US Air Force Contract
2-24-17: Chicago ACO grants field approval for installation of 5-blade MT-Propellers on Twin Commander used for STC Field Testing
1-27-17: EASA issues STC for MT-Propellers on the Twin Commander! Read more...
1-27-17: EASA issues STC for MT-Propellers on the Twin Commander! Read more...
Map generated by Mike Laver using the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
Mike Laver flew his personal Platinum Series MU-2K-10, N50ET, in a scenic around-the-world trip in 25 days. The highlight of the trip was arriving in Nagoya, Japan on September 14, 2013 for the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the MU-2. In this page, you can follow his adventure in chronological order from Day 1 to Day 25 with some final thoughts.
Sunday, August 25, 2013: Day 1 - Aiken, SC-Goose Bay, Canada
For the first leg on my flight around the world the winds were, you guessed it, headwinds. Apart from that it was a great flight to Frederick (KFDK). I was greeted by Mike Collins and his family. Mike was packed and ready to go. After fueling we departed KFDK and were vectored on an unwanted tour of Washington by the Centre. When transferred to New York Centre, they wished us well for our around the world flight (someone there reads the AOPA magazine) and gave us direct VLV (Beauce) direct CYYR (Goose Bay).At 25,000 ft I am pushing 35 knots of headwind, my calculator is working overtime. With 1 hour remaining to CYYR I am pushing only 20 knots of headwind. My TAS is 285 knots and I am burning a total of 66 GPH, what an amazing machine these MU-2's are.
Landed at CYYR after 4.5 hours enroute and 70 gallons remaining. The weather is beautiful and were off for a beer with the locals.
(photos: Above: Departing Aiken; Right: Arriving in Frederick to pick up Mike Collins.)
Landed at CYYR after 4.5 hours enroute and 70 gallons remaining. The weather is beautiful and were off for a beer with the locals.
(photos: Above: Departing Aiken; Right: Arriving in Frederick to pick up Mike Collins.)
Monday, August 26, 2013: Day 2 - Goose Bay-Reykjavik, Iceland
We rose this morning at 0400 in Goose Bay (photo right: sunrise in Goose Bay) so we could be airborne at 0600, but as we were driving to the airport, I remembered that you cannot depart for a Greenland airport without a current TAF unless you want to be in violation on arrival. We received the TAF for Narsarsuaq just a few minutes after 0600, so we ended up departing Goose Bay at 0630. It was a quick 2.3 hour flight to Narsarsuaq with tailwinds all the way! The scenery in Greenland is truly amazing and flying up the Fjord to the airport is breathtaking. We then flew over an iceberg on a short final to runway 07 (photo below). Every pilot—I think—needs to experience flying into Narsarsuaq.
After spending a short time on the ground fueling and chatting with a family returning after a 3 month tour of Europe in their TBM 700, we were on our way to Reykjavik in Iceland. On this leg, we saw 362 knots for a short time. We landed in Reykjavik after another short 2.3 hour flight. Day 2 of 25 now complete. Back to Top
Tuesday, August 27, 2013: Day 3 - Reykjavik-Straubing, Germany
Despite the time change--which meant us rising at 0130 Aiken time--we were fresh and ready to start Day 3 of our journey. We departed Reykjavik in the rain (photo: right) at 0724 and climbed to 25,000 feet. Slight tail winds again gave us a ground speed of 320 knots; TAS was 290 burning 66 GPH total, as we headed to Newcastle in the United Kingdom.
It was a beautiful day in Newcastle (photo below), and the Samson Aviation staff was fantastic--we laughed and had fun the entire time. Once we were fueled, we departed Newcastle for Straubing in Germany. After crossing the English channel, we flew right over the top of Amsterdam, which was an amazing site. From the Netherlands we then flew into Germany passing between Hannover and Dusseldorf. The weather was great, which allowed us to see for miles. As we traveled into Germany, the accents became more difficult to understand on the radio so I had to really pay close attention.
We are now in Straubing, a wonderful small city in Bavaria and home of the MT-Propeller company. I have really enjoyed flying with the MT-Props; they are quiet and smooth, plus I enjoy the extra climb performance which is helping me on fuel burn for those long legs.
I would like to thank the children of the 2nd Grade Class at Aiken Elementary school for their interest and support in following our flight around the world. Back to Top
Wednesday, August 28, 2013: Day 4 - Straubing-Salzburg, Austria
Today we had a great day in Straubing at the MT-Propeller factory. After an extensive tour of the blade manufacturing facility, the hub manufacturing facility, and the assembly plant, I am even more impressed with the MT-Prop. Talk about German engineering; there is no doubt that they build their props with pride and passion. In the words of Gerd Muhlbauer, President of MT-Propeller, "We turn horsepower into thrust efficiently". (Photo: Mike with Gerd Muhlbauer)
We left Straubing at 5:30 PM for the short 70 mile flight into Salzburg in Austria. It was breathtaking flying in along the Austrian mountains into Salzburg. Tomorrow is an exciting day, we are going to spend the day at the Red Bull Hangar Museum. No flying for N50ET tomorrow--she gets the day off. Back to Top
Thursday, August 29, 2013: Day 5 - Salzburg, Austria
Today was a great day at the Red Bull Hangar 7 Museum, and thanks to Mike Collins being with the AOPA press, we were given access to Hangar 8-- the maintenance hangar--as well. The Hangar 7 structure is in the shape of a wing but with all glass panels. Walking through the hangar is like being in another world or atmosphere. Red Bull has 25 unique aircraft including vintage, aerobatic, warbirds, fighter jets, transport aircraft, and helicopters in additon to NASCAR and formula one race cars. They also display an art exhibit and feature several restaurants that alternate among the world's top chiefs every few weeks. So if you like fine food, fine art, and exotic aircraft then the Red Bull Hangar 7 Museum is a must.
For the remaining few hours of the day, Mike and I took a walking tour of Salzburg and through Old Town. Salzburg is a beautiful, small city set amongst the Austrian Alps. Tomorrow it's back in the air, heading for Turkey and then Kuwait. Back to Top
Friday, August 30, 2013: Day 6 - Salzburg-Kuwait City, Kuwait
This morning we rose at 0430 and were off to the airport for an early 0700 departure in order to make it to Ankara, Turkey prior to a military exercise. After our security check and fueling the aircraft, we were allowed startup and taxi at 0650. Salzburg Tower cleared us for takeoff at 0659 on a beautiful clear morning. Everyone in Salzburg and Austria was so polite and respectful, making it such a pleasure to fly through Europe. From our 0700 takeoff roll we were at 25,000 feet in 17 minutes, and our total fuel burn was 39 gallons. BaseOps had flight planned us at 298 TAS so we powered back to 470 EGT, giving us a total fuel burn of 72 GPH. After leaving Austria we crossed over Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and then into Turkey crossing the Black Sea just to the north of Istanbul. When we landed in Ankara, we where greeted by Murat from Gozen Air Service, our handling agent. Everything was arranged and the fuel truck was standing by to top us off. When we finished fueling, Murat took us over to outside his office for a cup of tea while we waited for the military operation to finish (photo above left). During that time we learned it was Independence Day in Turkey, and that was the purpose of the military operation as Ankara is the capital. Back to Top
After a farewell handshake, we cranked up N50ET and launched for Kuwait. This time we climbed to 25,000 feet which took 21 minutes and we burned 41 gallons total including taxi. We are flight planned for LRC at 260 kts, that gave us a fuel burn of 56 GPH total which will give us ample fuel for this 1142 nautical mile leg. After 2 hours in flight we are now entering Iraq, and only a few miles from the Syrian border on one side and the Iran border on the other side (photo above right: route through Iraq). There is a huge storm sitting over this area, and with both Ankara Radar and Baghdad Radar assisting us with deviations, nothing seemed to be a problem. The weather is now perfect again, and we have a slight tailwind. It's hard to believe that I am actually here flying over Iraq. The Garmin radios, GTN-750 and 650, are perfect with the worldwide data base--also, the G-600 with synthetic vision has been amazing.
When we landed in Kuwait, the handler rushed us through immigration and customs, and everyone was so pleasant and easy to deal with. The second leg was 4.3 hours and 275 gallons--what an amazing aircraft! To see more photos from Day 6, please go to the RTW Photo Gallery Back to Top
Saturday, August 31, 2013: Day 7 - Kuwait City-Muscat, Oman
Kuwait has been such an easy stop; the GA (general aviation) facility was beautiful, and everyone was so easy to deal with (photo left: one of the handlers at the Kuwait International Airport). This morning again, we lifted off at our flight planned time of 0830. We climbed up to 25,000 feet, fuel burn 68 GPH and TAS is 285--5 knots short of our flight planned speed from Baseops--but we will pick that up after a short time. One thing I have learned on this trip is that if I set up the flight planned cruise speed, my estimates are within a few minutes over the entire route. In the six months preceeding this trip, I worked closely with BaseOps to get the true air speeds (TAS) and fuel burns for both normal cruise and long range cruise for N50ET very accurate, and that has really helped for the flight planning.
We are now at 25,000 feet and flying over the middle of the Persian Gulf--our route follows the Iran airspace border which is just 5 miles way--I hope this Garmin GPS is accurate! (photo right: navigating over the Persian Gulf) After 1.5 hours, we are starting to move away from the Iran border and our track now takes us over Dubai and into Oman. We landed in Muscat after a short flying day of just 2.7 hours. The fueler was there to meet us, so after refueling we moved through customs in the International Terminal then straight to the hotel. In reflecting back on our journey thus far, I can say that flying through Europe and the Middle East has been so easy. The controllers have been so courteous and polite, which has made it so easy and such a pleasure.
I am very lucky to have Mike Collins from AOPA magazine with me. Mike has done an incredible job of documenting the trip, and his photography is fantastic. Mike is so much fun to travel with and is ready to help in any and every way. Thank you to Mike and AOPA for supporting me in this trip. Back to Top
Sunday, September 1, 2013: Day 8 - Muscat-Colombo, Sri Lanka
The alarm went of at 0345--that is because we set it based on our planned 0600 departure. The driver picked us up at the hotel at 0445, and once arriving at the airport we were through customs very quickly--just like real pilots. We were at the aircraft, ready for IFR clearance and startup clearance for an on-time departure, but the tower advised us that the runway was closed until 0630. This 30 minute wait gave me time to reflect on the overwhelming support and kind gestures and messages I have received. I am continually asked why am I doing this, and I think the answer is simple. Travel and adventures broaden your mind, and what better way to broaden your mind than to fly around the world in an aircraft we love and respect--the MU-2--to celebrate a milestone of 50 years in service. (photo right: Dawn in Muscat, Oman - waiting on an unexpected runway closure)
We were airborne at 0638 and climbing to 25,001 feet; during the climb I decided to level at 23,000 feet due to the high temps at ISA +20. In cruise we pulled back the power and had 285 knots TAS and a fuel flow of 66 gallons total. Crossing the FIR boundary from Muscat to Mumbai we were back on the HF radio, which we have not used since crossing the North Atlantic. By using 23,000 feet we picked up 20 of the 30 minutes we lost on departure from Muscat. Bombay International was a very easy stop. Our handler Sashi Bhushan, from Freedom Air Services, knew all of the short cuts to get us in and out of this bureaucratic country. Although there was an electronic flight plan in the system, they filled out by hand the same details on another flight plan to have it stamped by Immigration, Customs, Gov. of India and the Airport Authority, but this was all handled in a very pleasant and courteous manner. Mike Collins has become an expert on supervising the fueling of the MU-2 while I deal with the paperwork. (photo above left: ramp crew at Mumbai pushing out N50ET)
After a quick 1 hour tech stop we were on our way. This time we climbed all the way up to 25,011 feet. We pulled our fuel flow back to the standard 66 gallons total and saw a generous 285 knots at ISA +20 and pushing a 20 knot headwind, but we are just happy to be here. As we move south we are starting to see the effects of monsoon season, towering clouds to the left and right of our track. When we land in Colombo, Sri Lanka we will be just 7 degrees north of the equator.
After landing in Colombo, we found everyone was helpful and eager to please. We moved through the international terminal along with the airline pilots, who I am sure were thinking this was a joke. Back to Top
Monday, September 2, 2013: Day 9 - Colombo-Palembang, Indonesia
Today 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.
Banda 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 brought 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. Back to Top
Tuesday, September 3, 2013: Day 10 - Palembang-Bali, Indonesia
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, 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.
The 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 water. 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. Back to Top
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 through 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.
After 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 airport. We 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. Back to Top
Thursday, September 5, 2013: Day 12 - Ayers Rock to Latrobe Valley, Australia
We 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 the 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. Back to Top
Sunday, September 8, 2013: Day 15 - Latrobe Valley-Bundaberg, Australia
G'Day from Australia. After 2 days rest--allowing time to catch up on maps and approach plates, as well as a Federal Election with a change of government--we are ready to depart Latrobe Valley Airport. The people at Latrobe Valley were most hospitable in every way. There is no doubt that they envy the freedom that we currently have in General Aviation in the United States. Lets all hope we retain that freedom. As we depart Latrobe Valley (photo left) and climb to 24,000 feet, I realize how the state of Victoria has shrunk now that I am flying an MU-2. After just 30 minutes we are crossing the border of New South Wales and heading for Queensland state, which is just 1 hour and 45 minutes away. The leg to Bundaberg is 919 nautical miles and 3:04 enroute.
In Bunderberg I am catching up with David McKenzie who is a friend of mine from school. David is a Veterinarian and he lives in the remote area of Queensland. He is also a pilot, and he uses his Cessna to fly to his customers in association with his job. Mike Collins will be visiting the Jabiru Aircraft company in Bunderberg. The Jabiru is in the Light Sport Aircraft category--the aircraft and its engines are both built in Bundaberg. I was involved with Jabiru for many years as the North and South American distributor.
We are now abeam Sydney at 25,000 feet with a 20 knot tailwind. Baseops had flight planned us at 300 knots TAS, but because jet fuel in Australia is about $8.00 per gallon, I have pulled the power back to save fuel and money; 66 gallons per hour is giving us 290 knots TAS and we will still be in Bundy on time.
We arrived at Bundy (photo right) on time and with the great weather, we made a visual approach onto runway 14. We are very fortunate that Sue from Jabiru has kindly loaned us a car so it was very easy to be on our way to the hotel for the night. Back to Top
Monday, September 9, 2013: Day 16 - Bundaberg, Australia
Today we spent the day in Bundaberg, Australia. We started the day with a visit to the Jabiru aircraft factory. Jabiru designed and builds a fantastic small, single-engine aircraft here in Bundaberg. This month marks their 25th anniversary of building the aircraft (photo right: Jabiru with 25th anniversary emblem), and they have sold around 2,000 worldwide. Mike and I are so grateful for their hospitality today and value their passion for the Jabiru aircraft they build.
Next we visited with Ian Bent, the owner of Camit. Ian is the manufacturer of the engine for the Jabiru, and with his CNC machinery, he built most of the components for the engine. Ian is a true professional and is dedicated to the product he manufactures. Mike and I were most impressed with Ian and his product.
(photo left: Mike bids farewell to his friend, David McKenzie.) Back to Top
Tuesday, September 10, 2013: Day 17 - Bundaberg-Horn Island, Australia
This morning we departed Bundaberg for Horn Island; Baseops filed us at long range cruise for a flight time of 4:42 enroute based on strong headwinds. At 24,000 feet we are pushing a 45 knot headwind, and we are now passing by Rockhampton, which is the hometown of my cousin, Rod Laver, a former professional tennis player. [Rod holds the record for the most single titles won in the history of tennis with 200 career titles.] As we fly just off the coast of Northern Queensland, you can see for miles the beautiful islands of the Great Barrier Reef (photo right). Many boats are stationed at each reef obviously with divers from all over the world observing the marine life.
We are now 2 hours into the flight and the headwinds are finally starting to taper off, making our fuel reserve look better all the time. Finally, with just 1 hour remaining the headwinds have reduced to 25 knots. Due to the reduction in weight from less fuel on board, I am now able to reduce the fuel burn to 64 gallons per hour, and we are still getting 280 knots true air speed. We will now be able to land at Horn Island with 75 gallons remaining, and we will also be 30 minutes ahead of my flight planned estimate at long range cruise--not bad for a 1050 nm leg pushing an average of 35 knots of headwind! This is only the second time since I left Aiken that I have transferred to the outer tanks.
It has been 40 years since I landed in Horn Island when at that time I was a young pilot with only around 100 hours total flight time, flying to New Guinea with some mates. Horn Island sits between the northern most tip of Australia and Papua New Guinea and is an airport of entry with customs and immigration. After buying the most expensive fuel I have ever bought, we took the 20 minute ferry ride to Thursday Island (photo above left) to our hotel. (Photo above right: Mike receives greetings from the second graders at Aiken Elementary School who are closely following his adventures.)
Back to Top
Wednesday, September 11, 2013: Day 18 - Horn Island-Cebu, Philippines
We awoke to a beautiful morning at the Grand Hotel on Thursday Island. At 0610 we walked over to the dock in order to catch the ferry that would take us back to the Horn Island airport and N50ET. Cynthia from Australian Customs came to the dock and gave us our clearance paperwork to depart Australia. The 20-minute ferry ride to Horn Island was fantastic as we watched the sunrise along the way. After a short bus ride to the airport and a daily inspection on N50ET (photo left: sunrise inspection) we were ready to go. Michael from Horn Island Airport Authority (who had very kindly run us to the ferry yesterday) came bounding across the Tarmac to wish us well. I am sad to be leaving Australia because we have received such wonderful hospitality everywhere, but I will not miss the user fees.
After we were airborne from Horn Island, it was just 30 minutes and we were crossing the FIR boundary (Flight Information Region--specific region of airspace where flight information and alerting services are provided) and back into Indonesian air space heading for Biak for a quick fuel stop. We are at 24,000 feet and the temp is ISA +20; our fuel burn is 66 gallons per hour, the true air speed is 283 knots, and the winds are light and variable. As we passed over the rugged terrain of Papua New Guinea at 25,000 feet, it was scary to see that the mountain peaks were only a few thousand feet below us (photo right). As we approach Biak, the weather is marginal with isolated thunderstorms, which we find ourselves in for a few minutes. We flew the full ILS approach into Biak and broke out at around 1,500 feet to a clear runway.
Mike once again organized the fueling while I dealt with customs and immigration through the handler. The handler came back and said that we did not clear customs when we departed Indonesia last week, but no problem--with $130.00 we would be cleared. I thought that was a bargain. A few minutes later the handler came back with my $130.00 and explained that it was not a problem, and all was okay. We were now clear to go, and we were in and out of Biak in just 45 minutes.
Now we are on our way to Cebu; we climbed on top of the weather, and it was not very long before we were in clear skies again, with the ICTZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone--area encircling the earth near the equator where the northeast and southeast tradewinds meet) is now behind us. We crossed the equator at 0111 Zulu time or 9:11 PM eastern US time (photo left), and now that we are back in the northern hemisphere home seems closer. The flight is smooth, and the weather is reasonably kind to us, but unfortunately we are now back on HF radio for the long overwater stretch. I am very pleased that I installed a good HF radio, because it makes all the difference. Manila Center and Mactan Approach were so easy to work with--I asked for track shortening, and that was no problem. We were radar vectored on to the VOR/DME Runway 22 approach which was all visual.
Cebu is a very large international airport. Customs came out to meet us on the ramp and stamped our passports while Mike did the fueling. Once everything was completed at the airport, we just drove out the side gate without even entering the terminal building. Our driver took us straight to the hotel for our evening's rest by the ocean. Back to Top
Thursday, September 12, 2013: Day 19 - Cebu-Taipai, Taiwan
Today our departure was scheduled for 10:00 AM, though we were at the airport and ready to go at 0830--I am not sure how that happened. Again the handlers were so polite and friendly; they arrived with customs and immigration, and we were stamped out right at the aircraft. (Photo left: Mike completing depature paperwork in the Philippines.) We requested an early departure from Mactan Clearance. Fortunately they accommodated us, so we were on our way to Taipei.
We started at 24,000 feet then later climbed to 25,000 feet for our 1028 nautical mile leg to Taipai. Today was VHF all the way--so that made communication easy--Manila Centre and Taiwan Centre were very easy to understand as well as polite and helpful. Today we had to do quite a bit of diverting for weather, but overall it was a nice flight. As we approached Taipei, we were radar vectored for the runway 23L ILS; that approach was visual all the way except for around one mile visibility because of the haze. Taipei is a huge international airport, and there is no doubt that we were the smallest aircraft there by far. (Photo right: N50ET on the business aviation ramp at the Taiwan Taoyuan International airport.) After about 15 minutes, however, we lucked out and were joined by a single engine Piper Meridian.
After Mike handled the fueling, we were on our way through the terminal building for Customs and Immigration. That process was as easy as every other place we have been to thanks to Baseops having everything organized so well. Except for the instrument approach, my flight plan time was within 2 minutes of my actual time. I landed with 110 gallons still remaining--what a great flight! Tomorrow is the big day with our flight to Nagoya, Japan, the home of Mitsubishi and of course the original home of the MU-2.
(Photo left: Mike has an unexpected room guest this evening.) Back to Top
Friday, September 13, 2013: Day 20 - Taipei-Nagoya, Japan
This morning we were up at 0500 for an 0600 pick up at the hotel. The driver was there, ready to pick us up, and we were on our 10-minute ride to the airport. The handlers were at the departure area of the airport waiting, and once again we were through immigration and security within minutes. Then it was a long walk past all the great duty free shops of Hermes, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and many more. We could have bought anything we wanted but my focus was on our flight to Nagoya--the whole purpose of this trip. Just think, tomorrow it will be 50 years since the first flight of the MU-2! (Photo left: prototype of MU-2A in test flight in 1963 in Nagoya, Japan.) This year also marks the 40 year anniversary of N50ET (S/N 260), which is now a modern aircraft with updated engines, avionics, and propellers that will outperform anything in its category--what an amazing aircraft!
When we arrived alongside N50ET, we bid our fantastic handlers farewell; they did a great job and again were very polite and respectful. Today we were to depart off runway 05 left, which was probably only 1000 feet from we're we were parked. Once airborne our standard instrument departure was a straight ahead climb up to 25,000 feet in clear weather. Our leg today is 1059 nautical miles and the winds are light and variable. All communications are on VHF, and they all speak Australian very well. After just 50 minutes we are crossing the FIR boundary into Japan's air space and talking to Fukuoka Control while under complete radar control. Today Baseops filed us at 296 knots, though I opted to cruise at 290 knots which brought my fuel burn down and put us just 4 minutes behind the flight planned time in Nagoya. Fukuoka Control just cleared us direct to Kushimoto--though I don't believe they understood my response--so we tracked to KEC (Kushimoto) and advised. The descent and approach into Nagoya was very easy, with radar vectors for the runway 16 VOR/DME approach in clear skies, but with reduced visibility because of the haze.
When we taxied to the ramp in Nagoya, I was so surprised and delighted to see a crowd of well wishers (photo left). Mike and I were so kindly given gifts of flowers, and of course there were many photos taken. It was very obvious that Mitsubishi had plans for us. After fueling and clearing customs and immigration, we were taken to the Mitsubishi factory on the airport where lunch was organized. Later we were given a fascinating tour of the Mitsubishi Factory museum, which included the history and an airframe of the Mitsubishi Zero, and we saw the first long (G) model MU-2 that has apparently not long been taken out of service in Japan. Next we were taken to see the MU-2A, the start of the aircraft that we all love and respect. Yoshiaki Asako from MHIA who most of us know was here to greet us and see that we are well taken care of (photo right: group photo with Mike and N50ET). I am so grateful to Mitsubishi for the respect, honor, and hospitality they showed us on arrival.
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Saturday, September 14, 2013: Day 21 - Nagoya, Japan
Today is the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the MU-2. Mike Collins and I are here in Nagoya with N50ET as guests of Mitsubishi. Tod, Mason, and Yoshi from Mitsubishi have treated us with so much respect and have been so generous and hospitable; they have thought of everything to make our time in Japan as enjoyable as they can. I am so grateful for their hospitality, and I will never forget this historic day.
As our wonderful day was winding down we bid Tod and Mason a fond farewell for the evening; we will see them again in the morning for our departure. As we walked into the Marriott lobby heading for the elevator, I caught a glimpse out the corner of my eye of a person that looked very similar to Ross Russo, my dear friend and owner of MU-2 Solitaire, N62CN. As I took a closer look--I realized it was Ross--and that once again, I have been surprised by my friends (photo right: Ross Russo surprises Mike in Nagoya). I played cool at first though and gave Ross a casual wave and kept on walking; Ross waved back and looked at the floor. What a pleasant surprise that Ross, after climbing Mt. Fuji yesterday, jumped on the Bullet Train from Tokyo with his cousin and climbing partner, Vaughn Girol, and came to visit for a few hours to wish Mike and I well on our trip. What an incredible time we have had in Nagoya--thanks to all our of friends.
On another note I need to update everyone from yesterday. As promised I carried the framed and signed print of the MU-2 fleet from the 2013 MU-2 Fly-In. I presented the print to Mr.Tod Takasu from MHI on behalf of all the MU-2 owners in America (photo above left). In presenting the print I explained how we have such a loyal group of owners who appreciate the integrity of the Mitsubishi MU-2 and the outstanding support that Mitsubishi provides us.
Sunday, September 15, 2013: Day 22 - Nagoya-Petropavlosk, Russia
It was a sad day for me leaving Nagoya after all of the excitement over the past couple days (photo left: N50ET's arrival makes front-page news.) Our friends from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) have been so hospitable and gracious during our stay. I cannot thank them enough for their kindness, and I now have a much clearer understanding of how our MU-2's were created and the integrity behind their support. My friend Zipper has told me over the years about his trips to Nagoya when he was a demo pilot for MHI and what a great group of people they are. This morning, once again Yoshi was right there to help us, and the three of us rode by taxi to the airport. Once we arrived, there was Tod and Masan to see us off. We had to delay our departure to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk for approximately 45 minutes because of the strong tailwind--yes, we finally got tailwinds--and the Yuzhno airport was closed up until 0400Z. (Photo right: Waiting to leave Nagoya.) When it was finally time to leave, we made our final farewells, and we were on our way. With the fast-approaching Tropical Storm, Man-Yi, I was anxious to get airborne, and though we already had some rain, it fortunately was clear for our departure.
At 25,000 feet we were in cloud and icing conditions for most of our flight to Yuzhno. It is very easy flying in Japan; like in the US, you are in radar control and VHF all the way. The Japanese Contollers in most cases are very easy to understand. As we enter into Russia Khabarovsk Control, the controller was again easy to understand. He gave us a STAR into Yuzhno and descent to 1600 meters--yes, meters. But I was ready and fully prepared because Ross Russo told me last night at dinner that this could be an option. We flew a full procedure ILS approach to runway 19 using the meter conversion chart on the approach plate and broke visual at about 500 feet, or perhaps I should say 152m. After landing we taxied to the terminal building and parked in Bay 4. We were met by our handler, customs, and I presume immigration. We were given the option of going to the terminal and clearing customs or staying at the aircraft and going on to Petropavlovsk to clear customs. Because we were staying the night in Petropavlovsk, I thought clearing at Petro made the most sense. Mike--speaking fluent Russian through many hand signals-- seemed to get N50ET fueled as needed.
I cannot believe that we are actually in Russia--but we are because the Garmin says so. We wished everyone well and again we are ready for departure. It has been easy so far in Russia, and the Controllers are good to work with. At 25,000 feet we are in cloud the entire way to Petropavlovsk, though we did not see the Sea of Okhotsk; that was such a shame, because I have always wanted to see the Sea of Okhotsk. Today we are blessed with a 65 knot tailwind--I could really get used to this kind of speed--and believe now I will get tailwinds all the way to Aiken, which is only 5136 miles away and 15 hours and 15 minutes at this speed. Looking at the Petropavlovsk approach chart, we have a 9035 ft. mountain on one side and a 4056 ft. mountain on the other side of the airport. Petropavlovsk just advised us that the weather is clear and 17 degrees centigrade. As we approached Petro it was another STAR and another ILS approach. We broke out at 11,000 feet and landed at Petropavlovsk safe and sound to beautiful scenery (photo above left: arriving in Petropavlosk). We were met by our handler, customs, and immigration. Everyone was very helpful, and it has been yet another great stop. Today, something happened to 3 hours of our day, so it was a late night when we arrived at the hotel and checked into our rooms. Although the restaurant was closing in 15 minutes, they prepared a meal and brought it to our rooms along with a Russian beer. Back to Top
Monday, September 16, 2013: Day 23 - Petropavlovsk-Fairbanks, Alaska
This morning we awoke to a dreary day; rain and low clouds obscured the mountains that I had hoped to see better today after last night's late arrival. Today is a short day because of the time zone change; we lose 4 hours, which means that we arrive late again into Fairbanks. When we arrived at the airport, it was just a few minutes through security and then onto the aircraft for a daily inspection in the light rain. After start up we had a "follow me" truck (photo left) lead us in the rain to the long 11,158 ft runway for a back taxi to the end for takeoff. We climbed up to 25,000 feet into beautiful clear skies that lay just above the overcast. The further north we travelled the skies became clearer, with the Pacific Ocean on our right and the coast of Russia on the left. The scenery is amazing! It's like flying over Arizona with a coastline. So far we have been talking with Petropavlovsk Control on VHF, which is clear and very understandable.
With now just over an hour to Anadyr, I feel like the trip is coming to an end. There have been so many wonderful times and adventures behind us. Mike Collins has been a great traveling companion and great friend, plus our trip will be professionally documented with wonderful photos. We are now 30 minutes from Anadyr; ATIS says we have 10 miles visability and base is 490. I am not sure whether that is meters or feet but either way it will be fine and better than the forecasted TEMP of 300 feet overcast. As we joined the localiser we could see the runway at 27,000 so it was an easy approach. (Photo right: Wicked wind shear on arrival to Anadyr.) Within about 10 minutes we were greeted by customs and a great many others--I'm not sure who they all were--I felt more than a little intimidated by all of the officials present. There was a lot of paper work and questions, but all was okay. We were now allowed to take on fuel while our passports were being stamped and our release paperwork was in process. By the time we were fueled, customs was back with our passports and we were good to go.
After startup, Anadyr Tower cleared us for taxi and take off, and we were on our way--next stop USA. I wonder what sort of reception will we get there from our authorities. Cruising at 25,000 feet we're now heading across the Bering Sea towards Alaska. The OAT says -40 degrees C; it's time to see how N50ET and the MT-props like these temps, because I have just such a reading with the Hartzells that I used to have on N50ET. I had to increase the power setting to take this reading, so I matched the fuel flows from my previous reading that was 40 gallons a side, temp, altitude and fuel on board was the same. My Hartzell reading was 318 knots TAS and my MT-Prop reading is 316 knots TAS.
We have just now crossed the FIR boundary into US airspace and the International Date Line (photo left), so instead of it being Monday it is now Sunday again. Talking with Anchorage Control makes you appreciate what we have in the US with respect to aviation services. However, I must admit this trip has not been too hard, but it is all about the planning and preparation!
Our approach into Fairbanks was visual--it was beautiful evening--and we landed just before 10:00 PM. Our customs man was waiting for us, and he was the nicest one that I have ever met. We fueled and went to hotel for a good night's rest. It's great to be back in the US! Back to Top
Monday, September 16, 2013 (Again!): Day 24 - Fairbanks-Minot, North Dakota
This morning when I got out of bed, I opened the curtains in the hotel room to see a frost over the cars in the car park; this was not a good sign. When we arrived at the airport, it was obviously a few degrees warmer because the aircraft was clear. Departing Fairbanks, it was a magnificent morning, and we witnessed a beautiful sunrise from the east, it's reflection spanning the horizon over to the west were the snow-capped mountains appeared crystal clear. (Photo left: Mike contemplating sunrise.) After flying around the world it is hard to believe that some of the most beautiful scenery we saw is here in America ready for us to all experience. (Photo right: arrival into Ketchican)
As we move our way southeast to Ketchikan, we have been blessed with yet another headwind component of around 30 knots (photo left: Garmin display shows N50ET crabbing into the strong headwind); this is actually good because I am trying to build flight time. We are now over Canada's Yukon Territory for about 300 miles then back into Alaska airspace for our arrival into Ketchikan. I have flown into Ketchikan before--the scenery is stunning--and today was no different. We broke out of clouds at around 1,500 feet, and it was like there was a parade in front of us--welcoming us back to our home continent. Several float planes were in the circuit to land on the water; they come straight at you over the field then make a sharp right turn to touch down on the water next to the field. It's so exciting watching them maneuver around us.
Our turnaround in Ketchikan was just 25 minutes, and we were on our way again to Minot, ND. This is a long 1228 mile leg with headwinds on the first half and light tailwinds on the remainder. This is definitely a long-range cruise leg. I burnt 34 gallons from startup to 25,000 feet and then set up 58 gallons per hour and 260 knots TAS. I am calculating that I will land with 70 gallons remaining. We crossed Canada in an uneventful flight; the weather was good all the way. A visual approach into Minot on runway 13, and then we were at Minot Aero Services. Mike and I were ready for a good night's rest. Back to Top
Tuesday, September 17, 2013: Day 25 - Minot-Aiken, South Carolina
Today is the last day of our great Around-the-World-by-MU-2 adventure. My email from Baseops had me filed at 27,000 feet at long range cruise with a tailwind; we don't have a tailwind so it must be wrong. When we arrived at the airport we were informed that there had been a towing error, and a bolt on N50ET had been sheered. An A&P had come out and replaced the bolt and had made an appropriate log entry for me. This is the very reason I do not have an aircraft towed when overseas. This has been the first problem since I departed Aiken 25 days ago. I thoroughly inspected the nose gear area four times (photo right) and everything was normal as the log entry stated.
We were airborne out of Minot at 0600 with clearance to 27,000 feet, but of course I asked for 25,000 feet as my final altitude. It was a crystal clear morning as we waited for the sunrise--it looks like it will rise out of the east this morning--just the same as yesterday. Mike has his camera poised and waiting, and at 0648 we had a beautiful red sunrise. We are heading for Frederick, MD, with the wind behind us as forecasted on this 1188 nautical mile and second-to-last leg. We really do have a tailwind--30 knots and all! As we fly just south of Green Bay, WI on this clear day I see Joe Megna at Jet Air hard at work. With just 1.6 hours to Frederick it looks like we will land with 90 gallons remaining, so I will not have to use the outers. I have only used the outer tanks on 3 legs for this entire trip around the world, and there have been a lot of long legs. With all the tests done over the last year at different altitudes, fuel flows, and true airspeeds--I believe I have learned how to get the maximum range out of N50ET, which has really helped a lot on this trip.
Frederick was in the clear so we were able to make a visual approach on runway 05. As we taxied in to the ramp it was obvious that some of the AOPA folks have missed Mike Collins. (Be sure to check out Mike's AOPA Pilot blog--MU-2 Around the World if you haven't already done so!) We taxied over to the AOPA ramp where we both received a very warm welcome (photo left: welcoming committee at AOPA). As I stepped from the aircraft, I had another surprise. Astrid Naparstek from World Fuel Services and Baseops had driven to Frederick to welcome us back. Also Astrid brought a plaque (photo right) on behalf of BaseOps in recognition of our around the world flight for the 50th anniversary of the MU-2, the fight that they so professionally handled for us. And that's not all--Astrid had lunch as well. That was especially appreciated since it was 1100 and I wouldn't be arriving in Aiken until 1500.
After lunch and fuel I was on my way to Aiken for the final leg of this amazing journey. It is hard to believe that I am just 1 hour away from Aiken-N50ET has carried us around the world--how cool is that! This incredible MU-2 has operated without a fault or squawk for the entire trip, I have just turned over 100 hours with .8 to go.
I arrived into the Aiken Municpal Airport to a nice welcoming committee as well including a 12-person W-E-L-C-O-M-E-H-O-M-E-!!! sign (photo left) and flowing champagne. Seeing my wife and so many close friends on my arrival back to KAIK made this a wonderful ending to a life-long dream. Back to Top
Friday, September 20, 2013: Final Thoughts
It’s been three days since my arrival back to Aiken, South Carolina after flying N50ET around the world. The support and encouragement I received from the MU-2 community along the way was overwhelming and very much appreciated. While we all know that we have such an incredible aircraft with the MU-2, many have been struck by how seamless the whole trip appeared and the fact that despite political sensitivities in the middle east, varying weather conditions, airport operational issues, and just plain old Murphy’s Law, we were still able to keep to our planned itinerary each day and arrive back in Aiken on Day 25.
In reflecting back on the entire experience, I realize that while an around-the-world flight is a huge undertaking, it is no different than any other good, safe flight—most of the work is in the preparation and pre-planning. To be sure, with the magnitude of this flight, there was a lot of pre-planning—in fact, at least 12 months went into the planning for this adventure of a lifetime. (photo right: N50ET outside the MT-Propeller factory in Straubing, Germany)
Early on much time was devoted to selecting the route; taking into consideration diplomat/political issues, the range of the aircraft, clearance, visa, and health requirements, associated airport fees, airport operating parameters, security risks, and finally personal preferences.
Since I knew I would be flying in varying extreme weather conditions and over long distances, I spent the past 12 months building flight profiles specifically for N50ET for normal and long range cruise in hotter and cooler temps. I tested and documented different times to climb, fuel to climb, power settings, and cruise speeds at different ambient temperatures in order to build accurate profiles. (photo left: The Hohensalzburg Fortress provides an impressive backdrop to the Salzburg Cathedral)
These profiles were extremely useful in the flight planning process and during the actual flight, and after selecting BaseOps to help with the flight planning and weather briefing as well as the international handling and clearances, they took time to meet with me at their Houston office to review each and every leg of the trip. Prior to departure and on the trip, not only did all of the trip handlers pay close attention to detail, they were very good at communicating important trip information and their international handlers were professional and competent—customs and immigration was a breeze.
Countless hours were spent compiling and filing paperwork for clearances, general declarations, and visas; contacting airports for handling and customs requirements (for the countries where we took care of handling); researching and booking most of the hotel rooms on the trip as well as continually monitoring and comparing fuel quotes from a variety of vendors. Finally time was devoted to cockpit information management—from the order of flight package contents to organizing the paper backup charts to compiling daily checklists of critical airport, customs, handler, fuel, hotel and transportation information for each leg. (photo right: view outside of Red Bull)
In preparation for the international flying, I had a High-Frequency (HF) radio installed, which from reading my blog, you will recall was a necessity after leaving Oman and through much of Indonesia. I also had a third 16-watt Com installed, hot wired for start-up clearances, which was required in most countries. CTS installed the new MT-propellers on N50ET and made sure the aircraft was up-to-date on all inspections and ready to go.
Considerable time and effort was devoted to evaluating and building a stock of spare parts, including jack pads and tow bar with multiple spares. Bryan Capps of Air 1st put together the spares package, tool kit, airframe and window cleaning supplies, and loaded the Mitsubishi and Garrett service manuals onto thumb drives. An appropriate laptop was carefully chosen, and electronic chart subscription services were selected and loaded onto my iPad and mini iPad for the Atlantic, Europe, Middle East, Pacific Basin and Australia in addition to my previously installed North American Foreflight subscription. In support of the trip, Garmin very kindly donated a worldwide database for the G-600, GTN-750, and GTN-650 installed in N50ET as well as for the AERA-796 handheld GPS.
Though we continually monitored competitor fuel prices, we established a relationship with World Fuel Services, BaseOps’ parent company, for our fuel credit line and actual fueling for the majority of the trip. Astrid Naparstek of World Fuel took a personal interest in my trip and met with us in the early planning. She was instrumental in orchestrating the meeting with BaseOps in Houston, and of course their interest and enthusiasm about the trip sealed the deal.
It was certainly a pleasure to have along Mike Collins from the AOPA to document the trip with his excellent photography and writing abilities. Mike cheerfully took on the responsibility of supervising the fueling of N50ET which enabled me to concentrate on the aircraft itself and the paperwork at each of our stops.
While it will take some time for the invoices—with all of the associated fees—to trickle in, it will be interesting to compare just how costly it is to fly in other countries compared to the United States.
So in the end, yes the trip does appear relatively seamless when you consider that I flew N50ET 27,475 nautical miles in 101.5 hours on schedule in 25 days—all squawk free, but know that it was part of a grand team effort and countless hours in planning and behind the scenes effort among the Air 1st, CTS, Baseops and World Fuel Services employees!
Now that I am back from the trip, I will sort through the photos I took along the way. Please be sure to check the RTW Photo Gallery for a gallery of my personal photos as I will be adding them over the next several days. Back to Top