It’s a little disaster. Just after take-off, the GPS of my IPAD fails. We have the open sea in front of us, the Turkish coastline will soon disappear and we have to find an island in the middle of the ocean. All the carefully prepared waypoints, heading, estimates and distances will not work. Rhodes Control is gentle, gives us a heading to the next waypoint. It’s good to be two pilots. Anssi flies and I try to create the coordinates of the waypoints from the maps in our gliding computer. After a while the calm comes back. If you have total confidence in only one GPS sooner or later you will find the limits of technology. The old navigation style with maps, compass and a watch always work, even without batteries… Today it’s island hopping. After only two hours over the ocean appears the coast of Cypres. We have just to make a bigger circuit to wait for an incoming airbus. And, here we are…in Paphos…
Today is the maritime day. We will not fly the longest distance, but are the furthest from land. More than 250 km from the coast starts to be serious business. So, we check precisely our survival equipment, lifebelts, life raft, each personal satellite locator beacon and the sat-telephone. No doubt, the plane was inspected with high accuracy before. First surprise, our flight plan is not found, but after insisting severely, finally appears. Second, on the taxiway, no GPS-indicator; problem solved as well, after a while. Third, after take-off we have to go even further to the sea, due to heavy military activity south of Cypres.. But, the good news - our altitude up to 6000 m was approved. Our plane could fly even higher due to it’s turbocharged motor. Today it’s enough. Sitting in a perfect glider, even with a motor failure, we could reach the coast of Libanon or Israel. Some lines of clouds are far below us, visibility is perfect, motor sounds like a purring cat - happiness…The airspace control is smooth. We do not need all the careful prepared waypoints. A direct approach to a entry point in Egyptian airspace gives more time to enjoy the flight. Soon the coastline appears. From the wet to the real dry… Sand dunes in the desert south of El Arish makes a nice contrast between dark rock formation and the beautiful clouds below us. Carefully, we navigate along the Israelian border. We are sure that all aircrafts in this sensitive zone are constantly monitored. The lands of the Bible pass through below us. We ask ourselves, what in all hell has made this this arid area so crutial to start all these wars? North of Taba it’s high time to descend. The bay of Aqaba appears. The airfields of Eilat and Aqaba are just on our left side, so easy to reach. But no, we have to go 70 km more to the south to Nuwaiba, a radio beacon. Finally, we are on the frequency of Aqaba. They give us a direct approach to the airfield. The Red Sea below us, the desert runway in front, it’s time to land. The weather is hot and windy – we have again changed continents.
A gusty northerly wind is blowing from the Wadi Araba Valley down to the Red Sea. After some delay with our flight plan, we are finally in the air. Hopefully the winds sunset will come much earlier. We can not go direct to our destination -Hail in Saudi Arabia. Airways are still a strange relict from earlier days of aviation. So we take advantage of the wonderful area of Petra passing by the intersection of the same name. The impressive landscape arround the historic city of the Nabataeans lies below us. It looks like rivers of red sand flowing between harsh dark rocks, which look like fortresses.
We loose the radiocontact to Aqaba, leaving the Jordanian airspace. I need some time to get in contact with the Saudi authorities. Tabuk Tower gives us a clearance to flight level 150, round about 4500 m. The higher wind in this altitude helps us to get fast enough to reach Hail before sunset. A breathtaking desert shows its colourful beauty. But soon the visibility becomes worse. Some cirrus clouds draw a curtain over the rugged area. The light turns pale. We start our descent under the control of Hail Tower. The big runway comes bearly in sight, no other traffic reported. It is pretty dark and we are happy to be back on Earth. A committee from the Ministry of Tourism gives us a warm welcome. Arabian hospitality is worth knowing....
Khalid is on schedule within a minute. From the Hotel to the Tower, flight plan with some nice conversations with the controllers. Thats the way I like it... Plane is ready, no doubt, the pilots as well. Our goal today is King Khalid International in Rhiyadh and the preflight preparation was serious. Two big runways, a lot of traffic... Anticipation is the best way to avoid stress for pilots and controllers. All possible frequencies are noted, all navigation points are programmed. Today the visibility is a little bit reduced. Endless desert, brown rock formations and from time to time the typical circles of irrigation fields. Closer to Rhiyadh the number of the green circles increase. We change frequency from Jeddah Control to Riyadh. It's busy in the air. We are allowed to descend to 4000 ft and are deviated for a moment to another navigation beacon due to a 747 which needs some space. Left turn now to runway 33 right.
"Runway in sight?"
"Cleared to land RWY 33 right".
After landing, "expedite to leave the runway, I have a 757, 10 miles behind for landing" .
Ouff, we are on the taxiway now, changing frequency to ground Control East.
"Taxi via Hotel 3 to parking for general aviation." We are looking for the small planes we expected. A follow me car guides us to the parking for private planes, dominated by a Boeing 747 at the entrance. A huge number of all kind of business jets are standing around, but there is enough space available for our 23 m wingspan. Once again, a perfect reception by our hosts. This time I met our coordinator, lieutenant colonel Sultan himself. Refueling with carfuel, check to refill our oxygène bottles, wrong connection... No problem, only solutions... that´s Sultan... The days finale is a fine dinner in our excellent hotel. Time to relax...
It's rush hour. Nearly no space to place our message in the constant flow of information and orders between Muscat Approach and airliners from all over the world. Nevertheless, somehow the controller manages to reserve us a small timeframe to land on runway 08 right. We feel like an obstacle between all these fast flying jets.The long taxiway to the very last parking is nearly Zen-Meditation compared with the stressing time just minutes ago. Streaks of the last sunshine enhance a last thermal cloud in the nearby mountains.
The restday in Muscat gives me the opportunity to bring some order in my memory of what we lived during the last 4 days.
Starting with our arrival at Hail, Saudi Arabia, where we found a real delegation to receive us. Continuing with the warm welcome of Lieutenant Colonel Bagdadi, the man who makes everything work. A Visum to stay longer than normal aircrews, an adapter and the filling of our oxygen bottle and some batteries for my Gopros. I call him Mr. Solution.
Probably the readers are curious as to why all this works so fine for us.
There is another man behind it all. Prince Sultan bin Salman from the royal family is an aviation enthousiast. Fighterpilot and astronaut, he likes to fly all kind of planes and he owns a Stemme himself. I met Sultan some years ago. We flew together in the beautiful mountains of the French southern Alps and even had a flight over Switzerland to Austria and back. He invited me to fly in his country, but only now I have taken the opportunity to come.
Thanks again for the unbelievable hospitality we found in your country.
Arriving in Abu Dhabi, we had the next positive surprise. Another Sultan and and his brother, Saeed, were waiting for us. Karen Stemme gave me their coordinates. Coffee, refuelling and admiring their hangar full of planes from Piper Cheyenne to Bushplane Kodiak, Ultralights and of course a Stemme S10VT.
We spent a wonderful evening, enjoyed Arabic food, laughed a lot, and had really interesting conversations. Ali, the third brother, designer of a high sophisticated 20 m UAV came later. Great guys! I earned a lot from them.
We came as guests, we left as friends?
Constant red light – low fuel pressure…Usually after 1 minute, the motor dies… This is not really the kind of hassle pilots appreciate. But if this appears in the middle of the Gulf of Oman, that gives this kind of extra push of adrenaline you do not like at all. A rapid check… What was done? I changed the tank from right to left just two minutes ago. Auxiliary pump… Lamp goes off….problem with the primary system? Playing systematically around is part of the diagnostics. At the same time, we check out where the next airport to reach is... After several minutes we calm down. The motor is still running, in spite of this deep red light. It is not a pressure failure. It seems to be an electric problem of the warning light.
It’s our trouble day… in Muscat. Before departure, we were not allowed to roll on the taxiway due to zero radio contact with the tower. We needed to insist to change places. Once we move over just 50 m the problem was gone, …frequency hole or whatever…Now we are finally in our descent to Karachi, leaving the nearly 6000 m we asked for. After the long grey-green, we change colours to grey-brown. The visibility is just horrible. Even very close to the town, nothing is identifiable.Things become worse when we turn west. The sun is low and the smog of this Mega City breaks the light in thousand fragments.
A constant monitoring of the instruments, distance and heading check…and believe me, the moment you touch down on the runway is the best of the day…
Bonjour à tous,
Le suspens prend fin. Je suis partie... L'aventure commence !
Auriez-vous un jour imaginé faire une escale sur les rives du lac Balaton? Où c'est? Oui, bonne question. C'est une station balnéaire/thermale de grande réputation en Hongrie, à 200 km au sud de Vienne où le front nous a poussé pour éviter d'être coincé par 2 jours de pluie dans les Alpes. Et saviez vous que la région de Sarajévo est magnifique noyée de brumes automnales. Et qu'à Kerkyra, on mange un excellent poisson mais qu'à Rhodes, pour le même prix, on a une moussaka bien assez grosse.
Voici un lien qui vous emmènera sur une émission de télé qui a été tournée mardi, lors de notre départ de Berlin. Les germanophones apprécieront, les autres auront les images.
Mes prochaines escales seront Aquaba en Jordanie, Hail et Ryhiad en Arabie Saoudite, Abu Dhabi, Mascat, Kharachi (pas trop longtemps j'espère) Jaipur, ou Klaus m'a réservé un hôtel dans un palais de Maharaja, Patna et Katmandou. Klaus, lui, est parti près de deux semaines avant moi et arrive à Katmandou demain.
Voilà un autre lien pour suivre notre position
Des gros bisous à tous que je sème lors de cette traversée du monde en éruption comme les cailloux blancs du petit poucet pour retrouver ma route de retour.
What do you do with rest day ??? Some tourism?... We would really enjoy it and there are a lot of interesting sites to visit. But wait a minute.. We need fuel for tomorrow, the oxygen bottles are nearly empty and I forgot the adapter for Indian filling stations at home. Good luck! A machine shop is just beside our hotel. It doesn’t look very sophisticated but from my experience, these guys can fix anything for you. After shaking his head in the Indian way of reflecting, our gentle mechanic send me to a shop where we can buy the Indian confected part of my adapter. Driving on a motorbike with a heavy oxygen bottle through small alleyways with a lot of opposite traffic is an adventure in itself.The shop, where we buy our part, has probably several thousand boxes with a little bit of all kind of mechanical, hydraulic or whatever stuff. The busy guy between all these boxes was certainly the only one who could find what we were looking for… Back at the machine shop, the boss promised to fabric the European part within two hours.Time to look for jerry cans. We rent a tuk-tuk, famous Indian taxi tricycle. It is the fastest but sometimes scariest way to go through the chaotic traffic of Indian streets. It’s fascinating to observe the constant flow of cars, bicycles, tuk-tuks and people or cows crossing the streets. Nobody stops, the horns are blowing all the way long, the vehicles are separated by only centimetres and everybody remains gentle and polite. One hundred shops in the market zone and Anssi discovers the blue canisters in the abundance of all kind of things. Minutes later we are the owners of two 50 liter cans. A large silicon hose found in the next shop will ensure the transfer to our tanks. Next challenge: finding the right fuel. First gas station – negative: only normal petrol for sale. The third station has the high octane fuel we need for our engine but doesn’t want to sell it… The reason? Transportion is prohibited. But Anssi is not a man who gives up easily. After some discussion, we go away with 100 liters of precious liquid. With the adapter ready, we take a tuk-tuk to the oxygen station for a refill. Medical oxygen is available and soon our two bottles have 100 bars more.
We are a little bit late to watch the crowd in the morning on the board of the holy river. But we find still some Hindus, who take their traditional bath in the Ganges River. The grey sky and the dirty water make a strange contrast to the beautiful yellow-orange Saris of the religious women. Back to the hotel today, we want to achieve our goal - Kathmandu. Airborne hours are later than programmed. A pile of paper attests our short stay in Patna. Very nice people, who are drowned in a very inefficient system, have worked 3 hours to assemble, what will disappear probably for years in a dusty corner. Instead of using our time for more checks and safer flights we are in a hurry in order to arrive on time in Kathmandu. We are worried about visibility, which is a key factor in this area. It will be a short flight, but with the hurdle of a precise approach to a runway surrounded of high mountains and clouds. Every pilot without any exception has to absolve a specific simulator training for the unusual approach of the airfield. In this kind of environment, mountains hidden in clouds, visibility below minima, you need alternatives. Flying to the west to Pokhara or even going back to Patna needs time. The less you have, the more tension will rise. This one of the reasons why overwhelming bureaucracy makes us so angry. It’s simply dangerous. Soon after take-off, we leave the Indian airspace and as suddenly the empty horizon starts to change. Cumulus clouds rise like white phantoms out of the grey lake of haze. And now through more and more clear skis, the Himalayas appear, still partly hidden by convective clouds. Our enthusiasm has to be replaced by full concentration on the procedure we learnt in our training in Berlin. Kathmandu follows closely after; via their radar detecting all movements. We give it our best and it seems that the controller is happy with our performance. Descent to 9000 ft, good luck, there is just a hole between two clouds and we can sink through, always under visual conditions. As the city comes out of the haze, the mountains disappear. Visibility 4000 m, the best since our departure from Karachi. Gear down and locked, perfectly aligned. Anssi finishes our arrival in Kathmandu with a smooth landing. We are at the end of a long journey and at the beginning of a great adventure exploring the Himalayas. Follow us and please don’t give up if our webpage is not always up to date!! (;-))
Bonjour les amis,
Depuis quelques jours, vous n'avez plus de nouvelles. Plus rien ne bouge, ni le stemme qui est sur le parking depuis lundi, ni notre dossier qui est dans plusieurs ministères, ni nous qui sommes coincés des journées entières dans les administrations.
Depuis mardi, nous sommes en cours pour apprendre les spécificités de l'AIP népalais (recueil des règles aéronautiques). Ce cours est nécessaire à tout pilote qui veut voler à l'intérieur du Népal. Nous avons donc appris que la convention de Chicago, signée en 1944 est l'acte fondateur de l'OACI, que le "operational manuel" d'une compagnie aérienne doit spécifier tout ce que peuvent faire les pilotes, mais aussi les PNC et les agents sol, ou qu'il y a 2 TMA et 8 CTR au Népal.
Nous avons brillamment réussi le QCM tous les trois ce matin et avons couru à l'aviation civile afin d'avoir, avec notre certificat de réussite, le précieux sésame de la part du directeur des autorisations. Mais en fait, c'est trop tard, il ne peut plus accorder cette autorisation. Les bureaux ferment à 3h et il lui faut la signature (entendez par là l'accord) des tous ses directeurs. Il a donc reporté la responsabilité que personne ne veut prendre sur le responsable d'aérodrome de Katmandou pour le week end. Nous n'aurons qu'à nous présenter demain au terrain et demander si on peut voler ou non. Il faut que vous sachiez une chose: mardi ont lieu les élections ici au Népal. Le gouvernement a donc décrété 5 jours feriés. Tout est bloqué jusqu'à mercredi.
Nous avons aussi passé une partie de la journée dans le bureau du directeur de la Nepalese Oil Corporation pour essayer de trouver de l'avgas pour faire voler nos stemmes. Même cnclusion: pendant les élections, on ne peut rien faire. Il faut attendre le 21. Mais je rentre bientôt moi!
J'ai tout de même compris quelque chose de très important aujourd'hui. Depuis quatre jours, je m'épuise à essayer d'avoir des réponses claires à nos questions. Ici, les règles ont été posées à une certaine époque pour une certaine raison. Cette raison n'est peut être plus valable aujourd'hui mais la règle est encore applicable. Par contre, il est admis qu'on l'interprète. Et donc, suivant l'interlocuteur, on a une réponse ou une autre... Une chose acquise un jour, ne l'est pas forcément le lendemain. C'est comme ça.
Bref, ça fait cinq jours que je suis là, Klaus deux semaines, et qu'est ce qu'on a obtenu en se battant tous les jours pour pouvoir avancer vers Pokhara qui est à 100km de Katmandou: La possibilité d'avoir peut-être de l'essence à partir du 26 et de peut être pouvoir voler en vol local autour de Katmandou demain. Maigre...
Nous espérons pouvoir expérimenter le vol à voile sur le territoire népalais demain après avoir expliqué aux contrôleurs que nous respecterons toutes les règles. Si on les a convaincus avant que les thermiques s'en aillent, vous devriez voir la balise tracer quelques spirales dans le nord de KTM.
revoici le lien: https://share.delorme.com/ohlmann
Nous espérons ainsi gagner leur confiance et avoir l'autorisation de poursuivre, en vol à voile, hors des airways, c'est à dire en espace de classe G (on est incollables maintenant!) et avoir l'autorisation de vols locaux à Pokhara. Tant que nous n'aurons pas obtenu ces trois conditions, il vaut mieux rester à Katmandou pour négocier encore.
Désolée de ne pas vous envoyer de belles photos de Katmandou. Le tourisme n'est pas vraiment à l'ordre du jour. J'ai tout de même pu aller me balader une heure tout à l'heure à la recherche d'un pantalon neuf car ma valise est toujours bloquée à la douane. Je n'avais qu'un seul pantalon pour le voyage. Je le porte toujours.
Pas de nouvelles aéronautiques aujourd'hui mais un jour historique au Népal. Je ne résiste pas au fait de vous envoyer quelques photos. Il faut savoir que depuis samedi dernier, tout est fermé. Les gens sont retournés dans leur village pour voter. Aujourd'hui, en plus, pas le droit de circuler. Pas de taxi, pas de bus, pas d'avions (domestiques). On était presque les seuls touristes dans la petite ville médiévale de Bhaktapour, à 1/2h de Katmandou. Et personne qui vendait des souvenirs... L'ambiance était très familiale, bon enfant, pas tout à fait festive même si les gens avaient l'air contents. J'ai trouvé particulièrement choquant l'observateur (de je ne sais quelle organisation) en costume et chapeau colonial qui prenait des photos du site comme s'il n'était encore jamais venu au Népal.
Pour nous, aéronautiquement, il ne se passera rien avant jeudi et vraisemblablement rien avant lundi.
A bientôt pour ce qui sera sûrement ma dernière news. Je rentre dans 1 semaine en France.
Me voilà donc rentrée à la maison. Un peu en avance, c'est vrai mais Angélina ne s'en plaint pas. L'air pollué de Katmandou, l'immobilisme de l'administration (voir les reculades), la promesse de trouver du carburant convenable mais à 8 USD le litre... Tout ça fait que l'ambiance n'était vraiment pas club med, ni même trekking ces derniers jours.
J'ai laissé Klaus là bas, abandonné à son triste sort alors que tous les autres participants sont à Pokhara, à attendre (ou non) les avions. Il n'a qu'une devise en tête: "Je ne lâcherai pas comme ça". C'est vrai qu'il a tout son temps. Les autres doivent rentrer au boulot, dans leur famille, pour les fêtes... Lui est libre comme l'air (enfin, plus libre que l'air népalais) et bien décidé à faire ce qu'il faut pour arriver à son but.
La question maintenant est "y arrivera-t-il avant Sébastien Kawa"? Son ASH 25 devrait bientôt arriver à Pokhara en contenreur et il a pour l'instant une autorisation pour voler en local, type ULM.
Personnellement, je n'aime pas tellement ce genre de concurrence qui met la pression. Je vais maintenant suivre tout cela de la maison comme vous, ou de mon 777 car il est temps d'y retourner.
Merci pour vos retours et vos encouragements tout au long de ce périple.
Hello dear friends,
Finally, I can tell you, some good news. We have received the approval for our entire project yesterday.
I must say, that I’ve never had to crack such a hard bureaucratic nut in my entire life . Almost six weeks I spent nearly every day in the gray halls of Nepal ministries and offices with virtually no success. Luckily, we could engage Raj , a Nepalese middleman. He really knows "God and the World" . Even with him we spent, still more than 7 days in all kinds of offices and ministries ( Anssi had even an appointment with the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Army. I hope that our scientists and the team can provide the substantial additional costs and time required to come back and start the planned project.
Yesterday we could finally fly to Pokhara. Not before repairing a flat wheel tyre. Fortunately, we were able to inflate it at the airport. Then, quickly installed with the Leatherman. Finally ready to go ? Far from it ... "expect delay 30 minutes" , a fate that we share with the airliners due to the high volume of traffic. Finally in the air ... The first Cumulus up to 1700 m. No time to use thermals, we are late. But with Langtang , Manaslu and Annapurna , we have a stunning view on our right side. At the entrance of the valley to Annapurnatrail we switch off the engine and try to find lift on the steep slopes under some week cumulus. Almost nothing to find. The trip out of the valley becomes quite interesting. Theoretically locally to Pokhara but virtually always blocked by a range of hills to the direct route . We follow the valley to the former airfield Palungtar that looks more or less landable in Google Earth. So far the theory…but, once above, we see about 50 cows , 4 Soccer Goals and a power line in the middle of the field . Good that the engine works ... Only 40 km to reach our goal . In final in Pokhara, then the comment from the controller : "What a beautiful plane" .. I answer spontaneously , " what a wonderful reception" ..
And in fact : After the engine has stopped , we find a warm and hearty welcome by all the members of the avia club. Everybody wants to see our big bird and have a photo with us. I feel instantly at home , between all these passionated aviation fans.
December 10 :
Today we want to explore our new environment. The manager of Aviaclub picks us up . we clean with the help of our new friend our plane from all the smog of Kathmandu. The Stemme is a real diva and once again the center of attention . Short flight planning , Tower visit , phone call to Kathmandu , green light for an out and return flight to Jomsom and back with a block between 6000 ft and FL 195. Start on the 04 and left turn to Sarangkot, the famous start site of paragliders over the Phewa Lake .
The thermals goes up to about 100 m above the ridge. Very quickly it becomes clear that today with this moist air, we will have no chance to conquer the Kali Gandakhi, the deepest gorge in the world , in gliding . So we use the motor, and through some cloud holes we surf along the white cotton ball lines to the west. In about 3500 m we are above the tops. Ouahh.. what a fantastic clear view to the mighty fortresses of the Himalayas. Left hand side Daulaghiri , right the Annapurna , one last position report to Pokhara before we disappear in the Kali Gandakhi . In 4000 m still no wind ... no thermals. It was not before 5000 m that the instruments indicates about 25 km / h from 300 degrees. Actually, this should be enough to surf along the ridge of Annapurna. It is extremely difficult to estimate the distance to the rock.. Bare rock , with a few patches of snow , do not allow for proper distance estimation and the sheer size of these mountains simply asks for a respectful distance . Behind the next ridge appears, down in the valley, the airfield from Jomsom . We are still in power flight . Suddenly, a huge gust throws us upwards. With nearly 60 degrees of bank , I can almost climb with 6 m/s. Throttle back , let the motor cool down .. the usual procedure .. but suddenly the engine stops. Short restarting try .. does not start. A lot of humidity is creeping into the valley, forming low clouds. A quick decision is needed .
Landing in Jomsom??.. last weather report, “gusty wind with 39 kt West…90° to the runway”…no way for a safe landing… Let's get out ... out of the valley. No desire to sink in some cloud patches or even have the famous valley wind Kali Gandakhi on the nose. As always in such cases, we find only sinking air.... Well, we finally reach the end of the valley in 3500m, just above the clouds. The airfield of Baglung , west of Pokhara is below us. It looks pretty good, but is situated on a high plateau. The approach is certainly not easy ... especially in gusty wind ... I try to restart the engin, it works, all parameters in the green..ouff.
After landing we had some philosophical reflections, that it will certainly not be easy, to prise the secrets out of the hands of the mighty mountain gods. Our first flight was very impressive and I 'm actually almost glad to be able to explore this vast nature, before we begin with the scientific flights.
Greetings from Pokhara
Back to Kali Gandakhi,
The day looks very similar. First cumulus clouds over Sarangkot, collecting all the para gliders. We make some circles, but then we continue, in order not to disturb the well organised business of the local schools.
Climbing on the top of the clouds, once again at 3500 m. Dhaulagiri has a kind of rotating cloud close to the summit. We follow the Annapurna until Nilgiri. Some rising air, but nothing really well organised. The northern side of Annapurnas neighbor is still covered with snow and ice.
Our altitude of 5500 m allows us to look down on the Tilicho lake and all the way down to Manang. Left hand down Muktinath and the steep path of the Annapurnatrail, winding up to Thorungpass.
The valley now is much wider and allows a more continuous airflow. Despite some turbulences the air is rising over the ridge. Some small rotating puffs in the west captures my attention. We cross the valley and , as expected, the air starts to move. Is it a thermal or a dynamique lift?..or both.. We try desperately, it's difficult to find the center of the lift,..too gusty. More to the north direction Mustang there seems to be some rotors well where they should be. And..once again the motor stops...
This time we stay cool and try all the tricks and..Yes the engine restarts. I have my own theory. In this altitude we should give more power, to hold a convenient temperature.
We fly now out of the valley crossing to the western side of Annapurna. Just on the southern edge a nice and constant lift on a sharp snowcovered crest.
We stop the motor and it's a real pleasure to surf along in the sunshine.
It's a beautiful scenery. North of us Annapurna 1, Dhaulagiri in the west... We turn around the southeastern corner of the mountain... And suddenly, there is a breathtaking view on the majestic pyramid of fishtail. Below us the white carpet of clouds. We are very close to the mountain, when suddenly a huge turbulence reminds us, that we are in the lee of Annapurna. So, we leave a little bit in a hurry, but not without memorising this magic moment in the camera.
It's time to leave. More in the south we find some holes in the dense cloud cover. Descending into the hazy air of Pokhara, I ask me if anybody of all these people on the ground has an idea, how beautiful it is, to see the world from the long wings of a silent glider...
Three rest days, due to fog in the Pheva valley. We have time to take care of our plane. Checking carefully all the sensitive points is a must in order to live longer.
Some ground stuff needs attention as well. We install our oxygen pump, it works fine. We need it to pump up our on board installation to a higher pressure from the couple of big bottles of medical oxygen, we bought from a local supplier. From 3000 m on we use the precious gas. Due to the rapid climbing in a plane, compared to a mountaineer, there is no adaptation time. So, use of oxygen is mandatory. Bad or slow decision making as a result of oxygen lack is not really nice in a plane near the rocks.
A good meteorological preparation is another important point.
You can not change the weather, but at least you have to know what to expect.
The forecast for tomorrow looks very promising. Wind direction is northwest. Huge wave lifts are predicted, aligned in long bands south of the mountains. The only handicap could be the very strong wind in the altitude.
We are planning to explore the waves along the Himalaya from Pokhara to Lukla, the famous "most dangerous airport of the world". To land there with our 23 m wingspan, would be, if not impossible, at least very scary. The plan is to assemble a maximum of knowledge in order to ensure a safe processing for our scientific mission. Turbulence measurements, glacier-and pollution-monitoring, and collecting medical datas from pilots in a high altitude- and stress environment, are the main goals of this expedition. Afterwards we fly back to Pokhara. In case of emergency, we have Tumlingtar airport as alternate or Kathmandu International.
Still some fog this morning, so it needs some time, before the sun dries out the thin humid layer. First airliners arriving from Kathmandu indicates, that visibility is ok.
"Pokhara Tower, Oscar Papa, ready for takeoff". "Oscar Papa, cleared for takeoff runway 04, report 5 miles outbound."
We are heading to Fishtail. Rising thermals along the southern orientated hills helps us to climb faster. In 4500 m we meet the first turbulence created by the severe storm in the altitude. Long banners of swirled up snow show clearly high winds on the top of Annapurna. 19.500 ft, severe turbulence...our plane acts like a raft in whitewater.
I wonder, if anyone of these guys, who restrict us at this altitude has any idea, what happens around these mountains touching the Jetstream. 6000 ft higher, I'm sure, there is a calm and laminar airflow, called wave. Glider pilots use this miracle of nature to fly thousands of kilometers with only natural energy resources. Like the surfer on the beach they use the huge vertical component of the rising air in the lee wave behind the mountains.
We are entering now in the huge bowl of the Manaslu Natural Park. On our left hand side the Annapurna trail, in front of us a confluence of numerous glaciers. And here we are in the middle of chaotic rising and descending air. This is a severe rotor.
We are thrown around like a punchingball. Without a solid stomach you will easily fill some plastic bags...Everywhere the same... whirling air, but nowhere solid lift.
In 6000 m we follow the ice covered northwesterly side of Manaslu. What a dramatic view, the cold and slowly flow of the glacier creeping down from the mountain of spirit, translation of the Tibetan word Manaslu.
We jump to the southeastern side of the titan and try to escape as fast as possible the expected downdraft. Here we stay far from the glacier, the snow dust showing clearly downwards. Himal Chuli, the southwestern part of the massif, stays behind . In it's lee we fly through the rotor, heading to Lantang, north of Kathmandu.Trying to hold the direction in this bumpy air I realise, that the commands are more and more hard. They start to freeze..That's not really, you need, when gusts try to make you upside down.What to do? Going down in higher temperature?, no way, we are still too low. I change the flaps to positive...and in fact, the commands, still hard but react better.
On the approach frequency we can hear very clear the controller and the pilots in a constant flow of messages. But no answer to our call. Changing to area control, we are received without any problem. Meanwhile we find the first time a kind of wave above Langtang, but we continue due to airspace restriction.
Left hand side below is the friendship highway from Kathmandu to Lhasa. We make a turn to the south in order to stay free from Chinese airspace.
The sharp silhouette of Gauri Shankar appears. Small fractocumulus show rotor activities. North of Numbur, we can experience a new quality of turbulence. Everything not fixed in the plane is messing around. Our satellite tracker flies through the cockpit and lands between Anssis shoes. We escape into the Khumbu valley, just above Lukla. North of us we can clearly see the airstrip of Syangboche. Here is the area, where the 3D camera from German aerospace should register pictures of very high resolution.
Just in the middle of the valley,suddenly an enormous updraft hits the plane. In no time we have centered an unbelievable lift of 11 m/s. What a pity, we cannot stay here, climbing high above the surrounding mountains. Nevertheless, we can measure the wind with our instruments. 184 km/h.... Never have flown in such strong conditions. We are now side by side with Everest.
The bowl between Nuptse, Lhotse and Everest deviates the storm into a vertical direction. The snow is driven upwards from the middle part of Khumbu glacier to the top of Lhotse. Divided by the rocky channels it looks like white fingers pointing to the sky.
From time to time the direction changes in the whirls of gigantic gusts.
Behind the summit everything bursts in a chaotic manner and forms a triple banner cloud. No way to go closer. Every aircraft would crash, loosing control in no time.
We feel so great and so small at the same time. Glued to this breathtaking spectacle, we really have to break us away from this stunning view.
Following the valley to the south our ground speed increases dramatically. Under the control of Kathmandu we sink a little bit lower in order to avoid the severe headwinds in the altitude.
After landing in Pokhara we need some time to answer all the questions of our friends from Aviaclub.
Having been the first team in a motor glider at Everest, within a real storm....what a great emotion...