I woke up at 3 am this morning to check the weather – Sias had written out a very nice summary for me – I also got hold of the World Wide Aviation Weather Forecasting Centre in the UK. Tim Parsonson usually does this job but seeing it was in the middle of the night I took the redeye shift. The weather today is certainly better than yesterday with fewer CB’s which means less chance of flying into a nasty storm. During the day they can dodge them but at night the only way they can see them is by looking for lightning and staying well clear. That was why they changed course at the southern tip of Madagascar on the previous leg – they saw lightning and turned away from it.
James and Jean were in good spirits but I could tell they were anxious .. James told me that they had managed to actually fill up an extra 120 litres in the fuel containers on the rear seats. I did a quick calculation – with the 560 L of fuel their takeoff weight would be in the region of 1080 kg at take off. That is over 200 kg over MAUW. I am looking forward to hearing what the flying was like at that weight.
I read James an e-mail that we received last night from the Male ATC where he said that the Sri Lanka CAA and air force had approved their flight into their airspace. So James then cancelled the previous flight plan and made a new one straight to Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo. When they started the reunion ATC said they had a problem with the flight plan as Sri Lanka said they didn’t have permission to enter their airspace. So, James then called the Reunion ATC and asked if he can cancel that flight plane and reactivate the original one but for 2 hours later (their new take off time was 8 am instead of 6am local time). OK, so that was all good but when they were about to taxi out the ATC told them that Sri Lanka had now given permission so the whole process started again.
Eventually they took off at just before 7 am SA time (0500 UTC). They are now 6 hours into the flight which means they are a quarter of the way there. Amazing to think of them alone out there over that vast ocean cocooned in their warm and comfortable cockpit, they will be listening for any change in the engine noise while watching the instruments like a hawk, constantly calculating range and fuel burn, planning, checking, watching. And they will be tired. Ahead of them there will now be vast towering CB’s which they would be dodging … and their only contact with the outside world would be the very occasional chat with overflying airliners.
About an hour ago I called the ATC at Diego Garcia ATC (7° 18′ 48″ S 72° 24′ 40″) – a USA military base – and asked them to see if they could get in touch with ZU-TAF via airliners in 5 hours time as they pass 600 km to their west.
Next contact is with Male in the Maldives at the end of the day to give the boys an update on the weather going into Sri Lanka.
I’ll post more details as I get themMike
Below is a mp3 snippet of the contact the guys still had with Réunion ATC after they had taken off and started routing North.
* Thanks goes to liveATC.net for making this possible