16 September to 12 September 2011

Friday, 16 September 2011 En-route to Vilhena

Mike and Jean decided to landed in Porto Velho for fuel, and then departed to push till Vilhena Airport before sunset.

A while after landing at Porto Velho, Mike sent us this message: "Landed for fuel. Got bad fuel and engine was running rough. Storm overhead now. Filled completely so we can make Rio"

Below is an image Sias sent us to get an idea of the weather they will face from Porto Velho to Vilhenan

Vilhena Weather

Friday, 16 September 2011 Up the Andes

Jean sent us a post reflecting on their journey from Panama City to just over the Andes. His second-half of their flight to Tabatinga will hopefully be posted by tomorrow.

An early start from Panama was needed to get us to Leticia in the southern corner of Colombia before dark. The cool morning air (28°c) allowed a reasonable climb over the high ground at the end of the runway and as we turned on to our heading Panama city was presented in its early morning glory. We spent the first ten minutes of the flight in absolute awe and amazement. That incredible man made canal joining two oceans and splitting two continents has brought about the evolution a huge city.

Lots of Spanish on the radio and a constant climb settled us into the flight. We levelled off at 10 grand and served breakfasts. Starbucks coffee and Oreos, not nutritious but does the trick.

A bit of water to cross and then the Andes. Cruising at that altitude it was odd to think that if we maintained that level we would not clear the mountains that we could not yet see ahead. And so the journey started getting interesting. Over land now the puffy stuff started punctuating the sky. The very lush vegetation covered every inch of land that man had not scared. The hills started to grow up to us and decisions to tweak our trusty 914 into climb configuration started happening.

As always our little turbo charged red head responded keenly and hauled us up to 13 000ft without hesitation. This left the first range of granite peeping at us through the layer of clouds safely below us. Once we were clear we descended back to 10 000ft to avoid cloud, but were well aware that we would need to climb another 5000ft to clear the next bit of rock. The sky was filled with various formations of clouds which hid the mountains, or at least the panoramic views of these incredible mountains. So rather than seeing a long stretch of mountains in the distance that you are going to climb over, you start seeing foothills growing up to you as you pass over gaps in the clouds. Of course our lovely glass cockpit shows red contour levels on the gps page were our butts will be 500' or less over terrain.

And so in good time climb mode is set and we meander our way through those tall, ever growing charlies, using any bit of lift we encounter. Now and again we would fly through a chosen few and they would gently boost our climb rate for a while. As the gps indicated that we were nearing the peaks of this gigantic sculpture of time we could start seeing it in between the forest of clouds. Now that strange seat position gets taken up by both of us. It is a position of serious observation, readiness and possibly nervousness. It reminds me of how my dog "Flight" sits in the plane for take- off. Upright and very keen to see what is going on outside. We don't have forelegs to lean on so we lean against our shoulderstraps.

Things were comfortably tense. This very green, solid and very high bit of planet was now getting very close and we were not yet quiet high enough to keep it out the cockpit, so a little less sky above us was needed. Up at 14 000ft (density alt of 16000ft) our red headed turbo was still styling but the air for our prop to bite and our wings to work in, is VERY thin. The crest of this unbelievable mountain was now close and clearly in site and we needed just a little more to clear it. We were so close that we could see the texture of the grass and scrub. Eaking out every bit of climb we could with an escape route always in place we finally got overhead the summit and leveled off. This was a fantastic experience and place to be. Beauty beyond words. We savoured every moment as we weaved our way between the clouds and mountain features that surrounded us. Almost immediately we began our descent to avoid cloud and left behind us this huge formation and took with us an unforgettable memory.

And now for the ocean of forest……………………………

Thursday, 15 September 2011Safely in Tabatinga, Brazil

We landed in Brazil but have checked into a hotel in Colombia! We are really happy with todays flight … it was a great experience - at times we really felt out there in the mountains, the clouds and uninhabited jungles as far as the eye can see. And … it gives us such a kick being able to have everyone along on the flight with us. oh yes .. Sias saved us a few times today by diverting us around the nasties. Thanks. Now for beer and food - we hardly ate today.

Tomorrow (15 Sep) we will fly in the direction of Rio…probably fly about 700nm. Take off about 9.30 local time - we need to rest a bit so not an early start. Then Friday another 700nm. Saturday the last bit.

Thursday, 15 September 2011Photo log - Puerto Limon to Panama City

Thursday, 15 September 2011Safely in Tabatinga, Brazil (next to Leticia, Colombia)

Jean and Mike landed safely in Tabatinga, Brazil (just over the Colombian border next to Leticia, Colombia) at approximately 00:21 SA local time this morning (15 Sep) after nearly 10 hours of flight from Panama City.

As we are not too sure what the internet connection is like in Tabatinga, we might not get an update from the guys once they get accommodation. However they will let us know via sms or a telephone call what their plans are for the trip to Rio de Janeiro and when they will want to leave.

Let's hope however there is some internet in order for us to get a photo update of the amazing areas they flew over today.

Below is an image Sias sent us of the weather they had roughly faced a few hours before they landed.

Weather to Leticia

Wednesday, 14 September 2011Diverted to Panama

Mike and Jean had to land in Panama yesterday.

Bogota ATC in Colombia contacted them to indicate that they don't allow single-engined aircraft in the air after sunset, and requested that the guys rather land in Panama as it became clear that the guys will arrive at Medellin after sunset, so Mike and Jean got permission to divert and landed at Panama City.

Message from Mike shortly after 04:00Z this morning: We have been working for 4 hours now working out every possible connotation for the best flight tomorrow. We can only get to the plane at 6 am (sunrise) and usually it takes at least an hour to get airborne with all the paperwork and running around we have to do. If we are lucky we will get away early enough to make it to Letitia … otherwise it will be a short flight into Medellin or even maybe Cali. We will make in-flight decisions about that once we are going and can calculate estimates .. Off to sleep now.

M & J

Monday, 12 September 2011Mike and Jean still stuck in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

While we did have some problems illiciting a decent response from Columbia, it now seems that that's all in order. Panama, which we were led to believe would have no problem with an overflight over the ocean, suddenly raised it's head and said "Oh no you don't." So we've been trying to get the required permission in a matter of hours to get Mike and Jean off again today.

Hhmmmm, looks like it may take a bit longer, but in principle there shouldn't be a problem. Meanwhile the weather in Medellin and over most of the northern Andes is in any event appalling. Perhaps if there's no progress we can look at more substantial alternatives tomorrow morning, but to start applying for fresh permissions to land in Venezuala and so on at this stage seems like quite a mission.

Lots of work going on behind the scenes in the meantime! Thanks all for your support!


Below is the mp3 clip of ZU-TAF talking to MROC:

ZU-TAF speaking to MROC, Costa Rica (mp3 link)

* Thanks goes to liveATC.net for making this possible

Altitude profile for yesterday's flight: ZU-TAF Altitude profile

Monday, 12 September 2011Landed at Liberia, Costa Rica instead

What a great day it was today. Our super keen taxi driver was waiting for us outside the hotel and literally raced us to the private aircraft side of Acapulco Aeropeurto. At 5.30 am it was still 2 hours until sunrise – enough time for us to get through the paperwork. It works like this in Mexico: Fill in the flight plan which the briefing officer then checks. He sends you to the cashier to pay landing and parking fees (not bad at all … $16.00 for 2 days). All the copies get stamped. You then go to Immigration who do the passport thing which is quite a process and they then also stamp the flight plan. Then you walk around the corner to el Commandant who checked the stamps are all done correctly and then also checks the flight plan and then stamps it himself and keeps a copy. Off to Customs who search your bags and then stamp the flight plan as well. Jean stays with the Customs ladies chatting about our flight .. I can see he is in need of female company! Back at the briefing office the Briefing officer checks all the stamps and says you are free to leave. But that is not really true – the security police arrived at the Bullet to also check the flight plan and then after checking licences and passports wave you on your way. Luckily at that time of the morning there was no one else also trying to get out of there so it only took an hour and a quarter.

The flight today was really great … we had good weather for most of the flight with some tail and quite a few hours of headwinds. Jean and I were well rested after our stop in Acapulco and felt good and really enjoyed the flying. Although this is a hot part of the world I can tell you it is very beautiful. Flying along as we do above some of the world’s best eyecandy is a very special privilege and we know it.

A few times today Sias sent us a message via the tracker to advise us of weather ahead which was a great help .. and it was instrumental in us diverting to the alternate airport of Liberia at the last minute. Ahead of us lay mountains and after flying through quite a lot of rain and banging into clouds that jumped into our path we made a very quick about face and headed to the safety of Liberia. The ATC actually said to us …” please sir, it is much safer to land here and stay tonight and then go early tomorrow to San Jose. There is very high ground and more bad weather ahead.” We didn’t need persuading – we did an immediate 180 turn and landed on a dry and very visible 07 at Liberia.

We were greeted with friendly smiles and lots of help and within 30 minutes we had refuelled and done customs and immigration and were on a bus to a hotel right opposite the airport.

Today’s flight was 9.1 hours … tomorrow’s flight is only 8 hours but we are flying

1. Into Colombia which is kidnap country 2. Over the Andes mountains 3. Over serious forests 4. Into some iffy weather 5. That’s all.

So we have only taken on 250 litres so that we can climb over the mountains and hopefully dodge the weather.

Right, Jean is waiting downstairs for me to join him for dinner, then it is back to the room for flight planning, writing out the flight plan, checking the weather, doing some washing (ja, we are keeping clean like good boys) and sleep. The hotel driver is not happy about taking us to the airport at 5.30 but that is his problem – let’s see if he even pitches up.

Ciao M & J

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