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Date: 23 Sep 2007 22:00:00
Title: Alicante to Ouarzazate to Skoura, Morocco

After having breakfast with Tina and Pedro in Villa Emma, Tina drove us to see Cristina and Carlos apartment nearby in San Juan. The Pastor family owns altogether 3 apartments in the same building. It was till raining as we left villa Emma, but it cleared up as we approached Alicante airport, so we could load the plane up in dry weather. The handling of general aviation flights is efficient and friendly in Alicante and as everywhere in Spain the landing and parking fees are very reasonable.
The alternator worked fine after starting the engine. We had an uneventful departure and we were soon in the sunshine at FL110 and cleared direct to the Al  Hoceima beacon in northern Morocco. So soon we would be in Africa! Or so we thought. About 20 NM before Almeria, we were asked to contact Almeria approach. Almost exactly at the same time, the 'Low Voltage' warning light lit up again, and there was no charging current from the alternator. Shit! The alternator had failed again. We informed Almeria about our problem, switched off all unnecessary equipment, and asked for an immediate diversion to Almeria and we were soon cleared down to 5000 feet, cleared for the approach and cleared to land in case we lost communications.
We were on the ground with all loads switched off less than 10 minutes after we first observed the low voltage light. So hopefully we would have enough juice left in the battery to start again.
Soon the cowling was off, and the ohm-meter quickly confirmed that the alternator rotor circuit was open circuit while the normal resistance of the rotor circuit  is about 8 ohms. So there was definitely a bad contact inside the alternator. Soon the carbon brush holder was removed, and the ohm-meter revealed that there was no contact between one of the carbon brushes and the external terminal. I soon located the problem to be a missing contact between a rivet which makes contact with the brush on the inside and with a wire soldered to a washer on the outside. The rivet and the washer was rather loose, so the real source of the problem was finally located.
By hammering on the rivet and also turning the washer about 30 degrees, I managed to make the washer less loose and thus establishing a good contact. After putting it all together a normal  rotor resistance of 7 to 9 ohms was measured and after 2:20 hours on the ground we were in the air again with a new flight plan for Ouarzazate, Morocco. A part from a few small cumulus clouds over the Rif mountains in the north of Morocco, we had beautiful clear weather the whole way. After the waypoint ERLAM, we cancelled IFR to fly the recommended VFR routing south from there to Ouarzazate. We saw some beautiful small Berber villages near the pass we used to cross the high Atlas mountains. The air was very clear and we had beautiful views of the mountains as we were only 2 hours before sunset. The temperature in Ouarzazate was 35 degrees (but very dry: dewpoint - 10!) when we landed shortly before 5 pm local time.
The entry formalities went smoothly and everybody were very friendly at the airport.
We had been in touch with Mustafa at Europcar with our Iridium phone to inform him about our various delays, and he was there at 5:30 pm with the car as we had asked for. By 6 pm we had stocked up on Moroccan dirhams from an ATM in town and were heading NE for Skoura with beautiful views of the Atlas mountains in the setting sun. Shortly after sunset, we were in Skoura where we left the main road and followed painted green dots with white arrows to guide us through the maze of dirt roads in the huge Skoura palmeraie. When we finally found hotel Sawadi about half an hour after having left the main road, we were ready for a good Tagine dinner with a good bottle of Moroccan wine.


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