First things first – thanks to Sias Dreyer for setting up a magnificent weather tool for The Airplane Factory Aviators to use in the circumnavigation. More about that in a minute.
Sadly I failed to take a photograph of the left wing main tank off (perhaps someone else out there has one?), but to get at the B tank that was leaking it was necessary to drill out the rivets which hold the A tank in place. That was swiftly done by Mike, Jean, Jan and Buto, and the leak (actually a loose piece of hardware on the tank wall) was fixed in seconds. By 10h30 the tank had been re-riveted on and the aeroplane is again ready to fly. Bad weather off the coast, however, makes it wiser to leave tomorrow.
There was a great turnout for the departure – thanks to all supporters. Sadly most left a little early to see the Beamish family depart in style in an RV 7A and an Extra 300 – what a privilege!
Then after a Wimpy breakfast care of Jean’s sister, Hazel, we had a quick sit down to re-plan departure. Meanwhile Sias Dreyer, a veteran advice giver from 2009 circumnavigation, quickly walked the pilots through the weather webpage he’s created especially for the journey. Phoowaar, the web is powerful machine! The only way to really understand this thing is to have a look at it – see www.vfrplanner.co.za/mwx/sling.html . Choose the leg, choose the features you want to see, choose the time (over the next 5 days at 3 hour intervals!) and choose wind levels you want to see.
A good look at the three screen shots below shows how we’ve selected our departure time. Shot 1 is 0300Z Sunday morning. The cold front and associated cloud off the east coast are clear. (And a look at earlier and later times shows that they’re moving north). By shot 2, 1200Z Sunday (2pm local time), they’re enough north to avoid the most of them even departing from Johannesburg rather than Durban. Winds are also from behind, although the ice level is at 9 000 feet just behind the front, so care will have to be taken with that. The flight will take about 14 to 15 hours, so any departure from Johannesburg before about 16h00 local time will result in arrival before sunrise on Monday.
Shot 3, 2100Z (11pm local) on Sunday night shows a substantial cell on the south west coast of Madagascar. In Madagascar that’s midnight, so we won’t be able to see well. That means we’re going to route about 20 to 30km south of the island, rather than direct. By 0300Z, landing time at Reunion, the cell is still at Madagascar (so it’s not worth waiting it out by leaving a few hours later), and there’s a bit of cloud at Reunion, but nothing particularly heavy.
If you’re interested you could check out the hurricane currently over the China coast but looking at the Phuket to Songshan leg. Predicted movement can be tracked by checking progressive times.
Anyhow, all other things being equal, we’ll now depart Tedderfield at 15h00 Sunday, filled with fuel and packed to go, for Lanseria. There we’ll clear customs and depart for Reunion, direct, at 16h00 local time. I’m afraid we’ve decided to skip the Durban stop in the interests of simplicity.
James, Jean and Mike