Up at 0520- tired, but, once again reflecting on basic fact that self-discipline essential for project like this; no room for sleeping in or slowing down; time for that at end!
After quick breakfast (fresh pineapple and couple of croissants) pay our bill and argue/negotiate taxi cost to airport; need to draw money en route- can't change at hotel; Richard carrying US$ bills, but airport handling agents not happy with this currency; apparently counterfeit stuff before; fell asleep in taxi en route to hole in wall machines; Richard's cards not
working- used mine successfully
eventually; fell asleep again in taxi; getting very good at power-naps whenever occasion pops up; aware I am sleep-deprived right now, but handling it well I think.
At airport usual delays trying to explain private flight, both of us pilots; suddenly helped by security man who saw us on TV recently; huge congratulations and herded through fast track; cursory x-ray security checks; me with loads of lumpy things in my pockets from cameras to phones, MP3 digital recorder; man just feels the lumps, with machine shrilling "metal object" and waves us through with huge smile and hearty back-slapping and bon voyage wishes!
Few minutes later another passenger runs up to us, asking for photo with him via his phone, then asks for autographs- apparently saw us on Thai TV a week ago; all signs that SCB corporate staff all around the Far East and beyond doing wonderful job promoting the project via the media- well done, all of you!
Finally driven across airfield to our deserted area and hangar with the microlight after departure procedures/passport/immigration/flight plans/general declaration forms, etc.Push microlight out of hangar with two ground handling staff with us.
Same routine every day; first check aircraft, then Richard, carrying huge hold-all kit bag for parachute canopy starts taking kit out; hangs my flying suit over propeller with fleece; hangs my helmet and headphones on wing wires; I take flying suit etc from propeller, find my way to my side of aircraft and undo leg/body zips, lean against aircraft for support, put legs through zips, fasten ankle snap fasteners/Velcro flap around boot, take camera and mobile phone from leg pocket of trousers, transfer to flying suit; phone Jon Cook, Project Manager, giving rough departure time and length of flight/ Estimated Time of Arrival, switch off phone. Loop digital camera strap through flying suit loop by breast pocket, so, when taking photos in flight (yes I do, in fact, with Richard giving me rough clock instructions (e.g.:
about nine o'clock, 45 degrees down, fishing boat/airfield, etc- he then checks photos after flight, deleting all the ones focussing on his shoulder, or my thumb over lens etc!)
Put on fleece under flying suit, then life jacket (whenever we fly over water- today some 240 miles, flying alongside Sumatra island, then open water to next big island of Java, where Djakarta situated). Straddle my way into microlight, get comfortable in tiny space, fasten waist harness (no shoulder harnesses- too restricting). Before putting on headphones, that effectively cut me off from all sound in the outer world, say cheerio to anybody seeing us off, then headphones on, helmet on, secure helmet, connect headphones to aircraft system and my flight computer system. Richard then gets in; lots of shuffling and wriggling from both of us, until comfortable/bearable!
After Richard ready, check ignition off, magneto's off, foot throttle closed, hand throttle closed, choke fully on; shout "prop. clear!", and start aircraft; today engine revving too high; switch off; Richard found he had jammed bottle of coolant just used to top up radiator coolant against foot throttle cable.
We carry anti-freeze, as best coolant for radiator engine system; don't even try to buy anti-freeze locally in any country after Europe; people in hot countries never even heard of it- what would they use it for?! Day very humid and overcast, after heavy storm last night, but virtually no wind; longer take-off length, but no problem; up, up and away, once again into the blue yonder.
Me very excited last few days, realising we only have one more country to go- Indonesia- before Australia and the home straight!
Soon after takeoff I am unbelievably tired, with drooping eyelids, and realise I will not fly well in this condition; ask Richard if he minds flying for the first couple of hours (about 4 hour flight of 240 miles) so I can sleep a bit- no problem!
Strange couple of hours, with me semi-waking up several times, and marvelling I am actually flying at over 6,000 feet over some of the most inhospitable yet fascinating terrain in the world; choice of landing on rain-forest canopy far below if engine failure, or perhaps up river near the forest canopy, or along beach along coast of Sumatra; turns out Richard had same thoughts whilst looking down; beaches very narrow or non-existent in places; his thinking, if necessary, probably land in shallows by beach to save aircraft etc.
Lots of primitive looking villages below; houses built on stilts over water, especially around mouth of rivers; no sign of cultivation/farming, but presumably making living purely from the sea.
Later get confirmation that Indonesia lost some 2,00,000 people in Tsunami; no chance for those in stilt houses taking force of wave; some 220 million people in Indonesia I understand, scattered amongst archipelago of thousands of islands.
For those of you unsure just where we are right now, we just a bit to the right of Perth in Western Australia if Longitude line drawn up I think; we will be flying more to the right over the next few days, heading East via Bali and other islands until West Timor reached, for long 460 miles ocean crossing to Darwin, up around the middle top of Australia, then heading East once again towards Cairns before heading South towards Sydney; just about 14 days or so to go now..!
Once awake, feeling much refreshed, take over from Richard, knowing I will not fly as accurately as him, with my compass heading drifting either side of our desired track; with both my compass and angle of bank lagging slightly, it is hard for me to accurately estimate when to "meet" the drift of the aircraft before it overshoots the heading I am trying to stick to.
As described before, I try to react slowly each time, keeping my compass voice giving me single figure changes, not several degrees at a time when making too sharp corrections to the wing. E.G.: if I am trying to keep a course of, say, 245 degrees, as was the track today, and my current heading is 239 degrees, I only gently move the right side of the wing bar down, listening for my angle of bank telling me f the wing is still tilted slightly to the left (IE; "bank- 2 degrees left", "bank 2 degrees left"; what I DON'T want, is to hear it say next "bank 4 degrees right" that means the aircraft will start to increase it's slide to the right, resulting in my compass now suddenly telling me the next compass heading is "compass 244 degrees", as I definitely going to not correct it in time, and my next compass reading will, just seconds later, after repeating my next angle of bank (telling me if my wing is absolutely level, or tilted one way or the other), tell me my new compass heading is now almost 250 degrees.The silly result is that it takes me a while to stabilise the aircraft, and, ever so gently, start bringing her on track, creeping just a degree at a time, with, hopefully, my angle of bank just staying in single figures, telling me I am just one degree away from level, either to the left or right, until I can get these kissing cousins to meet at the pre-determined point of 245 degrees, with my angle of bank now reading that sweet sound "bank 0 degrees", and my compass heading repeatedly comes back intermittently as 245, 245, 245… Little moments of magic when this happens, but, as Richard will tell you, it just takes some sudden turbulence to throw the wing 6-8 degrees off centre, and I start the patient process once again.If you think this sounds simple, imagine this wing over 30 feet in length, balancing on a single point like a see-saw, and realise how small a change it takes to get the wing-tip to move a single degree to the left or right…
Then imagine what effect severe turbulence has on the wing, and what it takes, getting it back into level, steady flight…
Richard, in comparison, can immediately make the opposite correction on the wing by sight, and stay uncannily close to the desired track. I occasionally, by the way, when flying, switch on and off my altimeter, to check I am not slowly climbing or descending, along with my GPS track indicator, that tells me if I am flying exactly on track, based on the pre-determined shortest distance between two way-points; if I am off track, it will tell me, to .1 of a mile, how far I am off track either to the left or right.
I do not make any sharp changes of heading if off track, but just gently drift towards the desired invisible track line as the flight continues.
I also find it difficult to hold a conversation with Richard when I am flying, as, if I lose my concentration, even for a few seconds, I find I have drifted- the same result if I am distracted by radio traffic from ATC talking to us!
I must say both Richard and I are feeling immensely privileged to have the opportunity to fly a microlight across such fascinating and little-seen terrain.
As you can imagine, all commercial flights are flying at around 30,000 feet, and, even if there is no cloud, you can't see much at that height!
Richard describing shallow waters below, with some 30 fishing boats moving around on sea excitedly- big shoal of fish perhaps?
Eventually getting near Djakarta, after crossing between Sumatra and Java, with ATC talking us in; over huge city of Djakarta, now only at 2,000 feet.
we notice lots and lots of chatter over ATC tower frequency; unknown to us, four other microlights from enthusiastic microlight flying club in region (flying Quick and GT450 models exactly like ours imported from England) are also in the air, looking for us, to surprise us by suddenly appearing alongside in formation to welcome us in!
Unfortunately, due to heavy haze over the city (lots of fascinating smells for me to interpret continually from soap making to chemical smells, food etc), they can't find us, despite ATC trying to vector them onto our position!
We land, are directed to the waiting crowd from the SCB, who mysteriously ask us f we will take off again- all understood as soon as I yell to Richard, "I can hear another microlight nearby!", and no less than four come taxiing up to us, after failing to find us in the sky!
With great enthusiasm we all take off again and are vectored around for another landing, this time all together, and are directed to another part of the airport, where we are met by a massive barrage of TV cameras and photographers from all sectors of the media, flashing away at us as soon as we switch off, and I feel the need to yell "TIGER" at the top of my voice, that I am then told to repeat over and over again, looking in every direction possible around the plane, now surrounded by the media people filming/recording/flashing away, with Richard's good natured chuckle rumbling away at the excitement and enthusiasm of the occasion.
Once out of the cockpit we are again asked to pose and speak, gesturing and shouting TIGER over again and again, and generally looking as happy and excited as we felt, being greeted so warmly by all the Bank corporate staff and everybody else.
Eventually ushered into a press conference inside the nearby buildings, with more TV and newspaper interviews.
Richard and I officially welcomed by the Indonesian Microlight Association, and awarded various gifts- so kind of them!
By about 4pm in the afternoon, a couple of hours after landing, the TV report is already being broadcasted- well done to the great PR work of the Bank!
After hangaring and fuelling up the microlight in readiness for our early departure Tuesday morning, we are taken to our hotel for a much appreciated break before the events planned for tomorrow; addressing the bank staff, visiting a local institute for the blind, then an evening corporate fund-raising event.
After doing my washing, transforming my hotel room into a kind of a laundry with washing drying everywhere, and having a simply delicious shower, Richard and I headed down for an excellent Greek \Salad followed by pepper-corn steaks; didn't realise how hungry I was!
Back in my room by 10 pm to do my Blog for the day; just settled down when Richard bangs on door again; he can't remember either his room number or where it is; I need to tell him, and offer to let him sleep on the second bed in my room if he gets lost again! I guess tiredness is catching up on both of us!
By the way, as I close for the day approaching midnight, I have decided to try to leave you each day with a quote to think about; hopefully linked to the day somehow!
Today, I have been thinking about all the wonderful people Richard and I have met both today and during this flight.
I am reminded of the lovely definition of a stranger; "A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet".
If a man be gracious to strangers, it shows that he is a citizen of the world, and his heart is no island, cut off from other islands, but a continent that joins them.
– Francis Bacon
The whole world is a friendly place I think- you just need to embrace people you meet of different cultures and languages with an open hand and heart, and you will discover the same being over flowingly extended back to you…