Up at dawn to aircraft and away by 8am on somebody' time! Time change due to change in lines of latitude has just about got me beat! If it's not summer time back in old Blighty then it is the Australians having different times on their watches north and south by half an hour! If its 8am on my Darwin watch and I am 126 degrees East in Dili what on earth is the time in Dulwich Observatory, London where we, the Brits, after beating off the French challenge, decided when time will start with 0 degrees latitude? No wonder pilots all communicate on UTC it being sun time in the UK or Greenwich Mean Time.
35degees Centigrade and at sea level means it's a 60mph lift off and a gentle right turn, between wind sock and clusters of coconuts, out over the sea on a 100ft a minute rate of climb later dropping to below 50 ft a minute above 5000ft. Levelling off at flight level 55 I weaken the mixture due to the reduced oxygen in the air, to suitably mix with the car fuel in the carburettor. I ponder the view of trying to get to FL 65 and waste fuel getting there or descending to 45 and lose a 2 knot tail wind component. I switch on the Charlie Mode of the transponder so at least someone with the equipment will know I am temporarily at an unofficial height (Quadrant rule is, roughly, that for an aircraft on a heading of between West and North then she must fly at a pressure setting of even thousands plus 500ft on a standard pressure setting on the altimeter (modified barometer) of 1013 millibars).
What happens next in the mountains in Sulauesi Island and my interrogation, until nearly midnight, in Balikpapan can wait as I have just arrived in very friendly Malaysian town called Lawas next to a sea crocodile infested river and I am enjoying myself.
25th April Darwin to East Timor
Oh what a lot to do at 7am with planned departure for 10!
Out to airfield, load cub with my bits and pieces, weather obtained for Timor and I am off, all most suffocating in the heat of a survival suit in the tropics. Out over the last of Australia I see Bathurst Island from 2,550 feet and set course of 302 degrees for the island of Timor .
Arrive in bad cloud cover, 6 hours later, and try to creep through 10, 000ft range of mountains, I am told later (A bit short of maps as usual). So scudding round under 3000ft cloud base, trying to get through the valleys that are not there has somewhat limited my chances of a gap direct to Dili and Comoro airfield. Eventually, after the usual180's at the top of blind, dead end valleys on full power steep turns I espy Dili through the mist and an airstrip.
A cautionary note for pilots: I splashed out on a Terrain Detecting GPS at the London Air Show with forthcoming mountain ranges in mind when, often, I find myself trying to keep on track, low on fuel and concentration (now I wave a bus pass). I thought it may be a wise precaution.
GPS is fine for a 60sec/500 ft warning of terrain below or above, perhaps for some, when in or out of cloud, IMC (instrument met conditions) or VMC (visual met conditions), but up a 5000ft high narrow granite valley with only 90 horsepower up front, with questionable overload, 30 knot plus wind turbulence from ever changing directions and a cloud base jumping from 3 to 2000 ft in seconds, then it is quite a different sort of ball game. Inexperienced pilots forget it; do not even think about it. If you can kid yourself that an instrument, created by man, stuffed with data by man, which you have to divert your eyes to instead of straining to catch first. This situation is different to the faith you must have in your instruments in general day to day flying. When your tired old eyes eventually focus, you then have to read, interpret and then act upon, which is a delay that may kill you. In such conditions the GPS is in no way as effective as the old A 1 eyeball.
I land on a sea level airfield. Quick, load fuel as I arrange sleep and food!
OH no, they have filed her with AvTur, diesel for the jets, and guess what, I appear not to have clearance into East Timor despite intricate precision planning? A civil one, yes, but a military one, no. Our man in Jakarta is full of apologies. Perhaps he has a blind spot or lapse of memory of the fact that when East Timor broke away recently from Indonesia, with a little help from the Australians, Indonesian soldiers, apart from killing thousands of civilians, they beheaded women and bayoneted children as they kneeled in the local Catholic Churches.
Is it prison or can I go off to the enormous island protest in town, due to the Muslim Prime minister now ordering that no government funds will finance the
Roman Catholic Religion in schools. Interesting as it is rumoured he was recently caught with one million US dollars in a suit case at the airport. Ah, memories of the Channel Islands and island deceit, generally, through out tax havens. Does he not know these islands were run by the Portuguese for the last 500 years?
I am out on sort of bail until 8.30 am tomorrow when I am to report back to the Authorities. I am now surrounded by riot police with shields of almost equal height! Do I hear mother? “Oh Maurice, you do just love confrontation”. The haircut (advertisement break for Kirsi James' Darwin Salon) white shirt and gold braid do their stuff and I am back in the Dili Beach Hotel for a superb plate of prawns and a Portuguese type salad.
Tomorrow's flight is now highly unlikely as the fuel contaminated tanks and politics take priority.