COMBINED LOG FROM THE SEYCHELLES
Phew – that was close! At some stage during this trip things had to get plain terrifying, and it finally happened last night. On the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sri Lanka we were talking about the highs and lows of our trip and how we’ve struggled with the time and effort associated with the admin associated with trips like this. At most stops we spend the whole or most of a full day preparing for the next flight, and in some countries it’s particularly difficult. Even in Malaysia, we spent two hours trying to get into the airport at 3am, then waiting, after we’d taxied to the holding point, for permission to fly at lower than FL160 (16 000 feet) (our plane can’t go that high, especially with 300kg of additional fuel). Finally we had to return to the terminal building and wait for sunrise to fly at our chosen level.
Early in the Sri Lanka flight both of us expressed our desire to avoid having to go through all the admin associated with an international stop-over there. So pretty soon we came up with the idea of cutting that short by simply landing, paying the landing fees, buying fuel, some food, doing our toilet chores and simply taking off immediately for the Seychelles. After some discussion we settled on that. Oh yes, and doing an oil change, plug clean and engine check on the apron as well.
We landed in Colombo in rain and darkness, and while James ventured into the terminal building to make the payments, check weather, file a flight plan, buy food and so on, Mike did an oil change, plug clean, engine check and refuel, from 44 gallon drums, on the apron, in a storm and using a head-torch for light. It took 3 hours from landing to take-off. And that’s where the real trouble started.
We took off in the dark, in heavy rain, and we were exhausted already. Our weather specialists from Exeter, England had advised us to remain east of E75 degrees until at the equator, to avoid embedded storms, so we kept well left of the ideal track. Still, it poured cats and dogs for the first three hours and if our Voyagers had failed, it would have been a matter of minutes before we were in the ocean. We gritted our teeth, didn’t say much and just pretty much held thumbs. We couldn’t believe how much water had to be pouring into the intakes of the engine, but it just kept purring away. What an incredible experience.
When the dawn did eventually come, 8 hours into the flight, it was one of the most special dawns ever for both of us and we were rewarded with beautiful cloudscapes and a whole bunch of rainbows to left and right. Still, we were more than 1 000 nautical miles from our destination, and after a long night of non-stop headwinds, our instruments only gave us an 800 nautical mile range. We tried to climb to 9 000 foot to avoid the headwind, but it again increased to a constant 23 knots directly on the nose. So, while James took a short nap, Mike descended again to 4 500 feet and found a tail wind which followed us the whole way to the Seychelles.
Arriving at the Seychelles was another emotional moment and the airport staff were pleasant and interested. Now we’re quaffing a second beer each and finishing this off to send home before having a swim and hitting the sack. Every which way you look at it we’ve been hitting it hard – even without the weather on both the Sri Lanka and Seychelles legs, at landing we’d been flying for 32 of the last 35 hours. We deserve a break and we’re in recovery mode so that we’re strong for our arrival home on Thursday. Please don’t expect too many logs while we’re here in these Paradise Islands!
JAMES AND MIKE