James and I have just been for a walk to the top of the little hill overlooking the airport for some exercise … it is really hot and humid here which takes a lot of getting used to. Right now James has run to the airport to switch the master off on the plane … after we land we always make a point of leaving it on for a while to make sure that the last tracker position transmission has been sent before switching off. I am sure the battery will be flat…
UNHAPPY MONEY MATTERS
Although it is less exhausting to fly during the day we are nonetheless tired after 12 hours of flying so when we arrived at Chuuk yesterday we were not happy to be bombarded by officials demanding this paper and that paper and mostly money. It just reminded me of Landing at Port Harcourt in Nigeria. Three immigration officials were unhappy because they said they had waited up for us the previous night and that we really didn’t have permission to come into Micronesia. Well, I pretty well see through that one. They do not issue you with a clearance number so that when you arrive they have got something on you as an angle to get more money out of you. They cost us $125. They said tomorrow they will charge us another $40. Then the 2 guys from disease control and quarantine or something like that got us for $60, the customs guy said we can pay him tomorrow but that is going to cost us about $40, the airport personnel, landing and parking fees are $120 and again tomorrow it will cost us about another $40. It just feels unpleasant – particularly in the way it is handled … especially when you are tired and hassled.
CONTINENTAL FLIGHT 157
Brian, a young and friendly Micronesian who works for Continental Airlines was waiting for us on our arrival yesterday. About 30 miles before Pohnapei (we diverted over the Island to have a look – halfway to Chuuk) we heard the captain of Continental flight 157 talking to ATC at Pohnapei. As usual we gave a position report to Pohnapei as we approached and soon after that the captain of the Continental flight started asking us about our flight and the Sling and where we were from and if we had ever been to Oshkosh … it is such a thrill for James and I, alone in the middle of the Pacific to be in contact with the overflying airlines who once in a while strike up a real conversation with us.
Well what happened yesterday is the captain said that he was descending for a short stop at Pohnapei and that he would like to have a look at our plane and what followed was so great for us … we had the transponder on and so they were able to pick us up on their TCAS which they did and with that guidance they soon spotted us and came down past us like a rocket … we screamed in the cockpit with delight at having our own little airshow of a Boeing 737 shooting past us and they loved the little yellow bird. During our chat the captain asked us if we ever used a product called Rain-X on the canopy – never heard of it.
Soon they were airborne from Pohnapei and on their way past us (at 32,000 ft) heading to a quick stop at Chuuk. We asked them to relay our position and expected time of arrival at Chuuk which they did and off they went . Three hours later we heard them again as they got airborne and climbed out from Chuuk. The captain called us immediately and asked how we were doing and then mentioned that he had asked Brian to book a room at the nearby hotel for us and that he had left something for us.
During their stop they had taken the time to check out our website and so they wanted to know who was the guy with the glasses – Mike or James? James told him Mike, the old guy is the one with glasses! Cheeky don’t you think! So anyway, Brian handed us this yellow plastic bottle … Rain-X. The note on the side says “For: ZUTAF, crew Mike and James – from CA Art Hicks, FO Lous Medrano and FO Darren Mallot. Nice to meet you and have a safe flight.” Thanks so much guys you really lifted our spirits. Tomorrow we try Rain-X.
James is back, the battery was not flat amazingly enough.
Our primary instruments are 2 MGL Voyagers. Before we left we just didn’t take the time to set them up properly – actually I guess the truth is we didn’t know how we really wanted them set up because we just didn’t have the time or experience with them. The one great thing about these instruments is they really give you all the info you need to make good flying decisions. Like our flight to Hawaii – we felt we were on the ragged edge for that flight in the beginning … the Voyagers gave us our range and for the first 7 or so hours it looked like we were going to swim … but what happens on all the flights – as the winds change and as we burn off fuel and our speed increases we can instantly see our range and endurance and what sort of a safety margin we have. Before each flight we put in the total fuel we have on board and then the fuel flow sender just slowly counts it down. We have worked out that the sender is about 6% out – on the conservative side – and instead of putting in the correction factor we have left it like that … it’s our extra safety margin. Seems silly to not correct it (just a quick number change in the Voyager which will take all of 20 seconds) … anyway, it gives us comfort somehow!
There have been many flights where we have relied entirely on the instruments and they work really well although they have taken some getting used to as both James and I did our IF training using conventional instruments.
Day flights are of course a lot safer as we can see and in the unlikely event of us having to ditch we will not be flailing around in the ocean in the darkness. Also, like yesterday we were able to skirt all the nasty looking clouds.
THE ENGINE AND PROP
Both James and I are really comfortable in our decision to fit a 912S and the 1.8 Neuform prop. The combination of robustness and efficiency have allowed us to get the efficiency for range and thrust for take off. I feel confident that they are good and I cannot see any reason why they will stop working … the most likely reason for a failure will probably be an installation issue. A hose too close to the exhaust or blocked fuel filters of something like that. Still we check and watch and manage the engine and prop very very carefully – especially in flight. We watch the temperatures and prop RPM to get the maximum range and climb without cooking the engine at the same time. Once we are over land we are able to relax a little but over water … well, that does take its toll on your nerves a bit so we are very careful to not make a mistake.
FLIGHT TO INDONESIA
Now we must fuel up, file a flight plan, arrange customs and immigration and check the plane. Tomorrow the flight is about 11 hours. We definitely couldn’t have made it without these rest days. Thanks once again to everyone for the messages of support – we enjoy and appreciate them.