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…