Well what a fantastic send off from Lanseria. Good wishes from friends, family, sponsors and supporters. It was an early start for many and I certainly needed more time to prepare. The night before we had flown our aircraft into ExecuJet at Lanseria. The aircraft were refueled and packed for an early departure.
Once all the goodbyes had been said we climbed into our trusty steeds and requested start. There was a little congestion at the run up area of 24 right when there were eight aircraft wanting to leave at the same time.
The flight was uneventful and we crossed the boarder just over an hour later. We arrived in Grootfontein 5 hours later. At Grootfontein Immigration had to be called out for us to clear in and out of Namibia. We the set sail to Tsumeb which is only 30 nm to the west and our first overnight stop. Total time 6.4 hours. At the hotel it was a quick shower and down to the pub for a drink and a spot of flight planning for the next day.
Up early and off to the airport. The previous day we had refueled and positioned the aircraft for a quick exit. Monty was concerned about our over-gross state of the all the aircraft. But there was no problem and we all took off and headed north west for Libreville. We flew at 6000 feet out over the Etosha pan and over the castle. Our take off sequence was ZS-LJY the Porter, ZS-KWE Rolf and Kristen in the Tobago, ZU-EAA Chalkie in the RV 6, ZS-JCO Francesco and Fred in the Cessna 182 and ZS-DXI myself and Monty in the Cherokee 235.
This is the longest leg, some 1330 nm miles to Libreville. The Porter and Tobago went into Luanda for fuel. The rest of us flew onto Libreville directly over Luanda. The accents of the air traffic controllers are very difficult to understand at times which adds a bit of pressure. The weather was extremely hazy and at times the visibility was bad. Rolf and Kristen were delayed at Luanda and had to over night.
The rest of us arrived in Libreville after 11 hours of flying and very tired. Chalkie arrived two hours before us due to having a much faster aircraft. The ground handlers were waiting and the aircraft refueled for the next day.
We were concerned that Rolf and Kristen would push on and arrive after dark. Libreville has no radar and is a busy airport. A much-needed drink was had at the hotel that evening for medicinal purposes you understand!!!!
The next day it was off to Accra in Ghana. When we arrived at the airport and requested start, ATC said that they could not allow us to fly over the sea in single engine aircraft!! So it was off to the office to refile our flight plans. With a bit of creative flight planning and guidance from Chalkie, they accepted our new flight plans and we were off. Some of us flew up the coast and then turned westward to Accra. The flight was interesting as we had to dodge a number of thunder storms in the Gulf. Six and a half hours later we landed in Accra. Accra is far more organized and radar and they brought us in with out any problems. Once again Chalkie was there first, took out his camera to take some photo’s. BIG MISTAKE and he was soon in some officials office having to erase the tape. Refueling the aircraft was a big hassle as all the fuel is in drums and had to be hand pumped into the aircraft.
We decided to wait for Rolf and Kristen and they have arrived safely this afternoon. Tomorrow its out over the dessert to Bamako, Mali some 655 nm.
We left Accra and set sail for Bamako, Mali. The weather out of Accra became steadly worse as we flew north west. The stormscope proved their worth as they guided us past the storms. We flew out over Lake Volta but due to the bad weather we didn´t see much. The Porter descended and flew at 500 agl at times and we hope to have some film footage. About 100 miles out we were thru the weather and at it was uneventful for the rest of the flight. Once again dealing with the French speaking ATC´s really increases the tension level as to what they are wanting us to do.
Bamako was hot and very humid. All landed safely and then the big surprise!!! As Chalkie is the fastest and is always their before anyone else, he was informed the landing fees per aircraft would be $833!!!!
Well Chalkie nearly had a heart attack and informed them in no uncertain terms that this would not be the case. The landing fee paid for each aircraft was eventually $18.00. A slight difference.
We stayed the night at the local hotel and after dinner and the usual flight planning session, Francesco tried to negotiate a breakfast for the group.
Sadly Francesco failed at this task. They want to charge $8.00 for a breakfast of a couple of buns and a piece of cheese. So we flew the next day without any breakfast and only had what was left in the aircraft.
We left Bamako very early and we were at the field at 05:00. With the aircraft preflights done we waited for the sunrise so that we won´t be charged for using the runway lights, $250 for the pleasure!!! The Porter and Tobago were off to Nouchoutt in Mauritainer for a tech stop and the rest blasted off for the Canary Island, 1031 nm. The flight over the Western Sahra is quite awesome and must be some of the most desolate area´s of the world. We got a lot of footage and several still photos.
With tail winds at 15 knots plus the Cessna and Cherokee and ground speeds of 150 kts. Chalkie was cruising at 170 kts.
The leg took 8 hours today, which I found a little hard because of no breakfast!! Ag same !! from the rest of my so called friends...........
Arriving at Grand Canary GCLP, with a 25kt wind straight done runway 03 left it made an interesting landing in my Cherokee. I now know that I have a helicopter as well. The plane just wouldn´t land!!! What difference at Grand Canary with the facilities of a first world country.
Sadly the pilots of the Porter ZS-JLY, Dennis Parker and Johan Bierman are leaving us as they fly to Malaga in Spain to deliver the aircraft. What a great couple of pilots and now good friends.
Tomorrow we leave for Spain and the group are doing the flight planning over a couple of Cokes....... It will about 800 nm miles to Seville. These distances are becoming easier each day.
A VERY SPECIAL NOTE...
A very big thank you to Execujet for their logistics planning and support.
They have certainly made the trip thru our continent a lot easier. The handlers were their to meet us and assist us in the aircraft refueling, accommodation and transport. Thank you to Tanya Burger, who I called at all hours when we need extra assistance........
Well it was up early again and no breakfast! The wind was howling again down on the apron. We had filed VFR flight plans with the idea of flying along the coast line up passed the rock of Gibraltar. Cleared off runway 03 left,we climbed to 1000 ‘ out over the sea and then a right hand turn on course. There was scattered at 2500’ and leveled off at 6500’ Over Tenerife North and Lanzorate’s volcanoes towards Casablanca. All along the coast again was the dust from the dessert. We were flying in it this time and you could not see that far ahead. We flew over head Casablanca and then right up along the coast to Tangier, Morroco. ZS-JCO and ZS-KWE strayed a little to close to the coast and got told in no uncertain terms to keep away from a restricted area. At Tangier and west of Gibraltar the dust was still so thick that we couldn’t see anything of Gibraltar. About 50 nm from Seville we popped out of the dust with Spain in front of us. With beautiful cultivated lands and clear air. Spain is very flat and we could see for miles ahead. We were released from Seville radar for the decent into San Pablo. Landing on runway 27 we rolled out and the “Follow me” car took us to the General aviation apron. The temp on the apron was +40 c and it was most uncomfortable.
We had BREAKFAST TODAY! And feeling a lot better for the breakfast and a good night sleep. It was back to airport and the briefing office to file flight plans and get a met report Spain, France and the UK. Blast off was at 07:50 zulu, off runway 09 with a left hand turn out for the UK. The weather was clear and at flight level 100 always was fine. Then Rolf and Kristen in ZS-KWE the Tobago called to say that they were diverting Saragossa, north of Madrid due to their alternator not charging. They are fine and arrived safely. The rest of the squadron continued and then over Bordeaux France, Bordeaux radar lost ZS_DXI, Steve and Monty, transponder squawk. We were informed that we could no longer continue and must land. We requested to go VFR and follow the coast line. ATC approved and we turned for the French coast. Minutes later we were informed by ATC that our present course will violate a military restricted area. After a bit of dodging the restrictions we continued, but now we were unsure of our position, actually bloody lost in France some where north of Bordeaux. ATC were unable to vector us because of no transponder, we eventually found our way back onto the airway but on a VFR flight level. From there it was plain sailing across France and the English channel into Shoreham EGKA. The weather over the channel was beautiful and we descended into a very busy Shoreham for runway 21. Shoreham is on the coast and field elevation is only 7 feet. It’s a beautiful field with a tar runway and the taxi ways and surrounding areas in grass. I could just imagine the fighter pilots of the Second World War, lazing in their deck chair’s around the Hurricanes and Spitfires and then scrambling for their machines.
We heard from Rolf and Kristen that they were trying to find an electrician to fix the alternator. They were fine and will join us in Prestwick.