jeudi 20 avril 2017

Time flies and so does HB-IRJ

40 days, that's how many days since the DC-3 left Switzerland for its adventure. 40 days of follow ups, 40 days of many emails per day to coordinate on a day to day operation what can be done in order to prevent the crew of being stuck somewhere without any fuel, permit to fly or landing permit. Out of these 40 days, some have been way more hectic than others. Let's have a look

Leg 1

The first stop was Avignon (LFMV) in France, after only about 1h20 of flight time. As soon as I was on my way home, the phone rang, I missed a heart beat when the lady at the handling in Avignon told me she had a call from the Tower telling her the DC-3 changed its course to fly back to Geneva. She had no other information available so I started to call several people and finally called directly the Tower in Geneva, reaching a friend who checked on his radar screen and reassured me that HB-IRJ was indeed on its way south again...after having to turn back because they simply forgot to shoot enough pictures over Lake Geneva and the famous water fountain! Here is the result 

Leg 2

After refueling and a short overnight in Avignon, the city chosen by Pope Clement V in 1309 as his residence during the Council of Vienne, the crew and the journalists on board departed for Zagreb in Croatia. The welcoming arrangement in Croatia was a total blast,  two MiG-21 were awaiting at the border and escorted the DC-3 up to Zagreb where a huge celebration was done. Mr. Milivoj Borosa, a highly decorated Colonel once jumped from DC-3s after WWII at the former Yugoslavian Army. 

Flying as fast as they could (130kts) while the MiG is almost falling from the sky!

Leg 3

The next flight was towards Athens, along the Croatian coast, a rather long flight, more than 5 hours due to airspace restrictions. The layover in Athens was very short, only refueling, a little bit of sleep and off they went to Tel Aviv, also a pretty long flight over the sea this time and political reasons requires us to have some special means of identification but, hey...I am not supposed to say more here!

Beaches and downtown Tel Aviv during the approach, thunderstorm in the vicinity

Leg 4

On March 14th, trying to avoid most of the icing conditions enroute  towards Jordan, the crew reached one of the oldest city of the World still inhabited, Amman. There, a nice and well deserved beer  and a nice bed awaited the DC-3 crew, that lacked a lot of sleep since their departure 6 days ago! The event that took place in Amman the following days were am(man)azing! The Royal Jordanian Falcons, the national aerobatic team, flew together with the big iron! These pictures speak for themselves

Leg 5

Out of Amman it was a great opportunity to check our fueling capacity, especially our two turtle packs that had to be filled completely in order to fly to Bahrein, stop there, make some local flights and also thereafter fly to Doha in Qatar. There isn't any AVGAS available in Bahrein, despite being one of the first country to exploit oil and make a lot of money with it, is now only what we call a petro-monarchy but doesn't produce oil anymore. So AVGAS wasn't available and if needed, had to be shipped across and was a rip off regarding our budget. So we carried our own fuel, that's it!

The Royal Jordanian Falcons escorted the DC-3 on its way to Bahrein over the Dead Sea and Petra, who hasn't heard of that incredible antique city?

Leg 6

Local flights in Bahrein were finally denied and the airplane and crew carried its way towards Doha the next day, still according our schedule, better than the Airlines! Landing in Doha and seeing all these beautiful skyscrapers during the approach, what a day!

Leg 7

It is normally well known that when we talk about desert, we imagine dryness, sandstorm, hot climate. Today was different than the other days in Dubai. A huge thunderstorm went off and the DC-3 landed exactly after the heavy rain. However, when the heavy rain isn't on the airfield, it could be on the approach, at least it gave form to some beautiful pictures

Some days were spent in Dubai, our first tech stop before moving forward on the tour. It was also a big opportunity for Breitling to show its brand and the crew was welcomed like the Prince of Arabia! They did quite some local flight too, some over the city of Dubai and its surroundings.

Palm Jumeirah

Leg 8

A big challenge was awaiting our crew from now on. Since Gaby flew until Dubai, Paul took over with Francisco for the rest of the trip and Daniel is onboard to fulfill his duty as cameraman. I said a big challenge because they have to fly to Karachi in Pakistan where  they will have only two hand pumps to fill up the tanks. They also need to fill up to maximum take of weight as we need to use all and every drums we ordered! A hard task that necessitates some strong muscles!

Leg 9

After this stopover in Pakistan, it was time to continue to one of the most challenging place to land and technically speaking, due to its performance limitations. Nagpur, center of India, 40 degrees Celsius! Nice and too warm , also very humid, making a density altitude almost to the limits of the DC-3 when flying fully loaded. In Nagpur itself the DC-3 made some local flights with some very enthusiastic people from the local community. If you go and have a look at the Breitling DC-3 Facebook page you will end up to this great picture of the "Plane Spotter India". It is also the goal of the Tour to inspire young people across the World to the dream of Flight. Everyone was so inspired by the passion of these young persons.

Leg 10

Everything runs smooth, too smooth...
Bangladesh had to throw a spanner in the works today when announcing that our ordered AVGAS got stuck in open seas, impossible to clear customs! And Chittagong was a stop we couldn't avoid to be able to refuel before continuing towards Phuket the next day! What shall we do? Start crying? Nope.
Have you ever heard of White Rose Aviation? They are doing a fantastic job, its an Aviation Company based in the UK who specializes in landing permits, overfly permits and also has a tremendous goodwill of people all along the World. They were the ones who gave us the inputs to use one handling company or the other. So Mike from White Rose Aviation called Jee from Thai Handling who was so quick to organise AVGAS fuel in Chiang Mai. This way we could try to avoid Chittagong and fly to northern Thailand and refuel there. This would make a 9h flight. Weather condition could be challenging in Thailand and Chiang Mai is surrounded by high peaks. Legal fuel reserves need to be taken into account. That should work, negative, revision, that will work!
Thanks Jee and thank you Mike, we were able to fly and avoided some nasty thunderstorms over Chittagong. Probably destiny, fate need to be taken into account also!!

Safely landed after 8h07 minutes of flight!

Leg 11

Starting a DC-3 engine can be troublesome to say the least. Well, if you apply the correct procedure which calls for turning the blades 15 times (to make sure the 14 cylinders are lubricated) if cold, leaving the mixture to cut off while engaging the starter and giving just enough fuel priming while you wait for a smooth running and THEN engage the mixture, then you should be fine. However, today, it wasn't. No chance to start the engine number 2, the one on the starboard side. A faulty fuel pump and carburetor. Imagine, just a day after our longest flight so far! Again, sheer luck! So we needed to find a replacement carburetor and also a fuel pump. Singapore, there they were those spare parts. Shame, 4 days later we would have been there anyway! FedEx brought the parts, Paul and Francisco worked it out and off they went, later than planned and really fatigued as they worked day and night and had to be in Phuket the next morning in order to fly side by side for some photo shootings over Koh Phi Phi. And Breitling organized every bits of it with Katsuhiko Tokunaga (profesional Aviation Photographer) so we couldn't miss the rendez-vous.

Leg 12

As the days go by, the same ritual remains. No place have been visited without being escorted, welcomed and Kuala Lumpur was no exception today! Welcomed by four PC-7 MKII, proudly made in Switzerland, escorting a proudly swiss registered DC-3 made in USA! The event in Kuala Lumpur went very well and it was again a great opportunity to show how Aviation evolved from the 1930s'!

Over Penang Bridge

Leg 13

The final leg of this first big part of the Breitling DC-3 World Tour ended up in Singapore Seletar Airport. A huge event was held over there and many local flights also took place in Singapore itself. The Media also talked about both Breitling and the DC-3 on many occasions during its stay in Singapore.

Having flown for 4 weeks in a row with a lot of flights between every legs, the DC-3 needs to be maintained and this wouldn't be possible without the great help from Aerometal International LLC, our main maintenance provider based in Aurora, Oregon. If you want to have a look where Paul Bazeley (above on the picture) has his maintenance plant, then look here! Pilot and Engineer, best combination when flying DC-3s'. These old Ladies need 100 hours of maintenance work for every hour of flight. I'll let you guess the amount of maintenance for our World Tour...
Tomorrow 21st April 2017 will see the re launch of the World Tour from Singapore. The flight will be a 7h one to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. Here are the forecasts for tomorrow's flight! 

From Singapore to Kota Kinabalu, the red spot!

Forecast for Singapore

Winds and precipitations