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Thursday, September 5, 2013: Day 12 - Ayers Rock to Latrobe Valley, Australia
090513 Mike Laver preflights as tour copters returnWe rose this morning at 0600 to a perfect Northern Territory morning. With a short ride to the Ayers Rock airport, we were able to depart 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I was amazed that there were only two private GA aircraft at Ayers Rock. We saw 4 charter helicopters and one single-engine charter aircraft that were catering to the tourists in the Uluru (Ayres Rock)-Kata Tjuta (Mount Olga) National Park. I am thinking that user fees have made it hard for the private owner to now use their aircraft in Australia. (Photo left:  Mike preflights N50ET prior to departure at YAYE.)

At FL250 we are finally starting to get a tailwind; currently we have 26 knots which is to be about 60 knots when we get close to Melbourne--just in time to start our descent. Today we have a long 1150 nm leg. I have the power pulled back giving us 290 knots true airspeed and burning 66 gallons per hour. From the airspeed/fuel burn tests I did on N50ET 260 knots true airspeed gave me the greatest range, not taking into consideration the090513 On base leg at Latrobe Valley wind components. Having the ability to talk to Melbourne Control on VHF is a great improvement from my days of flying in Australia when most communications were on HF.

As we cross the corner of the state of New South Wales and into Victoria, we have a 25 knot tailwind component and the temp is ISA +7 degrees; N50ET really enjoys the cooler temps. Going into Latrobe Valley (photo right) it was 8,000 feet overcast so no instrument approach was needed. As I landed at the Latrobe Valley Airport, I recall 45 years ago Mr. John Willis (my flight instructor) telling me to pull off the runway and onto the taxiway and stop. He jumped out of the aircraft and said, "Mike you are too dangerous; you better go by yourself."  That was my first solo.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013: Day 11 - Bali-Ayers Rock, Australia
We set our alarm for 0445 so we could be at the Bali International terminal by 0600 for an 0701 departure (I am not sure were the 0701 came from.) On arrival at the terminal our passports were collected by the handler, and then we were escorted 090413 Mike Laver preflights N50ET at Denpasarthrough security and through a door that said "do not enter" which led us straight onto the tarmac. We were then driven to bay 15 were our MU-2--looking very insignificant--sat amongst the large jets. (Photo right: Mike preflights N50ET at the Bali International Airport). Within minutes our passports arrived stamped, and we were cleared out of Indonesia. Bali Tower gave us start up and push back clearance, shortly after we were given the option of push back or taxi. We departed off runway 09 at 0646 for an early departure to Broome, Australia. Baseops filed us at 25,000 feet and 292 knots, giving us a fuel burn of 68 gallons per hour total with a 5 knot headwind.

As we passed south into the Brisbane FIR, our position report came with a weak HF signal, but I had no problem understanding every word. The last time I flew an MU-2 in Australian airspace was 24 years ago, and its exciting to be back again. We are now flying over a very calm Indian Ocean with a slight headwind which is about to turn into a tailwind for the remainder of the day. We made our approach into Broome on a beautiful morning and taxied to parking.

We waited for customs for about 30 minutes. When I phoned the customs office they indicated that they had not been advised of our arrival, and at that time I knew that I had messed up somewhere. After the custom agents arrived I knew we were in trouble, but they were very respectful and professional. The bottom line is that I had omitted to give the appropriate notification of our arrival to customs. After a discussion with their supervisor we were free to go with an appropriate warning.

090413 Ayers Rock from aloftAfter departing Broome we were overflying the desert--country that I had flown over so many times years ago--not a cloud in the sky and headwinds that we do not deserve. It's amazing that after all these years, the landscape and features look so familiar to me. But after 24 years I have gone from a chart, protractor, compass, E6B, rule, and pencil to dual onboard GPS. We have now crossed over the Western Australia and Northern Territory border just 135 miles from Ayres Rock, which is the largest monolith in the world.

We arrive at Ayres Rock airport, making a sweep around the massive rock (photo left)--which is incredible--and then back to land at the airportWe were greeted by the airport authority who was looking for a parking fee which was promptly paid. We fueled up and headed to the hotel for the evening.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013: Day 10 - Palembang-Bali,
Palembang was a very pleasant and easy stop. Last night we stayed at the Novotel Palembang which was a fantastic hotel where we got a good night's sleep. It was a good thing, because the drive this morning to the airport was complete chaos,090313 Mike Laver preflights by 737 in Padang with cars, scooters and pedestrians all mixed up together looking for any space to move through. We saw many children riding on the back of scooters weaving through the traffic on their way to school. After arriving at the airport, we were escorted through security, down a jetway amongst boarding passengers, and then down the steps onto the tarmac-- what an amazing experience. Mike supervised the fueling while I prepared the aircraft (photo right: Mike preflights N50ET). After startup clearance was issued, we were airborne within minutes and on our way to Bali. 

090313 Volcano and crater in IndonesiaThe flight to Bali was very enjoyable--with excellent weather and easy communication with Jakarta Control. We flew along the north coast of the island of Java, and off to our right were mountains that were probably 15,000 feet high (photo left: volcano and crater in Indonesia). Approach and landing into Bali was uneventful. The handler and fuel truck were there to greet us. We parked in bay 15 right in the front of the international terminal--airliners on the left and airliners on the right parked at their jetways--what an intimidating experience that was. I can't believe that N50ET will be parked in the middle of this busy international airport for the night.

Bali is paradise! We are staying at an old traditional Balinese hotel on the wa
ter. The Indonesian people have been so much fun; they are happy people who want to help and please you. It has been such an enjoyable experience flying through Indonesia. Tomorrow it's off to Australia, kangaroo, koala bears and the Laver's.

Monday, September 2, 2013: Day 9 - Colombo-Palembang, Indonesia
090213 Preparing to depart Colombo Sri LankaToday we were up again at 0400 and ready to go to the airport at 0500. This is becoming a normal procedure, as we once again were led through customs and immigration at the head of the line. We stopped by the flight planning office since ATC wanted to better understand our overwater routing. They were comfortable with our plan so we headed to the aircraft, and though we did not make our planned departure of 0600 (photo left: preapring to depart Colombo), we were airborne at 0646 and on our way to Banda Aceh, Indonesia. This time we climbed all the way up to 25,002 feet; the climb took us 19 minutes, and we burned 43 gallons which included 9 gallons for a slow and long taxi and holding for an Airbus. We are now cruising at 280 knots TAS and burning 68 gallons per hour. On this leg we have a 20 knot headwind--which was not meant to happen--we were meant to have tailwinds! We have been in clouds since TOC, and about half way we picked up some intense ice for about a 15-minute period. We are now in an area of isolated embedded storms associated with the ITCZ. Most of this leg we were on HF giving position reports to Columbo. We started our descent into Banda, and again were given the ILS. It seems to be that in this area of the world you just go and do the ILS on your own--no radar vector, no advised procedure--just do it. Our descent from FL250, approach, landing and taxi were all handled by the tower, and the controller was a trainee.

After landing in Banda, we were greeted by several smiling faces. Rafi was our handler, and he was determined to make us welcome and happy. After fueling the aircraft we were escorted to the Garuda Airline 1st Class Lounge for some coffee and cake.

090213 Tusnami-ravaged area of Banda AcehBanda was badly hit by the tsunami 8 years ago--250,000 people were killed in the low lying areas--and you could still see the effects of the devastation as we crossed the coast on our approach (photo left). Consequently, Banda now has a beautiful new terminal building. Rafi Prop Comparisonbrought back our passports already stamped with a 7 day crew visa for Indonesia. A good handler on a trip like this is a must.

We departed Banda for Palembang, and even though my Indonesian and their English does not seem to be working very well at the moment, I know where we are heading so I think it will all work out. Once we begin talking with Jakarta Control, we both understand each other very well, and we are now given a direct track to Palembang at FL250. This is a short 801 mile leg so its time to use normal cruise and do a comparison between the Hartzell and MT-Props. On 7/12/12 N50ET with Hartzell props was at 25,000 feet, -19 degrees, 72 gallons per hour and TAS 303. Today N50ET with MT props was at 25,000 , -18 degrees, 72 gallons per hour and TAS 305 (photo right). Both tests were taken with 186 gallons on board. This 2 knots faster is the difference from my last test which showed 2 knots slower. I am consistently 10% quicker on climb and 10% less fuel for climb. The cabin is 15 Dba quieter and also smoother.  This information was provided because I had been asked by several people.

I wish we had not had that cup of coffee, because when we approached Palembang there were intense storms for miles in every direction. Base was 300 feet, visibility 3,000 meters in heavy rain. Approach cleared us for the VOR approach, but the field was below minimums for that approach. I requested the ILS, and we broke out at 300 feet in torrential rain. After landing Mike and I handled our own baggage with two umbrellas that had little effect, as we were wet through. Tomorrow we go to beautiful Bali for the night--I can't wait.