From East Timor to Borneo, April 29

(reposted from Maurice's website)

Out over the blue yonder and I am already suffering aches and pains and alter flight plan via Ujung Padang (WAAA, HASANUDDIN) to DCT (direct) to save fuel, as the wind is in my favour and almost non existent; later to be against me. Flying at flight level 45 I cross some idyllic coral islands and atolls both large and small. I consider landing on the silver sand beaches for a swim but fuel needed to get to Borneo dictates.

En route to Malaysia Soon I have used up all fuel inboard, now there's no fire hazard so I can light up a King Edward but that is one thing I do not need, nicotine, when enjoying myself. I creep round the prohibited zones north of WAAA (Hasanuddin) only to find myself in an 8000ft mountain range with low stratus cloud sometimes down to 3000 ft. I spend a sweaty hour of trying to break through various valleys and then, giving up, climb 200ft a minute through lighter cloud, 30 percent of the effort is lost due to severe down draughts. Eventually over the top, I break cloud at around 9000ft with cold tootsies and a pound or too lighter!

Out across the Celebes Sea I now have a 10 to 15 knot head wind so it is down to 5 ft for 200miles. At 50 ft the GPS registered a 16 knot head wind but, at 5 ft it only indicated 8knots on the nose. Continual concentration now, not to kiss the waves or hit a whale as I so nearly did in Timor, unable to take my eyes off the sea for but a fraction of a second.

Balikpapn would not answer until I was overhead the field at 2000 ft. 30 minutes later. It took tight turns over the Control Tower and 'hovering' on half throttle at 35 mph, indicated on the air speed indicator, before I received a green light to land. I taxied to a stop and just wanted to sleep there and then, after 11 hours in the air. But oh no, no photos allowed and I am marched off to an office with a motley entourage of variously uniformed and tee-shirt clad gentlemen. Interrogation went on for hours and a lot longer if was not for the gold braid and hair cut.

En route to Malaysia
This does not appear to be the gaggle of bureaucrats Maurice encountered on Borneo, but it does show the white shirt and gold braid with which he impressed them. Besides, it answers the perennial question: why fly around the world? Clearly, the answer is not: "Because it's there!"

Problem 1 - No military clearance had been obtained by our man in Jakarta! I needed both civilian and military to enter Indonesia.

Problem 2 - No Flight plan had been received.

Problem 3 - No radio contact as the transponder worked but drained the power each time I tried to transmit.

`They are only doing their job', Kirstie said on the mobile, in a snatched chance to speak to anyone else, whilst I was searched and camera film was viewed from Darwin to Suluesi by air force security.

I finally reached a Hotel some time after 11pm, dragging around my entire luggage for fear of theft, only to have a sleepless night due to the ankle and a bed crawling with ants!

Around 8 in the morning, after a futile trip round the town trying to buy a battery and an adaptor for my computer, I arrive back at the aircraft only to be greeted by the Commanding Officer of the Air Base of an F16 fighter aircraft, four of them parked nearby. By his direct questions he had established in a minute or so just who taught me to fly, how little and old the aircraft really was and my side of the problems on radio and clearances, now before me. A few chosen words by the CO of the Base to all around and appropriate arm gestures for action and I was having the battery charged, fuel tanker called and clearance to fly on to Malaysia and a photo together, to boot.

My flight plan to Lubuan, Sabah Provence of Malaysia, 400 odd miles north was to be by airways corridors. This meant flying at a dizzy flight level 85 for nearly 2 hours at 90 degrees of track on Whisky 36 Airway, before turning on to a northerly Airway roughly in the direction of China.

Just as I left the airfield `Control Zone' the height detecting part of my transponder appeared to stop emitting its signal to the Tower, causing the Controller, to wish me a 'good flight`. Left prematurely unguided I had to cancel my Airways route for safety reasons and fly VFR (Visual flight rules) direct to Lubuan.

It was far from direct as I was skirting around jungle clad mountains for 5 hours, almost touching a branch on one occasion due to a severe down draught. As usual it was a battle between a head wind component causing me to stay `low and slow' or to fly in safer conditions 300 ft higher, even slower with the diminished chance of arriving before dark. I cannot over emphasise the effect on surface wind by mountains...vertically downwards!!

"Look after thine airflow least the ground come up and smite thee"