The 80th Flight!

Flight number 80 would be the final flight of the original “Around the world in 80 flights” tour so this should be somewhat of a great achievement. However, due to the number of diversions and additional flights I have added to my own tour, despite reaching the 80th flight, I have not even reached my half way point.

Since leaving Edinburgh in the UK 3 years ago I have racked up over 54,000 Kilometres which works out at over 33,500 Miles! I have passed through 37 different countries whilst I have covered Europe and the length of Africa, all the way too Cape Town before continuing to The UAE and Middle East. I then covered the entire length of India or order to reach the Maldives Islands before returning North to the Himalayas and Mt. Everest. From the Himalayas I continued to Asia and across to Japan where I have now begun to double back on myself a little. This is simply so that I can loop further South as I make my way through the Pacific Islands and eventually reach Australia.

From my home in the UK, Australia will make my geographical half way point around the world. I feel that this should be celebrated more than the acknowledgement of my 80th flight. After all, I still have many more miles to go with many more countries to visit. Having significantly amended the original route I shall be completing a total of 203 flights before my wheels finally touch down in Edinburgh UK once more.

Whilst not mathematically nor geographically “half way,” I shall be considering my virtual arrival to the island of Hawaii to be the half way point of my Around The World Tour.
Hawaii to San Francisco is by far the longest flight I will have to negotiate during the tour and will need to heavily modify my tiny Beechcraft Baron 58 in order to make the huge distance but this is still some way off for flight number 120.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire time I have been completing this tour although I would love to hear from people who live in any of the places I have already, or am yet to visit. See below for the offical route map and for the full list of destinations I shall be visiting (virtually.)

OFFICIAL ROUTE MAP

Blue Pins = Offical 80 Flights Route
Red Pins = Addional Destinations Added By Me
Yellow Pins = Points Of Interest I Shall Not Land At.

Please continue to follow my virtual adventures around the world and leave comments to help me to make it that little bit more realistic.

Flight 75) Shanghai – Beijing

It had been a long time since my previous flight and I had enjoyed the time spent learning about Shanghai. I really hadn’t known what a huge city this place had become, although now it was time to leave the futuristic lights and skyline of Shanghai for Beijing. I included Beijing on the tour mainly so that I could see the Great Wall of China.

I started by checking the weight and fuel load of my small Beech Baron 58 and made sure I plotted a suitable route north. This didn’t take long and before long I was requesting taxi to runway clearence by 10:00. The rain and fog wasn’t very inviting but made for a rather reflective concrete surface around Shanghai Airport. Unfortunately my take off clearence was denied as the airport was operating IFR only due to the thick fog still in the air, so I created an alternative IFR route and was soon give the clearence I was looking for.

I had to “hold my position” many times during the taxi route to the runway as this really was a very busy airport with other aircraft landing and taking off regularly and many other planes maneuvering to and from their own gates. All of this movement made the radio buzz constantly.

Having almost lapped the main terminal building entirely I finally took to the skies at 10:25 and soon cleared the low clouds. I didn’t want to fly too high as I wanted to get a look at the infamous Shanghai skyline. As the flight sim FSX is a fair few years old now, it is clear to see the rapid expansion of this city as many of the key buildings now standing were not featured in the original software. Still the city looked wonderful with the cresent moon keeping watch.2016-5-29_10-36-15-758.jpg

Flying North-West from the city I passed over the Hung-Tse Lake and then straightend to due North for the majority of the flight. My next waypoint was 1 hour, 45 minutes away.
I flew lower and the speed of the land below gave the illusion I was travelling faster than at higher altitudes.

An hour later and I was approaching the coastline and could see hills and mountains in the distance both infront and from my left hand window. I flew lower once again to have some fun with the hilly terrain below but soon found myself surrounded by mountain fog. Passing over a few unknown cities and lakes with anouther hour and a half still to go until reaching Beijing, the weather finally cleared up.

I suffered with radio confusion between Beijing Center directing me to contact Tianjin Tower and visa versa. This bounced to and from for far too long until I was able call my landing intentions and touch down at 14:38 slightly off center. The few previous runaways I have landed on have belonged to very large international airports. I will look forward to visiting smaller landing strips in the future. I find these can be a little more challenging.
The Beech Baron was parked up by 14:45 and I was looking forward to seeing the sights of Beijing.

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Whilst here I really wanted to see the Great Wall of China which can be seen to the North of Beijing. Whilst I took a short flight around the area, I was unable to see the wall at all. Many maps show there to be many sections of the Great Wall. Maybe this just simply isn’t included in the standard FSX simulator software. This was rather disappointing. Nevermind.

Beijing Travel Guide – Beijing official city guide HD – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHCab5_BArI
Visit Beijing – 5 Things You WIll Love & Hate about Beijing, China – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZVSii6rB5g
This Is My City – Beijing  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx35kanMWh0
BEIJING Modern City – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH3PvfI7ELQ
Discover Beijing III: A Modern City in Motion (Full Episode) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PrcMFLQ5IQ

[Documentary] The Forbidden City of Ming &Qing Dynasties (1368 – 1912 AD – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QvsCr_xK3c
Beijing Travel Guide – Forbidden City Documentary (Palace Museum) Part 1 “Secrets” HD – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHypO2ISPas

National Geographic – The Great Wall of China – Documentary  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjlydnRqcmw

Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii-n_QSS0og

Flight 68) Kathmandu – Lukla (The World’s Most Dangerous Airport!)

Lukla Airport is recognized as being one of the worlds most dangerous airports of all time. Sitting in the Himalayas at 9,000 feet, with a runway running uphill, pointing at a mountain side there are few factors to suggest that this is a normal place to land. Even the pilots that do land here have to go through vigorous training and pass exams to confirm they have the piloting skills to land here safely. Lukla is the landing point for those brave enough to take on Mount Everest. With a challenge such as that, the adventure is worth beginning the moment the wheels touch down. With an adventure such as an around the world tour, I simply couldn’t fly past this runway without visiting.

After setting the weight of my aircraft and checking there was enough fuel to reach Lukla I started FSX Simulator and was in my parked Beech Baron at 13:40. I didn’t want to have too much fuel on board as this would mean I would be heavy and most likely fast when landing at Lukla. The runway isn’t very long so wanted to be as light as possible for the landing. The weather was fantastic, without a cloud in the sky. Mid afternoon the weather usually arrives as Lukla making visibility an added difficulty. Seven minutes later and I was pushing back from my gate and taxied the short way to the start of the runway only having to avoid small airport vehicles. Even before I was in the air I could see snow capped peaks watching over the hills to the North in the distance.

I took off at 13:55 from a southern pointing runway before turning to fly east over Kathmandu and the surrounding hills. Reaching the first hills, I could see there was a large expanse of further hills to negotiate. The hills were not high enough to cause me a problem however I still followed my flight path which took me through most of the valleys. I wasn’t sure if it was the fact that I was flying in the valleys but I lost radio contact for a brief period and made sure to change to an emergency squawk code of 1200. This didn’t last for long though and 15 minutes later I was flying North directly towards the taller mountains.

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A streak of white from a high altitude jet lingered above the mountains and as I saw the hills breaking my horizon line, I knew I needed to gain altitude myself. Lukla sits at slightly more than 9,000 feet so I was eager to reach 10,000 early so I didn’t have any last minute problems. I climbed at 500 feet per minute. As I climbed higher I could see the contrast in the flat plains to the South.

By 14:20 I had reached 9,000 and the approaching mountains were making me slightly nervous. Wanting some reassurance, I contacted Lukla on 122.9 to call in my landing intentions. “16 miles South to land on Runway 6.” I wasn’t even sure I knew where the runway was at this point so had my eyes checking the Sat Nav and scanning the view best I could. Nervousness now would have been an understatement.

There it was! On the right hand side of the valley, nestled behind a curve in the mountains. I remember thinking, “this couldn’t be the actual location. Could it?” I was prepared for a strange airport but hadn’t realized just how mental it would have been.

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I was a little high to make a turn for final approach and I also wanted to take a better look at the runway, so I decided I would fly past and head further up the valley and would turn around at a wider spot. I think this was a luxury that most aircraft do not get when landing at Lukla. I believe that the Twin Otter D300 is most commonly used to land here and my own Beech Baron is much smaller. Upon reaching a fork in the valley over a village called Namche Bazar, I was able to complete a 180 degree turn and head back down the valley. This was also a good way to burn off a few extra pounds of fuel so I took a second fly-by as I passed the runway on my left this time. The lower terrain at this end of the valley made for an easier 180 degree turn before I committed myself to the landing.

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Flaps down, Gear down and throttle hand at the ready I made sure I was flying as slow as possible whilst not falling out of the sky. This is a lot trickier than I had expected. The valley wind was blowing my plane sideways as I attempted to turn towards the runway. It seemed so strange to land towards a mountain and if I would be unable to stop in time there would be no other out come than to crash into the mountain side. Luckily, or due to the practice I have had at so many landings now, I was able to bring the small aircraft down with a heavy bump and had the breaks on hard which slowed me down just enough to turn into the parking section just before the final wall.

As I thought I could finally breathe that sigh of relief, it dawned on me that there would be no fuel pump here to fill up for my long flight to Dhaka which was to be my next destination. I had enough on board for a sight seeing flying to Everest and to get be back to Kathmandu. I would fill my tanks here again before the next long flight.

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Whilst my Plane was parked at Lukla, I spent a lot of time on Google Earth and followed the foot path all the way from Lukla to the village of Namche Bazar. It was great to see inside some of the hostels and bars. Most of which were very simple buildings but accommodated many climbers and explorers. There was even a library and museum with many artifacts from previous expeditions. When virtually visiting Kilimanjaro I really wished I could visit and climb the summit myself. I didn’t feel the same way with Everest. Seeing how many bodies there are left on the mountain shows just how dangerous and what an undertaking it would be. Still, I was looking forward to a short flight North to take a closer look at the highest point on Earth.

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Lukla Airport, Nepal – The Most Dangerous Airport in the World ?? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y14LkCJd7-4

Flight To Lukla Airport – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKED_3FA7c4

Lukla Landing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDfI4tbMUvs

Scary Lukla Landing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkIcUpWuYxY

Landings and Take Offs from Lukla – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1FiEQu4MDw

 

Flight 67) Delhi – Kathmandu (Through The Himalayas)

Flying over the Taj Mahal over looking the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra was certainly a highlight of my tour around India. The symmetry and intricate work put into the building of this iconic structure is undeniably awe inspiring. See my previous post for images and videos from the Taj Mahal.

Delhi was full of contrasts as I learnt a lot about the wealthy areas of the city and the opposite side of life, the slums. Whilst I believe that Delhi would be full of surprises and an assault on the senses, I am very excited for the next leg of the around the world tour.

This flight would be one of the longest flights I have undertaken so far, and also one of the most dangerous. (Virtually of course.) I have been getting myself into the habit of making my flight plans much more detailed and this flight would need to be mapped to precision as I would be flying through multiple valleys and canyons as I enter the Himalayas. There is a large risk of entering a tight valley and reaching a dead end, too high to fly over and too narrow to complete a turn. At high altitudes and with thinner air than at sea level, this was even more of a risk. All of these factors were playing on my mind as I spent many days checking the terrain of the area and ensuring I could copy the same route within the FSX flight simulation software. Although I don’t technically have a schedule to stick to, I was aware that I was long overdue this next flight due to the amount of planning involved.

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Taking a full day out of my own hectic life to complete this flight I wanted an early start. 09:00 is early in my eyes on a day off work. Plus I was eager to get going as I was really looking forward to the amazing views and surreal idea of having so much terrain above my small plane. The Carenado Beech Baron 58.

Booting up my computer around 9:00 am and preparing for the day ahead with some snacks and drinks I didn’t actually find myself in the virtual aircraft until 09:30 ish. The outside air temperature read at 15 degrees. I was interested to see the difference as I climbed in altitude and passed the snow capped mountains later. Indira Gandhi International Airport was a bustling hive of activity at this time in the morning. Even without any simulation expansion packs for ground operations there were many vehicles unloading luggage and refueling aircraft, including the 2 A320s which were parked either side of my plane which was dwarfed in comparison. This also prompted me to fill my fuel tanks ready for the long journey. I requested fuel and only had to queue 2 places until the fuel truck reached me. I adjusted the fuel and payload and was all set by 09:45. During this time, the light cloud had thinned out and all but disappeared. It was looking to be a great day to fly.

The airport was huge and I had this confirmed to me when I received my taxi directions. I was to head to runway R10 by using the route R2, R4, 5, N1, P, N. At times like these I wish I had the corresponding “plates” for these larger airports. Plates are effectively maps for airports which pilots can use to navigate when taxiing. I found my way without getting lost and was granted take off clearance. I edged onto the runway, lined myself up for take off and slowly pushed the throttle all the way to full. Hearing the small plane rattle its way down the runway until all went quiet, the ride eventually smoothed out and I could raise the landing gear for 10:05. I was relieved to see that there was very little fog. I had grown used to expecting thick fog at low altitudes in India. It seemed to cover almost every other destination I had been to in this country. My headphones were buzzing with many different voices coming and going over the radio. The skies were certainly busy over Delhi.

The first way point I had set into my GPS was apparently 52 minutes away. This would mark the beginning of the Himalayas mountain range. Not that I would have been able to miss them. The horizon ahead of me was still flat for now and softened with the distance and slight mist in the air as I left Delhi behind. Once again, this fog soon cleared at higher altitudes and were replaced with clouds. I had plenty of time so set a pretty slow climb speed of 300 feet per minute and watched a large bank of cloud develop in front. As they grew larger I could see sporadic lightening illuminating the graying clouds. There was no way to fly around the large bank of cloud so simply held on tight and flew straight through. Surprisingly there was very little turbulence although the clouds blocked the view of the horizon so was relying on the artificial horizon in my cockpit.

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By 10:25 I found myself flying over a wide river although I was unsure what this river was named. Peeking between the clouds I thought I could see the subtle outline of mountains on the horizon but in all honesty it was too hard to tell. The view below was also mostly a blanket of white cloud passing beneath as I reached 7,500 feet. A while later and I was certain that I could finally see the Himalayas coming into view as I looked North. At this point I also expected a second river to pass below. I was to be following this river north all the way to the start of the mountains. The GPS within my aircraft indicated that I would be reaching the mountains by 11:00.

The radios had been rather quiet for some time now as I left the bustle of Delhi and India behind. I reduced the throttle to descend a little and gradually arrived at 2,700 feet. Once again I was engulfed with that all too familiar fog so was forced to climb back to 3,300 feet until I could see clearly again with only 10 minutes left to the first way point. Getting closer to the mountains I could see the clouds forming at their sides, the dense forests covering the lower levels and the tiny roads and rivers snaking their way through it all.

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As I reached my way point I was advised to change my radio to 124.7 – Kathmandu Center. Just in time for my turn to the north and the start of the gauntlet run through mountain valleys. The only way I could navigate through the many many routes was to use my finely plotted GPS route. At each fork in the valley I would reach a way point and be directed to the next. I would have needed an entire other person to help with navigation if I had not had planned so thoroughly before hand. I enjoyed the fast flying through the rolling hills and valleys, watching the small settlements and odd road go by, although had not allowed for a particularly high ending to one valley. The training I had done in the Cessna 172 regarding tight turns within valleys came rushing back to me as I completed a full 360 degree turn within a tight valley all whilst gaining enough height to make it over the ridge previously blocking my way.

On the far side of the ridge the terrain became a lot more rugged and even the valley floors were obscured by fresh formed cloud cover. Now flying at 7,500 feet I still had many peaks above my wings. With this terrain and the rapidly decreasing visibility I felt myself getting nervous to the dangerous conditions. Climbing higher all the time to escape the rising mist which seemed to be chasing me, I got my first look at snow covered mountain peaks at roughly 11:35.

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Reaching 10,000 feet the fog and mist had finally disappeared and was soon replaced by lots of cloud. White clouds and white mountains made for a unique view from the windows of my tiny plane. The ground continued to rise and I tried my best to gain altitude to match although it was a struggle climbing to the 14,000 ft required to clear the following ridge marking the end of the current valley. I was worried that with out the altitude I would reach a dead end in which I would not be able to turn in. This of course would have resulted in a rather abrupt ending to the flight, and ultimately this whole world tour! (I have decided that in keeping with Amelia Earhart, if I was to crash during any flight, then I would not be able to continue. Especially so if in an incredibly remote area such as this.) Eventually I reached the end of the valley and my detailed route planning turned out to be a good use of time as it finally saved the day.

Continuing through the Himalayas I followed a small river which I considered to be very high as well as a small road. I doubt how realistic these details were withing the simulator. I know the views would be many times more spectacular in real life. Fuel levels were looking good but part of me wished I was even lighter so that I could climb a little faster. There were one or two close calls as I flew over ridges at 15,500 ft. I was pretty sure that this was close to the highest altitude I had ever reached in this aircraft. Soon to be pushed even further. The highest point on the journey was approaching and I struggled very hard to climb. Even with a slow 720 degree turn it was a heart in the mouth moment attempting to clear the final ridge at just under 18,000 ft.

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The view opened up to a wider valley lined with the highest peaks I had seen yet. All of this was only fueling my excitement at seeing the tallest mountain in the world. Everest. This would have to wait for another flight but I was already looking forward to that trip. With clear skies above and potentially crippling ridges behind me, I continued to climb extremely slowly, purely out of curiosity to see how high I could get. Somewhere around was another thunder storm as the sound of thunder rumbled from the valleys below. I finally looped around the last of the summits and noticed the clock now displaying 12:30. The terrain quickly lowered but appeared to be extremely bumpy from this altitude. A personal best in the small Beech Baron of 20,000 feet!

The last leg of the flight took the longest. Simply pointing the plane in a straight line and letting her gradually descend all the way until I was in range of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. The landing was nice and straight forward which was a relief after navigating the harsh landscapes previously. The radio chatter from the airport was a welcome change from the lonely skies I had gotten used to. I touched down on Runway R20 and was guided to my final resting point, Gate 3. Surrounded by large mountains on all sides the city of Kathmandu seemed all the more impressive. I find it hard to imagine cities such as this forming and growing when so apparently far from any other populated cities. It’s going to be nice to rest here for a while. After all, the next flight will be to the worlds most dangerous airport, Lukla!

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Jonah M. Kessel / China Daily


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10 Things To Do In Kathmandu,Nepal -HD – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KypX5vqX34Q
Kathmandu – The Most Beautiful City in the World – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DvAjNuhtyw
The Nepal Documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW5kRBq30m4
30 Days In Nepal – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbziahTLPAY
The REAL Nepal – Kathmandu – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WsQLB3Qrl0
Walking the Streets of Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwci70iJnqI

As intrigued I was by this remote city, I had already been exposed to many pictures of this place through recent news stories covering the recent earthquake which shattered so many historic buildings and displaced so many people. It is a shame to so see so much history lost to rubble but the real pain comes from the lack of preparation and response from the Nepalese government.

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2015 NEPAL Earthquake – Full Documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weGUeZsX4d4
Raw CCTV footage Compilation of Nepal Earthquake (25/04/2015) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pts3o7f8Vg0
Everest Avalanche live during Earthquake Nepal 2015 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hoiv9nMCF4