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Jambo!

September 24, 2012

Alternate title: to Nairobi by Cessna 182

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to meet Ted and Hanne of the Hanne Howard Fund recently. Ted contacted me some time ago when he began planning to fly his Cessna 182 from Ottawa to Nairobi. I agreed to fly with Ted as ferry pilot / safety pilot in his Cessna 182, nicknamed “48-Fox”.

Ted kept a blog detailing each of our legs at http://cessnaottawa2nairobi.islandnet.com/. I’ve been back home now for about 2 weeks and just thought I’d reflect on the trip here, not in a trip-report type format, just some details, the good, the bad and the trivia:

The trip got off to an ominous start:

45 minutes into the 70+ hour flight I noticed that we had lost the alternator. We were just north of Montreal at the time and had climbed to 9500 feet VFR above some scattered cloud layers. We circled down below the Montreal class B and limped into Lachute (CSE4) – which is a very good general aviation airport.

c182_at_la_chute

48-Fox with alternator problems at LaChute airport

We got the alternator repaired in short order and continued on our way. After this we had no issues with the airplane the rest of the way.

Nada, zilch, nothing.

Think about that for a moment: We flew a 1966 Cessna 182 over the Atlantic Ocean and through 3 continents. 70+ flight hours in temperatures ranging from -15C over the Greenland icecap to over 40C in Jeddah. Rain, mist, gravel, desert sand, you name it.

“48-Fox” was designed in the 1950s – when my father was a teenager – and built in 1966. Nearly 50 years old she flies like a new airplane. Think about the draftsmen who drew the blueprints by hand. The engineers who calculated rivet joint shear loads by slide rule. The things we humans can accomplish are nothing short of amazing. (*)

The route of flight:

We flew without ferry tank, keeping the legs 750nm or less. The hardest part of the routing was to find avgas in Africa. Here is our complete route:

map_cessna_182_ottawa_to_nairobi_ferry_flight

Map of Cessna 182 ferry flight to Nairobi

Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

The stop in Graz looks like a “dog-leg” because we intended to route to Corfu (Greece) after Graz and stay inside the EU/Schengen zone (to facilitate transit). However, due to weather and traffic in Corfu we routed via Nis (Serbia) instead, hence the “dog-leg”.

Most expensive avgas along the route of flight:

The most expensive avgas was in Djibouti, where we paid $2,160 for two 55-gallon drums of avgas. Do the math if you wish. I can sort of understand the cost since Djibouti is the only place in a 500 mile radius that has avgas and the refuelers told us they sell avgas on average once every month, or less.

Honorable Dishonorable mention goes out to Kuujjuaq (CYVP) where a drum of avgas is now north of $750, an increase of nearly 50% in the past 2-3 years. By comparison avgas in Iqaluit (CYFB) is around $350 per drum.

The scariest part of the flight:

There were some scary moments, thankfully, none while flying (**):

In Denmark our taxi driver was proudly showing us some of the sights along the way to the hotel and while distracted we nearly rear-ended a stopped car. In Jeddah we returned to the hotel (after having eaten a piece of chicken that, in Ted’s words, “looked like it had been chased here from Cairo without having a drink of water”) when our driver made a U-turn in ungodly amounts of oncoming traffic.

And in Denmark there was that scary moment when I was brushing my hair in the morning, admiring my good looks in the full-length mirror, when an ugly-looking spider came rappelling down from the ceiling. I jumped and screamed like a little girl :)

The young lady at the hotel desk told me spiders are common but not dangerous in Denmark. Then again, this was the same young lady who called our taxi that nearly took us to the wrong airport so take it for what it’s worth.

Most difficult part of the trip:

The go/no-go decision on takeoff in Iqaluit was the most difficult part of the trip. The weather in Iqaluit was very low IFR and forecast to stay that way for the foreseeable future. The weather was such that you really don’t want to fly in it but there were also no legal/operational considerations that would prevent us from doing so. The low IFR weather was localized and we had good weather over the ocean. Being mid-August we didn’t want to delay very much because good weather over the North-Atlantic gets very scarce after the end of August.

Once my decision was made the takeoff out of Iqaluit was uneventful.

The worst part of the trip:

We got stuck in Jeddah for 2 days because I miscalculated our fuel on takeoff and realized we wouldn’t be able to reach Djibouti safely on our first attempt. After returning to Jeddah we found out we were stuck there because our fuel stop (Rabigh/OERB) was closed the next day due to the Muslim weekend. All told the extra cost for fuel, handling and hotels was very painful.

The only other bad part of the trip was our stop in Crete (Greece). All of the people we spoke to there are just disgusted with the politics of their country and the bad financial situation Greece is in. One taxi driver said he was emigrating to Canada. It is really sad to see such a beautiful country with such a great history affected so badly by a few arrogant dumbasses in suits. For what it’s worth, the Germans didn’t preach austerity back when Euros were plentiful and the Greeks were spending their Euros on fine German automobiles.

final_approach_RWY27_LGIR

On final to Iraklion (LGIR) airport, Crete.

The best part of the trip:

There were a lot of nice moments. I always enjoy the flying, even though I’ve done quite a few ferry flights now, I love the flying, I love the scenery. But I have said it before and I will say it again: the best part of this job is not the flying but the great people I get to meet along the way.

We stopped in Halifax to spend a day with Ted’s family. Even though I was only a guest, sort of outside-looking-in, it was obviously a very nice moment.

We refueled in Wroclaw (Poland) where we met with my friend Kamil. I hadn’t seen Kamil in a couple of years since we flew a Mooney Acclaim from Chicago to Wroclaw together. It was great seeing him and seeing that he is doing well, flying a beautiful corporate aircraft.

Another nice moment was meeting Brian Miller and some of his fellow US Navy ATC specialists in Djibouti (Camp Lemonnier). Brian helped us on his own time with some issues at the Djibouti airport and then was kind enough to send an email to his friends/contacts to let them know of the good work Ted and Hanne do in Nairobi with the Hanne Howard Fund. Nothing but respect to Brian and the men/women who serve with him.

The very best part of the trip has to be the reception we received in Nairobi. Arriving later than we planned after a long day of flying we were not expecting a big welcome but were happily surprised by about 20 kids from the Hanne Howard Fund project who had waited over 2 hours at the airport to meet us.

11-Welcome-at-the-Aero-Club

Welcome at the Aero Club in Nairobi

Most important new words learned:

Jambo: Swahili for “hello”.

Tusker: as in, it was time for a couple of Tuskers when we finally landed in Nairobi!

You had to be there moment:

While having a late dinner in Roskilde (Denmark) we happened to be seated next to 3 very inebriated people. An attractive 30-something woman was literally too drunk to walk (she fell down on the sidewalk) but somehow managed to do a number of push-ups, in some apparent attempt to impress her companions, or something.

You just had to be there.

And for some dry humor:

I uploaded this picture on FB of our landing in Aqaba, Jordan. A pilot friend of mine commented:

“Watch out the tree!”

c182_landing_at_aqaba

Cessna 182 landing at Aqaba King Hussein Intl Airport (OJAQ)

Notes:

(*) Ted made sure the airplane was ready for the trip by extensively upgrading and servicing the airplane before our departure but the fact that the airplane performed so well is also very much a testament to the design of the Cessna 182.

(**) I don’t say this with a “nothing can happen to me” bravado, only to point out that a ferry flight is nothing more than a series of back-to-back cross-country flights. Some legs require special planning and precautions due to the distance between airports, lack of ground facilities in remote areas or weather but there is no reason if a pilot complies with the relevant procedures and precautions for each leg that a ferry flight should be more dangerous than any other flight. Above all else, if you are careful with winds/weather and conservative with fuel/range, the ferry flight will be uneventful.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. T. John Fletcher permalink
    September 25, 2012 7:32 am

    Fascinating,Ward this has to be a unique expedition and adventure with the final gratification of twenty smiling, happy kids; (and a couple of tuskers) to experience in your young career. As you mentioned, over the Atlantic, three continents later, bypassing war torn countries, the eternal strife of the middle east with its cast society, avgas ripoff prices and the presence of your American forces, Somali pirates and all other daily encounters, including Ted’s uniforms and appropriate attire, did you Dress for dinner? Your “Notes” say it ALL, and I thank you. Glad your back home and everyone is safe and sound…little baseball or NFL!

  2. September 27, 2012 2:02 am

    Excellent job Ward, glad that you were able to assist Ted with this project, what an experience for him especially. Well done!

  3. September 27, 2012 9:39 am

    Fascinating ! I really enjoy reading your articles. If you ever need a Challenger 604 or Challenger 605 contract pilot, contact Neil Khosla at 507 254 6550 or visit me online at http://www.neilkhosla.com

  4. September 27, 2012 2:05 pm

    John: You’re absolutely right about the strife/war in some parts, which I should have mentioned. It is still best not to cross the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the border between Sudan and the new South Sudan is absolutely off-limits. Yes, I’m definitely ready for some fall baseball. Give me another couple of weeks and I’ll get excited about NFL football around week 6 (I always need a few weeks to get past all the cheesy drama and start enjoying the sport for the sport).

    Paul: thanks for commenting, it was a great trip. I don’t want to be the guy who spent a day in a slum in Nairobi and therefor thinks he now understands the world better. I didn’t do anything more than scratch the surface but it is easy to see that Ted and Hanne are doing a great thing in Lenana with the Hanne Howard Fund.

    Neil: I would enjoy flying the 604 or 605, wonderful machines. Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity so far.

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