vendredi 10 mars 2017

9th March 2017, a day to remember

On the morning of March 9th, 1940, a baby was born in the name of "Flagship Cleveland", routed to the American Airlines delivery center. Today, exactly 77 years later to the date, the Breitling DC-3 HB-IRJ takes the air for one of its most memorable trip, a round the World tour that will see Her and its crew touching down in 28 countries and fly a tiny bit more than the Earth circumference. 
Before doing so, Breitling organized a very high security transfert of its 500 Breitling DC-3 World Tour watches that will travel with the airplane across the World. Here are some "Top Secret" pictures I was able to sneak from a special hidden camera in my wallet.

Once everything was set up, Breitling organized a Press & Media conference at the Four Seasons Hotel Des Bergues in Geneva, this is one of the highest ranked hotel in Geneva and very close to their  Breitling Boutique opened in September 2016 with Breitling Ambassador John Travolta himself. The ambiance during the conference was professional but also relaxed, everyone knowing what to say and everything ran like a swiss watch, basically this is all it is about isn't it?

The Press conference was also for Breitling a possibility to introduce to the audience one of the famous watch that will fly with us, here are some pictures

The backside of it
Jean-Paul Girardin, Breitling's Vice President and Francisco Agullo, Fonder of the Breitling DC-3 Association

What went on next is beyond explainable, the intensity of the feeling everyone had was almost unbearable. We first went to the airplane, crew only, Francisco Agullo having to answer a lot of questions from the journalists. As the preparation of HB-IRJ takes so much time, we finished exactly 2 minutes before the journalists bus arrived on the tarmac. One of the last prep on these 14 remaining seats was to install life jackets. Yes, Lake Geneva is still cold, no one really wants to swim for a long time though!

Marie, the helper of the day for life jackets and also professional photographer !!

It is in awe that every single journalist present today looked at the Breitling DC-3, splendid and looking just like brand new from the factory. Around Her were a lot of different Boeing and Airbus, all appearing boring compared to the beauty of HB-IRJ

It was quite hectic, answering to questions and at the same time dealing with all the last minutes troubles and necessary checks to get the flight to Avignon running smoothly. Once everything was ready, the whole crew posed in front of HB-IRJ for a family picture, before leaving for an ontime departure to southern France.

From left to right: Raphaël Favre, Paul Bazeley, Jean-Paul Girardin, Francisco Agullo, Gabriel Eveque

At 1405z, the task of closing the aircraft door was left to me, with the help of Thomas Hofmann, Maître de Cabine at SWISS International. 

At 1420z exactly, according to the restricted slots of Geneva International Airport, HB-IRJ went off for its World Tour and finally the only time towards a westerly direction. As always, you can follow the routing on the Breitling DC-3 website and the up to date Breitling news on the associated Breitling website

I would not finish this day without having a " Thank You" word for my fantastic parents, both present for this event and also for my wonderful girlfriend Marie. Having you three by my side for this journey is my continuous source of power. I love you

lundi 6 mars 2017

Following us on the Tour and actual routing

Bonjour tout le monde, Good Morning everyone!

Some people asked me about the routing. I can put the link to the Breitling website, dedicated to the DC-3. There you will find the actual up to date routing. We intend to leave Geneva to Zagreb in Croatia on the 9th March in the afternoon. However on the Breitling website it is still shown as a departure for the 10th, this is due to the weather, quite unpredictable those days. If everything runs as we want then it will depart on the 9th after the Press and Media flight. There is also our Breitling DC-3 own website where you will find the actual position of the DC-3, just like on Flight Radar 24!

Enjoy and I'll keep you in the loop soon

Early Morning glory (but eyes still glued!)

Alright folks, here is a photo post, not only do I want to explain our difficulties about this Round the World Tour but also there is time for some relaxation. Flying a DC-3 is like being in a time capsule, going back some seventy to eighty years and waking up to the marvel of a sunrise on such a beautiful airplane is worth a thousand cup of coffee! Enjoy thesis moments, taken in June 2016 during a flight to Geneva, on a beautiful morning across the Jura. There was a stop in Bern, our swiss Capital

The magic of an early start

A round radial Pratt and Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp

Creux du Van, near Neuchâtel in Switzerland

Cutting the water spout in half!

View of Geneva, Switzerland

Short finals to Bern

Those views will probably be seen by the journalists present on the 9th March for the Press and Media flight out of Geneva, lucky ones!

Once upon a time, there was Avgas available...

During the month of October 2016 we met several times, especially with Francisco, to determine who was going to do what. The enormous task of getting overflight permits and landing permits was left to Yannick Bovier who, together with Francisco flew on their Ecolight airplane Tour in 2010. You can also have a look at their website and incredible adventure at Azimut270 .

My task was to find Avgas. For those wondering why that could be so difficult, here is a long story about Aviation fuel be patient and read carefully . Maybe you'll like the shorter version. Basically older radial supercharged and boosted engines needed Avgas 115 back then, a high leaded fuel that was purple in color, compared to the actual blueish color of 100LL, the one used by many airplane engines nowadays, including the DC-3. That Avgas 115 fuel isn't used anymore, except for some high performance unlimited air races. 100LL is obviously still used but many countries restrict its use, for the sake of environment protection for some and also because it is too expensive to import for leisure aviation. Yes, not every country in this World has the chance to have flying clubs where pilots can hop in and rent a plane and then go for a 100$ burger. 

In contrary, Jet-A1 is the most used fuel now, from turboprop to jet powered airplanes. Some light aircraft also have diesel engines now that can use Jet-A1. So having this in mind, local air clubs in China, the Pacific area and even Russia don't carry a supply of Avgas 100LL. It is even forbidden in some part of the World to ship Avgas fuel. The nightmare was about to begin.

Here you see the two booklets I used to find handling agents and support at every single point the DC-3 was to land. This resulted in no less than 300 emails being sent across 20 countries! Of course you sometimes don't even get an answer from them, they probably thought we were too crazy to attempt to fly around the World in such an old airplane. But hey, we will manage!
Having had many contacts for those destinations, Mike, from White Rose Aviation got my draft and looked at it. Where necessary he then gave advise so that we chose a better option, in term of reliability and efficiency. Mike is managing his job perfectly and since 40 years has covered many airplane for either ferry flights permits and point of contact to find fuel. His knowledge of India and south east Asia was of great help in order to secure our Avgas demand. 

So here we are, Monday the 6th March 2017, our DC-3 having an other two days of intensive maintenance and preparation in Dole, France before being ready to go on its adventure. Stay tuned for more infos about what's going on on the D Day!