In a way it was a blessing to have the delays. We worked so hard and so late every day that all of us were absolutely exhausted. So, early yesterday morning when Jean told James on the phone that we had a fuel leak that we absolutely had to fix and he then told Jean that we couldn’t leave anyway because the weather in Durban was bad and that we probably would not be able to get through … it was huge a relief. By early afternoon we had fixed the leak and checked the engine and rechecked the engine and rechecked everything so we all headed home for a much needed early night.
Like yesterday, we had lots of friends and family arrive at Tedderfield to see the courageous aviators off. I had thought of filling all the tanks at Tedderfield but after chatting to James and Jean we decided to be conservative and do the topup at Lanseria. After we had packed and James had finished filing the flight plan, 4 standard Slings, a Robin, an Extra 200 and the Silver Bullit took off for Lanseria. The flight was fun with all of us in close formation.
While James and Jean went into the terminal building to have a coffee and clear customs and immigration, Andrew and I looked after the filling up of the Sling 4 with Avgas. It took 195 litres to fill the tanks to their maximum capacity of 450 litres. The goodbyes were warm and cheerful but it was an anxious moment – this was their heaviest take off and they were about to fly off into the night. It looked like they lifted off after about 500 m ground roll and with a density altitude of 7,600 ft they climbed so well and were so fast that we had difficulty catching them … I had to ask them to slow down. We flew with them for about 20 minutes and then headed for home as it was starting to get dark.
When they were about 70km away to the east I got hold of them on the radio and they reported that everything was going well – the engine was performing perfectly with everything in the green and they had a tailwind.
Right now they are halfway to Madagascar and are looking good with clear weather for the next 3 hours .. and with quite good tailwinds. But.. There is a storm cell that seems to be developing off the south eastern edge of Madagascar. I am going to sleep now and will wake up again at 2am to see what the weather is doing. Luckily I can send them short emergency messages like “storm turn left 10°”. I’ll let you know.