Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
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#1715502
The approach is challenging, with a turn onto final at about 300ft, close in to the runway to avoid hills. A foreign round the world pilot had crashed and died arriving here a few months earlier, so they were a bit tense about another foreigner arriving.


This was runway 23, I’ve flown that approach many times.

The pilot who died was flying a Pipistrelle with long range tanks and adapted for the paraplegic pilot.
He was landing on 05 over the wires beside the railway line.
In the video his approach was fine until over the runway when the aeroplane suddenly veered to port. From this left turn completed a 180, hit some wires, crashed and burned. There’s not much left.

The reason can only be speculation.
Could it have been asymmetric flap deployment on short final?
The long range tanks, especially the outboard wing tanks, if they did not feed evenly the heavy wing could cause a roll as the speed is reduced and aileron effectiveness is lost.
Then there’s pilot incapacitation...

We can not know. It was very sad.

Be careful departing 05 towards the mountain. The Cessna 150s barely make it sometimes, always a concern for me when I’m there.
Even in the DA40 tdi I was somewhat concerned taking off from 05.
‘Flew the Extra 300L off runway 05, did circuits with the owner, slipped over the railway wires, then the narrow runway disappears from view so you have to be careful landing that aeroplane.
Katamarino liked this
#1715530
Miscellaneous wrote:@Katamarino another good write up, thanks. :thumright:

I'm curious to know if you are happy doing it in stages or whether you would rather do round the world in one trip? I'm sure there's pros and cons either way. :D


Like you say, pros and cons. I think as a first round-the-world it's been quite good to do it in stages. I can concentrate on a section, fly it and enjoy it, then I have 4 weeks to incorporate the lessons learned into the next section.

Of course, doing it in one go would be great, to really lose oneself in the journey.
#1715556
Katamarino wrote:
Miscellaneous wrote:@Katamarino another good write up, thanks. :thumright:

I'm curious to know if you are happy doing it in stages or whether you would rather do round the world in one trip? I'm sure there's pros and cons either way. :D


Like you say, pros and cons. I think as a first round-the-world it's been quite good to do it in stages. I can concentrate on a section, fly it and enjoy it, then I have 4 weeks to incorporate the lessons learned into the next section.

Of course, doing it in one go would be great, to really lose oneself in the journey.


You are absolutely right, in the early 90's I took part in around the world in eighty hours which as a small team we accomplished. After the dinner party celebrations we were challenged to do around the world in eighty minutes :shock: , not even achievable by the then space shuttle, so relax enjoy and live it to the full, love the posts.
#1723601
Well, after something of a hiatus, the write-up continues with section 3, from Thailand onward through SE Asia! I returned to Bangkok after another month in Iraq, ready to fly again.

We had a day in Bangkok to recover from our respective flights before setting off again on the next section of the trip. We spent a fairly lazy day, visiting the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (which was excellent) and the Siam Museum (which was not).

A very big cat
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At the Temple of the Reclining Buddha
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Outside the Siam Museum
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We rounded the day off with a visit to The Animal Cafe, where one can enjoy a light meal in the company of a multitude of cats, chinchillas, a possum, a raccoon, and even a skunk.

At the Animal Cafe - he spent most of his time freely running about, but was in the cage so other animals could have dinner unmolested!
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This cat seemed to be stuck and spent the whole evening trying to get out. It had extremely short legs.
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I think there was something wrong with this cat
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August in Thailand is deep within the rainy season, so we elected to set off early to try and beat any afternoon storms. It was a 90 minute taxi ride back the Thai Flying Club, who had kindly opened the airport on a Monday just for us. They had really been extremely friendly and helpful overall; I can strongly recommend them to anybody flying in the area.

Planey was sitting safely under the overhang of the office building, exactly as I had left him. After a thorough pre-flight I hopped in and turned the key; and he fired straight up without a moment’s hesitation. The club staff marshaled us through the gate and out of the club parking area, and then took up positions at the roads that cross the runway, to ensure no traffic got in the way of take-off. We completed the engine run-up, waited for the GPS to finally locate its position (it takes much longer than usual after a month off), and away we went.

The route to Nok Airfield, Chiang Mai
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Departure from Bang Phra
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Bangkok Control turned us straight onto a north-easterly heading, far off our planned route, and kept us well clear of the Bangkok area on a wide detour around the city. Eventually we were allowed to resume our planned route. It never became entirely clear whether we were being treated as a VFR or IFR flight (I had filed IFR), and we were asked to nominate our own squawk code rather than being assigned one, which was a first for me!

Looking out towards Bangkok
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Flooded fields in central Thailand
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We headed north across flooded agricultural land and swollen rivers. ATC handed us from approach controller to approach controller as we headed up the country at 8,000ft, and were always very helpful when I needed a deviation left or right to avoid a particularly large and bumpy looking cumulus cloud. As we continued north, the wide flat country north of Bangkok started to merge into imposing hills and mountains, studded with villages and divided by rivers. After a few hours we received our final hand-off to Chiang Mai approach, who cleared us to descend straight to Nok airfield, where we were to be hosted by the lovely Mike (we’d been put in touch by the equally helpful Eduardo!)

Approaching Nok
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Military traffic training at Nok
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Nok airfield is located directly next to another airfield; Nok has a north-south runway and the other an east-west. Apparently they used to be combined, until some kind of disagreement led to the present situation. We landed at the correct airport and were met by Mike, as well as the local gentleman who takes care of the airfield (I believe his name was “Soi”), and Mike’s friendly black Labrador. They set straight to work and we refilled the tanks to the brim with a barrel of AVGAS, before spending a little time with Mike and his wife before Soi drove us into town.

One of Mike's projects
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After a long day, and fighting jet leg, we had an early dinner and a short walk through the night market before calling it a night and heading back to the hotel.

A prodigious dinner!
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The next day was relaxed, and spent seeing a little of Chiang Mai. The hotel minibus took us first to the temple of Doi Suthep. Our driver fought his way through stop-and-start traffic out of the city, and we then ground our way up a tightly winding mountain road, west of Chiang Mai. It was obvious when we’d arrived at the temple; the lush greenery suddenly gave way to food and souvenir stalls, hordes of taxis and other vehicles, and a throng of Chinese tourists!

Exploring temples in Chiang Mai
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Not much of a view from up here
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We chose to forgo the elevator up to the temple, and instead took the 300+ stairs. Entry was $1 each. We spent an hour exploring the temple and surroundings; it is perched on top of one of the highest mountains in Thailand, but we were in “solid IMC” and could see nothing but cloud and the very occasional glimpse of the valley floor through gaps! We made our way back down the steps, and the driver took us back into town, dropping us off in the middle of the old walled city at the temple of Wat Phra Singh.

Wat Phra Singh
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Wat Phra Singh dates back to the 1300s, and houses one of the most famous Buddha statues in Thailand. It’s co-located with a school and hospital. The main hall was unfortunately closed for a year for renovation, but there was still plenty to see. We were, by this stage, getting a little overdosed on temples so we headed for lunch at the beautiful Fern Forest Cafe, and then wandered back through the city to the hotel.

Relaxing at the hotel
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On our last day in Chiang Mai, we headed 90 minutes north of town to the Asian Elephant Projects, a collection of more than 30 elephant sanctuaries. Our chosen destination was the Karen Elephant Project, with 4 adult females and one baby. We were given Karen clothes to wear on arrival; I initially thought this was for rather tacky tourist purposes, but apparently it also helps the elephants feel more at ease because they’re used to the clothes; and it keeps your own clothes clean, particularly important in the elephant mud bathing at the end of the day!

Feeding the elephants
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That evening I filed both the flight plans for the following day, printed Gen-Decs, and prepared everything else I could think of. The next day we’d arrive in Laos, the 25th country of the trip so far.

Full write-up with lots more pictures on the website: https://katamarino.co.uk/index.php/2019 ... 1-2-and-3/

Hours so far: 121.7
Distance so far: 14,431nm
Flyin'Dutch', Lockhaven, mick w and 5 others liked this
#1723949
We left the hotel at 0730, and were back at Nok airfield a little after 0800. There was more activity today; a Light Sport Aircraft had been pulled out to go flying (and then cancelled due to avionic failure), and what looked like a large kite with a couple of seats strapped on was doing circuits to the neighbouring airfield (an aircraft type known as a “Breezy”). I called Chiang Mai Approach to get permission to depart and, in a first for me, I was asked to nominate my own squawk code. I wasn’t expecting that, so just said “7000” – in future I’ll have to think of something more meaningful.

Ready to go from Nok
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Downwind departure from Nok
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Our first flight was only 90 nautical miles northeast to the city of Chiang Rai, where we had arranged to clear customs and immigration outbound. Conditions were typical, cumulus clouds dotted around over a sodden landscape. Within an hour, we were touching down from a straight-in approach to Chiang Rai International.

Arrival into Chiang Rai
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We were parked at one end of the main apron, and met by BAGS Ground Handling Services who would be leading us through the immigration process. As usual, the marshaller approached our wheels, and realised that his chocks were far too big to fit under the wheel pants. I placed my own small ones, and off we went through the airport. First stop was the airport office to pay those fees (just $40), and then to pay BAGS ($110). Overall it was a very cheap stop for this part of the world, and extremely quick as well; we were back at the aircraft within 40 minutes, ready to set off early on the 130 nautical mile flight to Luang Prabang in Laos.

Leicester City football club, for some reason
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Crossing the mountains of Laos
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We climbed up to 9,000ft through fluffy clouds, passing the mountains that run along the border of Thailand and Laos. One of the first landmarks once in the country was the famous Mekong River, brown and swollen from the seasonal rains. At our altitude it was difficult to contact air traffic control so we cruised along for 30 minutes untroubled by the radio, until we managed to get in touch with Luang Prabang Approach and were cleared to start our descent. We touched down off the visual approach to runway 05, coming in over the city, where we had great views of the boat racing going on below; it was apparently a celebration, with people coming from all the surrounding provinces to race 30+ person canoes, all decked out in their own bright team colours.

Approaching Luang Prabang
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Boat racing
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Final approach to Luang Prabang
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ATC directed us to park on the apron in front of the old terminal, now abandoned. Pleasantly, nobody at all met us so we had all the time we wanted to sort out luggage and get the cover on to the aircraft. We walked along towards the new terminal, and discovered that somebody had left the gate open and we could just walk into Laos, bypassing immigration and customs. This would probably have been a bad idea so we headed into the terminal to report our arrival, and that’s where the trouble began.

Parked up in Luang Prabang
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We first met with the company who’d organised our permit, Asia Flight Services, and paid for that and also the arrival visas. It’s worth noting that we’d asked them to quote for handling the flight, but the prices were so high that we’d elected to self-handle, instead. Unfortunately it turned out that the airport seems to be very corrupt; the rep returned with immigration officials who claimed that as we’d not given them 5 days advance notice (our approved permit was apparently not enough), we would not be allowed into the country. This “requirement” is not listed anywhere in Laos law that we could find, and certainly not in the regulations covering arrival by air. Some discussions commenced and it was then decided that a payment of $500 would resolve the issue.

This was by no means the end of the saga, but that would come in the days ahead. Eventually we made it out of the airport, and into the car to the lovely Sofitel Luang Prabang. Tucked away behind high walls near the center of the town, the hotel is incredibly quiet and peaceful; every room is a little garden suite with outside bathtub, and no adjoining walls to neighbours. Heaven! For dinner we walked to the river, through the lingering festivities of the day’s racing, to “Utopia”, an open air bar and restaurant overlooking the river. Nothing was too busy, as it was the low season, but still 90% of the clientele were young, hip westerners on gap years. The food was forgettable, but the views over the river as the sun set were fabulous.

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On our first day in Luang Prabang, we had arranged to take a tour to two of the main tourist sites. We were collected from the hotel at 0830, and after a short drive through the town arrived at the dock on the Mekong River where we were to board our boat. A slender, roofed motor vessel of about 30 feet, there was more than enough space for 2 tourists and a guide! We set off upriver towards our first destination for the day, the Pak Ou Caves. First, though, there was the mandatory stop in a "local village" (suspiciously well set up for tourists) with huge quantities of local whisky and weaving for sale. Before long we escaped and were back on the boat heading up river.

Temples in the tourist village
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On the boat, up the Mekong
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Along the way we passed a new bridge, under construction. This dramatic concrete structure is being built to take a new railway, from China to the Lao capital of Vientiane. It's funded, and being constructed, by the Chinese. The concept of driving a new rail route through the mountains, rivers, and jungle of Laos really appealed to the civil engineer in me. After a total journey of about 90 minutes, we pulled in to the dock at the Pak Ou caves.

The new Chinese rail bridge
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Named for the mouth of the tributary river the caves sit opposite, the Pak Ou caves are made up of an upper and lower cave. They are a religious site, known for the hundreds (claimed to be 4,000+ but I was not fully convinced) of Buddha figures places on every possible surface within the caves. This tradition was apparently started, or at least became much more popular, after the Thai King visited in the early 1900s. We spent a while viewing the Buddhas, with a gentle accompaniment of children trying to sell us small birds in cages; apparently you buy and release these for good luck.

Lower Pak Ou cave
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A coconut for lunch!
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The return journey on the boat took a little less time. We were going downriver now, and the captain throttled back to save on fuel. After lunch at the Coconut Garden in Luang Prabang's small main street it was back in to the bus, and off to visit the Kuang Si waterfall. This (or rather these, as it's an extensive series of falls) are located 25km outside of town and are a major tourist attraction for both foreigners and locals. They are co-located with a bear sanctuary (hooray!), and have several swimming areas; located sensibly at the bottom of the falls, rather than the top.

Rescued bear
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At the waterfalls
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That evening we ate at Manda de Laos, a beautiful open air restaurant serving Laotian cuisine at tables overlooking three beautiful lily ponds, registered as a UNESCO world heritage site. The flowers of the lilies open up in darkness, so we sat and enjoyed our meal while watching the flowers slowly reveal themselves under the steady rain of the Laotian wet season.

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On our last day in Laos, we decided to explore the city a little. After a slow morning, meeting with a flying friend and enjoying a Korean lunch, we headed to the Royal Palace, now a museum about the last Lao monarch.

Korean lunch for one
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Colonial buildings in Luang Prabang
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The museum showcases the old royal living quarters and reception rooms, gifts received from various other countries dignitaries, and a selection of the monarch's cars. This included his "Jeep" - actually a Toyota! The royal temple was also open for viewing; sadly no photographs were allowed, as it was the most impressive we'd seen so far!

The royal temple
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After visiting the museum, we crossed the road and climbed Phousi Hill, a 100m high hill in the center of Luang Prabang's old town. The Buddhist temple of Wat Chom Si sits at the top, and amazing views of Luang Prabang are to be had from every side.

It was drizzling steadily throughout the afternoon, so after Phousi Hill we headed back to the hotel. That evening we met my flying friend at dinner on Luang Prabang's main street, before turning in early. We'd be leaving the hotel at 0630 to take on chapter 2 of the Luang Prabang airport saga!
Dave W, treborsnave, mick w and 3 others liked this
#1724194
We were back at Luang Prabang airport by 7am. The agent that we had used for our permit, “Asia Flight Services” (also known as “Indochina Aviation Centre”) had given us a quote in advance that featured a number of very high third party “overtime” charges; such as $500 for Air Navigation overtime. These had seemed odd to me, with nothing mentioned in the AIP, so I had emailed the Laos Department of Civil Aviation to check. They responded, to say that there was no such charge, and requesting full information to investigate what they referred to as a “scam”. It wasn’t clear exactly who at the airport was or wasn’t in on it, but in the end we managed to stay under the radar and get back out to the aircraft without incident.

Time to leave Laos
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We loaded up the aircraft and pre-flighted. When trying to sump the fuel drain under the engine (drain some fuel and check to ensure there’s no water in it) I found that no fuel would come out at all; there must be a blockage, or an issue with the linkage. I removed the top cowl and had Elsa activate the sumping lever while I watched; nothing. After a while it became clear that instead of the sumping lever, Elsa was in fact pulling the oil dipstick in and out. We eventually established that the issue was in fact a blocked drain tube; when I unscrewed the tube, fuel came out fine. An attempt to fix it by poking wire through failed, so it was added to the “things to do later” list; I had after all been able to confirm the fuel was safe!

I put the aircraft back together and called for clearance. It took an inordinately long time to receive clearance, which had me worried that we were going to be called back for another attempted shake-down, but eventually we were given the go-ahead to back-taxi down the runway, and took off with a slight left turn on course. We climbed through cloud, paying close attention to the terrain on the GPS, and were soon cruising south on top of a fluffy cloud layer, in bright sunshine.

Departing Luang Prabang
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Entering cloud over Luang Prabang
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We’d departed a little early, so I kept the power low and flew slowly to Bangkok to try and pull a little closer to our planned arrival time. We droned down Thailand on autopilot, enjoying the views and some music over the intercom.

In the cruise over Laos
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Appropriate socks for our afternoon appointment
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Clearer weather over Thailand
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Our route from Luang Prabang to Bangkok
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Approaching Bangkok
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Holding north of Bangkok
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Inbound to Don Meuang
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Approach to Bangkok
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Large civic structures north of Bangkok
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Final approach
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Our destination airport, Don Mueang, was one of the busiest in Thailand. We were put into a holding pattern for 10 minutes while a parade of B737s and A320s from low cost carriers landed, before being vectored to the approach for runway 21L. We taxied past ranks of regional airliners, parking up on stand 4 opposite one of the M-Jets hangars.

M-Jets collected us and drove us all the way down to the other end of the airport, where their “Private Jet Terminal” is. An immigration officer was there on site, and we breezed through and into a taxi in record time. Very easy, and also very good value considering the location; M-Jets are recommended!

Yet another coconut!
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We were in a hurry to get downtown, as we had two tickets to “Truelove @ Neverland”. Despite sounding like some sort of Michael Jackson seemed brothel, this is in fact an animal cafe; with 20+ Siberian Huskies to meet and play with. We arrived early enough to walk to a local restaurant for lunch before our scheduled “playtime”. The facility was very impressive, with a large air-conditioned house for all the dogs to live in, and they were all beautifully groomed and healthy. The cafe has quite strict rules about how to interact with the dogs, for their safety (and of course that of the visitors). We spent a happy hour or so meeting the dogs before heading through the heavy Bangkok traffic to our hotel, out near the main airport, and a Dominos delivery for dinner!

Husky time
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Meeting the huskies
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We left the hotel at 0630, to see Elsa off on her flight back to the US, after which I returned to the hotel and enjoyed another few hours of sleep. At check-out time I took a taxi to the Furama hotel, the same one I’d been staying at before, to be closer to Don Mueang airport for my 1030am departure the next day. The rest of the day was taken up by some flight planning, and dinner and shopping at the nearby Terminal 21 mall. The following day, I’d be heading south again, making ground once more on the route around the world.
Lockhaven, mick w, kanga and 2 others liked this
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