Cairo and Pyramids of Giza

Posted: June 30, 2014 in Adventure

When we landed at “6th of October” airport, we were asked to follow the “follow me” car.  We were parked on the ramp until we took care of paperwork.  This included passing all of our luggage thru an x-ray machine.  We came to realize that a lot of stuff was done in Egypt for no other reason than “its policy”, whether it makes any kind of sense or not has no bearing on why it was being done. For everything there is a “carbon copy” form that must be filled out and signed by the filler and one of us….. Egypt Entering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finally got to meet Eddie Gould of GASE, our dispatchers and handlers extra-ordinaire.  These guys are consummate professionals who take pains and pride in delivering their pilots to their destinations with the least amount of hassle.  We then moved our plane to the personal hangar of General Badran, another excellent friend of aviation, who has now become our friend for life as well.  We spent quite some time with General Badran and in the evening Eddie brought us to one of the most lavish and extravagant hotels in Cairo, the Fairmont, that I have ever stayed in.  Eddie invited us to a pool side dinner, which did justice to rest of the hotel.  We spent two nights in Cairo and they were well worth everything….. what an amazing time…. Thank you Eddie and Ahmed…. In discussing things over dinner, Eddie and Ahmed recommended that we make some more changes to our routing, which I agreed to  as these guys have local knowledge that is invaluable in avoiding unpleasant events for the pilots.

We decided to extend our stay by one day in Cairo to be able to go to the Pyramids, meet Charlie Brown (Eddie’s favorite camel that dearly loves him) and visit Khan Khalili.  The day was hot as heck and we were pretty exhausted by the time we came back to our hotel.  The next morning we departed for Aswan, which was our departure airport (for customs) and we needed to buy enough Avgas to cross the Arabian desert on our way to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.  While on the ground at Aswan, we were met by the local handlers from Egypt Air who asked us if we wanted to ride in their bus to the terminal and I said yes, I could use the bathroom, the guy turned to me and said, that will be $60 extra.  I have never before paid $60 for going to the bathroom and I was not about to let these guys put a blemish on my record.  I jokingly asked him if it was free to just walk to the edge of the apron and relieve oneself….he did not see the humor in it while Haris was laughing at the whole thing.  The temperature was so high that I was afraid we may not be able to leave the ground.  I explained the theory and concept of high density altitude take offs to Haris, but that really did not have to be explained as he knew and understood what was expected of him.  We took off and headed North, instead of going East as it was “no reason, just policy”.  Upon reaching 11,000 feet we were allowed to turn towards the Red Sea  and to our crossing of the Arabian desert.  Along the way, we saw some spectacular sites of mountains cropping out of the sand, huge lava bed rock and old craters, and some areas that were lush green and looked strangely out of place in the middle of the Arabian desert.  We ran out of water in the first three hours and had to chew gum the rest of the way to keep our minds away from wanting to drink water.  It took us nine long hours to reach Al Ain and it was close to mid night when we got there……but it was well worth it.  We are 1/3rd of the way into this adventure….

Screenshot 2014-06-30 03.15.58

KSA lava rock formation KSA Lava rock craters KSA arriving over Red Sea

Departure from London was uneventful, but enroute the weather buildups were, if nothing else, spectacular.  The cumulonimbus went up to about 45,000 feet and then there was the question of cumulogranite (the Alps) upto about 15,000.  That meant we had to find an altitude higher than cumulogranite but less than our service ceiling of 25,000 feet.  We opted for 21,000 and pushed on.

Arrival in Rome was also uneventful except that in locking the rear part of the plane and entering the front to allow a tug to park the plane, I managed to lose the keys.  Now that would have been quite a disaster as I had replaced all the locks on the plane in preparation for this trip.  The old locks could be easily opened with any old key but the new ones were specialty locks that you could not even get keys for except from the OEM (original equipment manufacturer).  I looked all around and then saw a small piece sticking out from within the seat cushion.  Relief….. the next day we went around Rome and saw the Coloseum, Fontana de Trevi and a bunch of other places that we could not pronounce.  Most places were scaffolded up and under repairs that placed a damper on our spirits a little bit…..

Things had been going well, maybe too well…. So the following day we arrive at the airport for our departure promptly at 7:00 AM to make sure we get to Egypt in time to get our visa stamped at the arrival airport and then to travel to our hosts airport some 200 nm away.  The lazy Italian handler showed up and informed us that the fuel truck would be over in 15 minutes.  I waited for 25 minutes and then asked him to find out that the fuel truck could not be started.  Another 30 minutes went by and no fuel truck.  By this time I was quite agitated and no longer wanted to deal with the lazy/slacker Italian and asked him where I could find fuel.  There was an airport about 8 miles but first I must cancel my existing flight plan to Egypt then fly to the refueling airport on a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) approved plan to get fuel.  After much discussion with the Air Traffic Controllers, we were allowed to depart to the Urba airport to get fuel.  We flew to Urba and got the fuel, then we had to file the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan with the Italians, which must also be accepted by Eurocontrol (that has jurisdiction over the whole of the European air space) and should also be somehow acceptable to the Egyptians.  After filing our flight plan with 18 interim intersections, VORS and way points, it was submitted to Eurocontrol with instructions for us to call back in 10 minutes.  We had shut down our plane and were just parked on the side at the airport.  Ten minutes later we called to find out that Eurocontrol had rejected our flight plan….well they accepted it the last time I filed exactly that same flight plan…what gives ?  Well, that was from a different airport and we must have at least another way point identified.  Another ten minutes went by as the controllers struggled to find an appropriate way point.  Our flight plan was resubmitted to Eurocontrol and in about 30 minutes we had an approved flight plan, but with the caveat that we must maintain 15,000 MSL altitude.  We figured we had oxygen, we could do it.  We launched and were told to climb VFR to 13,000 to pick up our IFR clearance.  With the looming hills and cloud buildups we dodged both and climbed to the assigned altitude.  I had already strung out the oxygen lines and we donned our cannulas only to find out that the guage on the oxygen cylinder suddenly decided to go lower.  Not a good surprise at 15,000 when we were both sucking oxygen.  We decided to push on but immediately pulled up the enroute chart on the iPad to see where we needed to stay at that altitude.  There was a mountain on the Island of Crete where we had to stay above 10,500 and the rest required a clearance to about 2000 feet.  We decided that when we ran out of Oxygen, we will request a lower altitude and this technique always works.  As we crossed the Greek Island of Crete, we requested the controllers to give us a lower altitude as we had run out of Oxygen.  Our request was granted.

We were now approaching Egypt where the airspace is fully controlled by maintaining pre-determined flight paths thus keeping the airspace a little clearer and more manageable.  The Greek controllers informed us that Egypt will not accept our Eurocontrol approved clearance and they will issue a new clearance.  By this time the Greek radio was getting weaker and we could not get to the Egyptian radio and their controllers. Interesting predicament….either turn back to Greece or keep going and risk being shot down.  With several repeated transmissions we were finally able to copy the Egyptian clearance.   We requested a Lufthansa flight to relay our message to Egyptian controllers informing them that we were entering their airspace and that we were following the last clearance given to us.  The Egyptian response was muffled at best.  So, we next requested a Qatar airlines flight to relay our message again, as we really did not like the idea of getting shot down into the Mediterranean.  The Egyptian controllers acknowledged and we breathed a sigh of relief.  Our new clearance added another 45 minutes to our travel time and with the gumby suits on, our movements were seriously restricted, we were both getting very tired.  The 6.5 hour trip had now turned into a 7.5 hour trip.  While all of this was going on, our engine monitor indicated that number 5 cylinder had lost its temperature.  I immediately looked at our speed, which had not dropped.  I followed that by doing a mag check, which turned out OK for all cylinders except the #5.  I changed the mixture settings and could see some flicker on the #5.  I concluded that we had a bad probe in the #5 cylinder that must be addressed at some later point in time.  These findings were confirmed when we changed our power settings in preparation for landing, the temperature indication came back for #5 cylinder.  In aviation things can get interesting with weak radio transmissions to re-routed clearances to running out of oxygen to engine behaving erratically, things do get exciting for a while….

As we arrived at Mursa Matruh air field, the controller gave us an approach to fly and Haris got right down to setting up the approach after consulting the approach plate on the IPad, while I handled the radios.  About 10 miles out we had visual contact with the air field and we requested a visual approach to cut down the extra 10-15 minutes it would have taken us to execute the full instrument approach.  Our request was granted and we landed.

Upon landing, as we taxied to the ramp a circus like atmosphere took over for the locals who showed up in strength.  We were both tired and wanted to get out of the Gumby suits but some of the locals were demanding passports, someone wanted to know how much fuel we wanted and another one was pointedly and objectively informing us that every transaction would be in cash and demanded to know if we actually had cash.  As this circus was in full swing with about 30 people milling around and some taking pictures, I called up our Dispatchers, Eddie and Ahmed in Cairo.  They asked me not to pay anyone anything until they talk to the individual personally.  I was taking it all in-stride, but Haris had never seen anything quite like it and was in awe.  I had been trying to prepare him for this and he had been quite skeptical, but now I saw him turning into a believer…..I know for a fact he will listen to me more intently from here on out.

That night Eddie informed us that the clocks will pull back an hour in preparation for Ramadan…a very valuable piece of information.  In the morning we got breakfast and headed to the airport with the Egypt Air people who had been our hosts and guardians at Mersa Matruh.  They helped our departure clearances, flight plans and everything else and got us into the air for the 1.5 hour flight to October 6 airport where Eddie and Ahmed were waiting for us.  We were vectored around and asked to report over the field at 7000 feet.  We were both a little frustrated about that  but later found out that the air traffic controllers there did not have radar coverage and there is a lot of flight training at the airport and most of the separation is done with vectors and visual separation.  That made sense and we got over our initial frustration….. time to meet Eddie and Ahmed….

Change of Plans

Posted: June 25, 2014 in Adventure

CYYR-BIRK9

London Haris PIC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our departure from Reykjavik, was quite routine and uneventful.  The weather was great and we quickly climbed to our assigned altitude.  I even got the HF radio to work but the radio interference whine was simply awful, so we would make our position report and then disconnect it.  Well, that did not sit well with some British controllers and we got instructions to repeat our position report, but that only happened once – maybe that guy was having a bad day – no problem…

The Scottish countryside is lush green and a sight for sore eyes.  After Greenland and Iceland, this was a welcome change in the scenery.  Upon entering the British airspace we were vectored around quite a bit, but that did to add much extra time to our total flight time.  Upon arrival Haris got to claim another ILS approach and as we landed we saw Naqi Sadiq and my niece and her family waiting for us on the ramp/tarmac.  Naqi took a bunch of pictures of Haris and I trying to extricate ourselves from the Gumby suits.

We found out upon reaching London, that the arrival airport in Egypt will be closed on Monday and Wednesday, so we must arrive there on Thursday.  Originally we were supposed to stop in Crete, Greece and their airports have interesting operating hours with significant siesta times when one must not think of arriving.  So, Haris and I talked about this and decided that it may not be such a bad idea to visit Rome instead of going to Crete.  Among other things, this would require us to only wear our Gumby suits for six hours instead of 12.  We immediately informed our despatch team members Eddie Gould and Ahmed in Egypt.  I can not say enough good things about how well our despatch team has handled everything for us….they are AWESOME !

Our stay in London with my niece and her family in Reading was great as usual.  Her kids took Haris on a tour of London on the tube while she cooked some awesome meals for us.  Haris bought some souvenirs for his friends back home.  I had to change the oil in the plane and my school time friends Naqi helped a lot while taking pictures while I was trying to twist and turn various parts of my anatomy to try and get to some of the components that I needed to get to.  After the oil change I started the engine to leak check it.  All was normal and good.

London Dover coastThe next morning we filed a flight plan for 12:30 Zulu or 13:30 London time.  Once again, our awesome despatch team, GASE, had everything under control and they gave us quite detailed instructions on what to do and when to do.  They also keep in touch with us via text messaging to relay information about our hotel and other arrangements while we are flying.  Due to the complexity of their work, we have to keep them informed of every little move we make, where we stay, when we plan to leave, how much fuel we need and on and on.

Our departure from London was uneventful and as we entered the English Channel near Dover I started remembering the stories I had read and movies I had seen of the air war during the second world war.  The fighters and bombers from both sides crossed the channel to attack each other and then after their mission, at times limp back with their planes all shot up…..

London buildupsAs we got into the French air space we saw a bunch of huge buildups (ominous cloud formations).  A little bit of tutoring went on as I explained to Haris the various stages of the development of the cloud formations and how to avoid them.  We requested a weather related deviation from the controllers which was immediately granted.  We also had to climb up to 21,000 feet to get over the Alps and also some of the clouds.  We were able to avoid a lot of the turbulent and troublesome clouds by climbing that high.  One thing I forgot was that Haris had never used oxygen from a nasal cannula before.  On top of that I have this neat gizmo that senses when you are about to inhale and it shoots a small puff of oxygen into your nose as you inhale.  That is quite unnerving if you are not used to it and Haris was not used to it.  We had some interesting moments and at times Haris got off the oxygen and I had to make him put it back on….I guess next time it won’t be that bad…. or I will see if I can pick up a mask from somewhere…..I left perfectly good and new masks at home before this flight.

London oil changeItaly Gellato Italy Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In these long flights, fuel management is very important and we try to burn off the interior fuel tank first.  But first we must burn one of the main wing tanks, then transfer the fuel from the cockpit tank into it.  As we were flying we initiated the fuel transfer and Haris and I follow a protocol for that : Switch tanks (visual check and acknowledgement), turn on fuel valve for the tank to be filled, turn on fuel valve for one of the two fuel pumps we will use-if Haris has opened the two valves then I visually and manually verify that the correct valves are open and then Haris turns the fuel pump on.  We both visually keep an eye on the fuel gauge to make sure we don’t blow some of the fuel out of the vents by over filling.  On this particular occasion the fuel gauge needle did not move.  I touched the fuel pump and found it quite hot.  I asked Haris to shut down the fuel pump and started diagnosing the issue.  We turned on the valves for the secondary fuel pump and that one ran fine. On checking the bladder tank, I realized that when I had filled it in London, I may have left some air in it that caused one of the pumps to get hot as the fuel also serves to cool down these pumps.  I informed Haris of what I had found and leaned back and opened the lid of the fuel tank and removed any air from the tank.  We tested the primary pump and all was fine.  Phew….that was interesting.

 

The rest of the trip was uneventful and the Italian controllers were on the ball like the rest of the controllers we talked with.

 

Aviation Decision Making

Posted: June 22, 2014 in Adventure

We arrived in Goose Bay, Canada after quite a grueling 10 hour flight.  The next leg was over the Atlantic and neither one of us have had any experience with oceanic flying.  I had been talking to some young and some old grizzled and crusty pilots, but when you are about to make go-no go decisions, it is vastly different.  We arrived for departure early morning, took a little while to absorb the icing conditions that were being predicted, but then we quickly made a decision to scrub the flight to Iceland for a day.  We decided to hang out at the airport and as pilots flew in from different parts of the globe we quizzed them about flight conditions and requested a couple of them to give us PIREPS (pilot reports) on departure and let us know the kind, quantity and severity of icing conditions on climb out and cruise.  In about five hours we were able to piece together a good profile of what was going on with the weather.

Yesterday, we got up early and started poring over weather reports and found an exact match with the day before.  The icing predictions were the same, therefore, we decided to amend our trans oceanic altitude to one we could live with and filed our flight plan.  We departed about 10 minutes after our initially planned departure time.  Before departure, looking at the head winds we also decided to add another 15 gallons of fuel to our reserve, just in case.

Gumby Suits

Gumby Suits

We also had to don our gumby suits for this flight as the water in the north Atlantic is about 40 degrees F these days and hypothermia followed by death can be quite quick.  These suits also prevented much movement for about 10 hours and we had a minor issue with the pilots relief tube usage with this suit on….lesson learned, there can be no kinks in the relief tube while being operated !!!

Our flight was uneventful for the most part and we did not encounter any ice during this flight, but there were some anxious moments when we saw the temperatures dip close to zero Celcius and there was water streaming across the wind shield.  Our plane is equipped with a weeping wing de-icing system, but it is not certified for flying in icing conditions, therefore, I was quite anxious…. also, icing and planes do not do well together and must be kept separated…

 

 

 

 

Greenland ? whats green about it ?

Greenland ? whats green about it ?

During the entire flight, we were either in the clouds or above them, so we did not get to see the waters of the Atlantic until we got close to Iceland.  I do think they should swap the names of the two countries – Greenland and Iceland…. there is absolutely NOTHING green about greenland….it is one icy chunk of rock with a bunch of ice on it and floating all around it.  As we neared Greenland, Saturday was a national holiday and we were advised by the Air Traffic Controllers that if we had to land in Greenland for any reason whatsoever, they would charge us a $1200 seeing-your-face-fee.  How much more unwelcome can a place be….first they have nothing but rock and ice and then they charge you an arm and a leg…NOPE, I have no use for that “country”….. PASS…next….

 

 

More Green in greenland (NOT)

More Green in greenland (NOT)

Our arrival in Iceland was very uneventful, and we were advised that today the sun will set close to mid-night and it will be light again in 4 hours.  We dropped some heavy curtains on the windows, Haris got to inhale a rather large size burrito – the boy was hungry after a 9.5 hour flight…but I did feed him while we were enroute….even gave him my sandwich, but he devoured everything in sight ! :) :) :)

 

 

 

 

 

PIC relaxing with his music and videos

PIC relaxing with his music and videos

The weather forecast on both ends of today’s flight seems to be much better than what we got in the last three days. We filed our flight plan for London and with favorable winds, we may be able to make it in 6.5 hours – depending on how much we get re-routed…..hopefully it won’t be as bad as it was in Canada where every little town wanted our carbon foot print pushed way out of their air space…..

Originally, we were supposed to stay in London for one day, but then we found out that our arrival airport in Egypt is closed on Wednesdays, therefore, we need to arrive on Thursday….so, no one had to twist our arms to get us to stay an extra day in London…. we also need to get to London before a certain time as the airport closes for all flight operations at night due to noise ordinances in place……

Canadian Hospitality

Posted: June 20, 2014 in Adventure

There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no OLD-BOLD pilots…..

Got to the airport, not as early as I would have liked, but got there all the same.  Re-calculated the fuel requirements and added another margin of safety over and above what we already had, re-did the weight and balance (mass and balance), re-distributed the survival gear for easy access and then refueled the plane.  Decided to check the weather one more time….. icing forecasted for 70% of the 9 hour flight and our plane’s de-icing endurance is max of 2 hours and the plane is NOT certified for flight into known icing conditions.  It took about 5 minutes of studying weather charts and then 30 seconds to verify our findings and scrub the flight.  We will fly another day…..

Haris kept bugging me to get the plane tied down.  Upon checking the weather forecast, found out the winds will be 30 knots today and tomorrow.  We talked with the good people at Woodward Aviation and they informed us that they do not have tie downs but they can put it in a hangar for an arm and a leg.  We decided that we don’t want to take a chance and get crazy canuck winds damage the plane…. time to hunker down and  relax in beautiful, frigid, windy Goose Bay….a town that has no Geese – not even a Goose (maybe they have all migrated South to the US for the summer, except summer has not made it to Goose Bay).  Just saw three canucks try to push and pull the plane towards a hangar.  I had to run out and tell them to use a tug and not push and pull on wings and tip tanks…..need to watch anyone and everyone that comes close to our plane …..

 

The first leg

Posted: June 20, 2014 in Adventure

June 19….

We departed Greenwood airport 2 hours later than planned as we forgot some essential items at home and my better half had to double back and get them for us while we prepared for the departure.  The departure itself was uneventful, with Haris in the left seat (PIC-Pilot in Command).  The winds were worse than the forecast, which tells us that for the next leg, we may need to carry more reserve fuel.  One of the local news channel helicopters shadowed us as we departed and informed us that they will be close so we don’t panic upon seeing them flying that close to us.

We were vectored around first by the US air traffic control and then the Canadian ATC.  That added miles, time and gas to our trip.  Almost half of the trip was in clouds and as we started picking up ice, we descended to an altitude where there was no ice.  Canada has two seasons, winter and darn cold winter !

Interesting experience landing at “SET EELS” (that is how the cannucks pronounce it :) :) :), we kept calling it “SEPTILES”…. there was no police or security as we landed unannounced for a “technical stop” (technical term used for such events). We had to seek out security who took down my pilot license info, wished us good luck and left. No one asked to check for a passport or anything else, just telling them that I was not comfortable with the amount of fuel left, they were satisfied. The Montreal approach took flight plan info on the radio on the ground, filed our flight plan and got us air borne in 10 minutes. Upon landing at Goose Bay we called immigration and customs on the phone, they talked to us on the phone for 5 minutes and gave us a confirmation number and that was it.

I shudder to think if this had been the US we’d still be in jail ! :) :) :)

Planning – Stars are Aligned…

Posted: June 14, 2014 in Adventure

FINALLY….stars seemed to be aligned for a Tuesday, June 17 departure.  Due to the size of the extra fuel tank in the cabin, the loading of our “stuff” is rather critical from, mainly two standpoints; firstly, there is concern for the weight & balance (mass and balance in the rest of the world) and Center of Gravity (CG), and secondly, there is very little room left after the moorings and tetherings for the turtle pac (extra fuel tank).  So, we need to get creative in loading and placement of our “stuff”.  But then everything needs to be tied down as well to make sure things don’t start flying around if we hit turbulence or during climb out or landing.  Today, we will complete the loading part.  Also, due to lack of availability of engine oil in lots of places world wide, we are planning to take enough oil with us to allow us to do at least two oil changes.  I had ordered several cases of oil a couple of months ago, just in case.  Now if we can only get the kind of oil we need in Australia, we will be all set !  I called and talked to one of our Beechcraft (Beechtalk) pilots, David Brown, in Brisbane and am trying to get info on disinsection of the plane and also the oil change.  David has agreed to do some research and get me the info I need.

Screenshot 2014-06-14 06.40.53We have developed all of our flight plans, reporting points, fuel requirements for each leg and time enroute for the entire trip.  This will reduce the amount of workload on us during our trip.  We are also using a company that provides very detailed weather briefings and other pertinent information about each leg and also allows us to file our flight plans.  We are now keeping a very sharp eye on weather systems for the first two legs of our flight…..

 

 

My 85+ year old mother has been quizzing me today about what happens if Haris falls asleep while flying the plane.  She advised me to take the fixings for making hot black tea for Haris to drink to make sure he stays awake.  She did not believe that Otto is a better pilot than me and Haris for enroute cruise part of our trip.  She asked me what was the longest flight where Haris was the pilot; I advised her that his longest flight was 9 hours to North Dakota last month, which put her at ease, but then she asked me what my longest leg was….I did not have a 9 hour flight in my log book.  She is also advising me to take adequate rests of one to two days between each leg so we don’t get tired and sleepy for the next leg.  All valid concerns…..part of the aviation decision making.  After all, her two sons and one son in law are pilots….she ought to know a thing or two about aviation !

Planning – DELAYED !

Posted: June 10, 2014 in Adventure

We were supposed to start our trip today, but yesterday while enroute to New Jersey to get the large capacity fuel tank installed I climbed up to 19000 feet, established in cruise and the engine started coughing up.  With low clouds down below, I immediately started looking for a break in the clouds for a possible emergency landing.  At the same time, I switched the fuel tanks but the engine roughness did not go away.  I pushed the fuel mixture to full rich, still no change.  Next, turned on the fuel boost pump, the engine stopped coughing.  Let it run for a minute or so and then turned the boost pump off and the engine roughness returned.  So, now I know something is up with the engine driven fuel pump.  With another 500 nautical miles to go to get to New Jersey, I decided to abort and return to the airport where I could find a mechanic.  I contacted the air traffic controllers and informed them of my problem.  They asked me if I wanted to declare an emergency, but since engine was still making power, I decided to hold off on declaring the emergency.  I started my descending turn towards Greenwood Indiana.  My plan was to remain as high as I could, just in case the engine quits, and then dive and land.  I established a shallow descent and marked a point about 7 miles from the runway threshold as the point to make the in bound turn towards Greenwood.  Fortunately, weather was clear at Greenwood so I did not have to shoot an instrument approach.  Levelled out at 7000 feet and once lined up with the runway I dived at about 2000 foot per minute to an uneventful landing.

Once on mother earth, I contacted the engine overhauler to discuss the situation with him.  He advised me that due to less dense air at altitude the engine driven fuel pump heats up and starts vaporizing fuel before it can get to the engine.  He advised me to get airborne again and when I encounter the engine roughness again, to enriched the fuel air mixture and use the fuel to cool down the pump.  Since this engine has only about 130 hours on it, everything else is running fine.  I decided to have my mechanic make some minor low idle mixture adjustments and after filing an instrument flight plan, departed again for New Jersey.

At 17000 feet the engine roughness returned.  I enriched the fuel mixture, no change – the roughness did not go away, but the engine temperatures started rising.  Well, that was not as advertised !  I requested the air traffic controllers to give me 15000 feet as my final altitude as the engine was running fine there.  After establishing the plane in cruise, I kept a very sharp eye on breaks in the clouds and distance to the nearest airport, just in case…..

Arrived in New Jersey and got the Air Mods people busy installing the fuel tank and all its modifications.  In the meantime, I opened up the engine cowling and started inspecting the air flow around and to the engine driven fuel pump.  There seemed to be several small obstructions, by design, which would not allow free flow of air to the fuel pump.  The turbo normalizer generates about 1400 degrees C at the inlet and that heat has to be dissipated as well.  The reduced density of air at high altitude means there are less air molecules to cool the pump down, therefore there needs to be some ram air coming in from the air intake in the front of the engine to keep things cool.  I then discussed this with a few mechanics and they all seemed to agree with my findings….so far so good.

After the fuel tank was installed, the weather had been progressively turning bad in Southern New Jersey.  I filed my flight plan and during the takeoff roll, found about 15 Canadian Geese sitting on the runway.  I had to abort take off and chase them off the runway with my lights and sound of the engine.  Came back and took off.  Since the problems with the fuel pump occur at altitudes above about 15000 feet, I decided to stay low for the entire return trip and maintained 6000 feet all the way back to Indiana.

The plan is now to discuss my solution with the engine builder and test fly the plane with my recommended modification to see if this will alleviate the problem.  If it does not fix it, then I am going to fly to Tulsa, Oklahoma and take the plane to the engine builder to figure it out before I decide to launch across Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans….. this is a major set back, but we must fix this before we launch….

We are at T minus 5 and counting.  Today the Star Navigation system’s technical people showed up and we met with the FAA official in charge who gave us the requirements for installing their system in our plane.  Now we pretty much have two of everything in the plane except for the engine !  Today, the tires, tubes and brake pads were changed.  The new secure locks will be installed tomorrow and so will some other avionics items like the backup electric AI with the right tilt and the cooling fans for the GNS 530W.  My Avionics guy, Lewis Holder is ON it.  On thursday we plan to get the plane washed and waxed.  The last item will be a final inspection by my A&P/IA.  Once he gives me a clean bill of health, I will take the plane to Indianapolis on Thursday night.  Friday we change the oil in preparation for our departure on Sunday for New Jersey.

I have already developed our oceanic flight plans with the latitudes and longitudes of the reporting points.  Sunday morning, I plan to get hotel reservations for the first two legs of our trip…..

Haris got his vaccinations done last week in Indianapolis.  I opted to go yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama.  The nurse was very efficient and thorough.  After a detailed consultation, I ended up getting what was required and some.  She did warn me that I may be feverish and that one arm was going to hurt a bit (she may have embellished a little there).  I have to get a booster shot next Wednesday to complete the course.  I did get the health document that I will need in a lot of countries.

I was going to get the plane back after having it weighed yesterday, but the weather turned really bad and I decided to forget about it.  This morning I have to get the plane early and fly it to a nearby airport to get the HF radio and a couple of other small but important items taken care of.  The logistics of moving the plane around can get interesting.  My car is not where I would want it to be…..so I need to figure out who to ask for a ride to get me back to my car.  On Monday, we are supposed to get tires/tubes/brake pads and door locks replaced-finally !  Star Navigation folks informed me yesterday that they would not be able to put a satellite phone in the plane as they could not find one that operates on 14 volts.  So, their system gives me real time monitoring and text messaging.  I already have these two features in my Satellite phone and InReach tracker.  So, I have to make a decision today – there is just too much maintenance going on and I need to stop it….. I do have to get the prop balanced as now I have 100 hours on the engine and a balanced prop will mean a smoother ride….I have made arrangements in Indianapolis to have it done on Saturday.  If it does not happen on Saturday, I have another guy lined up to do it on Monday.

I received the ferry tank installation and operations manual yesterday.  I am impressed with the way it has been put together with all the details and drawings – not that I would ever want to attempt doing it myself…. I also had a long talk with Matt Pariera of Air Mods in New Jersey, who submitted all of the required paperwork to the FAA regional and local offices.  Once everything gets approved, I have to email it to Honolulu, Hawaii so I can get the sign off from the local FAA office there to take off in an overgross configuration when we are on our way back(I have always wanted to make that radio call that fully loaded FedEx cargo planes make : Approach control N20TC-heavy…. :) :) :) ).

Everything that we had ordered and/or wanted to take with us has arrived except for the Mustang full immersion suits.  They are in transit and should be delivered by Monday.   The only item that I am not very comfortable with is the oil changes that I plan to do while en-route.  Eddie from GASE has made arrangements for two of those at Biggin Hill and Darwin, Australia.  If I take one case with me, then I can use it in Pakistan for the oil change.  Along with the oil, there is a recurring AD (airworthiness directive) to grease the uplock rollers that are part of the landing gear system.  Dust and debris get into the uplock rollers over time and jams them, making the landing gear in-operative.  I can get that done at Biggin Hill and Darwin, Australia or at any point along the way where I can find a grease gun and the right kind of grease…..

Count down is on….. T-10 and counting….