mercredi 31 mai 2017

Blue Impulse and Matsushima children flights

Weather forecast for the day looks promising for our midday departure from Sendai. It does however looks quite foggy for the rest of the afternoon and especially in the evening. Our TAF (Terminal Area Forecast) reports some coastal fog to appear at 1800 local time, with overcast at 800 feet and scattered clouds at 300 feet. The only approach available at Matsushima is a PAR (Precision Approach Radar) which is basically a talk down approach. Not so easy to fly a precise degree of correction on a DC-3! 
Today we had a total of 5 flights, including the two positioning ones. If you want to see what it looks like inside the cockpit of the DC-3 during take-off, then have a look at that video!

There is also one camera that shows you the exterior, despite the windshield being a tad dirty, sorry!

We flew a short flight of about 15 minutes towards Matsushima AFB, landing on runway 07, still with a good visibility.

A huge welcome ceremony was to follow, and here is the result, all the kids that were to be flown with the whole Air Base people!

After this the Blue Impulse flew their air show right over the DC-3!

On our local flights we had again all the kids coming to see us up front, all wide eyes open!

Paul and Francisco did the two middle flights with kids and on the last one, the weather exactly dropped down like planned, leaving them with the only option to do a PAR to runway 07! Not something you often do! Then we flew back to Sendai, all IFR and at night! My very first night IFR flight, with an ILS to runway 27 at Sendai and especially a good crosswind of around 30 its during the approach, only 9 knots on the ground, fortunately enough for me!!

To this day, we flew a total of 10 flights with children here in Japan since I came to Kobe on the 19th. Some great memories.

lundi 29 mai 2017

Fukushima to Sendai, our base for the next 7 days

28th May

After checking out from Hamatsu Hotel, we made our 40 minutes drive to Fukushima airport, where we loaded the rest of our stuff. We also did a briefing with the Bonanza pilot to make sure we all understand what to do and when. It has been decided to do two low passes over the airport and then back towards the north for Sendai. Unfortunately today was a windy day and it was quite bumpy flying low with our great DC-3, our poor stomach had to deal with it anyway ! The good thing is that we were able to overfly the airport as planned and do some great photo shots of the rice fields around Koriyama.

Once we landed in Sendai we refueled our airplane directly and Paul repaired an oil temperature connector who failed and gave us an incorrect (or actually no) reading of the left engine oil temperature. An easy way of not having tons of tools in your pocket is to have this little tool, called the « Snoopy Tool » for an obvious reason !

While Paul did his job, I looked at the IFR/VFR procedures to use over the Pacific Ocean in order to comply exactly with the Custom requirements. It is very easily forgotten how much bureaucracy is needed for such flights, especially when you cross a border and you’re flying with an airplane that could maybe not even climb high enough to establish correct communication between ATC and us! So we will have to make sure we are awaited and not shot down over the Pacific ! Here are some flight preparation pictures.

The problem of having a strange sense of humor always puts me into bizarre situations...I was unfortunate enough to be outside today and got hit on finals by an Airbus A300...

Time is to go for dinner now, but before this, a group picture taken with my new selfie stick, what a revolution ;-)

Paul, Francisco, Mr. Isa, our DC-3 and myself!

 29th May

Today is an easy day for me but a busy one for Paul. He has to do some maintenance on the exhausts of our left engine, engine number 1. Some leaks were found from the collector and although this isn’t dangerous at first, if you have a fuel leak from the same place and have very hot gases close to it then it can become a very bad day. So better fix it now while time permits. You can see Paul doing his work

This is the old exhaust, that needs some repair.

When we fly on the tour, we need to make sure everyone can follow us on our daily trips across the World. For that reason, we have a Spot satellite tracking system that we must turn on before each flight, except local flights. This is what it looks like under the blue sky here in Sendai.

samedi 27 mai 2017

Fukushima local flights for children

26th May

Today’s weather doesn’t look promising at all, low clouds and light drizzle is present. We can not even see the mountains and we are supposed to fly to Aizuwaikamatsu castle which lies in the middle of them. Anyway, while waiting that the weather to improve from low overcast of 300 feet to some VMC ceiling, we did start our engines and went down the runway. Just taxiing the airplane was already putting a huge smile on kids faces and they were amazed to be part of our engine runup. We could accomodate the small guys and gals up front on the jumpseat while doing so and also while taxiing down the runway. Amazing stuff ! More pictures came after this and on the next day’s newspaper we were all over the place !!

We received a gift from the 6th grade Elementary School in the form of our new Captain, who needed a lot of attention from Francisco. He was very happy to have this little new guy with us, who weights its good 8kgs (20 lbs).

We were finally able to fly in the afternoon and I had the pleasure to do the second leg. Here are a couple pictures of both flights, towards Koriyama and back over the rice fields to RJSF. Together with Mr. Kaoru Kobayashi, Mayor of Fukushima, we also had the pleasure to fly an ANA Captain who was an ex DC-3 Pilot back in the days, together with his wife, who was a Stewardess also on the DC-3 back then. Here she is on the jump seat for landing.

Koriyama under low ceiling

After dinner that day we sampled some incredible japanese whisky, 17 years old single malt. For someone like me who doesn’t particularly like whisky, this time was a real treat!

Smoky corean bbq

Whisky for our pleasure!

27th May

The second day was fortunately a tad better weather wise, we also did three flights, and here are a couple pictures.

Over Koriyama city

Short finals runway 01 at RJSF

I must admit that flying with these kids and seeing them and us with such a huge smile on our face makes me realize how wonderful this experience is and how grateful I am to be doing the job as a pilot. This tour isn’t at all any kind of job of course, its a pleasure we share between passionate people, but being here now is also thanks to my primary job as an airline pilot. 

The day couldn't be ending without a proper briefing with the local ATC. It is of utmost importance that everyone knows what we intend to do. For this, two local ATC Officers took time to meet us, Francisco, Gregory and I to discuss what we will do.

Going towards the Terminal, we enjoyed also looking at the DC-3 model especially done for us by Mr. Suzuki, who actually did two exact same models, one for us to keep and given to us in front of the real DC-3!

Looks real!

Going back to the hotel we met Paul Bazeley, Paul being the Engineer and also Pilot of the DC-3. A great time ahead with Paul!!

Tonight was the last opportunity to enjoy Koriyama and Breitling Japan organized a fantastic dinner in a Pub, a groups picture always says more than anything else !

Tank you Breitling Japan!

mercredi 24 mai 2017

Time off to Tokyo on 23rd and 24th May

23rd May

This morning we let ourselves waking up without alarm clock. Too difficult to get enough rest lately. But we still woke up early, so after breakfast we head toward the train station and pick up one of the fastest Shinkansen, the Yamabiko Shinkansen towards Tokyo.

A nice touch from Breitling Japan is to enable Marie and I to get a nice hotel in Tokyo, the Sheraton Miyako. Close to the train station and also to a very nice park in the city center. We walked quite a bit and stopped for lunch, having missed cheese so much, I cannot help but eat a full Camembert, all by myself !

We headed to the Yoyogi Park, an old Emperess garden which is a heaven in the city center, especially today, 29°C in Tokyo with a lot of humidity. I won’t complain, the weather has been so great until now ! This park also contains an inner park with a Iris river, not quite blosoming now but nice anyway.

Strange leaf with a half moon-face!

After having spent some 1.5 hours walking there, we stopped for a well deserved ice cream and thereafter continued our routing back to the hotel, this time wandering around this amazing city.

When we arrived at the hotel it was already almost dark and after a short shower we went for dinner. What a nice present to spend some time off with my lovely girlfriend. Sadly, the next day will be the one she goes back to Switzerland, someone has to work and bring money home, hey !

24th May

This morning again we wake up at 5.45am to be ready for our train ride to Narita airport. Waving goodbye to Marie isn’t a simple thing to do, we won’t see each others until mid June! 

I take the train this time alone back to Koriyama, where I’ll spend the day working on this blog and also doing some work for our Shemya permit and electronic Custom and Border Protection autorisation for the USA arrival. Our Shemya landing permit is still pending and Francisco is working hard to make it work. Katsu also, thanks to his incredible connexions around the World!

lundi 22 mai 2017

Cross country flying in Japan

When we talk about early morning flight at easyJet, we talk about 5am checkin, so a 3.30am wake up time ! Fortunately, with our DC-3, an early morning flight is a one that departs at 8am. For now! We might have to adapt to this later on our route !

Marie waiting for departure, 1940's style!

A beautiful day on this 22nd May, with an even more beautiful flight to go. We will be departing Kobe towards the north east coast of Japan towards Shizuoka and the Mont Fuji , or Fujisan. A photo flight with our great Katsu is planned over there. We depart together with the Bonanza on a loose formation flight and make our own navigation, flying low at the beginning then climbing towards 9500 feet for a smooth and enjoyable ride!

Along the east coast of Japan

Talking to ATC due to many airspace restrictions

Our fully GPS/GoPro equipped DC-3

Overhead Nagoya Centrair Airport (NGO)

Having to be in a good position to correctly shoot us and Mont Fuji together, Katsu calls for an altitude of 12'500 feet around Mont Fuji. So we climb to that altitude after waypoint NUMAR, that we can easily find on our GNS 430 and also on the Garmin 695, with our Worldwide database.
Here is a picture of the planned routing, briefed the day before with the Bonanza pilots and especially Hirata who needs to ask for the special flight permit to this area.

During this incredible photo shooting flight, Marie sometimes pops up in the flight deck to say hi, always so great to see you my love !

The Bonanza ahead of us, turning left, I say again, LEFT!

From the Bonanza, thank's to Katsu!

 After 1 hour of shallow turns at this place, we head towards the US Air Force base of Yokota. We contact them and they give us transponder code to enable us to go through their airspace. Always funny when the controller asks us the question « Report your country of registration ???? » and then also « report type of aircraft? » « Switzerland??? On a DC-3 ???!....Have a safe flight ! »

Indeed we will have a safe flight, actually a lot of them ! The routing then brings us onwards to the north of Tokyo City, we avoid the airspaces of both Haneda and Narita, very busy airports. Talking with Tokyo TCA isn’t a problem at all, they monitor our progress and coordinates quite well with other Centers. We can hear all the westbound international flights calling on the same frequency, KLM, Lufthansa, Air France…I am eager to hear SWISS calling and greet them for their return flight towards Zürich but we miss them by just a couple minutes.

Flying up north we arrive over Fukushima Airport and talk to them for the overfly, strange feeling of the one we have, going so close to where such a catastrophic accident happened. We will come back to Fukushima (RJSF) after refueling in Sendai (RJSS) which is about 35 minutes flight time to the north, along the coast. My pleasure to fly this leg and do the approach to Sendai, landing on runway 09 from the mountain on the north side, following an ANA Boeing 737.

Proceeding vertical RJSF (Fukushima) towards RJSS (Sendai)

We refueled our airplane and went for lunch, well needed lunch after that epic flight. After this, we headed south again to Fukushima, where we will be based for the next 5 days.
Marie rode with us on the jumpseat for the entire flight, take off and landing included! We had to depart IFR from Sendai, a requirement for today, which was a good exercice to do on a DC-3 ! Weather was good so it was more a VMC departure followed by radar vectoring to our cruising altitude of 6000ft today. We cancelled IFR close to Fukushima in order to descend over the mountains and avoid any IFR procedure that would increase our flight time. We have to protect our fuel for the next days as it is not available in Fukushima.

Now let’s have a look at the incredible welcome ceremony we had upon arriving in Fukushima ! Flowers, nice speechs and a lot of pictures. It is always amazing to see this and be at the center of it. Thank you Japan and thank you Breitling Japan for this amazing Welcome.

Until the 24th, we will also have 2 days off that will enable us two, Marie and I to go and visit Tokyo ! Before this, some incredible Sushis and vegetable Sushis at the Hamatsu Hotel japanese restaurant. Hard to understand the menu though, we managed it anyway !