Archive for September, 2013

iPhone: Latest cause of runway incursions

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Did you know that the Apple iPhone is causing runway incursions in Fairbanks, Alaska? No, it’s not Siri run amok–apparently, drivers from outside the area were following their iPhones’ built-in map app to get to the airport. The app directed them onto Taxiway Bravo and from there, it’s easy to see the terminal and drive across the main runway to reach it, the Alaska Dispatch reported.

I think we’ve all heard stories about drivers blindly following directions from their GPS navigators. Question: Is an instrument rating required for blind driving? An instrument rating might not have solved the navigation problems, but at least the drivers would have known to call the tower for clearance before crossing Runway 2 Left/20 Right.

Coincidentally, I was through Fairbanks late Sept. 15 and early Sept. 16, flying around the world with Mike Laver in his Mitsubishi MU-2, but nobody at the airport made mention of the first incident. We were watching for wandering bucks on our early morning departure, but a wayward Buick would have been a heck of a surprise.
 
Don’t fret about flying into Fairbanks now, however; the problem has been fixed–sort of. Apple created a temporary “you can’t get there from here” fix for the iPhone map app, according to the Alaska Dispatch. Directions to the airport have been removed from the map, unless you type in the airport terminal’s exact street address. What, you say you need to get to the terminal? Enter 6450 Airport Way, Fairbanks, AK into your iPhone–or request a taxi clearance.
 

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Amazing rescue! 85 fifth-grade students and their 14 adult chaperons from Fireside Elementary School in  Louisville, Colo., were rescued by seven Colorado National Guard helicopters from flooding after being stranded during a trip to the Cal-Wood Education Center, reports Flying magazine.

Drugs and airplanes don’t mix. A Falcon 50 jet based in France was stopped in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, after local police found 1,500 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $26 million packed in 26 suitcases, reports Aviation International News. The jet’s three pilots and one passenger were arrested and jailed.

Step away from the tower. Four teens were arrested by the FBI after allegedly damaging the VOR tower in Flagstaff, Ariz., reports KPHO-TV. Charges against the youths are pending.

The airplane crash that wasn’t. North Dakota’s Williams County Emergency Services recently did a training exercise based on an aircraft crash at Minot International Airport, reports KMOT-TV. was practicing what they would do if a plane crashed at the airport.

Do the crime, do the time. Steven French was sentenced to 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to pointing a laser into the cockpit of a Lexington Police helicopter because he was “bored,” reports WKYT-TV. He will also be on probation for a year.

Good landings. A pilot with three passengers onboard made an emergency landing in a cornfield shortly after taking off from Michigan’s Tiny Zehnder Airport in Frankenmuth Township, reports MLive.com. The pilot said the engine malfunctioned. A pilot walked away after landing his Piper PA-24 into a corn field after taking off from Canada’s Woodstock Airport, reports the Norwich Bulletin.

A commercial flight was just fine with him. U.S. Open Tennis champion Rafael Nadal declined an offer by the Spanish government to fly him by private jet to a Davis Cup match, reports TheLocal.com. He said he didn’t feel right making the state pay for private travel.

We’ll end the week with this video from the Alaska Dispatch that shows how to land your private plane in a gorge, in a blizzard.

Have you logged “startle” time? ATP training rules make the rating costly.

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The new requirements from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the Airline Transport Pilot exam, as demanded by Congress after a Colgan Airways accident, will hit in August of 2014. They are focused on giving pilots more experience before they get the ATP rating, and training them in upset recovery. The rules will increase the cost of just that rating, according to one school’s estimate, to $8,500 to $12,000. I got it in 1995 for less than $2,000 just for fun from ISO Aero, now known as Aero Services in Wilmington, North Carolina. The first effect of making airline candidates take more training is to discourage those of us who got it just for fun. The second is to take smaller schools and colleges out of the ATP training market. That’s because they can’t make money now that there is a new requirement for a full motion simulator replicating an aircraft of 40,000 pounds (minimum). Those things cost millions. AOPA and others fought the good fight to keep the requirements reasonable.

In that simulator, candidates are to learn some of the upset recovery techniques. Randy Brooks, a vice president at Aviation Performance Solutions in Mesa, Arizona, said a study of 16 accidents involving upsets (extreme banks, climbs, dives) revealed the pilot did the wrong thing. “In 16 out of 16 accidents the pilot did something that was contradictory to whatever training they would have had,” he said. As it turns out, the International Civil Aviation Organization that happens to be headquartered in Canada (it is for the world, not just Canada) will recommend to the world at some point in the future that upset training extend to those wanting the commercial pilot certificate. Once again, AOPA has officially expressed concerns that the suggestion consider all the consequences. The FAA doesn’t have to follow the suggestion.

Simcom Training Centers’  Tracy Brannon said the new ATP multiengine rules “…elevate the requirements to meet the title of the certificate.” His company, where he is the chief operating officer, is planning an ATP course that will be close to the ones Simcom offers for a full type rating. A full type rating course includes 14 hours in a simulator, and the new FAA requirements for the ATP call for 10 hours. The academic part will also be very similar. He has had inquiries from airline companies interested in sending applicants to such a course.

Brannon pointed out that the new ATP rules apply only to multiengine aircraft. So, the pilots like myself who got the multiengine ATP, just for fun, can still have the option of getting the single-engine ATP that does not fall under the new requirements. Simcom has a Saab 2000 simulator that meets the new requirement for training in a simulated 40,000-pound simulator, but company officials have asked the FAA to consider letting them use less costly simulators for the Hawker 800 and Dornier 328 that simulate aircraft weighing less than 40,000 pounds. There is no word from the FAA as yet on the request.

The FAA guidelines also require that the ATP candidate demonstrate a proper recovery technique after being startled. Brooks manages to startle students while flying an actual training aircraft by distracting them. “Then we’re going to talk about things you like to do besides flying, where you live, whether or not you’ve got kids–anything that will take you out of the cockpit, thinking I’m not going to do something, and wham. You’re going to have a simulated wake vortex encounter, and you’re going to hear me say ‘recover.’” Brooks can train students to automatically recover in three 45-minute flights. The new ATP rules call for use of a simulator for situations where the nose is too high or too low.

Opponents of the new rules warned that they could reduce the supply of airline pilots. “They’re going to pay $12,000 and then we start them out in a $10,000 job,” said the owner of a North Carolina flight school. The full impact won’t be known until after the rules take effect late next summer. In the meantime, a few hours of aerobatic training can pay big benefits. Make sure the instructor startles you before you graduate.

F-22 pilot tells Iranian F-4 pilots, “You really oughta go.”

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, son of an Air Force combat veteran and father of an Air Force pilot, likes to brag on his personnel. At the Air Force Association convention in New Harbor, Md., this month he described what happened when Iranian pilots intercepted a remotely piloted vehicle doing surveillance over the Arabian Gulf. The encounter was first reported in “AvWeb,” and you can see the actual speech here. Change the quality to the lowest possible to help stream the video. (Click on the gear symbol at lower right and choose the bottom setting.)  The comments concerning F-22 pilot Lt. Col. Kevin “Showtime” Sutterfield occur at 18:25 into the video.

Welsh described the March incident this way: “You guys see the news clip not long ago about the Iranian F-4 that intercepted a remotely piloted aircraft over the Arabian Gulf, and then they were warned off? This is the guy that warned them off…after he rejoined on them, flew underneath their aircraft to check out their weapons load without them knowing he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and called them and said, ‘You really oughta go.’” They left.

Strange but true general aviation news

Friday, September 20th, 2013

A series of interesting uses for drones. The clerk for Colorado’s Deer Trail Town has received a flood of more than 1,000 applications for hunting licenses to shoot down unmanned aircraft flying over the twonafter a measure allowing the practice will be on the ballot next month, reports AvWeb. On the other side of the world, Shenzhen, China-based SF Express is testing drones to help the company deliver packages to remote locations where trucks can’t, reports Gizmodo.

How did this miss sequestration? The government is shelling out nearly $7,000 a month on the lease for Aero Marti, an old Gulfstream G-1 used by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting to beam in uncensored Spanish news into the country, reports AvWeb.

Pentagon cuts Google fuel discount. The Pentagon has ended a deal it signed with Google in 2007 that allowed the company to buy fuel for its seven jets and two helicopters at a discount, reports Cnet. The Pentagon allegedly found out the company was using the fuel for non-government flights.

What is it with gliders? A teen member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets spent a brief time in the hospital with minor injuries after an emergency landing of his Schweizer SGS 2-33A glider on the roof of a convenience store near Vancouver, reports AvWeb.

Good landings. William Booth made an emergency landing of his vintage Lake Renegade aircraft in a field near Saratoga County Airport, reports the Saratogian. The FAA and NTSB are investigating how a Piper PA-18 Super Cub was found upside down on a beach in California’s Ranchos Palos Verdes, reports the LA Times.

 

Old? Who’s old? Tom Lackey, 93, has broken his own Guinness World Records feat of being the world’s oldest wing walker, reports the Guardian. he was tied to the  top of a 1943 Boeing Stearman during the one hour, 21-minute flight from Scotland’s Castle Kennedy to the City of Derry Airport

How much for the vase, the beanbag chair and the vintage 1946 Cessna 140? Robbie and Pam Love decided to have a garage sale — and included their vintage 1946 Cessna 140 among the items available for purchase, reports WJFA. The couple got $17,500 for the aircraft.

We’ll end the week with this YouTube video of two men making an emergency landing in the Alaksa wilderness.

 

Day 25: Minot to Frederick, Maryland

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Our last day gets off to an unusual start when we arrive at the airport to learn that the nose gear of Mike Laver’s Mitsubishi MU-2, N50ET, had been accidentally damaged when the airplane was moved after we left it the night before. However, the FBO had summoned a mechanic who replaced the sheared bolt, and had prepared a logbook entry documenting the repair (for nonpilots readers, unlike your car, any repairs or maintenance on an aircraft is documented in a permanent record). Mike pronounces the repair satisfactory, and we depart on the final leg to Frederick. Had the problem been major, our 25-day journey around the world could have been halted abruptly, just one leg and 1,188 nautical miles from home.

Mike Laver before sunrise

Mike Laver checks an electronic chart on his iPad (we carried paper charts, too) as dawn approaches.

The clear black sky is full of stars as we complete the preflight and load the airplane. We take off VFR climbing eastward and pick up our clearance in flight as we pass small clusters of lights that mark North Dakota’s farming communities. Shortly a thin line of light along the eastern horizon starts to grow taller, and it separates into colors–orange along the horizon and a band of blue above.

Our flight plan was filed via airways, and included myriad slight turns left and right. Mike asks Minneapolis Center if we can have a clearance direct to the Indian Head VOR in southern Pennsylvania, and it is approved. “We aim to please,” the cheerful controller says. “And you do,” Mike replies.

Sunrise over North Dakota

The sun rises at 25,000 feet near Fargo, North Dakota.

Now a red band forms below the blue-and-orange horizon, and right around Fargo the sun’s disk begins to break the horizon. Below, fingers of low clouds are reaching over Fargo from the south. Even better, we have a 10-knot tailwind! And we enjoy slight tailwinds almost all the way to the East Coast.

Airliners converge on Eau Clair

The black diamonds represent airliners heading to Eau Clair (EAU) to hold.

We pass north of Minneapolis and Eau Claire, where a string of Minneapolis arrivals are being stacked in holding patterns. In fact, there are so many, the controller needs our altitude, and we’re assigned a modest vector to the left of our course. Our detour is short, and we’re thankful we’re going to Frederick and not Minneapolis this morning.

Sunlight over Lake Michigan

It’s seldom this clear over Lake Michigan, at least when I’m flying there.

It’s clear over Lake Michigan, which reflects the morning sun, and we pass over Grand Rapids, Michigan, the intersecting concrete runways of its airport in stark contrast to the green grass. This is a familiar route for the first time in 25 days. We pass north of Jackson, Michigan, where I lived in what now feels like an earlier life; between Detroit and Toledo; and angle across Lake Erie and Cleveland. There’s Kelleys Island, Ohio, on Lake Erie with its intersecting runways, and the amusement park at Cedar Point.

Spinning prop reflects sun

Mike Laver’s MU-2, N50ET, has flown us all the way around the world without any mechanical issues.

Near Cleveland, Center gives us a minor reroute–direct Morgantown, West Virginia; direct Martinsburg, West Virginia; then direct to Frederick. The change adds only 20 miles to our flight. This also is very familiar. We pass Akron, Ohio, and fly southwest of Pittsburgh under beautiful, clear skies with occasional clouds below. The farmland of Ohio gives way to the rolling hills of southwestern Pennsylvania and mountains of West Virginia, and before we know it, we’re descending to land in Frederick.

Welcome back to Frederick

Friends and colleagues welcome us on our arrival to the AOPA ramp at Frederick.

Waiting for us on the AOPA ramp is a large group of my AOPA friends and coworkers, as well as my lovely bride, and while it’s been a fantastic trip–it’s absolutely great to get home. I’d be remiss not to thank Mike Laver; my colleagues at AOPA; and especially my wife and family for the opportunity.

Mike Laver and Mike Collins after trip

Mike Laver and Mike Collins at Frederick, after 25 days and 97.5 hours of flying.

It’s been a very remarkable, and enjoyable, trip. We saw many fascinating sights, breezed through quite a few countries (and stayed a little longer in a few), landed during a monsoon in Indonesia, and got out of Japan less than a day ahead of a typhoon that caused flooding and evacuations. Mike and I have spent right about 97.5 hours together in N50ET. We’ve been too busy to keep up with the mileages for each leg, and other trip statistics; I will calculate our distance travelled and other relevant information, and post it in one or more wrap-up posts on this blog.

One of the most unexpected, and gratifying, aspects of this trip has been your interest. I’ve been impressed and humbled by the number of emails you’ve sent to me at AOPA (and through the DeLorme InReach messenger, which has the ability to send and receive 160-character messages); here on this blog, and through Facebook. I’m glad you found our adventures interesting. If you’d like to read about the trip from Mike Laver’s perspective, please visit his blog on the Air 1st website (click on the “Around the World-N50ET” link). I’ll be doing that myself, as soon as I get some sleep–this flying through 10 time zones in three days is really starting to get to me. Tonight will be an early night.

 

Piston values have stopped dropping

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

A few months ago I reported in AOPA Pilot that all aircraft were dropping in value; if it flew, it was down. Recently I checked back to see if things are looking better. Rarely would we celebrate being drug along the bottom of the used aircraft value “ocean, ” but that is the case with piston-engine singles and twins. Vref, the airplane value reporting firm, says prices that dropped into the toilet, let’s make that the vast clean ocean, have stopped dropping. They bounce up and down, but there appear to be no more cliffs ahead. They should stay where they are for another year, says Vref’s Fletcher Aldridge.

Aldredge looked at 25 jets and found all but seven of them are in a buyers’ market. If 10 percent of the fleet of, say, Lear 60XR aircraft are for sale, then it is a buyer’s market. If the percentage is less and few are available, it is a seller’s market. The Lear 60XR is in a buyer’s market because 22 percent of the Lear 60XR fleet is for sale, and the used inventory is growing. The Global Express, Falcon 900, Citation II, Beechjet 400A, CitationJet 525, and Gulfstream IV, IVSP, and V, are all in a buyer’s market. The Gulfstream 450 and 550 are in a seller’s market. You can see the whole list for yourself right here.

Cessna is building a military jet

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Scorpion_for-WebCessna Aircraft has very quietly built an econo military jet named Scorpion aimed at the jobs the bigger, meaner jets can do only at great expense, such as homeland security and border patrol. It’s had its first engine test. With its straight wing, it will go slowly enough to intercept slower aircraft, but can hit 450 knots when angry. Cessna built it for AirLand, another Textron company, and used a little bit of Citation jet technology along with engines used on many business jets. It should fly in two or three weeks. It’s said to cost more than a turboprop and less than a fighter jet. It was announced at the Air Force Association convention this week.

Day 24: Fairbanks to Minot, North Dakota

Monday, September 16th, 2013

The beauty of Alaska is always breathtaking, but it’s an especially glorious welcome back to the States after traveling almost all the way around the world. Day 24 of our 25-day journey begins before dawn in Fairbanks, where the temperature is 34.6 degrees Fahrenheit when I wake up. On our cab ride to the airport, Mike Laver is concerned that there might be frost on his Mitsubishi MU-2, which would delay our departure. Fortunately, there is no frost, although one of the line crew said there was frost on all the airplanes yesterday; it had rained the day before, and all that moisture found the aluminum to be irresistible in the cool air.

Sunrise leaving Fairbanks

The sun rises over a mountain range as we climb out of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Color is starting to paint the eastern sky as we preflight N50ET, and we take off from Runway 20 Right in the predawn light. Just after liftoff we cross the tree-lined Tanana River; most of the trees already bear the golden yellow of fall, and the vignette is beautiful.

Mike Laver contemplates an Alaskan sunrise

Mike Laver contemplates an Alaskan sunrise from the left seat of N50ET.

Climbing eastward above the river’s broad valley, we watch as the sun rises in front of us and slowly drizzles golden light from the tops of the tall, snow-capped mountain range to our south. Glancing down I see Allen Army Airfield (PABI) in Delta Junction, still slumbering in the valley’s shadows.

Distant Alaska peak

Tall peaks jut from the shadows and low clouds.

Further to the south, even taller peaks jut spectacularly into the sunshine, and the low morning sun gives their snow caps an orange glow. For a while I just sit and watch, taking in the beauty as the majesty of Alaska glides by at 275 knots less than 25,000 feet below.

The sky clouds up, however, as we approach Canada and cross the Yukon Territory as we make our way to Ketchikan, Alaska, for our fuel stop. Unfavorable winds aloft push our groundspeed on this 812-nautical-mile leg down to 245 knots, about the slowest we’ve seen on the trip. We’re in and out of the clouds, with continual light chop at our cruising altitude of Flight Level 250, about 25,000 feet.

Snow-covered Canadian mountains

Mountains in western Canada are barely visible through the clouds.

“Two hundred thirty! Unbelievable!” exclaims Mike a little later, after our progress slows further. “Sixty knots of headwind. Oh, well, we’re a lot quicker than a lot of airplanes.” Ironically, our true airspeed is a sprightly 296 knots, on a fuel burn of 70 gallons per hour. “For our fuel burn, that’s an incredible true airspeed,” he notes. To conserve fuel Mike is not cruising at full power, even when the headwind pushes our groundspeed to 225 knots.

The sun marches higher in the sky, accelerated by our relentless push to the east-southeast–across three more time zones today. Can you say 21-hour day? We pass to the west of Juneau, which is obscured by clouds. A couple of times we find ourselves flying through cloud valleys almost as expansive as what we saw on the Earth’s surface earlier.

Arriving at Ketchikan

Shooting the approach into Ketchikan. Do you see the runway?

We shoot an approach to Ketchikan and break out of the clouds into the center of a fjord that points to the airport. We land on Runway 11 as a de Havilland Beaver on floats touches down abeam us on the parallel City Harbor. At least three large cruise ships are docked on the other side of the harbor, and a steady stream of floatplanes–I think they’re all Beavers–stays busy giving scenic flights that, for many passengers, are their own flight of a lifetime.

Next to us on the ramp a FedEx twin turboprop unloads freight into an array of trucks. But there’s no time to watch these shows; the fuel truck has two nozzles and two fuelers, and they replenish our supply of Jet-A in each tank simultaneously–not only saving time but also avoiding the need to alternate the filling of the airplane’s wingtip tanks. We are able to land, fuel, pay the bill, use the restroom, and take off again–all in about 24 minutes.

We climb through low clouds into bright sunshine as we begin our next leg, 1,228 nautical miles from Ketchikan to Minot, North Dakota. We’re handed off almost immediately to Vancouver Center, which clears us to the Edmonton VOR, located 633 nautical miles to the east. Well before we get there, we’re cleared direct to Minot.

Crabbing into the wind

We crab into the unforecast headwind to maintain our desired ground track.

Clouds over the mountains of western Canada give way to Alberta’s vast, partly cloudy plains between Edmonton and Calgary, with their endless pattern of checkerboard fields. Somewhere else, aircraft are asking Edmonton Center for deviations around weather. We don’t have any rain or menacing clouds, but the winds for this portion of the flight are not at all what was forecast; the winds aloft have not shifted and instead of being neutral for us, we find an increasing headwind. Mike spends a lot of time checking his fuel calculations, tweaking the power settings, and then double-checking, to be certain we’ll land with at least an hour’s fuel reserve in Minot. We hold a hefty right crab into the quartering flow, which resulted in headwinds of 30 knots or more before the wind finally dropped off.

Lake Diefenbaker

The lowering sun reflects off Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan.

The skies are mostly clear as we fly across the large wheat fields of Saskatchewan. The sun is sinking in the west as we pass near Riverhurst, Saskatchewan, reflecting off the lazy waters of the wide Lake Diefenbaker. We’re less than an hour from Minot now and unlike yesterday, we’ll get there before the sun sets.

At Regina we turn right for the last 180 miles to Minot. When we land, we refuel the airplane and go to the hotel; no Customs, immigration, or other procedures are required. Because we did not land in Canada, and were just overflying it, technically we never left the United States–so it’s not necessary to reenter the country. We could have planned a fuel stop in Canada, but that would have required entry into Canada and a return to the United States. Mike felt that by now we’d be tired of the whole process. He was right.

Dinner is at a Mexican restaurant, and we try to turn in early to rest for the last day of our odyssey–and my final leg back to Frederick. Then Mike will have a fairly short flight back to his home base, in Aiken, South Carolina.

Day 23: Petropavlovsk to Fairbanks, Alaska

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Monday morning dawns rainy and overcast; a mountain peak visible from my hotel window is obscured by clouds. The fourth-floor view is quite different from yesterday’s 41st-floor perspective of Nagoya, although except for the temperature, the weather is rather similar. We consider stopping in the hotel cafe for breakfast, but decide that with today’s planned flying and the time-zone-shortened day (we will cross four time zones and the International Date Line), getting going is the better option–then we play the what-if game until our driver arrives 10 minutes late. “What if we’d gone to the cafe right when it opened at 7:30? What if it opened a few minutes early?” I don’t mind another Clif Bar, especially after my stash came so close to supplying dinner last night.

Petropavlovsk hotel

Our short visit allows us to see very little of Russia. This is from in front of our hotel.

I had been looking forward to seeing Russia, but most of what I see is on the ride back to the airport Monday morning (it will become Sunday again when we cross the Bering Strait). The city of Kamchatsky appears similar to a U.S. city of similar size, with a mix of newer, often brightly colored buildings and clearly older structures. Outside of the city we drive along miles of tree-lined roads, with some leaves starting to show hints of fall color, that are punctuated occasionally by brightly colored, cinder-block bus shelters. There must be unseen homes behind the trees, however, because several shelters have people in them, and there are pedestrians along the rainy roadway.

Closer to the airport we pass through residential areas that are somewhat ramshackle; many homes have one or more apparently disused vehicles, some missing wheels or fenders. Closer to the airport there are a number of large apartment buildings that look as though they could be former barracks, leading me to believe the facility is a former–or current–military base.

Terrain around Petropavlovsk airport

Our departure from Petropavlovsk clearly shows the terrain surrounding the airport.

We meet our handler at the terminal, bypass one security checkpoint, then have our bags x-rayed and walk through a magnetometer at a second, apparently for crews and airport workers; on the bus out to the airplane, she gives us a weather package for this 1,004-nautical-mile leg, and discusses the two departure options. We can take off from either end of the single runway (the adjacent 16 Right/34 Left is under construction), “Just ask air traffic control.” Because of terrain near the airport, we decide a 34 Right departure will be preferable–even though we’ll have to backtrack the runway’s full 11,158-foot length.

Follow Me truck

Our Follow Me car in Petropavlovsk leads us all the way to the runway.

Last night it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere, but in daylight, there are two terminal buildings nearby, and a handful of twin-engine turboprops are a few hundred yards away. As we begin our rainy taxi, a three-engine Russian jet reminiscent of an older Falcon is being towed toward the terminals. Our lengthy taxi up a long taxiway, around the construction, and back down the runway gives us several glimpses of military activity. Off to the right, a transport plane sits in a revetment, surrounded by trees that look as though they could obscure its movement. Closer to the runway, behind a gated taxiway on the left, are a number of fighter jets that look like Sukhois. We bid farewell to our Follow Me truck and begin the long back-taxi, finding the side of the runway smoother than the center. We pass a fenced compound of trucks with radar antennas, and at the approach end of Runway 34 Right is another large ramp with several military transports, and beyond them, quite a few helicopters. Strangely, we see nobody in any of these areas. It’s not Sunday; perhaps the national holiday? Regardless, men and equipment are working on the new runway.

After starting engines early and our taxi tour, we’re airborne at 9:17 a.m. local, 21:17 Z–that’s 17 minutes behind our plan, but not bad under the circumstances. Our departure clearance is to Flight Level 090 (about 9,000 feet) but radar control immediately clears us to FL 250. This is good for terrain clearance and our fuel burn; departures must be above 7,190 feet by RILAT intersection and we make that easily. We start to fly out of the tops at 9,500 feet, and radar control accommodates our request to cut a corner by clearing us direct to GEFAR–which actually cuts two corners.

Most of the leg is in clear air with thick clouds below, but they clear temporarily over the Anadyrskiy Gulf. We look down on a desolate brown peninsula with snow-spotted mountains to our right and sheer cliffs falling to bright blue-green water on the left. Later, a river is seen snaking through a deep, curving valley. We get a slight push from the winds aloft at our cruise power setting until they shift and weaken closer to our destination of Anadyr, Russia, where the ATIS indicates better conditions than were forecast.

Approach to Anadyr

There’s wicked wind shear on the approach to Anadyr; today, at least, it dropped off right at the threshold.

Like Petropavlosk, Anadyr’s runway sits beside a bay, but it’s not surrounded by mountains, and the ILS approach to Runway 1 is very straightforward. But the ATIS included a statement, “Hazardous wind shear on final,” and a helicopter pilot on the approach ahead of us said, in English, “Significant wind shear,” and then talked in Russian with the controller, who also relayed the advisory. Later the pilot said, “Stops at runway.” We appreciated the heads up. Sure enough, there was a pretty wicked wind shear on final, which made it hard to track the localizer. We were below the clouds and had the runway visually. And sure enough, just after crossing the threshold, the shear disappeared.

A marshaller parked us, then left, and there was no sign of our handler. After waiting a few minutes, Mike placed a call to BaseOps–we had a phone number for the handler, but did not know what country code to dial. The handler arrived a few minutes later, very apologetic, because it was an unusually busy day in Anadyr; a charter flight was trying to depart with more than a hundred French tourists aboard and clearing them apparently required all the airport’s resources. Customs and immigration arrived before long; the latter left with our passports and brought them back half an hour later, stamped and ready to go. The fuel truck arrived, and once the proper ladder was procured, fueling went quickly.

I ask the handler about snow here, and we quickly learn we don’t want to be here in the winter. The snow usually starts in September, but sometimes in August, she says. “Maybe today,” says the immigration man. And I guess it could; it’s 8 degrees Celsius so about 45 degrees Fahrenheit at what we think is early afternoon local time. I also ask about a large mural on the terminal building; a cartoon figure of a young girl stands, arms upraised, with Cyrillic characters that read, “The day begins here.” I ask if I can take a photo; the handler says she thinks it would be ok but our friend in the green uniform says, “No pictures.” So, I don’t. We take off from Runway 1 after a 90-minute stop and a very short taxi.

Crossing International Date Line

We cross the International Date Line, go back to Sunday, and come back into the United States–all at the same time.

The leg from Anadyr to Fairbanks is a bit shorter, at 919 nautical miles. We depart Russian airspace after about an hour, then we cross the International Date Line, jump from Monday afternoon to Sunday evening, and enter U.S. airspace–all at about the same time.

Sunset behind us

The sun sets behind us…

Moonrise over Alaska

…as the moon rises over Alaska.

We overfly Nome, Alaska, but see nothing because of the thick clouds below us. The moon rises at our 2 o’clock position as the sun slowly sets behind us. Around Galena, we look down and through some breaks in the clouds we see the wide, graceful curves of the Yukon River. Eventually all traces of reflected orange disappear from the eastern horizon in front of us, and we fly into a deepening purple haze. After the sun has set, and we’re approaching Fairbanks, the moon’s reflection dances on the winding Tanana River off the right wing. Not all of this could be committed to film–er, pixels–through a thick plexiglass window, but they’re indelible mental images I’ll always carry with me.

Refueling in Fairbanks

After we clear Customs, N50ET is refueled in Fairbanks. Three legs over the next two days should get me home.

It’s been great to travel around the world, but it’s also great to be back in the United States. Here, if you don’t understand an instruction from air traffic control, it’s usually a speed issue (they’re talking too fast or you’re listening too slow)–not a language issue. And I’m hard pressed to remember the last time we were cleared for a visual approach; in many countries a full approach is the norm, even when the extra flying is not required by weather. We touched down in Fairbanks and I had what I think is the most painless Customs experience I’ve ever had in the United States. I guess I could complain that it was 11 p.m. by the time we got to the hotel, and there was nowhere to get a hot meal–instead, it’s beef jerky for dinner as I edit photos in the hotel room. But I’m not complaining, it’s great to be (almost) home.