I slept well and woke up in time to a nice blue sky. A thunderstorm had just passed Kota Kinabalu and left the streets clean and shiny.
While the handler was taking my flightplan to the briefing office (nice service), I did my preflight inspection. All ready to go, he met me at the plane just to tell me ATC was still waiting on the Philipines to give me the OK to cross the border.
30 minutes and a few ATR departures and arrivals later, I was all good to go. Taxi and departure were done without any delays this time and I was soon cruising to my intermediate stop of Puerto Princesa. Technically an unnecessary stop but I was told by the client customs wanted to inspect the plane there.
Shortly after taking off the 4095m high Mount Kinabalu quickly dominated the view, towering above me. It’s located right in the Kinabalu (world heritage) national park.
2 Islands later I entered the country containing my destination. But not before I did one more takeoff in this fine lady. One green lush island with stunning white beaches followed the other.
I could swear I was looking at heaven (at least for a while) when passing a small banana shaped island with a white sandy beach in the hollow and lush forest on the other side. A morning swim was almost worth a ditching but I opted against it in the end 🙂
The flight was only 2 hrs and 30 minutes. Soon after passing the first mountain range in Palawan I started a slow descent to come down lean and fast. There is not that much traffic so I was able to fly straight to a left hand base. I made it nice and short still buzzing along at 150 knots a few miles from the field. Throwing out the gear and first stage of flaps is like a parking brake and as I turned short final I selected full flaps. 2 minutes later I was on my parking stand on the north end of the apron.
I calculated I could reach Manila without refuel but alas the ordered, but still sealed, barrel of fuel could not be refunded. So we filled her up under the cool shade of my multi-functional umbrella and put the rest in the empty barrels I was carrying. Surely the client will be able to use it later on a remote island somewhere.
Just as I wanted to depart again the tower was unable to give me clearance and asked me to call her. Turns out that Manila does not accept IFR flights below 180 knots (I’m flying about 135 KIAS). VFR traffic is only allowed in during 2 time slots per day, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. The next one was at 4 PM and it was now almost noon. The flight there is 2 hours so I decided on brakes release at 1:45 PM.
I went to wait in the VIP area but I was chased out after an hour due to some statesman passing through later.
Half an hour of a boring wait later I gladly went to sit under my greenhouse windshield to depart again. It was getting really hot outside already but the Bonanza didn’t really seem to bother much.
For the very last time I heard the engine roar to full power again, right on time. The scenery was pretty much the same and so was the weather. The line of convective weather was left behind me somewhere in the south and nothing seemed to initiate in my vicinity.
On the way I had some trouble receiving the approach frequencies around me because of my low altitude. In this case I usually make some blind transmissions every 15 minutes or so.
When flying in area’s like this (limited coverage) it’s always a good idea to ask for your next frequency before you leave the range of your last station. Alternate between blind transmissions on both frequencies until the next frequency is able to pick you up. If you hear another aircraft, note the call sign and try to get it to relay a position report for you (and return the favor when someone asks you).
Manila approach picked me up quite early and for about 45 minutes I got to listen to what seemed to be a very busy airspace. I was guided down in steps and about 30 NM out I was order to do a 360, one of many to come it turned out. After completion I was cleared down to ‘traffic altitude’. I had no idea what that was and I tried to ask but either he didn’t hear me (3 times) or he was too busy to be bothered with small traffic. Logic defines that altitude to be circuit altitude so I just descended to 1000ft and was soon very close to the airport when approach told me to ‘switch to tower for monitoring’. Monitoring? I called tower and again I didn’t receive any clear instruction on what to do, what runway to land, what sequence I had or where the other traffic was. Now I was really close to the airport and I can’t press ‘pause’ like in flight sim, so I opted to start doing 360 on a right base position for the main runway. One airliner after another landed as I was circling and circling. I tried to get an EAT (expected approach time) like a boss, but she just told me (and other traffic) to keep holding. Indefinitely, I suppose.
about 20 minutes later I was suddenly cleared to ‘cross the runway’ so I guess I was going to land on the small runway. I flew over the threshold of the main runway onto downwind for the small one and was told to ‘hold’ there once more. 2 orbits later I could proceed to base and hold there. Wow, this is quite a non-standard circuit 😛
After one hold I was cleared to land and told to expedite. I came in fast and low, slowing down right at the end and stopping very short to vacate.
Up to now I thought I was going to the south of the airport (as was agreed) so I turned right per instructions until I came face to face with an A320. Ground told me to hold as they coordinated with Philjets. Soon after I was told to turn right again and taxi back to where I came from only to find myself in a line of 5 aircraft. I felt like a big boy holding to takeoff at New York. It took about another 20 minutes to cross the runway and finally taxi through the ‘delta gate’ into a narrow taxiway (more like a street). On every corner there was a marshaller. 3 guys later I reached my final destination, the Philjets hangar. The prop wound down and the gyros slowly came to rest. Here I am.
They put the plane inside and I removed everything I could find from the interior. All the documents were handed over and I reported the small snags.
After collecting and packing all my stuff it was time to say goodbye and go to the hotel.
I spent the night with the agent I ended up organizing most of the trip with and who was my direct contact. We went to a french bar where they served, to my surprise, many Belgian beers including my favorite (Omer!).
The next day we also spent together to figure out all the receipts and do the final inspection. I booked my ticket home for the next afternoon.
Before I realized it was in a huge 777 reflecting back on this epic trip. Not many people get to do this and even though I had my troubles I was given the opportunity. More on that in my next post.
The Bonanza and especially the magnificent IO-550, the best piston in the world, took me 14250 km crossing 3 continents in roughly 60 hours. At this point I had more than enough time in single pistons but a trip like this I could do a few times a year and still enjoy it. There is something about flying you cannot capture with words. This trip made the world seem very small and even though I did not get to spend much time on the ground I did see some amazing things. Never forget that people around the world, be it in Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India or any other country, all want the same. To be happy, to be safe and to help his fellow man. In 2016 try to remember the good in people and be positive. Chase your dream and treat other as you want to be treated, and good things will come to you.
I hoped you enjoyed this trip report and I look forward to writing many more. When I get back from the UAE I will process my videos and post them one at a time. Be sure to check in every now and then.
Thank you for reading and see you all on the next one!