My experience with RW showed me that I really have to post more on my blog. If I don’t, the website that he made and posts multiple fake reactions with WordPress accounts he made up on, gets a higher ranking than my own!
Since January I have really ignored him completely and that will be what I will do from now on.
If anyone at all is reading this, haha, please just leave a small comment below so this blog gets boosted above. Even if it’s just a dot.
One of the reasons that I haven’t posted much is ironically the reason why his fake website is on top, to not put everything online publicly. What I didn’t want to do is put random articles about aviation because there is enough of that already.
I will try to make some posts about my career which is progressing at a nice rate, but I might be vague about who I work for or what registration the plane is for the privacy of my clients.
Thanks all for your trust and cooperation. Anyone who knows me doesn’t have a doubt that the first search result is a page full of digested food.
Let’s get cracking!
A month ago I found myself travelling halfway across the world again. This time just sitting in the back for way too long on the way from Europe to sunny California.
I picked a school in Yuba City. Not a very interesting place compared to what’s close by but I was there for my FAA license and not to go sightseeing.
The first day I went to a fingerprint collector in Sacramento because that process takes a while and you need them cleared before commencing training. The guy told me, to my surprise, that it could take up to 7 days. Normally it’s more like 3 but there were a few holidays that week and they were generally busy as the aviation sector is picking up again.
On the second day I was here I went for my FAA CPL written. Not really that difficult if you prepare a bit by learning the National Airspace System and reviewing the basics. Of course my question app helped a lot after doing all the questions in study mode, which doesn’t just show you the answer but also explains it briefly.
After a week of study and waiting for my TSA clearance to come through, I finally got my first flight done. The Duchess there could be in a better state but the engines sounded OK and she flies really well. The counter rotating props make it a stable plane and she is very light on the controls. During my training we had to swap the GPS back and forth between planes which is kind of funny but oh well, not a big issue.
The guys here in Yuba City are really nice. Chances had it that 3 fellow Belgians are here at the same time, albeit for other reasons (initial CFI).
It’s a really constructive exercise when you put pilots with various backgrounds and different goals together. I learned a lot about the FAA regulations just listening to their briefings, chiming in the conversations and asking questions.
The second week wasn’t really productive but things happened fast in the last week. Unfortunately, due to some scheduling changes and me having to do 2 instead of one checkride, I had to buy another airline ticket set for a few days later.
My first checkride was the initial CPL ME. I was obviously nervous but both the ground portion and practical test went really well. Once again I got complements on my SRM and flying style so that was a real boost for my confidence.
However on the IR addon checkride 2 days later I got confused on the VOR approach. I was mentally set up to do one holding pattern and go for the approach. However just before the beacon the examiner said “Just do a procedure turn”. I wasn’t really sure what he meant and I was thinking to go outbound and do a 45/180. I guess that would have worked out but then I initiated the turn to the right instead of left. Darn.
Then after passing the VOR inbound I descended a bit too slow and I was too high on the MAPt, but I guess that’s not really wrong, just a waste of fuel 😛
My second mistake was the dumbest one. After doing a nice ILS and established on the back course heading out after the missed approach, I briefed a parallel entry into the hold, as I should. However, on reaching the fix I immediately turned right instead of flying out for 1 minute. No idea why I did that after briefing and preparing for what I should have done but, it was a bust. He obviously disapproved.
The feeling when you get back is horrible. You know perfectly what you did wrong and what you should have done, yet you didn’t. You feel so stupid and frustrated.
It took a while and couple of beers to accept reality. Luckily I was able to schedule a recheck with another examiner in Chico the day before I left. Again the pressure was on.
However this time, all went well and again the examiner complimented me on the same things. We didnt have GPS and only 1 non-slaved VOR to do all the approaches but they worked out very nice.
And that was that I had my FAA CPL ME IR!! I’m so happy! Finally I can fly twins again and this license is so much cheaper and easier to keep current! Opportunities arise but I had a job waiting for me anyway.
3 days later and completely ridden of my stress from the last 3 weeks I was on an A330 again heading to Dubai.
After landing in Dubai around midnight and dead tired I drove straight to Abu Dhabi and crashed. The next day brought the first flight in the Cessna 401, without any survey done however, and a day later a flight in the AC690.
Progress is slow as we are having massive thunderstorms, very unusual for the region. Hopefully by Friday we will be back in the sky taking pictures of this ever changing landscape as they build like madmen around me.
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!
Not to worry, if you were. In order to simplify and structure my content, I will move everything and reorganise on a different domain. I’m still deciding if I want to keep using wordpress or if I will set up a new website on a different domain. In any case bushkaptein will stay here until the permanent website is up and running.
The last post of the Bonanza ferry will follow soon and thereafter will come a special article on which I know some of you have been waiting a while. It’s a sensitive matter so I am still working out a strategy. Bear with me. Yes, I’m talking about Robert Weaver.
I wanted to get going early again in order to beat the storms. The plane was ready to go since we fueled the day before. I aimed for brakes release at 8:30 and the actual time was 8:38, so not bad!
This flight was going to be another long one. Remember how Rayong to Subang was close? Well, this time there are no airports in between to be on the safest side and the flight was actually a bit longer. All or nothing. Of course, I could always return before the PNR (point of no return), so there’s that.
Forecasts were the same as usual but the wind was only going to be about 10 knots head, increasing with altitude.
After holding short of the runway to let 2 ATR’s depart and 3 land (thanks…) I turned left heading east immediately after takeoff. I got a beautiful view of Kuala Lumpur and its Petronas Towers. Strangely, they seemed tiny from my office, even from merely 4000ft.
As the heavy Bonanza finally made it to 11000′ I realized speed had dropped a bit since flying lower. Logically, I asked to go back down to 9000′ and stayed there for the rest of the flight.
Soon after reaching open water, that was going to last for about 4 hours apart from a few islands, I saw the first towering cumulus clouds ahead.
As I got closer it appeared it was a line of cells going in a SW’erly direction, as expected. At this time the cells were not that big yet but i was happy to find a nice hole exactly on my track. Do I have a guardian angel?
Shortly after passing the clouds I heard a ‘MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY’ on the radio. I couldn’t make out the call sign but he seemed to have a fire light in the cockpit and a few minutes later smoke was seen in the cabin. Then he was handed over to some approach frequency and that was that. Good luck friends…
As time went on the cells in the lines became bigger and bigger as I encountered them. The lines were every time about 45 degrees to my nose so sometimes it was a gamble. Should I go left or right around it? On the right I can see what is there but the total distance flown off-track is larger than when deviating to the left (due to the wind). On the left however, because of the lines’ orientation, I couldn’t always see if I could fly between 2 cells.
At one point I had to once again punch a quickly growing cell between 2 larger ones (like in Michigan last June). A bit of shaking, speed increase and some rain but what is truly exciting, what’s on the other side?
My calculated guess payed off with a nice blue sky with the next line off in the distance. Another line bites the dust!
This went on and on. As I got closer to WBGG – Kuching, the clouds got thicker, more widespread and bigger. The north looked completely shut and in front of me it wasn’t too good either, although not as convective.
On approach I had to avoid a big cell just west of the field but once again I was lucky to be in the clear heading north parallel to the runway after passing it. On my 10 o’clock there was now a monster of a storm cell. On my right the weather looked like a grey rainy day back in Europe however not really convective. Thankfully I was able to turn base soon and on the ILS I quickly got through the overcast layer and put her down on the ground. Chocks in after a four and a half hour flight feels good!
As we were getting ready to fuel, in light rain, the big storm that was hanging in the north was approaching us. We decided to wait with fueling and first go to the met office which was on the other side of the airfield (outside).
There I was actually pleasantly surprised to see the whole islands’ radar images in real time, more than I was hoping for (METAR and short TAF to be exact). Its appeared the extreme north of the island (where my destination was) was clear of any precipitation. There were small cells in the rest of the country and the biggest ones were in the west and overhead.
As I was looking at the images, the storm came over the airport and the METAR (current weather situation in textual form) was updated every time the visibility dropped. They are really on top of their game here!
From the radar images I could make out the storms were moving away slowly to the west. The way it looked I would be in the clear by the time we refueled. And so we went on.
The next flight to WBKK – Kota Kinabalu was going to take about 3 and a half hours. Just enough to reach it around (just after, but that’s ok) sunset. Shortly after taking off most of the weather was left behind me to the southeast just like expected and it looked like I was in the clear. I enjoyed my comfortable cruise for half an hour and then I saw some more CB’s popping up on the horizon.
These must be the cells I saw on radar an hour ago. They were still isolated and indeed, by the time I reached them I had no trouble circumnavigating them. The next storm were situated just over Brunei and as I flew between the 2 cells I had a humbling view of these natural masterpieces. As the worlds biggest vacuum cleaners were sucking in the most hot air from below forming huge pillars that reach up to 40 000 feet and I higher, I felt tiny as I cruised past the wall of condesed moisture twirling towards the edge of space. All this set in a golden light created by a million degrees particle fusing gas ball trying to send it’s rays through our thick atmosphere. One can only gaze in awe to the beauty of our majestic nature…
As it was getting darker and the airspace once again busier, I was handed over to Kinabalu approach who delayed my descent to the point where I needed some extra track miles to get her down (well, without extending the gear). It’s not rocket science, but every time I feel accomplished after doing a textbook approach to the ILS. By the time I was on final approach it was now almost completely dark and I was emerged in the typical night flying atmosphere of twinkling lights and lunar reflection, with an odd lightning strike in the distance.
The airport was very neat and I got parked on what seemed to be a terminal especially built for business and small aircraft. It felt like parking a mini airliner at a tiny gate.
On this airport they did not have any AVGAS. Again I got stuck with my fuel barrels that I was unable to open. While the rampies went to look for some kind of tool to open the barrels, I fueled from the 2 plastic 60 liter drums. Dressed in my 747 captain uniform I was sweating like a pig in the hot humidity pumping away like a madman. What the passengers staring at me were thinking I can only guess.
A while later the rampies arrived with a big metal bar and we managed to open one 50 liter drum and finished fueling.
By the time I got to the hotel it was already getting late again but I really wanted to get out of the hotel this time. Surely this close to the ocean I must be able to find some nice fresh fish. And I did. On the quay was one ‘restaurant’ after the other. A large party tent with some plastic chairs and tables and a grill. Perfect. I ordered a fish that looked tasty and a big crayfish with some rice. Just what I was looking for.
Back at the hotel I needn’t look at the weather cause like I said before, it’s always the same. I just looked over, filled out and sent the flight plans to the handler for the next day.
At that time I realised it; I have now approximately 13000 km behind me, crossed a quarter of the world and tomorrow, it would be over…
Before I forget the whole trip (haha, right) I better write something.
In the hotel I was left with a difficult decision, that was ultimately easily answered by my sense for safety.
The next leg would either be Rayong to Subang direct (630NM) or to Hat Yai (basically halfway) and then on to Subang. I determined the safe range to be 650 NM in no wind conditions during the trip.
Tomorrow was going to bring a headwind and there were isolated thunderstorms forecast. You would maybe think that is a no-brainer (stop) but there is more to consider.
The forecast winds were only about 5 to 10 knots and storms, well, they can either be there or not be there. In my experience the weather is usually a bit better than the forecast when it comes to thunderstorms. But as you might know, most of that experience is in Europe and the dry skies of Namibia. This climate however is a different story.
Another thing to consider is obviously the cost implied and time lost when making an extra stop. If I were to go direct to Subang and leave early, I could make it by 10 AM and maybe beat the storms to fly another (4 hour) leg to Kuching (WBGG). That would mean significant time gain and less costs. On the other hand, if I stop in Hat Yai and loose time there (1 hour doesn’t cut it usually, however Thailand proved to be quicker), I was probably going to land 2 hours later, at noon, in Subang; meaning the storms would already kick up.
The 650NM ‘safe range’ I set for myself is exactly what I called it. A safe range. That implies there is quite a big margin on it. In good conditions the range to 45 mins fuel is more like 750 to even 800 NM.
But when you factor in possibilities like storm diversions, flying lower than planned due to icing, ATC delays, delays at destination, unexpected headwinds, etc… the choice is actually simple. Just make a stop, it’s worth the cost.
So that’s what I communicated to the team and I prepared myself to fly VTBU – VTSS – WMSA the next day.
Departure from Rayong was quite hassle free (also because it was still a national flight) so I left more or less on time. It seemed like there were some low and medium stratiform clouds hanging around from dead thunderstorms so no convective activity to be worried about yet. It stayed like that most of the way so I didn’t really see much of the ground and didn’t take many pictures.
After about 2 hours it was already time to prepare for the descent. The weather at the airport was good with some isolated showers reported. There were 2 or 3 thunderstorms in the distance but as far as I could make out the area where the airport must bee looked clear apart from the low clouds (still 2-3000ft).
Since I was supposed to fly VFR and it’s actually fun I accepted the visual for a right downwind. I came in fast and steep direct to a right base instead, extended the gear and flap at 154 knots in the turn to final and landed smoothly on what looked like another neat airport. I like flying these high performance singles. Makes me wonder what its like to fly a G58, twice the fun?
(video to come)
Refueled and stamped out I got ready again for the final leg to Rayong.
The weather forecast always looks the same here ‘… CAVOK … TEMPO BKN030CB TSRA’ blabla. Basically saying it’s nice weather, just keep a lookout for huge bad-ass thunderstorms. Check.
Before takeoff, the controller tells me to ‘Reach FL110 before KARMI’. Easier said than done for me but lets see. I suppose that’s on the Malaysian border. That is about 25 NM away so no, unable (usually, climb to cruise takes 25 minutes and 55NM). Good thing I didn’t bring a tracker otherwise my family would think something was wrong with it (or me) as I was flying east when I should go south.
My guesstimate worked out pretty good, reaching FL110 1 NM before KARMI. The rest of the flight was pretty much the same as before. Flying through layers of stratus with some cauliflowers left and right. Convection was getting out of bed and having it’s coffee.
By the time I reached the busy terminal area of Kuala Lumpur (I was going for Subang airport, not the big one) some of the cauliflowers were fully grown. Lucky for me I avoided the worst of it with ease with minor heading changes however, you can’t move the airport. As I was on an intercept course for the ILS I went into the clouds but I couldn’t really see what it was I was getting into. It wasn’t that dark inside and the rain was ok so I figured it wasn’t a big deal. As I got halfway down the vertical guidance my airspeed increased and it started raining more intense. I was however still able to maintain stabilized approach as the turbulence kicked me around. Then at about 700 feet I broke the cloud and I saw I just popped out of a maturing storm. Good timing.
(insert video here :-)0
Again the crew was waiting for me as I contemplated whether or not to continue to Kuching. I looked back at the approach path as I heared thunder roaring and saw that storm I approached through getting bigger and louder by the minute. I looked south I saw more of the same. It was now about 1 PM so the storms would only be intensifying as they got on with their day. I decided it’s probably wise to stay and fly again in the morning, I was feeling quite tired anyway and could use some rest.
All said and done we made a plan for the next day, fueled the plane and set off to find a hotel. I ended up staying at the Grand Dorsett where I spent much of the afternoon trying to think how to get to WBKK – Kota Kinabalu. At this point we still had no fuel all the way to RPVP. I worked out a plan to fly to WBGB direct (instead of the closer WBGG), refuel from my on-board drums and barrels (totaling 220L now) and then fly straight to RPVP. It could work but both legs were really stretching my set ‘safe range’ with all the same concerns as before still valid. I wasn’t even sure if I could get stamped out of Malaysia in WBGB. I rather not do this route obviously, especially with this weather. But since it was our only option (I can’t turn water into fuel…), I planned accordingly.
A few hours later, after doing the planning and filling flight plans, came the good word that the local handler found and secured a barrel of fuel for me at WBGG. We could fly WMSA – WBGG – WBKK – RPVP after all. That was a relief! Now I could revert to the old planning again… So much for extra rest 😛
In the evening I had to get out of the hotel for once so I took the free shuttle to the Pyramid mall and grabbed a bite at, to my surprise, Nandos. A South African chain that brings back some memories from Namibia.
I hit the hey with everything ready to go. If all went well tomorrow, I would be sleeping in Kota Kinabalu. A place on the Malaysian island close to the Philipine border, with only 1 more day to go! Seems like this epic trip is coming to it’s conclusion.
But it’s not over yet!