logo Round the World Flight with HB-PON 2008/09
Date: 27 Nov 2005 21:13:00
Title: The flight back home (Recife, Brazil to Dakar, Senegal)

14:44.6N 017:29.9W


Our flight planning calculations showed an estimated flight of 11 hours and 45 minutes. Different considerations were
taken into account to determine
the best time for departure: The first priority was to arrive after sunrise at the
Inter Tropical Zone where storm
activities are typically at the lowest level, and to positively see the weather. The second
important thing was the time
difference between Brazil and Senegal, which we had to consider. Thirdly, with any possible
delays, we wanted to absolutely arrive at our destination during the day, just in case! Having taken all this into account,
our take-off
time was then scheduled for a quarter to midnight.





Olivier double checking our routing, and all the compulsary
reporting points on our route across the big pond just before departure..



The day of our departure was very relaxing, with very little food and drinks, and even a few hours sleep that after­noon.
We made our way to the airport at 9:00 p.m. to have sufficient time to
complete the usual administrative tasks: Met office,
Flight planning, customs, the
last check of our programmed reporting points on our two handheld GPS's, etc.At 11:20 p.m.,
the heavily loaded
I-IB-PON requested and obtained start-up and our IFR clearance.



We were assigned
runway 18 for takeoff into the clear, but dark night. Cleared for takeoff, we accelerated swiftly and were
airborne
one-quarter of the way down the run­way. Nicely climbing at about 800 feet-per-minute, we headed due south
over the illuminated southern part of
Recife and crossing the shoreline.

At 3,000 feet, the tower requested us to turn on course to intersection PACO and to contact Centre. For the next two
hours,
and climbing to our initial flight
level 070, we were in VHF contact with Recife and reported regularly on our progress.
A short while later, we were
requested, to use HF communication. Abeam of the island of Fernando de Noronha, we climbed
to our planned final
cruising flight level 120. The night was clear with a few clouds below and a full moon to the right. Nicely
progressing as
per plan and having that full illuminated Christmas tree-like instrument panel in front of us, we both scanned all
param­
eters and carefully followed the fuel management procedure.




To make things
less monotonous, we connected a CD player  to our intercom and were enjoy­ing some nice relaxing music on the way.
Communication on HF with Recife
Atlantico faded out after about three-and-a-half hours, and it was at this moment when
someone called us loud and clear on 8861 KHz: "Hotel Bravo
Papa Oscar November, this is Dakar Oceanic Control,
do you read"?
From
there, we had perfect communication with them, and reported in regular inter­vals our position and estimates.

 

 


As time passed, and the moon rose over the top of the cabin, we observed how the horizon to the east started to lighten up
in a light rose-coloured
fashion. The sunrise was just absolutely spectacular in colours, with larger clouds visible in the distance.
Below us the
sea was clearly visible and it appeared that the water was rather calm.

 
Hoopla!
To the right, way below, we
could make out a cargo boat heading in a southerly direction. This happened to be the only
vessel we observed during
the whole crossing!


Early morning and first light on the horizon




Large towering clouds appeared in front of us, as we clearly approached the Inter Tropical Conversion Zone on top of a solid cloud layer, and we
could
observe the first echoes of the electro­magnetic activities on our storm scope.



About another two hours on, in order not to penetrate the solid cloud layer, we later had to climb to
FL 140 and use our oxygen. From that point on,
we had to change our heading
constantly, to fly between and around those gigantic CB towers.


We managed this phase pretty well,
by constantly looking outside and by observing our storm scope carefully, which I would not have missed for anything at
this moment. Obviously we
were loosing time through this slaloming around bad weather, and our estimates for Dakar got pushed out again and again for the
next three hours.

From satellite images, which we printed
out before our departure, we expected to pass the most active zone of the ITCZ when approaching the reporting point
LIROL. This proved to be the case as we progressed and descended again to our cruising level FL120.1 indicated our last estimate for our arrival of 13:20
hours
to Dakar and the actual weather was reported with a visibility of 3 kilometres in haze, temperature 23 a QMH 1023.

 

 
One minute barely passed, when all
of a sudden there was a light burning smell, a light mechanical sounding bang, and Olivier and I looked at each other
equally surprised!
Scanning the panel I noticed that the
load meter indicated no load and the voltmeter read 12.0 volts. At this moment I realized that we had lost our alternator four
hours out from our destination,
over the ocean, and soon would be faced with a total power failure.


What next?



Immediately I called up Dakar Oceanic
Control on HP 8861 and informed them, "Hotel Oscar November, we have just experienced serious electrical problems
and will be faced with a total electrical power failure shortly. Expect us to arrive at Dakar as last indicated at 13:20 hours. Do not expect any more position
report­
ing from us from now on.
We will try
to contact you with a battery operated VHF transceiver, when in range." Dakar control responded:
"Copied your
message! Good luck."



A lot of things went through my mind
at this moment, but no panic developed at all. Radios master switch off first, then the master switch! >From now on, and
for the remaining four hours, the engine performed with the constant familiar noise that was perfect, but on the instrument panel things looked quite unusual,
with the major part of the instruments inoperable, including all the fuel gages. It was good I kept an accurate log in writing of the fuel management of my
seven tanks!

My co-pilot Olivier became very active
and very handy to me to keep us on course, with his portable Garmin GPS, and the nice graphic display, he care­fully
pre-programmed in Recife before
our departure. My own portable GPS was also in use during that time and the two units completely agreed with
their readings, of course.


After three-and-a-half hours, we could
almost make out the coastline of the Dakar area in haze and we repeatedly called approach and Dakar tower,
with
our ICOM handheld, but got no answer. At this moment, we started our descent down to 4,000 feet and continued direct to our destination.


It was clear to me that I should get in
radio contact with the tower and pre­pare for a visual approach in reduced visibility and manage the manual
gear
extension and a smooth landing.


It was the same procedure as every
year when I assisted my A&P on each annual inspection of my Comanche, and insisted to practice at the end
of the
process, one or two manual extensions of the gear, while the aircraft was on jacks, with subsequent reengagement, which made me react cool
to this situation.
About five miles out from the field, the tower finally confirmed hearing us and gave us clearance to land straight in on runway 03.
As I had been in Dakar
(GOOY) some years ago, I knew the place and asked for runway 36, which was a much longer runway, to guaran­tee better
conditions for what we were
up against.

The GPS showed us being very close to the airport, I finally located the tower area and made left turn overhead and told tower, that we were landing
on runway 36.

Master and gear circuit breaker - IN,
Master switch - ON, Instrument lights - OFF, Covering plate - OFF, speed below 100 MPH, place selector in
"gear down
locked" position, and disengage motor -raise motor, release arm and push handle forward through full travel.


Bingo!          A "green light" - hurray!

 

 
The landing, after 13 hours and eight minutes in the air, was long and smooth
on purpose, while Olivier pushed the gear extension handle hard
forward
with his foot. We rolled out and taxied to the assigned parking on the apron between a Lufthansa 747 cargo plane and an old DG8.

After shutting down our engine, we
remained seated in the cockpit for a moment, looked at each other and were so happy to be finally
safe and
on firm ground again.


Immediately we walked to the radio
office, and later to the tower, where we received a friendly welcome. In fact, we learned that air traffic control
mastered
the situation brilliantly, in closing the Dakar airspace 15 minutes before our expected arrival, to allow us a safe arrival and landing.


Thank you guys!



Up at the Dakar Control Tower



The Air Trafic Controller we talked to over HF across the South Atlantic


The same afternoon, we first had a couple of beers, and then we were busy assessing the damage. With the help of a very competent
local mechanic, we
found out that the rear bearing of our brand new alternator had gone, and the cooling fan of the alternator had
sep­
arated in two parts.



Kindness and real professionalism by the local aircraft Mechanic, to get HB-PON into the air again








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