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June 17 Manado (Indonesia) - Manila (Philippines)

846.2 nautical miles 6hr 32mins

Cyclone Soudelor, which had delayed us for two days in Indonesia, has been down-graded to a tropical storm and is set to track north of the Philippines and towards Japan. Not good news for WF2003 but its current position means we can finally get underway to Manila. A late morning departure means we can arrive with most of the bad weather having passed north of Manila and the forecast shows rain showers associated with some low cloud. There is a possibility of evening thunderstorms so we carry enough fuel to hold for up to an hour should these conditions exist on arrival. We decided to take a more westerly route keeping us away from all the poor flying conditions in the wake of cyclone Soudelor.

Departure from Manado was on the northerly runway, which kept us clear of high terrain on the south of the island. Airborne into clear blue skies we set course for the Indo-Philippine boundary. About 60 minutes into the flight we were awoken by our first in flight emergency. The upper door latch had become undone. Following the operating manual procedure we reduced our airspeed to a minimum in order to secure the door. The situation became worse when the door fully opened and we were unable to shut it. We had to seriously consider returning to Manado as we still had about six hours flying remaining. A quick solution was needed and it came in the form of looping the HF aerial around the upper latch and while Paul pulled the aerial in towards him, Alan managed to pull the door shut and secure it properly. Operations were now normal. We always thought carrying a spare aerial was a smart idea but we never envisaged using it in this way.

Communications were difficult to maintain with air traffic control and thanks to Martinair 094 and New Zealand 123 for relaying position reports for us. The crew of the Martinair 747 called us on the air-to-air frequency of 123.45. They were interested in why a Dutch registered aircraft was flying a such a low level in this part of the world. They asked us about the view from our level and wished us the best of luck for the remainder of the trip.

As we came about 300 hundred miles south of Manila, blue sky gave way to overcast conditions above us at 12,000 feet. On a few occasions we had to deviate off track to avoid large build-ups of thunderclouds. The approach into Manila was very swift with ground speeds up to 180knots owing to strong tailwinds. There is a speed restriction of 180knots for piston aircraft during the approach and we even had to reduce our speed by 10knots to avoid catching preceding traffic. Handling is compulsory here and we were very quickly processed by immigration, customs and quarantine. We also had a quick check of our temperature to comply with SARS regulations. Within 45 minutes we were checking into our hotel. We had arrived at a good time; from our hotel room we viewed a fantastic electric storm as the heavens opened. Better to see these things from the ground! Two days are planned here with a departure for Kagoshima on 19 June. Owing to the position of Soudelor we may have to remain here for one more day.

Leaving Manado for Manila

Cumulus and Thunder clouds
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Basilan-Island, Philippines
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Approach to Manila Airport in poor visibility, runway ahead
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