net. Thanks Karlheinz for your internet detective work. Click here to view the article at http://www.bydanjohnson.com…
29th July 2009 – Thank you for your support
It has been truly amazing to see all the messages that have been streaming in since the day the Around The World Expedition started, the phone calls from different countries asking us what the guys are up to, and the sense of community and excitement both on Facebook and through the website. So we thank you for being part of this expedition as Mike & James continue with their adventure around the world.
Today, we also want to send out a special thank to a group of ladies at The Retreat at Church Ranch Assisted Living in Westminster, Colorado (USA) for following Mike & James' journey each day and pinning the progress on their world map, reading the updates on the website and Facebook, and keeping our two adventurers in their prayers. You have touched our hearts here at The Airplane Factory office in Johannesburg, just as Mike & James have touched your hearts with their sense of adventure and zest for life.
28th July 2009 – Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA
Mike and James reached Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA, after flying nearly 17,000 kilometeres in 10 days from Johannesburg in South Africa! A few days will be spent here, and we can expect more exciting updates from Mike and James over the couple of days, so check back regularly. Their departure from Oshkosh is set for the 2nd of August, and then they will continue their expedition around the world towards Loveland, Colorado.
28th July 2009 – Mike and James' Log from Florida, USA
It is now midnight and both James and I are exhausted so this is just to say that we hope to get through the weather and fly directly to Oshkosh tomorrow.
We had a good days flying today – our first daylight flight which we really enjoyed … particularly being able to see where we were going which allowed us to dodge thunderstorms over the Bahamas and near the Florida coastline. The real eye opener however was what we dealt with while following friends Don and Susan in their Cirrus into Gainesville Palatka Larkin field. The lighning strikes all around and so close by with rain and strong winds (I even landed downwind in the rush to get down) was quite an experience …
Once we are at Oshkosh and rested we will catch up on the stories.
25th July 2009 – James's Log from US Virgin Islands
Right now its 3:30am local time and I've just woken up. I wandered off up to our hotel room while Mike was busy whipping off some news for the website just after lunch at 2pm, lay my head on the pillow and have just woken up. Since I'm not someone who can almost ever sleep during the day, initially I thought it was 3:30 in the afternoon, but it seemed kind of dark and quiet. How wonderful to sleep like a child again – I feel like I imagine my daughter does when I look down at her sleeping in the afternoon – sleeping the sleep of the innocent. It’s so great to sleep just because one is exhausted, at any time of the day or night, and not just because it's “time to sleep”.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
Notwithstanding the stress which we face from time to time, Mike and I are really enjoying life on the road. We've had a bunch of discussions about how interesting, exciting, vital and real it seems. It takes me back to my youthful reading of Bruce Chatwin's book, Songlines, in which he looks at the nomadic spirit in humans, especially the aboriginal people of Aussie. I suppose that flying's not a great replacement for walking, but there’re definitely some benefits associated with facing real dangers – not just the subtle anxieties of everyday life; eating because one is hungry (often very hungry!) – not because it's time to eat; sleeping because one is tired – not because it's time to sleep; thinking hard about things – because a failure to think hard may result in catastrophe, not just a feeling of being foolish in front of your peers, and so on.
THE TRAVEL SPIRIT
I can't explain how awesome it feels to be flying over places that I've vaguely heard of but couldn't really place – Last night for example parts of the northern Amazon area, Panamaribo, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Montserrat, Martinique, Fort de France, St Croix and so on. Who knows what tomorrow night will bring? We really are pretty footloose and fancy-free, as Mike explained. The Marshall Islands are looking increasingly difficult (thanks Karlheinz for the contact, we'll follow up), so we're looking at alternatives. With this little plane of ours, we realise we can go a lot of places – maybe we go from Hawaii to Palmyra Atoll? Then maybe American Samoa, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and on, or maybe Papua New Guinea rather than Australia. (Though we know less people in Papua New Guinea and who knows how good the avgas is?). Anyhow, we've still got a lot of decisions to make and, fortunately, since Oshkosh comes first, quite a bit of time and resources to make them.
QUESTIONS AND MESSAGES
Thanks everyone for all the wonderful messages and questions. Since at last we've got a full day in one place (for the first time in 8 days), this evening we'll try take some time to properly answer questions and respond to the good wishes we've received. Having a website like this is a bit like becoming a facebook groupie – I see messages from all sorts of people I haven't heard of from years. I hope that at last you'll hear back from me tonight. Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos from the US Virgin Islands leg last night and some video to show you how it really is – like they say, video never lies!
25th July 2009 – Mike's Log from US Virgin Islands
It is hot and humid but beautiful … right now I am sitting in a Mexican restaurant overlooking a bay with white beaches. The US Virgin Islands…what is with the virgin bit exactly? I am exhausted but elated – James has gone off to sleep. I am tired but need to write even though I feel a bit spacy. Every now and then a plane takes off from the airport next door where our little yellow hero is resting…what a contrast this is to where we were just a few hours ago.
We had a few very interesting moments last night. When we took off from Belem there was a big storm to the east and the prediction was thunderstorms all the way up to at least 10 degrees N. Storms like the one near the airport have to be avoided at all costs if you want the wings to stay on! It was my turn to fly the left seat and as always when we are heavy it is really stressful escaping gravity and so the towering clouds and rain ahead didn't do me any good. It took us an hour to get up to FL 080. As darkness descended on us I aimed for a gap in the clouds but by the time we got there it was completely dark so were lucky to pass through with just a few drops.
How to avoid the storms…well the Strikefinder helps you avoid the big CB's by showing you exactly where there lightning strikes are but we had absolutely no idea where the little storms were. We flew into them throughout the night. I said to James just as it was getting dark that if we hit heavy rain and turbulence I would do a U turn and try to find a way around. When we hit the first bumps and rain it was really quite scary but we just kept on going straight ahead – so by the time we hit strong turbulence and heavy rain neither of us did a thing … straight on we went gritting our teeth. In the severe turbulence we had to turn the auto pilot off as in those circumstances we were better pilots. About 10 times during the night we would be flying along calmly and then bang – the turbulence threw us violently around and the rain hammered on the canopy and streamed off the wings and then just as suddenly it would be gone and we would see stars above and both of us would breath a sigh of relief. It reminds me of what someone told me how he interprets flying “hours and hours of quiet (he said boredom but he is off the mark there) interspersed with a few seconds of sheer terror.”
One thing I had forgotten about is how much work it is to deal with the airport admin – customs, immigration, fees, flight plans, arranging security and parking, taxis, fending off husslers, arranging fuel, accommodation, money … so when James and I talking about the hassles we expected during the stop in Georgetown, Guyana we decided to rather push on straight through to the US Virgin Islands. Robbie and few others in Belem warned us about the difficulties we could expect in Georgetown and that is what did it for us. Let's fly straight on – do 2 legs and avoid Georgetown. So the decision was – either take off at 4 am or take off at sunset and fly through the night. Again. As you know it was another night flight. That makes it 4 nights out of 7 that we have flown right through. It's quite an experience!
THE FLIGHT FROM AFRICA TO BRAZIL
Yes, we were worried but there were alternatives. If we hit headwinds or were running low on fuel we had a number of alternatives – we could head further south to another airport and shorten the leg by as much as 300 miles. As it turned out we had good tailwinds the whole way across so it worked out well – when we landed in Belem we still had about 3.5 hours of fuel left. What does worry us is the flight to Hawaii. There are no alternative airports to land at if we are running low on fuel. None. It's Hawaii or swim. As I write this I can feel my heart beat faster ..
We have about 100 miles less range than we expected and hoped for … so we absolutely have to have tailwinds! Lets see – lets not think about that now … we have a few weeks to go.
CHANGING THE ROUTE
James commented that it feels just like travelling as a student again – we can change our minds and route at the drop of a hat which is just as well. There is some guy in the Marshall Islands flight clearance office who just is not interested in letting us land there. He said there is no AVGAS in the Marshall Islands so when he was told that we could use car fuel he said there is no plane in the world that runs on car fuel … we are getting nowhere with him – so now we are looking at a route change. I think we should head further south and go via Australia … what do you think?
We must sort out the rough running of the engine at idle and reposition the satellite tracker. We should have done more testing before we left to determine the best place to mount the tracker- it works beautifully but if it's not mounted right … anyway, I think we can fix it tomorrow. A fun flight around the islands is on the cards as a test!
Both James and I are deeply in love with the auto pilot. This trip would have been far more difficult without it and I can tell you it flies better (under most circumstances) than James and I put together. By far! Don't be disappointed. It's 2009!
Of course we both love our little yellow warrior. I asked James at lunch if he was nervous of the Sling breaking in the severe turbulence and neither of us are. We made it and know it is really strong.
One of the first things we do once we are down safely and in a hotel is log on to the internet to see what is happening with our website. We cannot believe the support we are getting – it is so great and it really lifts our spirits. Thanks so much. And of course well done to Michael de Beer who is doing all the work.
24th July 2009 – Safe arrival in US Virgin Islands
Mike & James arrived safely at Cyril E King International airport after flying for 16 hours. They had a bit of rain during the night, and the satellite tracking system kicked in for a short burst over Martinique, and then started up again approximately 45 minutes before landing. Fortunately the Australian satellite tracking team had been on standby the whole time, and after landing managed to speak to James to determine the source of the interferance. More news to follow later.
24th July 2009 – Entering Barbados Airspace
At about 2:30 SA Local time the aircraft satellite tracking system had brief contact with Mike & James, but unfortunately it was just for a short while. Sias Dreyer confirmed that ZU-TAF had had contact with Barbados air traffic control…so far their progress is looking very good. In the meantime, have a look at some more photos sent to us by Robbie Weich from Brazil when Mike & James departed, and we also have a mobile movie clip of their departure from Belem.
23rd July 2009 – Departure from Belem, Brazil
Mike and James decided to reschedule the departure to the US Virgin Islands, and left at 11pm (SA Local Time). We had enough time to test the IndigoSat satellite tracking system earlier and moved it to a spot where the signal was picked up better by the satellite, but unfortunately on departure we did not have testing time again and for some reason there is no feed now. The only assumption we can make now (although we need to have more time to test this) is that some electronic equipment being brought into the cockpit could be causing the interferance of the signal. The estimated time of arrival is 3:30pm SA local time at Charlotte Amalie (St Thomas Island – US Virgin Islands). We will keep you posted on any further news as it becomes available.
23rd July 2009 – Brazilian TV covers arrival of Mike & James
Mike and James' arrival was covered by one of the local TV stations in Brazil. The first coverage snippet is approximately 1 min 17s into the video, and the second news clip follows just after the first.
(Thank you Robbie Weich for sending us the link)
23rd July 2009 – James' Log
Wow, what a world – we're in Belem, we were welcomed in by supporters, now we're in a lovely little hotel and neither Mike nor I have written a word or sent a picture since arriving; yet there are images on our website and everyone seems to know that we're safe and being looked after! How brilliant to arrive to a South African flag, a group of aeroplane lovers, some beers and a great meal of Brazilian steak, rice, chips and veg.
After escaping the Military Police and filling up with the dodgiest possible mogas in Conakry, we got off at 17h30 on runway 24 for the long crossing. As predicted there were isolated storms around for the first bit as we climbed painfully out at absolute maximum all up weight, fuel literally leaking from every vent pipe and cap. Our stormscope seemed to be working perfectly, though, and we managed to find our way between the cells quite easily to 30% west, where Tim had told us they would peter out, and they did. More importantly, the tailwinds he'd predicted were there right from the start, starting out at about 10 knots and increasing to 30 knots at times during the flight. This was certainly my first flight in which I knew that in the absence of a tailwind we probably wouldn't make it, and that required a big gulp. It all worked out fine, though, and as the winds increased our margin of safety just got wider and wider.
We had a long, though wonderful night. Since Belem is effectively three hours behind Guinea, the night on a westbound flight like this is three hours longer than usual. We needed a long night, having flown through two of the four previous ones, and slept only 4 hours the night before (thanks to the Guinea police), but certainly not another one spent flying! Our arrangement is that one pilot is awake at all times, monitoring things and, most importantly, switching fuel tanks at the right moments. On a few occasions during the night, however, we realised that the “on duty” pilot had in fact also fallen asleep for some time. After our GPS/autopilot mishaps over Botswana and Angola this was quite a wake-up, but each time there was definitely a funny side – realising how obscure our situation was, flying alone miles above the ocean, both asleep!
Although we did have some limited VHF radio contact with commercial aircraft above us who relayed a few messages from the Dakar Oceanic FIR control room, without an HF radio we were effectively on our own for most of the night. So we spent many of the small hours listening to our iPod through the headphones, which raised our spirits – thanks Jay for “Tonight we Ride” and to Andrea for all the rest.
Our Rotax 912 ULS engine, technically uncertified and “experimental”, didn't miss a beat the whole way, to our relief. We also had an incredibly strong feeling of people following our progress and wishing us well. The messages of support on our website have just been so overwhelming that we feel as if we have a whole team of people accompanying us at every minute. I certainly feel very emotional about all the positive thoughts and messages and as we flew they had us feeling as if things just couldn't go wrong.
To see South America, in the form of the edge of the Amazon jungle, rise out through the clouds after 19 hours in the air is quite a sight. We were talked into Belem though some thickish clouds and a little rain by a very friendly air traffic controller (interestingly, save for large commercial aircraft, all radio work in Brazil is in Portuguese, not english), and of course met by Robbie Weich, Gilberto, Hugo, Octavio, and later other family members, after 21 hours flying, which has been wonderful. More about all of that tomorrow, though.
There is so much to write – about what thoughts one has when flying like this, how much it means to get messages of support, how the aeroplane is performing, just how much fuel it uses, how this improves as it lightens up and so on, but it isn't the time for that now – it's time to sleep! There should be three short “experimental” videos attached (See our Gallery Page), just to give a feel of the mood. The first is a shot out of the cockpit arriving at Conakry on Tuesday morning, the second demonstrates the atmosphere in the cockpit around about midnight, and the third our joy at arriving at the South American coast without having turned into sharkbait. Then there are some photos which I think are self-explantory.
We're not going to go to Georgetown as planned tomorrow – we're going to rest instead, do an oil change and a little planning. Then we intend to head directly to the US Virgin Islands on Saturday as, though a longish flight, that way we have less admin, slightly less flying overall and don't lose a day. More of that tomorrow, however, Sleep tight.
ATMOSPHERE IN COCKPIT AROUND MIDNIGHT EN-ROUTE TO BRAZIL
OUR JOY AT ARRIVING AT THE SOUTH AMERICAN COAST
ROBBIE WEICH'S VIDEO CLIP SHOWING JAMES & MIKE'S ARRIVAL IN BRAZIL
23rd July 2009 – More photos from Belem
Thank you very much to Robbie Weich who made sure Mike & James got a warm welcome on their arrival in Belem. Click here to view Robbie's Flickr photo album.
23rd July 2009 – Mike & James landed safely in Brazil
We just got off the phone with James & Mike in Belem, Brazil. Though they sound tired, you could hear they are in great spirits after completing the 4,044km trip from Guinea. We will give them some time to relax a bit, and update you later with more news.
One thing we learnt today is that if all else fails, turn to Facebook. After trying different ways of re-establishing contact with Mike & James because the satellite could not pick up the tracker correctly, it was Robbie Weich (one of our Facebook fans in Belem) who managed to get hold of them through Belem air control tower at the international airport. To know that Belem was aware of ZU-TAF was such a relief.
I think none of us were prepared for the huge response from visitors when everyone was informed the guys are getting ready to land. The messages are still streaming in. Thank you to all of you for following this adventure, and all the wishes and words of encouragement…it is truly amazing.
23rd July 2009 – Jay Hyde answers your questions
Although we do not know exactly where Mike and James are all indications that we have reassure us that things are progressing well. People have asked how they would indicate an emergency; in theory they have 3 options available to them.
First they would dial an emergency code, called a squawk code, on an instrument called a transponder. Any radar that is monitoring them will immediately create an alarm and rescue operations will activate; Oceanic Air Traffic Control (ATC) should have them on radar in any case.
Secondly, they can also broadcast on the international distress frequency of 121.500 Mhz. Their radio is not an HF radio, which means that it will only be able to send and receive on a line of sight basis (so not over the horizon), however, there are many trans Atlantic flights by airliners, and the crew in these aircraft monitor that frequency. They will have line of sight with the Sling and can relay messages to ATC.
Finally, the GPS tracker also has an emergency mode which, if activated, will send out their position every 10 seconds and will also activate an alarm- this option is obviously not going to work very well right now as we do not know what their position is…
Right now, and throughout the flight, Mike and James will have been monitoring their airspeed, groundspeed and fuel flow very carefully. The airspeed that they fly will be chosen for the least amount of fuel burn and they will be ensuring that the aircraft is perfectly in trim to minimize any drag. The air is almost unbelievably layered; all moving in slightly different directions and sometimes very different directions. Thus a change of altitude as little as 500 feet can make a big difference to your groundspeed; when you fly in an open cockpit and a light aircraft, such as a weight-shift microlight, you feel turbulence as you pass between different air layers. You can also feel a change in temperature and often even smell a new layer of air, and of course your groundspeed changes, sometimes quite dramatically! Mike's extensive microlighting experience and knowledge of this will pay off as they climb or descend to find the most favourable winds by comparing their airspeed to their on board GPS groundspeed.
The rude fact is of course, that no matter how well they fly, if their fuel runs out they're going to be swimming; from what we have seen weather-wise they have had tailwinds, so here's hoping and holding thumbs that those tanks don't run dry…