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Filip Nebbel's Diary (X-Plane 11, Quest Kodiak 100, D-AKPZ)


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What strange synchronicities life sometimes comes up with...

 

This morning at 9 am I was sitting in a meeting in Innsbruck with one of my clients, who told me that they would cancel the winter campaign due to budget cuts and COVID shortfalls. I own a Quest Kodiak 100 which I charter out for archeological remote sensing missions. The plane is equipped with a scientific instrument pod, built by the DLRG in Oberpfaffenhofen, which is also my main client  besides the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (DFG). I was booked for survey flights in the Mediterranean for the next three months.
And now - all plans in the bin.

 

I called my loving spouse Aida right after the meeting, told her the bad news and she was not nearly as unhappy as I was.
"So, you're going to spend some time with me the next months?", she asked hopefully.
"So it seems, might be a good time for some holiday!", I answered, and my dear Aida cheered in such a delightful way that my disappointment about the cancelled job vanished into thin air.

"Winter in spain? Beach? Relaxation, Wellness, no stress?"

I had to laugh. Aida and me are completely opposite characters, but yet the most loving couple one can imagine.

"Ok, I give in. Beach, cucumber on the face and everything. Promised!"

 

Next I called Janine, who is running my office in Munich, to tell her about the new situation and give her some directions for the next days. Before I could even start talking, she was bursting in excitement:
"Guess what," she said, "Mr Kok called, and they are doing it again!"
"What?", I answered.
"The 80 days! The 80 days around the world! With planes!"
I gulped. My hands started to tremble. The 80 days. My lifetime dream. I tried before, 2017 - the darkest episode of my life. I tried not to think about it.
"Ok, when, give me some details, Janine!"
"23rd, London, Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Yokohama, San Francisco, New York, London. Three months."
"The Jules Verne itinary!", I whispered to myself.
"So, what you're gonna do?" pushed Janine.
I took a deep breath. Gave me 60 seconds to think about it, but made the decision in the 3rd second: "I'll go!"
"Yeesssss!!" - Janine was obviously as much into this adventure as me.

 

I hurried to Innsbruck airport. I knew exactly what I had to do. I had planned this trip in my mind a hundred times. I had to fly back to Oberpfaffenhofen asap, get the FLIR pod replaced with the standard cargo pod by the DLRG people. Then get a full checkup of the plane by Rheinlad Air Service - both - DLRG and RAS - are located at EDMO, perfect! My friend Wolfgang (nickname Mr. Fix) had to organize the equipment - a raft, life vests, extra oxygen bottles and about ten thousand more things. 5 days for preparation. And maybe one or two more if I would return to EDMO on the first leg of the trip.

 

When I started out from runway 08 in LOWI into a clear blue sky over the Inn valley at 14:30 local time, I knew that everyone who could help me with this adventure was on the go. When I set the parking brakes in front of the DLRG hangar at EDMO 90 minutes later, I looked into the grinning faces of a bunch of young men and women, ready to dismount the sensor pod. And I thought to myself: "I am Filip Nebbel, and I will travel around the world in a plane. In 80 days!"

 

There was one major issue, though: how to tell my wife?
Looking at my beautiful Kodiak in the sunset, I called Aida.
"Honey, how about christmas in London?"

 

 

2021-12-17T15.37_EDMO.jpg

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In the evening I received a call from Mr Kok. Luckily on the mobile phone - I didn't dare telling Aida about the developments of the last few hours yet, fearing her likely furious reaction.

 

Obviously Mr Kok was concerned about the capabilities of my aircraft for this adventure. I described to him, that my Kodiak had a range of about 1800 km with the standard fuel tanks, but that I would plan the tour in legs of about 1000 km each and that I did not plan to provide extra tanks. Flight times would then be around 6 hours per leg, short enough to be flown by one pilot and short enough to provide two or three people with oxygen, because the Kodiak is unpressurized. (I made a note to myself that Wolfgang had to purchase aeration devices).

 

Mr Kok than asked me specifically about how I planned to cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and I had to admit, that I did not know yet, not least because I just learned about the adventure only a couple of hours ago.

 

"And your crate is a single engine, right?", Mr Kok continued to disclose the deficits of my equipment. I decided to take the 'crate' as a compliment.

"Look", I answered, "I want this so bad, if I only make it to Hong Kong or Japan, that is fine with me. But if I see any possibility to go the full circle, I will certainly do!"

"Well then, best of luck!"

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*Email*

Dear Mr. Zulu,

 

In reading up on the fellow participants in this year's 80 day adventure; I couldn't help but notice that you - much like myself - enjoy the low and slow approach to flying. I'll be participating in a G36 Bonanza this year and am looking forward to following along in your travels. Us single engine folk are a rare breed in such an event (I believe I heard rumors of a Mooney M20 as well if I'm not mistaken). I'll be planning my oceanic crossings in the coming week, and would be happy to share my thoughts in an effort to see everyone return safely.

 

I wish you the safest of travels.

 

Sincerely,

Chaindog

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vor 10 Stunden , pestridge77 sagte:

Im gonna guess that youre not going across the Pacific then, instead heading North for the poles? I love flying this aircraft for sight seeing... :)

 

 

Most likely yes. No matter how I juggle the numbers - I do not believe we can make it to Hawaii. Not with Aida on board, not without a real lavatory (Aida!), not without extra tanks. It will become a strenuous trip along the Kurile and Aleutian Islands to Alaska (in the winter at that). Thankfully, my Kodiak is equipped with TKS ice-protection and approved for FIKI.

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Monday, 2021-12-20

 

this might have been the busiest four days of my life! So much to decide, so much to organize, so much to do!

 

The DLR people removed the remote sensing pod friday night. It seems like an easy job, but actually there is quite some wiring between the pod and the aircraft – the scientific equipment is operated from laptops within the cabin during our archaeological prospection flights. By saturday noon the default cargo pod had been mounted - a simple glass fiber box that can carry another 250 kgs of payload.

 

I taxiied the Kodiak over to the RUAG hangar on the other side of EDMOs runway where Eric Verpooten was taking over. We decided upon the maintenance work to be done – not that much actually, as the engine had just been overhauled in October for the winter campaign. Eric wanted to know just about every detail of the world trip and finally came up with the suggestion to do some paintwork:

"We should paint the roof, wings and tail in bright orange - this will raise your changes of being found in a possible emergency rescue effort significantly!"

"How encouraging!", I replied, but approved his proposal anyway. It had cost me a fortune three years ago, to get the Kodiak in bare metal and so I am a little bit picky with painting on her.

 

I left my little bird in the trustworthy hands of Eric and his team and returned home. Aida was leery already. All the phone calls with Wolfgang, my obvious unrest and excitement. I can not hide anything from her.

"So, boy, what is going on here?", she came up eventually.

"Well, I have to confess something", I mumbled.

She raised the left eyebrow, looking not amused: "No christmas in London?"

"Uh, oh," I replied, "no, no, everything fine with London!"

Her eyes lit up a bit. "Ok, so whats to confess?"

"It is about after London. I got an assignment, so to say."

Her facial expression turned into immediate disappointment: "Ookay? So DFG cancelled the cancellation?"

"No, it is another assignment...", and then I told her the full story. Oh, that hit badly! There were two or three minutes of awkward silence.

"You promised me a holiday!?" Her voice was dangerously calm.

"Yes."

"And now you go on a 80 days around the world tour with your little plane!?"

I stared on my toes.

"Actually, I do not necessarily see a contradiction in this.", said Aida.

I cowardly looked up. Where was this leading to?

"It's as simple as this: I will go with you!". Aida folded her arms, eyeing me up.

"But you are afraid of flying!" Not, that I wasn't intrigued by the idea.

"Yes! And you are afraid of airports!" Aida barked back at me.

Ouch. That hurt. I am not generally afraid of airports, just of large ones. Long story. Big problem for a pilot. I knew how to avoid large airports in the past and I would certainly get along on the world trip. But it hurt.

"Honey, I would love nothing more, than to do this journey together with you. I have some doubts, though, if you know what would be ahead of you!"

"So tell me!"

 

We talked for two hours. Aida is really, really, very afraid of flying and refused to fly with me in the Kodiak until now. I tried to give some realistic picture of what it means to spend hours in a small jolting aircraft, with no toilet, but diapers and bottles. The boredom. The dangers. But I also got carried away with my enthusiasm for flying in general and this project in particular. Obviously, she only listened to the latter part. She was decided to go and boy, was I happy with it!

 

Monday was all organizing. I started to plan the itinary. My plan was to go in legs of roughly 1000 km, which would be 4 to 5 hours per flight and this seemed very manageable for me. I loaded Google Earth, set waypoints for the mandatory stations of the world trip and then drew circles with 1000 km radius around the waypoints. Then I filled the gaps with stopovers. Everything was easy from London to Suez. But then it got already complicated. I didn't want to fly into per se insecure coutries like Jemen. After a while I had a perfect plan for Suez, and some concrete idea until Japan. After Japan, things would get really complicated and I delayed planning of this part for now.

 

Janine Ramen would stay in the office in Munich and take care of the organisation, like visa, permissions, bookings, research and stuff.

 

Wolfgang "Mr Fix" Klein took care of organizing everything we had to pack in the plane – sat phones, water, food, medical pack, oxygen bottles and masks, CO2 meters, pulse oximeters, COVID masks and tests, survival equipment, tent, sleeping packs, backpacks (in case we had to walk away from a crashed plane), a 3 person raft, life vests, survival suits for the north, computers, tools, scale, tailstand, spare parts, GPS devices, blankets etc etc . For most of the trip we would fly with standard tires and fuel-saving fairings, but I also wanted to have our Tundra tires, skis and mudflaps ready, just in case. They wouldn't fit into the plane, but we already own a standard LD3 container for the extra equipment, that can easily be sent as air cargo to any place in the world.

Wolfgang also agreed to become our FOB, our forward operating base. He would fly ahead of us with commercial airlines, take care of the container and assist with whatever can only be accomplished on location. Noone would be a better choice for that job than Mr. Fix!

 

We have some more friends involved, which I will introduce at a later time...

 

2021-12-20T14.00_EDMO.jpg

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Tuesday, 2021-12-21

 

The Kodiak is ready. When we arrived at Oberpfaffenhofen airport, I could not believe my eyes. What a beautiful, wonderful aircraft!

Eric and his team have done a perfect job. They did the orange painting as discussed and also painted the hood in matte black, to reduce reflections into the cockpit.

 

The best surprise, however, was a nicely done "80 days around the world" logo on both doors, the globe icon on the tail and my name on the pilot door.

I beamed with pride, thanked the RAS/RUAG team a million times and even Aida smiled in antipication.

 

Wolfgang showed up with most of the equipment. Some stuff will be ready next week (we will return to EDMO next week as first stop of the official trip), some stuff will have to be sent somewhere else to be picked up en route.

 

Tomorrow we will fly to EGKB (London Biggin Hill), because the airport fees for London City Airport are just insane. We will join the dinner on 23rd (and I hope they were not serious about the gentlemen-only-thing, because Aida would go full-suffragette-mode in that case). We will then spend one or two more days in London sightseeing and then: On to Suez via EDMO, LIBR and LGST!

 

 

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Wednesday, 2021-12-22

 

Couldn't sleep all night. Oh this sweet excitement that preceeds every adventure!

 

With all preparations complete by 22pm last night, we decided to go to London today. My first flight with Aida. And all concerns about her flying anxieties were unfounded! She actually enjoyed the flight.

We left Oberpfaffenhofen in IFR conditions, but the sky opened up over central Germany with nice views (especially on Mont Royal and the Mosel river).

Landed at Biggin Hill with light sidewinds 3,5 hours later. Went straight to the hotel and then for some sightseeing.

 

Wow, now we are into it!

 

Hope to see you all tomorrow at the dinner!

 

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Saturday, 2021-12-25

 

I am in a strange mood. After our arrival three days ago I was enthusiastic. A new adventure had started, my wife was with me, we had that super smooth flight to London where we found my spouse not nearly as afraid of flying as we expected. Smooth immigration procedures at Biggin Hill, no trouble with Covid-rules (we are vaccinated and boosted, had a fresh PCR test certificate and a rapid test taken before the flight), funny encounters on the way from the airport to the city (see below) and a very nice hotel.

 

On thursday, the 23rd, I tried to figure out details about the dinner at the Reform club, but couldn't find the invitation with the details any more. Tried to contact the organizers, in vain, and then got all the messages of my fellow pilots, that had already started to leave for Suez. Had the dinner already taken place on wednesday? I fell into a state of uncertainty and unsteadiness. I was a little bit sad, but Aida did not care about the dinner at the Reform club at all, was all happy and excited about London and insisted on a full christmas sightseeing and shopping program.

 

We spent three days now with sightseeing, shopping, theater, good food and everything and every day raised my unrest a little more. Probably some of the contestants had already arrived at Port Said? I tried to push Aida for departure today, but the weather was LIFR both in EGKB and EDMO. The forecast sunday looks better.

 

We will hopefully leave tomorrow morning, as soon as possible, for our first real leg, and this will just lead us back to our FOB and home in Munich. Somehow I was expecting a more glamorous start of the event and a more adventurous sensation...

 

 

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Sunday, 2021-12-26

 

Finally. We went out to Biggin Hill at 7am, prepared the Kodiak for departure, but had to wait until 10am, as the airport did not dispatch earlier that day (note to myself: read the damn NOTAMs!).

 

We took off 5 minutes past 10am for an uneventful flight to EDMO. During the flight I checked my tablet and found a mail of Mr Kok with detailled data how to get to the Reform Club (even with photos). I started to curse like hell at myself. A poor IMAP configuration of my mail app had prevented the information to reach me in time. It was all my fault, that I had missed the Dinner at the Reform Club. It also didn't help much that Aida laughed at me and asked, how I would find my way around the world, when I wasn't able to find an address in London. I think she still believes that this is some sort of half-baked endeavour and that I would admit the impossibility of the world-trip idea at the latest in Port Said. I wasn't in the mood for smalltalk until our arrival in Oberpfaffenhofen. We landed 1:20pm at runway 22.

 

But then, what a reception: Wolfgang, Eric and his crew, Aida's parents and Janine with her friend welcomed us, as if we had just returned from the completed world tour! A spontaneous party started in the RUAG hangar with lots of futzing, some Karaoke and even more alcohol...

 

Eric had a surprise for me: he had prepared two inspection plates for the Kodiak with a camera mount bolted to them. I had written him from London, that some of the participants of the 80-days-world-tour seemingly had unlimited funds - not only did they park their planes for days at London City Airport, they also posted photos of their aircrafts IN FLIGHT, which means, that they had wing planes accompanying them. Wolfgang smiled like a little child when he handed me some small cameras that could be attached to Eric's mounts. With a wide angle lens I could now shoot photos in flight, that would "almost" look like from a wing plane. We immediately replaced the inspection plates - one under the left wing and one under the right stabilizer.

 

We revelled until late in the night, and then Aida and me decided to sleep in the RAS offices, instead of going home to our appartment just 20 km away from the airport. We were now on a world trip and we would not return home before 80 days were over...

 

 

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Monday, 2021-12-27

 

ouch – the morning after...

 

We had some hangover breakfast and it took much more time than planned to get ready for departure. A last check of the equipment. Wolfgang left for Munich airport - he would go to Port Said via Cairo today and get our spare parts container there until the 31st.

Last hugs for everyone and then we took off from runway 04 at exactly 1pm.

 

Crossing the Alps by plane is everytime a fantastic experience. We had perfect weather, splendid views, and Aida was almost in tears about the beauty around her. Aida is a passionate hiker, spending every free weekend in the mountains and from Brauneck until Innsbruck she called out every peak by its name.

 

We were flying at an altitude of 12000 ft, which is my personal threshold altitude for using oxygen. I usually start monitoring my O2/pulse values at 10000 ft and switch on oxygen above 12000 ft. I had passengers in the past that showed obvious effects of the altitude already at 8000 ft. I watched Aida closely, but she did not show any symptoms and I guess she is pretty used to high altitudes due to her mountain experience. Nevertheless I introduced her to the use of the pulse oximeter and the oxygen masks (just tiny hoses that are plugged to oxygen outlets and then fixated under the nose) and she got her first flying duty: operating the oxygen switch (which is on the copilots side) and monitoring the oxygen supply level. She blazed at me with pride!

 

At the southern edge of the Alpes we got into some short but hefty turbulences and Aida panicked immediately, screaming and white knuckling the edges of her seat. She calmed down quickly, but there was a little dent in her new-won confidence about the pleasures of flying.

 

We followed the east Italian coastline remaining at 12000 ft to stay over the dense ceiling and finally swiftly landed at Brindisi Casale (LIBR) at 4:50pm local time, already in the dark. Ground control was extremely sloppy – we were ordered to park at position 205, but there were no marshalers available. The ground signs were completely puzzling me and hard to see in the dark as well. I made like three circles on the spot to align correctly while Aida was laughing her ass off, slapping her knees and asking me, if she should get outside and give me directions, like she does when we travel with our mobile home. (It turned out the other day, that I had parked 180° in the wrong direction).

 

Nice dinner in the old city center of Brindisi. The outside cameras work perfectly!!

 

 

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Thursday, 2021-12-30

 

Made it! Arrived at Port Said!

 

But in sequence: we spent the 28th in Brindisi, just relaxing and exploring a little bit the town and harbour of Brindisi. In the late afternoon we returned to the airport for a quick check and ran into some discussion with an excited marshaler, complaining our wrong parking. I didn't want to start the engine just to turn around, so we organized a tug and made the marshaler (who's name was Guiseppe) happy.

 

On wednesday, the 29th we left Brindisi airport at 09:10, followed the coastline for some miles and then crossed the Ionic see to Korfu. We stayed over land, down the Pelopponese, then to the Northwest corner of Crete and following the north shore to Sitia airport (LGST) where we touched down at 12:40. I expected Sitia to be much bigger, as it used to be a common destination for Lufthansa and other charter airlines. But it was just fine with me. Passing Herakleion airport on the way already induced anxieties...

Side note: I found, that Google Earth pixelated all Greece airports. Why is that?

 

Our next leg would go to Port Said, three hours over open waters. It was about time to prepare Aida (and me) for the sea crossings. For starters, the Kodiak is not made for ditching. With its fixed gear it is prone to overturning upon impact. If you manage to set it down slowly enough, so that it doesn't, it will tilt to one side (cause it is a high wing craft) and quickly start to sink. I didn't tell Aida the details, but I used two hours on the airport to brief her carefully – how we would wear life vests (their are really tiny and comfortable these days), how she would stay in the passenger cabin and the raft would go on the copilots seat (because otherwise I would not be able to drag it out fast enough in case I had to). We practiced opening the passenger door and moving between the copilots seat and the cabin without relocating any levers on the quadrant. I told Aida how boring flying over water usually is and she was all happy with the idea of making herself cozy in the passanger cabin with cushions and blankets a good book.

 

In the afternoon I took Aida to a nice little beach in Sitia bay and we concluded the day with a nice greece meal in one of the taverns.

 

This morning we left Sitia airport early at 08:55 and took the remaining 391 miles to Port Said. But the trip started with a shock and it was again all my fault. The plane started to yaw to the left immediately after rotate, leaving me consternate. It took me some seconds to figure out, that the rudder was maximally trimmed left. The rudder trim button is on the front side of the throttle quadrant and was obviously pushed when we practiced the transfer between cabin and cockpit. The major error, though, was that I missed the setting when going through the checklists.

 

Otherwise we had a quiet flight at 9000 ft, looking out for the Egyption shoreline and my landing at Port Said was probably the best I have ever done.

 

We will stay now for at least two days in Port Said. We hope to meet as many fellow crews as possible here, we will celebrate New Years Day, we will meet Mr Fix and change the tires of the Kodiak, I would like to go to Cairo and meet some people (I spent a whole campaign surveying the Nile from Cairo to Khartoum two years ago and made so many good friends in Egypt and the Sudan) – inshallah!

 

 

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Parking chaos in Brindisi.

 

 

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Herakleion airport on Crete.

 

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Sitia airport.

 

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En route to Port Said.

 

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First part of the adventure accomplished: Port Said.

 

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Hello to the other Kodiak crew.
It is not easy to fly such long distances in this  "small tube".
We are partly really exhausted.
Our route planning takes us tomorrow to Muscat (OOMS) from there to Karachi (OPSF). We have obtained a visa and hope that there are no problems.
I think we will spend the night in the machine in order to have as little contact with other people as possible.
Then on to Mumbai with a stopover.
Maybe, a meeting is possible there.


Greetings, and a good flight from the CB2 Kodiak crew.

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On 3.1.2022 at 18:29, CB2 sagte:

Hello to the other Kodiak crew.
It is not easy to fly such long distances in this  "small tube".
We are partly really exhausted.

 

I know exactly what you mean. The plane is always moving and shaking a bit and the body is compensating with micro-muscle-movement. It is like driving a car in the desert. After some hours this really gets a little exhausting.

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Monday, 2022-01-03

 

Oh my - everything is going so fast, the density of events is overwhelming and didn't allow to update our diary for a couple of days. London seems like months away.
But in sequence...

 

We had arrived at Port Said on Dec 30th. This is a really small airport and it got completely overcrowded with all the participants of our 80 days adventure. There was a lot of tugging while more aircrafts came in. Others where leaving as they feared to get stuck and finally all traffic had to be diverted to Cairo. We met some of our fellow travellers and Wolfgang arrived from Cairo with the spare part container on a lorry. The Port Said airport cafe probably exceeded their normal annual turnover that day 😉

 

On 31st, we removed the wheel fairings and mounted the Tundra tires. The next three legs would go over desert and I have quite some experience with landing and starting in the desert from the Egypt/Sudan campaign two years ago. The Kodiak is a bush plane after all and with the big tires the desert becomes one large airstrip. We also started to decorate the plane with stickers, representing the places we were flying to. Aida had this idea in London and somehow found a nice fitting sticker on each stopover. We prepared everything for the next big segment to India. The plan is to go as straight as possible, especially avoiding Jemen:
 

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 The New Years Party took place on the airport. Some of the crews that had been diverted to Cairo chartered a bus and joined in. Yes, we had to be careful with Corona, we were wearing masks and most of us test daily anyway. At midnight, though, some of us crossed the street in front of the airport, on to the beach and into the sea...

 

On Jan 1st we left to Cairo, together with Wolfgang, who would fly ahead of us to Bahrain with the equipment. We spent three days in Cairo and those were very emotional days - I do not want to go into too much details, as they do not belong to this trip. But for context: I had made many friends in Egypt and the Sudan in the past. My best friend - lets call him Steven, he prefers to stay anonymous - is egyptologist (and computer expert) and he conveyed the 2018 Nile campaign to me, which was a fantastic adventure on its own. Steven is a real adventurer with excellent connections to officials in Egypt, Sudan and Russia. He is fluent in German, English and Russian and knows to get along in Arabic. He would have been the perfect companion for this adventure, but alas, just couldn't make it on the short notice.

 

Steven remotely organized everything for us in Cairo. There were lots of tears - of joy, but also grief as we unexpectedly met some friends from Khartoum, who had left the country due to the current political instability.


Aida experienced a culture shock, just as I did the first time in Africa, but quickly became obsessed with the oriental ambience. She acquired an old printed map of the Arabian peninsula in the suq and now feels like Amelia Peabody and I am so happy for her enthusiasm. We returned to Port Said late on the 3rd.

 

This is our flight log so far:

 

| Leg |       Date | Dept | Dest | T/O Lcl | T/O UTC | T/D Lcl | T/D UTC | Duration | Dist (nmi) | Fuel (Gal) | Gal/100nmi |
|-----+------------+------+------+---------+---------+---------+---------+----------+------------+------------+------------|
|   1 | 2021-12-26 | EGKB | EDMO |   09:05 |    9:05 |   13:20 |   12:20 | 03:15:00 |        492 |      145.5 |       29.6 |
|   2 | 2021-12-27 | EDMO | LIBR |   13:00 |   12:00 |   16:50 |   15:50 | 03:50:00 |        585 |      146.8 |       25.1 |
|   3 | 2021-12-29 | LIBR | LGST |   09:10 |    8:10 |   13:40 |   11:40 | 03:30:00 |        540 |      138.2 |       25.6 |
|   4 | 2021-12-30 | LGST | HEPS |   09:55 |    7:55 |   12:40 |   10:40 | 02:45:00 |        391 |       99.2 |       25.4 |

 

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Tuesday, 2022-01-04

 

So we left Egypt today and our plan was to follow the Suez canal and then fly a low altitude circle over the city of Suez. Steven had arranged the required permits. But the weather was not on our side. A low, misty ceiling welcomed us on the airport. We waited for two hours but the weather wouldn't improve, so we started at 11:11 Lcl and stayed under the obstruction all the way down to Suez, passing the now decomissioned Al Kibrit Air Base. Over Suez I decided that the weather did not justify any sightseeing maneuvers and so we turned southeast and climbed out of the mist. We crossed the Sinai in a safe distance from Israel and Jordan and crossed the Gulf of Akaba in the height of Nuwaiba.

 

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Aida had made herself comfortable in the back, with her Arab map in front of her, glancing at the fascinating mesas and sand dunes underneath. Oh, did she enjoy the trip by now, as well as the flying!

 

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We arrived in Ha'il by 16:20 Lcl, rolled to our parking position, put the Kodiak into dark and cold and stepped into the immigration office. Things got crazy from there on. We had not followed the news about the Dakar Rallye and therefore we had no idea, that the Rallye had just passed Ha'il as stop the other day. And the young people in Ha'il are obviously fanatic about cars and motors. It seems that half of the city consists of garages, car dealers and custom shops and I would bet, if you have ever seen a video on social media of young arabic men doing suicidal stunts with cars and motorbikes - it was probably shot in Ha'il. Now everone was pumped up, in Rallye fever and the aircrafts of our 80 days rallye that kept showing up the last three days just added to the overall excitement. I mean, how crazy - Ha'il is in the middle of a desolate desert, there is absolutely nothing around than sand and rock.

 

So, as soon as we left the airport office, young people were pressing on us, laughing, asking questions about the plane, where we came from, where we would go to. They packed us in a car, drove us to different places (mainly garages and shopping centres) and invited us to a nice dinner in a cafe - inside a car shop! Eventually we insisted on going to the hotel to get at least a little bit of sleep. This was by far the funniest night of our trip yet. Bizarre, but funny.

 

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Wednesday, 2022-01-05

 

The morning after. We were picked up in the hotel by some of the guys (and girls) from last night and brought to the airport in a huge SUV. They had a surprise for us: they had noticed the destination stickers on our plane the other day and custom-made a huge sticker for "Ha'il" overnight. We put it right on the passenger door (and had no idea about the trouble that it would cause a couple of days later).

 

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Then the routine walk-around and checks...

 

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... and off we went to Bahrain Intl (OBBI). Again endless plains of rock, dunes and irrigation patterns...

 

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... some light turbulences from time to time (Aida screaming every time) and finally the Persion Gulf in sight, passing north of King Fahd International airport.

 

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Bahrain Intl is about the maximum size of airport that I feel comfortable with. There is this story about my "large-airport anxiety" that I do not really want to talk about. It has to do with PTSD and my generally poor ATC capabilities. Bahrain seemed about ok - little traffic but a huge mess on the ground. The entire airport is one gigantic construction site with massive changes in the last couple of months. OBBI NOTAMs are an endless list of cranes erected all over the place. Janine had some trouble to get uptodate aerodrome charts for me.

 

We were cleared for 30R, there were some clouds downwind but visibility was fine on final.

 

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But after touchdown I had a strange glitch, still on the runway: when I switched COM1 to Ground control from stdby to active on the G1000, the system went black - both PFDs and the MFD. It recovered immediatly in less than a second. But the flightplans and preset frequencies were lost and that really scared me. No problem of course on the ground, but I definitely do not want this to happen midair!

 

We were assigned some GA ramp position in the cargo area and I fiddled a while with the G1000, which behaved just as always. I have only once experienced a brief fail like this before - many years ago in Indonesia upon touchdown (also with a Kodiak) and at the time it was assumed that weather and static electricity might have played a role. Not such a rare thing as it seems. But in this case the effect was well after touchdown and definitly connected to the COM1 frequency switch. I decided to contact RAS, Quest/Daher and Garmin to investigate before leaving for the next leg.

 

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Saturday, 2022-01-08

 

We have been stuck in Bahrain now for three days!

 

After the glitch of the G1000 I made probably a thousand phone calls. All the experts came to the conclusion that the system is working fine and the glitch was nothing serious. But: my system software and most of the navigation data were outdated and in connection with all the dynamic changes at OBBI that might have caused a problem. Or there might be something wrong with the MicroSD-cards where my profiles and flightplans are stored. Or a hundred other possibilities.

 

Wolfgang "Mr Fix" was expecting us in Bahrain and he helped me a lot. We also put back the normal tires and fairings.

 

Anyway, guided by Quest support, Wolfgang and me did a complete new system software install, I bought new MicroSD cards, re-exported all data and purchased and installed every chart and navigation data update possible, checked connectors and I do not what. More stuff went wrong in the process. There were responsibility issues (Quest has been acquired by Daher recently). On Friday I commited myself to not leaving the airport until everything was working and it became a long evening. I met a nice technician from airport maintenance, though, who invited me and Wolfgang for a coffee in the tower with a nice view over the airport.

 

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Everything uptodate again:

 

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Aida actually had a good time in Bahrain. There is a plethora of tourists from Saudi Arabia, obviously attracted by the lax alcohol rules in Bahrain. Aida took a boat tour through the islands and did extensive sightseeing (and some shopping - I told her to ship the stuff to Germany as I didn't want to raise the payload for non-essential things).

 

Today everything looked fine. I did a short test flight - just some circuits - with Wolfgang on the copilots seat (his first actual flight in the Kodiak during this adventure) and tomorrow we will finally leave for Chah Bahar - inshallah! Meanwhile, Wolfgang will fly ahead to Mumbai...


 

 

 

 

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Thursday, 2022-01-20

 

Folks, we just landed in Mae Hong Son, Thailand, and we are totally delayed with our diary.

 

We will fill the gap very soon, but in the meantime me and Aida would like to send a huge, heartfelt shout-out to Zara Rutherford, who today completed her around-the-world flight with a single engine ultralight as youngest woman in history!

 

She has done in real, what we are all dreaming about!

 

 

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Sunday, 2022-01-09

 

Back to the flight diary.

 

Iran has not been my first choice as stopover for the flight to Mumbay, but I definitely didn't want go via Pakistan as I expected difficulties on entry in India in that case. The airport of Chah Bahar (OIZC) was ideally located. NOTAMs for this airport claimed that no fuel would be available, though. Our flights and papers are planned by Janine Ramen in Munich. She organizes flight charts, researches entry/visum- and Corona rules and if anything is in doubt, she gets in direct contact with airport administration, government offices or embassies. In her preparation for Chah Bahar she was assured, that we would get landing permission and that fuel was available at the airport.

 

The Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman are hot zones with a labyrinth of restricted airspaces. This required a carefully mapped out flight plan:

 

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We had everything prepared by 11:00 Lcl and left Bahrain at 11:43 for a smooth and very fast flight with strong tailwinds.

 

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On approach the tailwinds turned into pretty strong, 17 kts crosswinds in misty conditions. As expected, landing clearance was no problem.

 

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The trouble started right after arrival. Despite the crosswinds I had a very nice touchdown, put the power level to BETA and came to a full stop just before the first runway exit, and so I turned towards the first taxiway even before switching to Ground and checking the aerodrome chart. Cha Bahar Konorak airport has an incredibly huge military section and a ridiculously small civilian part, that can host max 4 aircrafts of a 737 size. I turned into a taxiway that was not actually an exit and that led to the military part. I recognized the error immediately, turned back on to the runway, continued to the second exit and switched to Ground. But someone in the tower had already gone mad about me at that point. I was directed to a parking position right in front of the civilian airport building. People stepped up to the aircraft and directed us into the offices and there we found ourselves in very mixed emotions. One of the officials was completely mad about us, inspected the plane and made a huge story out of the Ha'il sticker. Iran and Saudi Arabia are more or less in open war with each other in Jemen. Other airport personal was very friendly and helpful. We produced our papers, answered all questions honestly and stayed calm. Someone executed a rapid and a PCR test for Corona on us.

 

After a while a superior showed up, good looking and in a nice, clean uniform with plenty of badges. He was extremely friendly, spoke perfect english and even some phrases in german and ensnarled us in smalltalk. He did not even look at our papers, we relaxed and I was quite confident, that we would not end up in an Iranian prison for the next years 😉

Nevertheless, the guy made me nervous. He was too friendly, in a Christoph Waltz way, if you know what I mean. I started to become very, very careful with my answers.

Long story short - everyone calmed down, but we where ultimately not allowed to enter the country. I said that was fine for us, we wanted to continue as soon as possible, we just needed some fuel. Fuel was not a problem, but we were not allowed to leave before the next day (it was already past 21:00). I asked, where we should spend the night and was told, that we could use the facilities of the little airport building. The only facility that I found there was a bathroom. I asked if we could spend the night in our aircraft and they seemed to be absolutely happy about this idea, but they put two guards on the apron, probably to make sure, that we wouldn't sneak to the military part of the airport during the night.

 

We made ourselves comfortable, reconfiguring the seats in the passenger cabin and using our sleeping bags for the first time. Aida seemed not concerned or disgruntled with the situation, but rather acquiescent. Hell, yes, she really acquired a taste for adventure!

 

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