Finally a few free minutes since I departed form Natal

Again the key was Maodo, who was waiting for me at the Airport where we met at 0600 am local time.

The night was better for me so I decided to go ahead and fly the overwater leg. The place I have been staying, called Keur Mindolo, is a very nice small hotel, african decorated, with the funny coincidence that some of the ornaments were familiar to me.

And indeed they were…

The did come from Cameroon, were I was born ¨twenty years ago¨ …!

Francine, the Hotel owner was also from Cameroon, so that explained everything.

Olivier was the man in charge at Keur Mindolo. What a nice and supportive guy. 

Every thing I could need at anytime, he was ready to help.

So, I feel very glad to have found that place.

Procedures through the airport were really fast and easy. Of course, Maodo was there as leader of the path into Atlantic.

It took some time to prepare the airplane, even if it was prepared. But Atlantic is a serious matter, not to forgive anything ready or unpredicted.

I have filed the day before, a VFR fight plan using Rocket Route. VFR would allow me more freedom and was accepted by the system.

Even thought sunrise was at 0730, I planned for 0720 as it was already sunlight and no need for runway lights that I should have paid. That was suggested by a nice friend of Maodo, who is Airport Controller.

So it was time for tears and things like that. 

Dakar, good morning, EC XLL at Aeroclub ramp, request clearance and start up destination Natal.

EC XLL, Dakar Tower….we don´t have your flight plan, so you need to fill one.

And the game started at 0735.

I explained the tower that the flight plan was filed the day before and accepted, using internet.

Few minutes later, the frequency came alive and I was confirmed that they have indeed received the flight plan and that I was cleared for start up.

Once I did it, I was cleared to taxi to the holding position of runway 03, but the taxiway mainly used by the aeroclub, was not in a very good condition.

Once at the holding point, I deployed the HF antenna, checked the engine, and I was cleared to align into position at the runway.

The frequency came alive again. As it did, the throttle was almost advancing for the imminent take off.

EC XLL, Dakar Tower: you are not allowed to fly over Atlantic !!!

??????????!!!!!!!!!???????? ( that is a better way to write what I felt..) 

 What is the problem, Dakar? The problem is that your aircraft is not prepared to fly over the ocean..

Why do you say that? The aircraft has everything needed to cross the ocean..

Dakar, after a small pause, told me that my flight plan was VFR and VFR is not permitted when flying across the Atlantic , according to Dakar Civil Aviation Regulations.

-So, Dakar, no problem for ECXLL: just change VFR for IFR and insert FL 080.

It is an approved procedure, and that way it is not necessary to return to the apron.

A longer pause came….

EC XLL, Dakar: return to the apron, position G23. You are not allowed to fly !

Soooo, again taxiing along the taxiway, with the HF antenna dragging around.

I stopped the plane at G23, on top of the line, and with a heading that was not the same of the line. We are talking about a remote parking, and a small dot that is my airplane.

EC XLL, Dakar: you are not parked right, please start the plane and do it again…

The Marshaller arrived and told me that I was leaking fuel all around. Nooo, it is not mine, thank you.

So, five minutes later, Firefighting team came and covered the area with water.

Soon, a car arrived with a representative of the Airport, I think, related with the Control. 

He was serious at the beginning but very soon, kind as he understood everything.

He told me: ¨we care for you!¨

And I told him ¨thank you very much, it is very nice !”

Also he told me that he has not received a copy of my flight plan. I told him that the Tower did, so I think that it is their internal problem not a mistake of mine.

True is that when taxiing back, I have told the Controllers that what they did was not nice. If I had no clearance, and I couldn´t fly, why I was cleared to the runway???. They should have told me before and I would have fixed everything sooner ( -no answer came!).

So the person who came agreed to change the word VFR for IFR. He departed G23 and drove into Civil Aviation Offices. It was a matter of 15 minutes but it turned in more time. Before that, he asked me if I was HF equipped, and I answered him that I was !

Meanwhile, Maodo arrived. He was already tracking the airplane when he realized that I was coming back. 

What a nice guy Maodo is !

And the official car returned and I was told I could leave. 

I started to feel better, but it was just a dream, not reality.

The man requested me to wait 10 minutes after his depart from my position, before requesting engine start, and so I did.

Dakar,EC XLL G23, ready for start up.

EC XLL, you have to test first your HF equipment and call frequencies 5565 and 6535.

The attempt failed as nobody answered in those frequencies.

Dakar, EC XLL, negative contact with both 5565 and 6535.

EC XLL, you cannot fly if Oceanic Control does´t not confirm us a positive check.

Dakar, EC XLL is not an airliner that can test HF on ground. My HF antenna is only operative when in flight. If you want, I take off and then if you are not happy with the test, I return.

(they knew that if they cleared me, it was a non return flight..)

EC XLL, if we don´t receive a confirmation from Oceanic that your HF is able to communicate with us, you will not be cleared to fly.

….Then I was really concerned.

I checked my Dakar frequencies and dialed a higher frequency one, 8861 that was more according with daylight. Lower frequencies (the provided ones) were night frequencies.

Also I asked Maodo to become a pole from where the antenna would be hanging away of the direct contact with the ground.

And there they were !! Loud and clear.

Dakar, EC XLL, positive contact on 8861 HF frequency.

EC XLL,Dakar, wait for me to check !!!

I started to wonder if they will free me any year…

EC XLL, Dakar, try again 5565.

Dakar, EC XLL: The HF works perfect, the check was ok, it is nonsense that you keep doing that way.

A few seconds lapsed and the glory call arrived: EC XLL, cleared to start engine !

So again tears and a hot engine start.

Keeping calm when taxiing ( I mean, taxiing slowly) , I was provided the departure clearance, transponder, FL 080, and a left turn after take off direct to the first route point called BOMSA.

Once aligned on runway 03, I was cleared to take off. It was quite late, I knew I would not make it at daytime! Take off time 1009 Z

Take off was fast. Nor the airplane or myself wanted to stay longer,

Once I was already overwater the visibility was poor. It was like flying inside a cloud. There was no horizon.

I kept heading away and adjusting engine settings that were good last time. Together with a light tailwind, I was doing 160 kts GS ( Ground Speed), so I was satisfied.

Then, It was time for HF communications and….no way.

The antenna tuning was not working the way it did on the ground.

What was going on?

So, I opened the ICOM HF radio manual pdf file and started to study everything and mainly the settings. Those equipments are nice but they need a lot of study. Mine is not similar to the Airbus A 340 ( that is made for…airline pilots…, so easy to use).

I had plenty of time ahead, so I could do it, not to forget that I was flying and I had to take care of many other things, as fuel management, and so.

I did knew that something has happened. May be the antenna wire got stuck in a grove of the taxiway and has been pulled away of the plane.

If so, all my attempts of tuning the antenna would have conducted to the electronic antenna coupler destruction or even the HF equipment.

The coupler is way back in the airplane. A huge work would be required to remove the rear tank to reach that coupler.

May be the lead was just broken, but we are talking about a 1,5 mm steel braided wire, so it sounds difficult.

Only HF communications I was able to receive sounded to me chinese people talks. If so, they came from really far away.

So a new game started for my position reports.

I used the iridium satellite set and had the free hand insert in my ear. Not a perfect system, but it does its job.

The telephone provided by the Dakar Civil Aviation representative that helped me at G23, didn´t work.

So again I called Maodo, to relay my position reports.

First one was made that way, but I followed Maodo advice to call the Dakar tower controllers by myself, as I had their number already.

So imagine that you are at the Control Tower and the telephone rings.

You answer the phone and you listen somebody that states that he is EC XLL, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and asking if they are kind to relay my position to the Oceanic Controllers.

I have to tell you that it took a while for them to realize what was going on.

They did help indeed, and I was able to have their mind happy, knowing that I was still surfing the sky somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Also I was able to use my onboard internet system. I did write Paula who informed Guillermo about what was happening.

Guillermo, a log time friend, contacted Recife to share with them the situation and keep them current about the flight.

I forgot to tell you that I provided Dakar the skypolaris tracking system link before departing ( so they had a good way to know my position.

No horizon and also no intertropical convergence front. Wind was decreasing in intensity and rolling left. GS was already 150 kts.

Then, still away from Fernando de Noronha, I was able to see the first clouds developing.

I departed FL 080 to FL070 (7000 ft) to be ready to fly underneath, but finally I stayed over those clouds or in and out of them.

I also checked the GPS position provided by the Iridium. Those are the one that allows the real time tracking. The displayed was blank and the telephone didn´t work. It took me a long time to get it operating again. During that time, the airplane stopped flying. The aircraft position at the web page was frozen, and for everybody tracking the plane it was no good news….

They were glad later, when they check that the airplane has not ditched.

Winds kept rolling to the left and dragging the aircraft. I decided to try lower altitude and speed increased, so the move was right !

I was flying at 6000 ft, when abeam Noronha. I was provided the VHF frequencies and was able to communicate easily with Recice Control. Then the air was clear, and the dessert dust, that travels across the Atlantic to feed the Amazonas, has shifted north. Few Cbs (Cumulonimbos) were scattered around but the deviations I had to make were really small.

I also decided to clean the aircraft a little bit, as the windshield was not clear at all. So I crossed some of the cumulus congestus in the path and had the canopy almost clean.

I was surprised to see some bodies of splashed insects, that crossed my path at FL 080. over the ocean.

Sure that before being crushed, they would think that nobody use to fly across the ocean at that altitude , but today this F..g spaniard had decided to do it, just when we decided to do it too !

– I am really sorry, guys !!!!

Not a single ship was in my view the whole crossing. I was glad not to have a bath that day.

There is something Controllers don´t realize. Most of them just don´t think that it is a tiny airplane that has flown many hours and its pilot is tired.

It was late sunset and I could have landed visual if cleared to.

No ! No !

I had to fly the full instrumental approach, ILS rwy 12.

It was the first time I have landed the RV at night.

Sao Goncalo Tower, runway 12 vacated !

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 05.35.16 Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 05.35.38 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 18.52.18 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 18.53.37 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 18.54.08 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 18.56.01 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 18.57.08 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 18.57.49 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 19.37.45 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 19.38.46 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 19.40.11 Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 19.41.01 sunsetting the Atlantic

One Comment

Lucia Reyes / Feb 28, 2016 4:50 am / Reply

Super! Michel
Me has hecho reir un rato con tu aventura. insisto es PILOTO!!!

You must be logged in to post a comment.