May 16th -
Ahmedabad, India to Patna, India
hrs 42mins flying non stop
traveling to India we had expected this to be the most expensive
place for landing and ground handling services. Handling fees
can be up to $1100 for one night. Advice from Flemming Pederesen,
a Swiss pilot who flew around the world in 2000
(http://honeymooney.com ) was to decline all offers of handling
as we could do it ourselves. Air Traffic Control is god in India
and if you want anything done at an airport you must talk to ATC.
A large amount of paper work is required to fly internally here.
The flight plan had to be approved by the control tower (domestic
terminal) who wanted four copies submitted. After approval customs
(international terminal) had to be visited. Most of the customs
papers had been filed on arrival but it still took almost an hour
to have a copy of the flight plan stamped by customs. Next to
immigration who again took almost 30 minutes to issue their stamp.
Then back to the tower to re submit the plan. The tower then send
you down stairs to receive a weather and communication briefing,
which is compulsory for a domestic flight. Back up to the tower
to get an invoice for navigation services. The whole process lasted
nearly three hours. The saving in self handling is evident when
you are presented with a bill for a $100.
We had hoped
to get airborne from Ahmedabad 8am but with the long paperwork
process we didn't get going until 11.30. We wanted to get going
as early as possible - the later we left it the hotter it got
and the performance of the aircraft would suffer in the heat (not
to mention the reduced performance of the pilots in this heat).
At 11.30am the temperature was already over 40 degrees and cumulus
(Cu) clouds were popping up all over the sky indicating a bumpy
flight. We had taken extra fuel for the flight so we were heavy.
Adding an extra 10 knots onto our rotate speed due to our weight
and the heat we climbed slowly into the sky leaving Ahmedabad
behind us. At times our rate of climb was down to 300 feet per
minute as we climbed to 7,000 feet. In the cruise the thermals
were awful, we were being kicked around the sky, one minute we
would fly into an updraft and have a rate of climb of over 2,000
feet a minute (off the scale of our VSI instrument) - we fought
to stop the climb but it became impossible to maintain 7,000 feet
so we tried higher looking for smoother air. The downdrafts were
just as bad, with the nose of the aircraft high in the air, full
power at 80 knots we were still descending at rates of up to 1500
feet per minute. In a short time we were up at Flight Level 110
(11,000 feet) where we hoped we could climb above the turbulence.
It wasn't much better here and as we have no oxygen we fought
hard to stop the thermals taking us higher. At
this level we encountered a stronger headwind as well which slowed
our progress. These were the strongest thermals and worst turbulence
we had ever experienced.
Any higher then
11,000 feet and the risk of Hypoxia increases (lack of oxygen
which puts you in a euphoric state before falling into unconsciousness).
A sign of Hypoxia, is your finger nails showing a blue tinge-
we keep a check on how we are doing at 11,000 feet but all looks
well. As we are spending so much time flying up around 11,000
feet we are taking Aspirin before and after flights which has
the effect of thinning the blood and helps prevent Thrombosis.
Food on board today was limited to a pack of "Hob Nob"
biscuits and two bottles of water. This was all we had for the
5 hour flight but it was better than nothing.
Our routing was
near enough direct to Patna via the VOR beacons onroute. We navigate
by selecting beacons in our Navigation radio in the aircraft,
dialing in the radial (track) we want to fly and a needle indicates
which way to fly to reach the beacon. We also have DME (indicates
distance from the beacon). Backing this up we have GPS in the
aircraft and another handheld GPS (with moving map display) to
triple check everything. GPS makes life so much easier as our
estimated time of arrival at each of the points on our route is
indicated on the GPS as well updated constantly.
As we fly for
a few hours the turbulence reduces and we settle into the flight.
On of our jobs is to monitor the fuel flow. We estimate fuel remaining
by working out the number of minutes burning fuel from each tank.
The Piper Cherokee has 4 separate tanks (no cross feed between
tanks) so you have to carefully work out how much is left in each
tank. We also have our auxiliary fuel tank to give us the extra
range with an endurance of over 15 hours. There is no high tech
gadget to manage the fuel other than our notebook and pen.
Patna town comes
into view 8 hours later. We were cleared to the VOR beacon at
the airfield and then to fly the procedure (VOR/DME) for landing
but as we got closer we were setup on a straight in approach and
we opted to go visual. The landing was smooth and we taxied over
to our stand were customs were again waiting to meet us. The long
paper trail was about to start again. Tomorrow we leave for Thailand
- we are both exhausted from flying every day for the last 4 days,
looking forward to a break in Chiang Mai.