The World Flight 2003 aircraft is a Piper Cherokee Six, a single engine propeller aircraft modified to fly long range with just two people onboard. The 70-day flight has proved mentally and physically grueling, flying on average eight hours a day in climatic extremes, placing high demands on the pilots and their aircraft. After departing Ireland on May 1st the pilots have traveled over Europe to cross the deserts of Egypt. Unable to get clearance over Saudi Arabia they were had to fly 14 hours over international waters to the former French colony of Djibouti in East Africa. A flat battery grounded the aircraft in Djibouti while the problem was solved. The temperature increased as they headed eastwards into the extreme 45 degree heat of Oman. Crossing the Bay of Bengal there arrival in India was greeted with hours of paperwork to get through customs. The flight from India to Chiang Mai in Thailand brought the risks associated with the world flight into perspective, the engine spluttered as the single engine aircraft flew over the dense baron jungles of Burma where it was obvious there were no villages, no towns and no civilization below. Flying south through Asia saw Alan and Paul fly close to war torn Ache, Indonesia. A landing in Jakarta and then a few nights in Bali. May 28th the pilots of World Flight 2003 left Bali and pointed their Piper Cherokee Six aircraft towards Broome, Australia. After 6 hours over water the Australian coastline came into view, a very welcome site after a long stint over water.
While in Australia, Paul and Alan returned to Adelaide where they both met each other five years ago and where they both learned to fly. After a ten day break they departed Darwin Australia for the Indonesian island Manado where on landing the pilots where shocked to hear there was no fuel available on the island. It could have been more than a month to have fuel shipped to the island but luckily they came across a pilot flying for a Mission on the island who had a store of fuel. Leaving Manado the adventure was not over as two hours into the flight the door blew open and the pilots had great difficulty in closing the door. They did manage to secure the door and averted an emergency landing. After being forced to spend a few extra days in Manila due to Tropical Storm "Soudelor" they arrived in Japan and prepared for the biggest flight of their lives, a 15 hour non stop flight across the 1840nm Pacific Ocean to Alaska. June 22nd, the weather looked acceptable to attempt the Pacific crossing. Alan and Paul departed North Japan on darkness and flew through the night into the next day over the ocean towards Adak Island in Alaska. The only contact with the world was by HF radio (long range) with regular radio reports of their position to Tokyo and then to San Francisco Air Traffic Control, in the event of an emergency ditching Search and Rescue would know the area to look for the pilots. At the point of no return in the flight (the time after which they would not have enough fuel remaining to return back to Japan) the decision was made to continue and to hope the winds would be as forecasted, to turn into tailwind. A strong headwind would be bad news fro the flight as it would reduce the distance they could fly. This flight was already on the edge of the range of the aircraft and a sizable headwind could very well prevent them from reaching the safety of Adak. At 4pm local time they touched down in very poor weather at Adak they were warmly greeted by the local people living on the island with only a population of 60. The most challenging and dangerous leg of the flight was now completed successfully.
Over the next week they flew across Alaska and down the coast to Seattle, spending a few days in that wonderful city. Crossing the USA in 2 days, they arrived at South Jersey Airport where forty people where waiting to offer the pilots a tremendous welcome to New Jersey. With family in New York an enjoyable 4th of July weekend was spent in Manhattan. Our visit was made even more memorable when that weekend we were each given a flight in a fighter jet, this was definitely the most interesting aircraft they had flown in. July 7th, the final days of the trip are closing, Paul and Alan fly to Goose Bay for the Atlantic crossing. July 8th brought bad weather to Goose Bay and also around Iceland. We had planned to fly from Goose Bay to Iceland and then next day to Wick, Scotland and then Shannon. The weather was the most important factor to consider when making such a long flight. It didn't look good for a flight to Iceland on the 8th with 30-40 knot headwinds, also we would be flying into a low pressure system heading north towards Iceland. For the next few days the weather forecast was poor around Iceland, also a front was approaching Goose Bay the next day. It looked like we could fly Friday and wait in Iceland until the weather cleared. A better option showed a weather window Wednesday night to fly direct across the Atlantic ocean in one hop. We decided to go with this and flew south 3 1/2 hours to position the aircraft at Saint John's, the most easterly point in Canada. July 9th was the day to make the crossing. We timed our flight to arrive in Shannon just after a cold front would have passed. Taking off at 7pm local time from Saint John's the weather was bad with driving rain, gusting 30 knots and thick cloud. We were flying in turbulent cloud for 3 hours passing straight through a cold front east of Canada. Then we broke clear as we flew into the high pressure system. Tailwinds increased to 50 knots onroute. At 35 West we heard friendly Irish voices of Shanwick Control. They welcomed us and congratulated us on our epic trip. Landing in Shannon in good weather we were given a guard of honor escort to the parking area. Greeted by the press, Aer Rianta and Air Traffic Control on the ramp was a proud moment. We were invited to the Presidential suite where Paul's family were there to meet us. It was great to be back home again but we both felt a little sad to know the flight was now over.
Alan McMahon is 29 years from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin and works as an IT Consultant for Dell Computers. Paul Ryan is 33 years and qualified Commercial Pilot from Limerick. All donations on the website go directly to the Marie Keating Foundation.
A non-profit venture, World flight 2003 is sponsored by Aer Rianta Shannon, Irish Car Rentals, Allianz, Ango Irish Bank, Vodafone, Holemasters, DHL Worldwide Express and Dell Computers.
For the full story please go to Paul Ryan and Alan Mac Mahon Site: http://www.jumpseatproductions.com/WF/index.htmCopyright World Flight 2002 - 2003
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