Today actually started last night, discovering at 11pm my Angle of Bank indicator was malfunctioning- urgent calls to Adrian Sach for urgent advice, with Jon working until after midnight changing components; no joy- Adrian ultimately arranged for a replacement unit to be sent down from Durham to Biggen Hill, arriving 0500 hours!
A great send off by the Seeing Is Believing team from the Standard Chartered Bank and lots of last-minute TV, radio and photo calls at the Jet Aviation
hangar- huge thanks to Michael and all his staff, along with Peter, Airport Manager of Biggen Hill for their absolutely great hospitality over the last few days!
For those of you who were not aware, my original co-pilot Storm Smith advised us late last Sunday- the day before we were due to depart) that he had to withdraw from the flight due to personal circumstances, and we managed to contact Brian Milton and Richard Meredith-Hardy- two of the world's best known microlight pilots no less, and, to their huge credit, they confirmed less than twelve hours after being approached that they would do the trip with me! Super Troopers hey?
Take a look at their CV's on this site!
Brian started the flight with me today, and Richard will take over from him in Cyprus in just a week's time!
I must say that there was a touch of magic for me, flying over the Channel with Brian after our great send-off from Biggen Hill- my dream to fly more than half-way around the world was now becoming a reality to me as the British Coast passed under us and we headed for France on our non-stop series of flights all the way to Australia.
One of the funny incidents the other day, as I was driving down to Biggen Hill to start the flight, I was checking through my documents, passports etc, and suddenly realised with a sinking shock that I didn't have a single air ticket with me. Then, with a bit of a shock to tell the truth, I realised that I was the pilot, flying our dedicated aircraft, and would be doing my own flying- it made me laugh!
Our flight over the Channel was surprisingly smooth, with Brian describing the lines of ocean-going ships heading out into the Atlantic Ocean below us.
Le Touquet was a great quick stop where I wolfed down a sandwich with no liquid (we reckon the best way to avoid needing to go to the non-existent loo in a microlight is not to drink during the day at all- and it seems to have worked today!) Just after starting our engine for the second leg Brian realised his GPS was not functioning, that led to an 80 minute delay replacing a collapsed plug unit.
A very kind French pilot, seeing our dilemma, offered to help, jumped into his car with the faulty unit and had it replaced with brand new components he bought in town, and would not take a penny for his troubles- Allez Les Bleus!
Once back in the sky we were determined to get to Macon before night-fall.
This we managed, despite weaving our way through some very dirty weather in the region, missing the worst of it, or flying under the less obnoxious
systems- Brian seems to take authority over the worst of them, warning them to keep away with some of the most colourful and obnoxious threats a cloud could be threatened with!
I found it really exhillarating, with the microlight being tossed around a bit, being sucked a bit one way or another- and several times upwards towards the base of some developing cloud mass above us, with Brian humming away contentedly, chatting over old times, and throwing in an occasional blasphemy towards some nasty air mass that had just shaken and tossed us about as we passed , and saying "Don't worry old boy, this is nothing compared to the time when I was flying across India etc, etc!
Sometimes I wonder if it is just better to read of his past amazing exploits sitting in an armchair, rather than creating new ones with him!
Our arrival at Macon was just in time- with the weather still very unfriendly, and both of us cold and wet, and premature gloom setting in, and our radio starting to malfunction due to the weather conditions.
Pierre, the chief flying instructor from the airfield, was just closing up when he saw our light coming out of the rain and welcomed us in like long-lost friends, refuelling our aircraft and hanging her in record time, whilst also offering us sandwiches, a toilet in a heated office, then providing us with a lift in his car to a great hotel he recommended- such kindness and consideration that meant so much more to us, being so cold and wet and hungry- I think French Aviators, like their counterparts at Biggen Hill, are hard to beat- we have been treated with exceptional kindness by people at all three airfields we have been at today-Biggen hill, Le Touquet and now Macon, and it is only day one!
We are both very tired but happy tonight, and I for one am looking forward to warmer weather should we reach our desired goal of the Adriatic Mediterranean Coast tomorrow evening!
One last update for you all- my guidance kit. Most of it has worked superbly, guiding me to each airfield to within a few hundred yards, except for my angle of bank indicator, that again mal-functioned today, despite Jon Cook fitting the replacement unit driven down to us overnight.
The result was me leaving an invisible track across the sky not in a really straight line, but like a Boemslang Snake, gently weaving either side of my track line!
A quick call to Adrian Sach of Software express has confirmed that this is a design fault with these new units, with the South African manufacturers attempting to get corrected units to us ASAP.
Time for bed from a very tired but happy little sand boy, kind of wondering at the fact that I am now living my dream!
Life lesson- if you keep on aiming at living your dreams and don't give up when the wheels fall off, and you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the worlds nicest and most remarkable people…
Total distance today: approx. 400 miles
total flying time: 5.5 hours