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Diabetes World Flight

Planning/Clearances/Handling
North Atlantic/Fuel Costs/Maintenance

by Douglas Cairns

Flight Planning

Clearances

Handling

North Atlantic Crossing
Time of Year


Fuel Costs

Maintenance


Diabetes World Flight (DWF) took five months to complete in a Beech Baron B58, departing Omaha, Nebraska (USA) on 24th September 2002. The route was eastbound and passed through 22 countries.

The objective was to be the first earth-rounder by a pilot with Type 1 Diabetes, while raising awareness of diabetes and funds for diabetes research. Each stop was invariably busy, arranging meetings with diabetes associations and media. As such, I tried to keep the flying admin workload to a minimum. Some notes on planning, clearances, handling, North Atlantic crossing, fuel costs, and maintenance are outlined below.



Flight Planning

Jeppesen Flitestar was ideal for flight planning and Jeppesen IFR Trip Kits were used en-route. However, it was difficult to arrange timely deliveries for the first two Trip Kit updates (delivered to Iceland and Crete). VFR was flown in the UK, Australia, New Caledonia, Hawaii plus Thailand briefly. Australian VFR maps and VFR procedures were ordered ahead by telephone and delivered to an air charter firm at Port Hedland for our arrival from Bali. The rest of the VFR maps were arranged on arrival in each country.



Clearances

Paul Portini did an excellent job at Overflight Ltd., UK. Nine arrival/departure country clearances were arranged, and five for Overflight (Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Malaysia).
Some items/incidents stand out. There was a delay in Oman whilst finalizing clearance for India. There had been a misunderstanding about on-board equipment requirements for the Baron and we had to prompt them to correct this. I was arranging a contingency plan to fly to Sri Lanka and then on to Thailand (an unwelcome detour) when clearance came through at the last minute.
The Thai Department of Aviation was curiously inefficient. Even with at least two weeks' notice, they issued their clearance at 5 p.m. on the day before departure from Kolkata (requiring frustrating follow-up telephone calls that day). Apparently this happens quite often with GA aircraft, and is far from ideal. This issue was raised in Thailand (where I was based for six years immediately prior to the world flight) but don't expect any miracles.
For Fiji, it was understood that a fax giving prior notice of arrival was required. However, on arrival at Nadi we were asked for a "Letter of Authority". On explaining that we'd sent a fax, as required, we were then informed that we'd just "landed illegally". The airport duty manager was a star, however. He spent an hour contacting the Minister of Tourism and Minister of Transport, on a weekend, giving details of my contact at the World Health Organization office in the capital city. It was all sorted out within an hour and a half, and two hours after landing, we were airborne again for Suva on the East Coast.
Definitely make sure you check and send required paperwork and notice of arrival to US customs. I made a mistake here and was threatened with a $5,000 fine on landing at Hilo. (Hilo was the only place I was asked to produce my licence and medical.)



Handling

I carried out self-handling at most airports. On average it took a good two hours from entering a major international airport's doors, complete formalities and take off. Agents were used in Reykjavik, Malta, Cyprus, India, Thailand, Indonesia and exiting Australia from Brisbane International.
Given the horrors I'd heard about self-handling in India I planned on using a handling agent in Mumbai (Bombay) and Kolkata (Calcutta). Mumbai was an experience in itself. I'd been advised that on parking the aircraft, handling agents would surround you and haggle, starting at US$700 and possibly reducing as low as US$250. However, our arrival, just after sunset, was totally ignored. We were directed to a poorly lit apron, literally miles from the main terminal, and right beside the main runway in use where commercial jets screamed by every few minutes. The only people around were three armed guards and a customs officer (who turned out to have Type 2 diabetes). After radioing Ground for assistance and ringing Overflight for handling agent contact numbers, one eventually came out and demanded $500. Being a Scotsman, I tried to ring a few more people. But to no avail. Haggling was impossible, and $500 it was. Once handling was agreed, it was surprisingly efficient and stress-free. We only had one frustrating moment when the landing fee officer insisting on having a cup of tea before dealing with us. Another time I would ring ahead and make prior handling arrangements. I rang ahead to Kolkata (Calcutta) from Mumbai and negotiated $400 (still a ridiculous amount but the cheapest I could find) with Indian Airlines. Again, they were efficient, and it took about an hour and a half from airport door to take off, including refueling.
Samoa was another interesting arrival. An airport admin lady walked out to the plane and took our landing fees on the spot, and then arrangements were made to refuel. However, on entering the terminal, it was discovered that the customs and immigration officers had gone home between shifts. Nobody knew when they were expected back in. We could have walked right through the airport and taken a cab into Apia. However, we went to the Polynesian Airlines office to ask advice. The officer in charge frostily informed us that we should have faxed our arrival details to them in advance, and for $250, they would have arranged handling. As refueling and landing fees had already been arranged, and it looked pretty straightforward to walk to the Tower on departure and file the flight plan, paying $250 at that moment seemed a bit rich. Polynesian Airlines (reluctantly, but decently) arranged for our general declaration and passports to be delivered to customs and immigration in the capital city, Apia, about 45 minutes' drive away. All we had to do was pitch up at the city offices the following morning and everything was sorted out.



North Atlantic Crossing/Time of Year

Originally the North Atlantic crossing was set for July 2002 latest for better weather. However, delays resulted in an early October crossing, not the best time. I contacted Ed Carlson near Boston who runs a "North Atlantic Ground School". His notes and telephone discussions were good, particularly about specific weather systems to watch for and wait out. I hired much of the required survival kit from Ed, dropping it off at Prestwick Airport in Scotland for return to the USA.
While October was not the optimal time of year for the North Atlantic, the Indian monsoon had finished and Middle East temperatures and conditions were also ideal in October/November. Some poor tropical conditions were encountered in Indonesia, also between Fiji and Samoa and arriving at Christmas Island (unexpectedly). On average the eastward route saw headwinds. I waited in Hawaii for tailwinds between Hilo and California (45 knots at one stage) - no complaints about this as the wait was on Maui.



Fuel Costs

The cost of fuel varied widely. The most expensive was at Iraklion, Crete, where a $2.80 surcharge for a private flight was charged resulting in a total of $8.40 per gallon. It was surprising to find such a "basic" (i.e. third-world) rule within the European Union. Apparently the surcharge can be waived if you can prove you are a commercial flight (with an official letter) or if the Greek Ministry of Transport approves this beforehand. Even as a charitable flight (raising funds for diabetes research) and much attempted persuasion, officials refused to waive the surcharge. If I'd known this beforehand I would have missed Iraklion out. The other more expensive stops were Narsarsuaq at $6.50 per gallon (cheaper than expected though), with the UK not far behind. It is worth noting that as at October 2002, Value Added Tax on fuel could be claimed back for aircraft departing the UK. The cheapest fuel was in Indonesia at $1.85 per gallon in Bali.



Maintenance

Oil changes were carried out in the UK, Thailand, Australia and Hawaii. The UK stop was at White Waltham to the west of London (with a bumpy grass runway but great atmosphere). In Thailand, Siam GA Ltd. also carried out a 100-hour engine check. The Australian change was at Archerfield, Brisbane, arranged by Bill Finlen who flew his Bonanza around in 2002. An FBO at Honolulu International did an oil change plus a 100-hour engine check.


Thanks to Douglas Cairns
cairnsdouglas@hotmail.com

Disclaimer :
The information found on these pages is published as supplied by pilots and has not been verified. It does not replace official documents produced by foreign governments or Airways Manuals published by specialised firms and should be taken at face value and used only for planning purposes. Governments change their aviation regulations without notice. Neither Earthrounders.com nor the pilots supplying the information are liable for inaccuracies or subsequent changes in that information.

Last update: December 13, 2006
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