Wednesday, 10 August 2011 Email correspondence from Director of Civil Aviation Mauritius
Email from the Director of Civil Aviation in Mauritius:
We refer to your mail below.
We have to inform you that your request cannot be acceded to, as your aircraft is not equipped with communication equipment enabling you to maintain a continuous two way radio communication with Mauritius ATS units for the provision of:
- 1. Air Traffic and Alerting services; and
- 2. Necessary coordination and handing over of traffic to adjacent ATC centres.
For Director of Civil Aviation
Response from James to the Director of Civil Aviation:
We are extremely disappointed that the Mauritius Director of Civil Aviation has adopted an attitude which is such that it renders it impossible for any aircraft without an HF radio to traverse it's airspace.
Be that as it may, we will now travel around Mauritius airspace and simply address the associated difficulties as we go.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011 Obstacle after obstacle means change of plans again…
After phoning every airport and flying school in the Maldives Andrew reported back with the bad news that there is no Avgas available at all. Plan B was get someone to bring in 400 liters of Mogas, which Mohamed Niyaz very kindly offered to do. However… the best quality Mogas available in that part of the Indian ocean is 80 Octane and a Rotax 914 motor should never be run on anything less than 95 Octane.
Take a look at the email from Mohamed below.
Kindly be advised that the local Mogas available is of 80-octane rating.
Please verify with the aircraft manufacturer if this is suitable and only with written confirmation from the engine and airframe manufacturer Mogas can be sold for aviation operation.
The price for Mogas in Airport is USD 1.5363165 per ltr.
Since GMIAL does not provide the service for such refuellings, we do not carry pumps; filters and pipes/hoses that may be suitable for aircraft refuelling from Mogas drums. The intoplane operation strictly needs to be conducted by the operator.
GMR Malé International Airport Pvt. Ltd.
So plan C… James and Jean are going to see if they can fly economically enough to make it right through to Colombo, Sri Lanka 4071 kilometres from Reunion. They still plan to depart at 4am South African time (UTC +4) as long as they can get the necessary permission for that today and the duration of the flight will be 24 hours.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011 James and Jean being interviewed in Réunion
We found this small video clip of James and Jean being interviewed in Réunion shortly after their arrival.
Tuesday, 9 August 2011 Things never work out quite as expected!
OK, so you got the basic story from Mike – we're back in an hotel room (this time much more humble!), ZU-TAF is back in the hangar, we've had a first class Chinese Creole meal and now we're settling in for a quiet sleep.
Today has been a good example of how travel experiences aren't necessarily about making physical progress, but also about the details on the way. We may not have made great physical strides since sun-up, but we've made lots of friends and learnt a lot about Reunion's people, their pride and their generosity.
Laurent, who picked us up at the airport yesterday, arranged last night's free hotel accommodation and transported us to it (some 45 minutes by car), was back to pick us up from the hotel again this morning. We stopped for a snack en route, where I managed to leave my credit card in the Patisserie. At the airport there was a crowd to meet us. Radio, television and newspaper. Reunion was expecting our arrival no less than 10 days ago and since then there've been four published articles. While we prepped the plane we answered a bunch of questions for media and felt very proud of our machine.
Later we were informed that the Mauritians wouldn't allow us through their airspace without a formal application for permission – we'd been led to understand that, like Reunion, this was not required for private flights. The Aero Club instructor, Cedric, leapt into action and off went a series of emails and faxes. It would appear that these may now have reached the Mauritian Minister's desk and we're led to understand that tomorrow the permission will be forthcoming. Still, since we fly at night we'll have to file an IFR flight plan – nothing new, we had to change our Reunion flight plan to IF once we entered Moz airspace at night too. The help from the members of the Aero Club Roland Garros, including the Chairman, Mr Boval, was astounding. Special thanks also to Graziella Point, a pilot and medical doctor who assisted with translation, flight planning advice and later transport, dinner and good conversation.
When I realized I'd lost my credit card Laurent was instantly onto the line to Radio Freedom. Within seconds the woman behind us in the line at our lunch Patisserie had called in to tell the radio station that she'd seen me leave my credit card. She read the Patisserie telephone number off her lunch package on radio and a flight instructor called the Patisserie which confirmed, on radio, that the card was with them. Following an explanation of our adventure to the audience and an opportunity for me to thank the Island in my best French, Laurent drove all the way back to the Patisserie to fetch the card while Graziella drove me and Jean off to a restaurant for dinner.
One great feature of Reunion is that there is a wonderful mixture of peoples and cultures. Laurent describes his first language as Creole, yet he looks to me like a Parisian Frenchman (his ancestors were among the first settlers on the island nearly 300 years ago). Graziella is ¼ Chinese, but she grew up in France. She feels entirely French. There appears to be no financial distinction between different race groups in Reunion.
Perhaps the delay isn't too bad a thing. There were embedded storms en route and some hitches with a component of the satellite tracking system which are right now being resolved. We would have been quite “out there” without any comms at all, at night in the middle of the ITCZ storms and it feels quite good to be in a warm, quiet environment. Actually, it feels like we'll be quite “out there” anyway, whenever it comes.
Jean and I are getting along like a house on fire and, though not without its stresses, life on the road is good. Two days in ZU-TAF already feels like an old friend. Full of fuel she's so heavy we can hardly pull her across flat tar. But we know she'll lift off like a butterfly and climb to 10 000 feet when called upon to do so. She's by far the bravest of the three of us on this trip!
Please hold thumbs for clear skies and no storms tomorrow night.
PS – Rainier, thanks for the information on how the autopilot worked during our icing ordeal. It's quite fascinating how technology gives a “feel”. I could sense that it was taking cues from different inputs and making good decisions about how to respond based on them – just like a human brain. Actually I think we probably could have continued under the autopilot's control, perhaps even indefinitely without any airspeed input (the rocking/pitching probably would have put my son to sleep quite effectively!), but the ice was building up very quickly, so it seemed to make good sense to get down as quickly as possible. Thinking about it, our MGL Odysseys are probably the next bravest people on the trip!
Tuesday, 9 August 2011 Departure Delayed from Réunion
James just called me (at 5.45 pm SA time) to say that they are not able to get away today. A few reasons .. Mauritius ATC will not let them fly through their airspace on a VFR flight plan at night – plus they do not have permission to fly though their airspace anyway (yet). James and Jean tried to arrange the permission quickly themselves but they need Michelle at Flight Permits help – she is working on it and will have the permission by tomorrow morning.
This also gives us the opportunity to get the tracker working properly which it isn't yet.
They have pushed TAF back into the hangar and are now on their way to a hotel near to the airport. Luckily the guys from the Reunion Aeroclub are super enthusiastic and helpful and are taking good care of them.
An interesting thing about fuel – AVGAS on Reunion is €3.90 / L while Mogas is €1.50 / L. Luckily they had assistance from the local pilots to fill up with Mogas – they put 300 L in to top up which means they are burning about 20.5 L/hr at something like 110 KTAS. Tomorrow we will try to get info (and help from the locals) about fuel in Male in case the AVGAS is also very expensive there.
We are all a bit concerned about the next few legs – they are going to be flying through the ITCZ which means thunderstorms and unpredictable weather … so we have to be very accurate with predicting exactly where the storms are. Have a look for yourself on http://www.vfrplanner.co.za/mwx/sling.html
As soon as we know more about their new departure time tomorrow or anything else of interest, we will post the details immediately.
Monday, 8 August 2011 The Night of Shooting Stars from Jean's perspective
Howdy everyone, A big thank you to all of you for your support and involvement. After my first night over the Indian ocean in conditions I am about to illustrate, I now know why Mike and James appreciate and value your support so much. It can get serious up there at times and it is then that knowing you guys are out there means so much!
Yes, finally after the various delays the time came to have last handshakes and hugs and get our scrawny butts into that oh so sexy silver machine and head into the night. Tanks full (430 litres) and all the other stuff needed to circumnavigate planet earth packed into the spacious cabin, James and I lifted off effortlessly and climbed swifly into a cool evening sky, escorted By Mike and Jay through the Pinedene route out to the east. W we were feeling good. But then as with these trips the final goodbyes are said and Mike and Jay peeled out of the formation to make it home before dark. Suddenly the cockpit takes on a new atmosphere and James looks at me and we smile knowing that we don't know what lies ahead – it ain't gonna be a walk in the park but we going to have a load of fun.
It starts getting dark fast and we turn down light intensities in all the instruments and start discussing how dark it is going to be over the ocean tonight if there is no moon. O, yes the Ocean! James says we must remember to wear our Life jackets when we cross the coastline. RIGHT at that point the realization that we were going to be over the Indian ocean for the next 13 or so hours in the dark, dodging storms got my adrenal glands a tad excited. So, I spent the next 20 mins with my but pointed east repacking the rear seat and becoming familiar with the life raft, ration packs and water, all tied to each and ready for action. A chat with James about drills in the event of the various things that could cause us to go for a swim relaxed us both and we settled into the flight.
It was a particulary beautiful night sky for us to savour as we sailed east off the Kosi bay coastline having a last chat to Maputo ATC. Wisps of light cloud lit by the half moon drifted beneath us at a healthy pace, we were enjoying a good breeze right from behind, the way we like it.
We were set to make good time, all weather sources reported good weather except for a couple of renagde storm cells hanging around the southern end of Madagascar. No problem to us – we will see them, route north past them and then the last run to reunion. Now we are chilled and content, so all sorts of fun things start happening in that slick little silver cocoon. After all we are going to spend a lot of time in there!
So, out comes the iPod, music chosen, Coolerbox out, dinner chosen and served. Life is sweet, we are relaxed and things are dandy, tailwind still good and we are styling. Evan the super new upgraded satellite tracker is tested and we have sent and received our first text msg. This means Mike and our team of good friends will be able to warn us of bad weather ahead and redirect us. Perfect – I mean what could possibly spoil this cruise?
So with full tummies and Bob Dylan making us happy we voted that I sleep a while as James was still refining the new fuel transfer recording system and we sailed on at about 130 knot ground speed I lay down on a perfectly reclined seat watched the stars. I even made a wish with every shooting star I saw before closing my eyes and floating off to dreamland. (It turns out August 5 to 8 has the best shooting stars of the year!)
After a very fine nap I woke up and the picture was a little different. Clouds had got thicker and now the lovely star lit night was a white ceiling. Up a little down a little and we managed to spend only short periods in the 'white house'. About an hour before reaching Madagascar things seemed to clear and happiness prevailed – but then those storms we were warned about. Well, they were indeed an impressive show of mother nature's energy, but we managed to route north of them by violating Madagascar restricted airspace (sorry) and they were just a pretty show for us to watch as we sailed past. Now James was ready for a little well deserved sleep, so I prepared the space behind his seat and after briefing me for the happenings for the next hour or so, he reclined with his favourite pillow and went off to sleepy land.
James woke as we were passing the South east end of Madagascar, casually said “Madagascar”, scanned the instruments and immediately fell back into slumber. Bob was still keeping us in good song and we had covered all the instruments with thin fabric to reduce the effect of their glow on our night vision. The moon had set and the autopilot was doing a very fine job flying us to Reunion. At this stage I was really having to strain my eyes to see any hint of a horizon, so that in the event of an autopilot failure or an artificial horizon glitch I could immediately take over and fly. Soon, though, I could see no horizon at all out of the cockpit.
It just got darker and darker and darker, so I woke James and we discussed the situation – we could still see the lights from Madagascar, so worst case we could turn towards there. But we chose to fly on – after all we have two EFISs and two separate attitude sensors, we have tested this wonderful MGL instrument system and are entirely happy with it performance and reliability. So we pushed on , tailwind, lots of fuel and surely if there were problems ahead Mike would see them on the weather site and let us know via our fancy satellite text system.
We flew a while with total blackness out there relying on our trusted Instruments and autopilot. Then James switched on our Bright Kuntzelmann landing lights and only then we realised it was raining, and really hard. It seems crazy, but the Sling 4 is so quiet and the water whips off the windscreen so smoothly that we hadn't heard the rain crashing into us (over Bob Dylan!). We wanted to take a photo of the stunning site of the horizontal rain in the headlights, but the camera eluded at that point. We sat and enjoyed the water show in amazement (and some nervousness!).
At this point we had climbed to 10 000ft and the rain was intense. We did not really want to fly in the rain for too long so decided to climb as we could see what looked like stars above. So, prop controller to climb, a bit more power and up we went. 11 000ft, still rain, stars still lightly showing above, so we pushed on to 12 000ft. Still raining madly and no visibility at all outside the cockpit! Now what? We knew for certain if we lost instruments and autopilot we were in big dwang – the only real option would be “pull that parachute”.
Then it happened! The autopilot suddenly pitched radically and the world went wild. My first thought was “instruments and autopilot have failed, here we go”. But despite my first thoughts, it took only moments to guess the real problem – ICING! A quick glance – ASI ZERO and TAS indicator ZERO. Ground speed, however, 104 knots. What else could it be? (Thanks Marc Gregson for focusing our minds on this earlier in the day!)
James immediately disengaged the autopilot which was trying to pitch the nose down because of lower than stall airspeed and then pitch it up again to maintain altitude, a bit like a bucking bronco! He started flying the plane manually on the artificial horizon and only the GPS airspeed to look at, IAS and TAS stayed fixed at zero.
We all know this is an extremely dangerous moment to manage and many pilots have died in these conditions. James descended us perfectly using GPS trend speed to control pitch. As I looked out of the window with my mag light the leading edges of the wings were thick with a white crust of frozen water and large pieces were peeling off and running back over the wing skin. We were strangely calm as we sat in T shirts and life jackets in our heated cabin waited for the ice to melt.
At about 7 500ft the ASI suddenly sprang into life, started to rise and we guess it arrived at the truth at about 7000. First thing we did, we reset the trusted autopilot and then flew quietly in that rain for another 40 mins or so before breaking out the other side.
The sky was dark from there on but clear. We relaxed and enjoyed that wonderful feeling of just being alive, savouring every moment, every breath and thinking wonderful things. We were blessed with a most amazing sunrise over low cloud. James had a bit of fun descending through the cloud and we flew the lat 45 mins at about 2 000ft.
Reunion appeared as a very large mountain in the middle of that big blue Indian Ocean.
So that is were we are now, living and loving life to the full!
Big thank yous' to Laurent Mayer who has treated us like an old friend, arranged lunch, transport and (magnificent) accommodation at the Grand Hotel du Lagon, to Arnaud Lagesse who's family owns the hotel and to the Roland Garros Reunion Aero Club, for hangarage and discounted fuel.
Next the Maldives. Anyone care to join us for a night flight through the ITCZ?
After all there are two extra seats!
Monday, 8 August 2011 Safely in Réunion
James & Jean are still settling in Réunion after a long flight & as soon as we get any updates from them we will post it for you.
In the meantime, the one aviation forum in South Africa has more photos of yesterday's departure which you can go and have a look at at the following link http://www.avcom.co.za/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=80456&start=195.
Monday, 8 August 2011 Over Halfway to Reunion
James and Jean are now over the halfway mark to Réunion Island and we can see they are flying closer to Madagascar's coast at the moment.
A bit of info on Réunion: it is a French island situated about 200 km (120 miles) south west of Mauritius. To get an idea of how it looks we have included a video below of photos taken of Réunion Island with some very nice vibey music to put you all in an island vibe.