28 August to 26 August 2011

Sunday, 28 August 2011 Arrived safely in Honolulu

Whoa Aloha, we’re here and settling in for a big sleep. After all we’ve been not only awake, but seriously focused for the whole of three of the last 5 nights without any daytime sleeping either.Anyhow, it turns out we’re also boarded and may not budge until we install a portable HF radio in ZU-TAF. (That applies even if one wants to fly VFR over the ocean below the 5 500ft class A airspace floor!)

The people in Hawaii have been incredibly warm and hospitable – thanks to Chelsea, Jan and AirService Hawaii. Then the FAA are addressing our violation in failing to have an HF radio and in entering the Oakland Oceanic class A airspace without constant 2 way communication.

We have to say that while serious and chiding, their attitude is very clearly directed towards achieving the ultimate objective of safety, and they’re going about it as professionally and co-operatively as could be imagined. We’ve got a hired car, we’re on the beachfront in Waikiki and before bed we’ll be sure to sink some beers and a good pasta. Photos and updates soon. Thanks again for the great support.

J and J

Below is the mp3 clips of ZU-TAF talking to Honolulu ATC on arrival:

ZU-TAF speaking to Honolulu 1 (mp3 link)
ZU-TAF speaking to Honolulu 2 (mp3 link)

* Thanks goes to liveATC.net for making this possible

Sunday, 28 August 2011 ETA Updated

UPDATE: ETA moved forward to 21:04Z (23:04 SA local time)

Sias managed to catch an airline doing a position relay for ZU-TAF. The ETA for Honolulu is now 22:30Z, though there is a good possibility they might land a bit earlier even than that.

Below is the relay message:

ZU-TAF relaying message 150nm SW Johnston Atoll (mp3 link)

* Thanks goes to liveATC.net for making this possible

Sunday, 28 August 2011 Departure to Hawaii

It is now midnight Saturday night in South Africa (and 10 am on Sunday in the Marshall Islands) and I guess by now J & J must be on their way. For the first time they will have to deal with headwinds of 15 to 20 knot all the way which will make the flight time about 24 hours. To make sure they have the range they have taken off with a massive 620 litres of fuel on board giving them a safety margin even if the headwind picks up a bit.

Apart from the headwind there are a bunch of cb's which they are going to have to deal with on the way but after they cross the International Date Line they should be through the worst of them. Although Johnson Atoll is just over halfway and a convenient emergency landing spot they will be passing it in the night and without a moon and lights on the abandoned runway, it could prove difficult to land on it in the dark … but just knowing it is there gives some comfort.

Good luck J and J … we'll chat again on Sunday at 10 am when you land in Hawaii. I know, how crazy is that - they fly for 24 hours and land at the same time and date as they took off .. just 4,000 km away eastwards or is it westwards?


Sunday, 28 August 2011 Weather prediction for the leg to Hawaii

  1. Expect rain and overcast conditions 3-5 hours into the flight, wind 094/17 @ 7500ft
  2. Condition will start improving 700nm from Majuro (09h00 into flight) with low cloud up to 5000ft and high cloud at 25,000ft with no rain expected between the 2 layers – wind 078/20 @ 7500ft
  3. Majority of the middle cloud are right of track for the first 6 hours, high cloud present 10-11 hours into flight.
  4. 500nm from Hawaii, possibility of low cloud at 6000ft, clear above - wind 072/20 @ 7500ft
  5. Approaching Hawaii, few cloud @ 3000ft and scattered at 4500ft - 078/22 @ 7500 ft
  6. Freezing level 17,000ft enroute.
  7. Estimated flying time 22h30 at forecast winds.

The weather site will be updated with the necessary ATC links, satellite image, Hawaii radar and San Francisco HF for sector CWP.

Saturday, 27 August 2011 Jean's update from Marshall Islands

Howdy everybody! There is so much I want to tell you all about life in our shiny bullet as we tunnel our way through the atmosphere of our lonely planet, but time and my typing speed just don't allow. Jet lag is not the word, maybe "bullet-bushed" is more like it, but travelling east, gaining about two hours each leg, as well as losing a "night dose" of sleep each time certainly makes one feel a tad fatigued.

Life between shut-down and the next start-up is interesting, eventful , tedious, exciting, exhausting, educating, sometimes too short and sometimes way too long! It's also not what I am going to share with you, I want to share with you the stuff that happens between start up and shut down as well as the emotions before each leg. If I could type faster I would have you with us all the way, but for now let's go to the Business Centre on the 19th floor of our hotel in Taiwan.

The Japs had forced us to re-route east across the Pacific. We were both a little peed off, but also secretly relieved that we would not be needing to don Chalkie's immersion survival suits, be brave crossing the Bering sub-zero seas and attempt a landing in Adak islands cauldron of meteorological surprises.

James was in our room on his laptop doing attending diligently to flight planning and I was up there, over-looking the city of Taoyuan from behind a computer, checking weather for the new leg to Guam. We needed to decide on a departure time and date. The weather was looking less than perfect to leave that evening with a typhoon moving toward our flight path from the southern Phillipine seas, storm cells developing all around Guam, rainfall predicted for the first two hours of the leg and. Worst of all, weather developing at the half-way point and destination. Probably no self respecting pilot would for one moment even consider jumping into a little four-seater, prototype, experimental aerie at two am and head out into the night to cross the Pacific for 14 hours.

I had just printed the weather from a new site which confirmed Sias' predictions, when James walked in. Now when you get to know James well you learn his oddities and behavior traits. He sat on the window sill with the cityscape behind him, got that look on his face and started off "Jean, you know……. this weather is really really shit! But if we don't fly tonight we are going to be stuck here for a week. So I think we just go?!" All of that blurted out with no eye contact, and then he looked at me.

To share that double bed with him for another week and smell rancid sewerage when leaving the hotel was far more horrifying than the thoughts of a 14 hour dance with the elements over the warm Pacific. Decision made! The rest of the day was spent preparing for Guam.

Fast forward past the flight plan fiasco (Jap crap again) to climb out at 3am into a dark sky, gas for 20 hours on board.

The lights of Taiwan cities twinkling below us created a perfect horizon for VFR flight. The clouds were glowing white from the city light and appeared quite friendly. We thought to fly below them in the rain, but seeing them like this decided to go over them. This turned out to be the right choice. The sun would be up in about three hours and things were looking good. We did need to stay sharp and dodge a few big puffies, but all in all happiness prevailed in the little capsule. Dawn was born and coffee and breakfast was served. Tailwind was good, fuel plenty and skies ahead looked friendly. About four hours down only ten to go. Thanks to the Jap crap we would be into Guam a little after sunset. Not too serious, might be raining a bit and so what if we didn't have plates, they could just vector us in or we could do a VFR or at worst a special VFR approach. Long lazy chats and snoozes prevailed for the morning.

Then the horizon changed, the thin line of weather that was on the horizon now grew into a mighty big wall of the finest convective sculpture with a beauty beyond my vocabulary, hiding within it probably enough energy and water to supply the world's largest city for a year. Now, we needed to get right through the centre of that pretty little show that the Pacific was orchestrating for us. From our front row seat we applauded the spectacle and then started to prepare the lounge and convert it back into a cockpit of a storm-boring bullet, so we started to discuss our strategy.

There is only one way to get to the center of this baby - Lima Lima (low level), in the rain. So from an increasingly unsettled sky we slowly descended to 1 000 ft above the sea , set the alti to GPS altitude, firmed up life jackets and seatbelts, checked the life raft daisy chain(raft, supplies in a sealed container and water tied together), ensured our PLB's were tied to us (thanks again Chalkie) and turned up the music! Casper Mod!

It is like flying through a wall into another reality!

[Time up for me, I'll continue in Hawaii]

Saturday, 27 August 2011 Not a flight for the fainthearted

Ah, we've found internet at last and we can give a bit of an update. Jean's off for a quick run to energise himself and he'll sit down for a type when he returns. Meanwhile, here are some photos from the last 48 hours, in chronological order

J and J

Friday, 26 August 2011 Update from Majuro

Hi all, as I am sure you are eager for an update I thought I would put down what we have gathered from a short call with James. Both are fine, albeit exhausted. The flight took 16.5 hours, which considering the headwinds and needing to fly around storms is pretty good (funny how in light of this trip a 16.5 hour flight doesn't sound too bad…). The flight however sounds like it was a bit of a roller coaster ride. In fact to quote James, "It was not for the fainthearted", and you know when James says something like that it really means it was hell of scary…

Leaving Guam, our intrepids were faced with some serious storms and thick cloud, so decided to try and climb above them. At just over 10,000 feet they realised they were farting against thunder and were never going to out-climb the clouds, so descended through heavy rain to 1,000 feet. They flew the majority of the flight at 1,000 feet in heavy rain. In fact they say that they have now flown through so much heavy rain that the quick fix aerosol paint job we did on the cowling of this unpainted prototype now almost looks like its has had a lightning strike!

They are now staying at the Majuro Hotel, which I believe is the same hotel that James and Mike stayed at during their 2009 ATW adventure in the Sling 2. They plan to rest for now and will depart when the weather looks good.

The plane is flying absolutely beautifully they say, and they are falling more and more in love with her after each leg (Jean however is quick to say that Flight (his dog) is still his first love…). They also say that one of the largest contributors to keeping their spirits up is knowing that there are so many of us down here, up there with them, so thanks to all the amazing support we have had. It makes me think of a quote by Nelson Mandela. "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead." I for one feel that James, Jean and Mike have made such a difference to my life by allowing me to be part of this adventure, that their lives are pretty damn significant.

The guys have no internet on Majuro so the next major update from them will be when they get to Hawaii. In the meantime we will try our best to keep you updated and entertained.

Signing off

Friday, 26 August 2011 Safely in Majuro

Majuro ATC confirmed that James and Jean landed safely at 0445Z (6:45 SA local time) in Marshall Islands. We haven't been able to speak to them yet, and will keep you posted as soon as we have had contact. We do anticipate them to try and get to the hotel as soon as possible for a well deserved rest.

Below are some photos from 2009 when Mike and James flew around the world and landed at Majuro. Although we know the weather was a bit worse today than in 2009, they still hopefully saw some beautiful views of the Marshall Islands as they came in to land.

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