Morning arrives quickly, as it has tended to do on the entire trip, and we leave the hotel at 6 a.m. for the short drive to the terminal. One security screening, a quick visit to clear immigration, and a long walk through the serpentine terminal later, we’re standing under the nose of a China Pacific Boeing 747 that the caterers are servicing for its next flight. We have plenty of time to watch the process as we wait for our crew van, which arrives about 6:30. It’s a long drive to our parking on the northeast corner of the airport. After preflighting and loading our bags, we wait for a paper departure clearance that has to be driven to us from the terminal. Mike has already obtained the ATIS but clearance delivery proves hard to raise–and once he does, hard to read. It feels much more humid than on our arrival yesterday, so much that I’m perspiring while standing still.
Finally we get our IFR and engine start clearances, and taxi follows soon afterward. Fortunately, our departure is from Runway 5 Left, which begins almost at the end of our parking ramp. We’re cleared to follow a China Southern airliner to the runway; the next airliner in the queue, still some distance away, is told to “give way and follow the business jet.” We are off the ground at 7:13 local, 2313 Z, with a Boeing 777 behind us on a 13-mile final. The efficient controllers get the following jet out, too, before the 777’s arrival.
Climbing out we’re cleared to FL190, about 19,000 feet, and later to our cruising altitude of FL 250. On the left we pass a golf course, a multilane toll road hugging the coast, and a power plant that also has three win turbines, still in the nearly calm morning air. Taipei shimmers in the cloud-diffused morning light, and the air appears nearly crystal clear–perhaps the haze builds during the day. The city appears to extend almost endlessly toward the southeast, following the banks of the broad Tamsui River.
In no time we’re overflying mountains, then Taiwan’s northern coast, then we’re over the East China Sea. It’s mostly clear, and I am fascinated by the backlighting of the low clouds wear the water’s surface, and their obedient shadows offset away from the low sun in the east.
From 25,000 feet I observe a lone cargo ship sailing toward Taiwan. A few minutes later, there’s another, and another. Some are quite large, others not so big, and the sun also backlights a number of much smaller vessels that are not moving, or are moving very slowly. These must be fishing boats. Clearly these shipping lanes are as busy as the airways high above. We are in clear air, still enjoying our view of the East China Sea, although there is a lone cumulonimbus buildup well to our right, and another way off the left wing. We don’t see any other aircraft, but we’re talking with Fukuoka Control–Japan!–and many other aircraft are requesting, and receiving, deviations for weather.
This is a big day for Mike, and the whole trip has built to it. He’s very passionate about the Mitsubishi MU-2, and being in Nagoya for the 50th anniversary of the model’s first flight has great personal significance to him. This year’s also the 40th anniversary of the completion of our steed, N50ET, a 1973-model MU-2B-25 (serial number 260), Mike’s personal airplane for the past eight years. With international general aviation flying, things sometimes don’t happen until they happen, and it’s best to have a conservative schedule and lots of patience–but I can tell the delays this morning are irritating to him. Fortunately, the winds are good to us, and by that I mean they’re not bad: just 13 knots abeam the aircraft, so there’s no headwind, and we post a groundspeed of 287 knots at our cruise power setting. “We’re getting closer,” Mike observes.
Far below the clouds on the East China Sea are thickening, and beginning to build. Haze starts to obscure our view of the ocean surface. We’re about two hours and 550 nautical miles from Nagoya, about the halfway point of the 1,059-nautical-mile leg. But the weather remains good; thunderstorms with the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) will stay south of Taiwan today; a tropical cyclone is forming off Guam and there’s a possibility it could begin affecting local weather Sunday when we’re scheduled to depart. There also have been two recent volcanic eruptions on Japan’s southern islands, but ash has not passed FL140–that stuff will ruin an engine in no time flat–and it’s blowing off to the east, so it won’t be a factor for us.
We cross our first Japanese terrain, the city of Kagushima. The sun appears to reflect from rice paddies near the coast, a short distance east of the city. Soon we’re over the Pacific, skirting the east side of the Japanese islands.
Upon arrival in Nagoya we are greeted with what seems like a hero’s welcome. To be continued.