FROM THE SOLO2DARWIN ADVENTURE
Thought you might like an update with the adventure. A couple of disasters already, one diversion, one bird strike, worst weather in 50 years across Europe, thunderstorms, difficult politics, and partial engine failure!
After departure I thought I would not make the channel as the English weather treated me with rain and low cloud! Coasted out over the channel at 900 ft into beautiful blue skies. Then, the hard work started conversing with the French Air Traffic Control. Lots of ‘say again’ moments to repeat as I was on my way to Germany! Forecast was ok for arrival in Mannheim but when I flew over the German boarder the weather had turned nasty.
It’s always difficult to predict weather 5 hours ahead, and after getting lower and trying valleys which had lots of windmills in the way, air traffic offered me a divert to Saarbrücken. He gave me a heading to steer to, with the welcoming lights of the airport shinning bright in the rain! What a relief!! Helpful ground crew offered me a hangar.
The next day I made it to Mannheim. what a reception! Mannheim is one of the oldest airports in Germany and as a result has all types of flying! Jets, helicopters, gliders, and a whole host of wonderful vintage aeroplanes. Fire trucks greeted me on landing and washed both me, and GAXAN, as is the tradition in aviation. Then followed a formation flight with the other vintage aeroplane clubs. Fantastic! Dinner and tales of adventure followed.
Following this it was off to Austria. First disaster strikes. On landing I had a bird strike, and it happens in just like in the car. I heard a bang and saw something black fly over my head. Drat I thought! When I stopped my fears where confirmed I had lost the spinner off the propeller! Vienna kindly found me a hangar and I left her tucked up behind jets. After discussions with engineers we concluded that I could fix this myself, so that was great. Spent the day fixing and doing a bit of maintenance whilst constantly waiting for the weather. A press conference on departure, combined with the weather interfering again, with fog and low cloud, made for another late departure.
Two flights later I had crossed Hungary, dodging thunderstorms and windmills to ultimately arrive to a hero’s welcome at Sibiu! School children chanting my name “A-Man-Da” was surreal. Don’t they know I am an ordinary person! GAXAN spent the night in a lovely hangar again next to the sheep field. Another day lost to weather, but the next morning dawned to wonderful blue skies. Totally amazing flight down the Olt pass through the Carpathians and looking out for Dracula. Formation flying once again with the local club and they took some amazing footage of my flying!! Wow my heart did really sing in those mountains! How many people have flown a Tiger Moth down through the Carpathians? It had been cold flying from the start and everyone kept saying worst weather in 50 years across Europe. Yes, I thought to myself, I can believe that flying through rain, low cloud, and dodging thunderstorms!!
Landed in Corlu after a quick stop in Bucharest. Turkey is interesting! They say ‘15 mins’ which is at least an hour if not two! Changed plan to fly to Rhodes before going on to Cyprus, as politics won’t let you fly from Turkey to Cyprus.
The next disaster strikes. Taking off from Rhodes I know something is wrong. GAXAN is just not climbing, I know this is the first real hot day but this is something else, I see how she goes for a couple of miles then I can hear the engine is not happy. Suddenly a little vibration of the wrong sort is felt! Ok time to turn around and land! Aviate - Navigate - Communicate are the order in an emergency in the air. Fly the aeroplane first, so I turn back, press the red SOS button on the Kinetic Six tracker, which sends out an alarm! Then speak to air traffic. They are wonderful and give me the go-ahead straight into landing. They were even moving the airliners out the way so apologies to the holiday makers. I land and taxi in with relief and disappointment. This may mean the end of my adventure because a call out of engineers at this point will impact the rest of the adventure.
After the magic of the internet, which Amy didn’t have, photos are sent to engineers and a plan emerged. Cylinder heads are built up then an engineer is sent out to fix GAXAN and carry on. Yeh!
As this is such a real Solo trip my partner decides to jump on a commercial airline and come out and be a real morale booster. A former Navy engineer he can do a lot to help both mentally and physically. Am really happy to see him as he arrives today from Gatwick. A whole day of preparing the aeroplane for the engineer and moving her onto a better place for the airport. After all they have been amazing but are very busy.
The adventure continues. Amy had made it to Darwin on the 24th May 1930, I have made it to Rhodes, however in this day and age of politics and so much paperwork to be accomplished before each flight, I am feeling fairly proud of myself.
It certainly has been the most challenging adventure of my life, with highs and lows coming at me in equal and massive measures.