By User “loco”
From where I live, Poznan, the other side of Earth is about 1100NM SE of New Zealand. I planned to fly there and continue back home, trying to draw a nice big circle. Crossing oceans via northern routes would disturb it, so I chose to hop islands on the Pacific and cross Atlantic from Brazil to Cape Verde.
When planning stops I tried to avoid big cities and visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as I could. These included:
*Samarkand Town, Uzbekistan
*Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
*Komodo National Park, Indonesia
*Kakadu National Park, Australia
*Great Barrier Reef, Australia
*Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island, Chile
*Iguazu National Park, Brazil
Equipment was the same as on the previous Maldives trip which was meant as a test before going for this one.
I co-own the TBM with my friend Arjan, with whom I also shared a DA40 before. We flew this trip together, changing seats leg by leg.
Poznań EPPO to Volgograd URWW to Samarkand UTSS
On the first day we did two flights of roughly 1100 miles each. 1000NM is a distance the TBM can fly in 3,5 hours with good reserves. Doing two such flights in a day was optimal for us. When the legs got longer than 1200NM, we had to slow down and fly Long Range Cruise, 250kt for up to six hours. Only one flight per day then.
Flying over Russia we had high pressure weather with clear sky and an inversion below. Fuel stop in Volgograd was prepaid with wire transfer. A group of people awaited us at the apron and we didn’t have to go to any building. Just refuel, check documents and go. After 3,5 hours of flight we needed to use a toilet, so we were shown a VIP lounge just a few meters off the apron. We reached Samarkand at night after a calm flight with good tailwind.
Samarkand UTSS to Kathmandu VNKT
The obvious route from Europe to Southeast Asia is via the Arab countries and India, but I have been there already and wanted something else. A stop in Kathmandu, Nepal should offer something interesting (Everest) and also allow us to bypass landing in India, which I was not eager to do. Unfortunately it turned out that to land in Kathmandu one needs to get $60M third party insurance (requirement in Europe is around $10M) and also complete training approaches in a simulator. We got it thanks to our insurance agent and Aero Poznań flying school, but let’s just say that it was not the easiest landing to arrange on our route.
Uzbekistan to Nepal
Flying over Afghanistan it was clear from the radio communication that the US Military controls the airspace. Strict position reporting with estimates and correcting an airliner for adding a zero in front of their flight number. Also heard some „black wolf” callsigns reporting from working areas. Not sure what they are.
The approach to Kathmandu is not a big deal, but a few aircraft have crashed there. It is a VOR approach with 5.3 degrees slope until 3 miles final and after that it’s 3 degrees. Luckily it was CAVOK and we flew it with little stress.
Holding before approach to Kathmandu
At the airport it was messy, because we didn’t arrange a handler in advance. It all got sorted in the end, just took some extra hours. Nepal Airlines became our handler.
One of the attractions in Kathmandu was doing a helicopter flight up to base of Everest. The AS350 B3 helicopter took us up to 20,000ft with no oxygen (only for the pilot). Highly recommend this adventure.
Heli flight to Everest
Kathmandu VNKT to Rayong VTBU
Most of this flight was in nice weather and uneventful. Passing over countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar we had some trouble understanding new accents, but overall it was OK. We were happy to descend to our destination airport and felt nearly there. The airport was not equipped with ATIS and only during final phase of descent, below 10,000ft, the controller gave us weather. It was thunderstorm over airport :-O Our reaction was a bit chaotic, but in the end we placed the airplane in holding southwest of airport with a view of both the TS and the RWY. We did a quick calculation of how long we can still hold before diverting to Bangkok and after that the storm had already passed and we landed. It was a bit of a wake up call for us. From that moment we had the radar operating most times in IMC and were checking weather ahead more carefully, discussing what-if scenarios.
Rayong VTBU to Hat Yai VTSS to Palembang WIPP to Lombok WADL
We planned to stay two nights in Thailand and adjust for the jet lag, but it turned out that they have an Air Race event planned and we have to leave next day. Due to problems with our overflight permit for Indonesia we had to skip the Komodo National Park and head straight to Australia. Fooling around is apparently not welcome in Indonesia.
Looking out for TS during flight to Lombok
Final in Lombok
Lombok WADL to Darwin YPDN to Jabiru YJAB
Flying from Indonesia to Australia was an opportunity to use the HF and do some position reporting. It is not difficult and one just has to do it a couple of times before getting proficient. We used HF heavily throughout the journey and highly recommend it to anyone wanting to fly over Pacific. We were in radio contact 100% of the time in that area.
Landing in Darwin, Australia was a nice change. Fuel truck waiting at our parking position, a proper lounge, coffee, snacks and minimum formalities. We continued to Jabiru on the same day, to see the National Park.
Jabiru national park
Jabiru YJAB to Cairns YBCS to Sydney YSSY to Christchurch NZCH
After Jabiru our next stop was 2 days in Cairns, where we were checked out the Great Barrier Reef (it’s a 1,5h boat ride from the shore). Next we flew to Sydney and Christchurch, New Zealand. All of the flying in Australia was at the same, super high level of GA service. Weather was good and I absolutely loved it.
Approach to Sydney
Christchurch NZCH to Hamilton NZHN to Tonga NFTF
I chose Hamilton instead of Auckland for a fuel stop, because I thought it would be less busy. To our surprise they had two active runways, some Katanas in traffic pattern and an ATR lining up for departure while we were on final. For some pilots these club/school airports can be more confusing than capital cities.
Second leg of the day was to Tonga, where after landing we had our first ramp check. Local CAA representative had a look at aircraft documents and also our licences. I showed the documents one by one, explaining what is what. No questions were asked.
Tonga NFTF to Rarotonga NCRG to Tahiti NTAA
We left Tonga on Thursday and landed Rarotonga on Wednesday. It was time to claim back the hours of jet lag. UTC date doesn’t change at the date line, but still there can be confusion with flight planning. You’re likely to have UTC date change in the middle of the day, when it’s midnight in London, so better think it over well ahead.
Approach to Rarotonga
Tahiti NTAA to Totegegie NTGJ to Easter Island SCIP
We planned to stay three full days in Tahiti, but after checking wind forecasts we decided to leave next morning. If we didn’t do that, we’d probably have to wait a week or more for favorable conditions. Leaving early gave us with a bearable headwind NTGJ to SCIP and then a 50kt tailwind from SCIP to SCIR.
Landing in Totegegie was very scenic and most beautiful from the whole trip. AFIS at NTGJ is French only, so if they ask you about French proficiency on Tahiti, say „oui”.
Landing in Totegegie NTGJ
At 5h 57m the flight to Easter Island was the longest in duration. Luckily, most of the headwind was in the first part of the flight and low FOD number got better as we progressed.
Approaching Easter Island SCIP
Easter Island SCIP to Robinson Crusoe Island SCIR
At 1620NM this was the longest leg of our trip. A proper tailwind was required to fly it. I knew that the winds in the area are favorable, because in the years before, I peeked at Windy/MeteoEarth and saw tailwinds of up to 120kt. Destination was a small VFR strip located between two hills on a cliffy island. There was no alternate airport unless the tailwind would be so strong that we would make it another 350NM to mainland Chile. Unrealistic for the TBM.
Airport crew at SCIP had us amend our flight plan to include a point of no return and also include a mainland Chile airport SCVM as second alternate alongside departure airport.
Leaving Tahiti early gave us just this one day to execute the flight with a 50kt tailwind. The concern now was cloud base, forecasted around 1500ft. The evening before I was a little nervous and spent some time designing a simple GPS based approach procedure using fixes along the final. Just in case…
Cloud base was 1200ft above aerodrome level when we left. After taking off we received weather updates from Marcin via Iridium every hour. Clouds lifted to 1500ft.
Few minutes before Top of Descend we received a red BLEED TEMP warning on the CAS. I knew it already from one time in Kenya, where it also popped after a long flight in Long Range Cruise setting. I followed the checklist, cycling bleed off and on, but this time the cabin altitude exceeded 10,000ft and automatic emergency descent procedure kicked in. Remaining part had to be flown without AP until below 9,000ft cabin altitude, where we were able to engage AP again.
There was light rain as we descended and from far away I could only see the cliff of Robinson Crusoe. At 3 miles final I saw the runway and we went straight in. A steep approach was the right way to do it, because of turbulence caused by uneven terrain.
Landing at Robinson Crusoe SCIR
While on the same ocean as Easter Island, Robinson was very different. Cold and windy, with hundreds of seals on the shores and Lobster being the local kitchen specialty.
Robinson Crusoe Island SCIR to Santiago SCEL to Foz do Iguazu SBFI
Flying on JET-A1 is an advantage over AVGAS in international flying, but at Robinson Crusoe even JET-A1 was not available. Planes flying there from mainland Chile have enough fuel to fly back. Weeks before the trip I contacted various places to get fuel to SCIR. Fuel companies, shipping companies, aviation companies. Everyone said no. Fortunately, one of the many e-mails I sent, reached the right person. Marcelo is a local from the island, who does transport services and he agreed to bring the fuel for us by boat. He awaited us with his team and the fuel, even though we moved the arrival date a few days forward, to a Sunday afternoon. For fuel at SCIR try Marcelo, [email protected] I spent weeks trying to find this info, so I’m posting it now to save future visitors some time.
Refuelling at Robinson Crusoe SCIR
We left Robinson Crusoe for Santiago and continued over the Andes to Foz do Iguacu. As we approached destination, the radio quality was deteriorating. We had squelch off and instead of ATC we were hearing music. In Brazil controllers give two VHF frequencies. The second one is backup.
Over the Andes
We were #4 for approach in SBFI and received an instruction from approach that we didn’t fully understand. It was something along „In case of lost comms, your boundary is XXX radial and proceed to point YYY”. We didn’t loose comms and landed OK, but there was some confusion.
Foz do Iguazu SBFI to Montes Claros SBMK to Natal SBSG
It was one of the 2×1000NM days. All good, but the clouds near Montes Claros were very high. At FL310 we were barely above. As soon as we touched these clouds, ice showed. It was first time that I saw icing at -35C. SBMK was uncontrolled and AFIS didn’t speak english, so they gave us info in Portugese, which we read back in English, which they confirmed with two clicks : -)
The LNAV approach to SBMK was in IMC over hilly terrain and I went slightly below the glidepath, descending a point too early. Luckily Arjan picked it up.
High clouds in Brazil
Natal SBSG to Cape Verde GVNP
I was a little anxious about this flight, having read all stories about ITCZ. AF447 crash didn’t make it any better. But the forecasts looked perfect.
Another thing to worry about was possibility of loosing bleed air with only 2h oxygen in our bottle. Socata assured us that a faulty bleed temp sensor will not switch off bleed air in flight, so we had to believe it and go.
Weather was as forecasted. Not a single CB. Not even a TCU and VMC 98% of the time.
After leaving Brazilian Atlantico FIR we were unable to communicate with Dakar for about one hour. We asked a nearby airliner to relay at 123,45, which he did.
First sight of Cape Verde
Cape Verde GVNP to Fuerteventura GCFV to Girona LEGE to Poznań EPPO
Originally we planned two flights from Cape Verde to Canaries to France and sleep there. When discussing it, we both felt that it would be strange to go to a hotel room when home is just one flight away. So we flew three legs this day. It was all nice until we departed for the third one. At night, over Alps, single engine, potential pressurization problems, tired crew, 85kt headwind, snow and fog forecasted at destination and nearby alternates. I’m OK with some risks, but this was just a little too much and the tiredness didn’t help. Should have stayed. But we descended through the snowfall and landed with a comfortable 500ft cloud base. Will be smarter next time.
Happy to be on the ground
It is no big deal and anyone can do it. It’s just about devoting enough time and money to the idea. No special skills required. We had generally good weather with the harder part being Southeast Asia.
It is important to have a good team on the ground. Flying day after day you get tired and don’t want to be busy with airport comms when on ground. We had an ideal setup with Marcin, with whom I only communicated via IM. Didn’t have to send a single e-mail anywhere. It is also important to plan your fuel ahead, or you can get stuck .
Handling fees vary from 0 to 1500 USD. Similar for fuel, anything between 350 and 1500 USD for our airplane. Be sure to take some cash. Many places don’t take credit cards.
I advise to get a good HF installation. Would not feel comfortable flying only with a satphone.
And of course thanks to Daher Socata for making such a reliable, versatile aircraft and supporting us during the trip.