Author Archives: Sjoerd Jan
More than two years after we flew our Piper Archer through Africa, the book ‘Crossing Boundaries’ has been released as a Kindle e-book at Amazon. The book is not 100% about the trip we did in 2014. However, several parts of this flying trip are described in the book together with tips on making flying trips like our trip yourselves.
The book is available at Amazon.com as Kindle e-book here: https://amzn.com/B01HK1VHFS.
Now we are home, we organized a presentation of our trip. The presentation was on Saturday the 22nd of March at the Skydeck Hangar on Teuge Airport (EHTE).
Our event induded our presentation of the trip pictures and videos as well as an explanation on why we went off on this trip, how we prepared ourselves and what we experienced.
For pilots there was more. In the afternoon we hosted the “Weather-to-Fly” masterclass together with Reinier van den Berg from RTL Weer, Freek Hoogeveen and Sjoerd Jan.
A picture presentation of the event.
Find out more about the event here: http://www.aeroplus.nl/events/weather-to-fly
We left the Middle East and set course to Rhodos. We were dead tired from the heavy schedule of flying through the Middle East and seeing so many great sites. So we decided to fly only to Rhodos and take a good night sleep there before continuing. While flying to Rhodos we had to divert a little to avoid a Russian navy exercise but finally arrived. The hotel we booked in the old city on Rhodos was closed and the whole old town was deserted. We finally managed to find someone to guide us back to the taxi stand and a taxi driver took us to an open hotel on the island. This was definitely not yet holiday season on Rhodos.
From Rhodos we flew to Corfu on the other side of Greece to enjoy lunch there before setting course to Vienna Int’l airport.
Initially we were not able to climb out from Corfy to flight level 120, which was the minimum IFR enroute altitude for the airway we had selected to fly through the Balkan to Vienna. So we decided to cancel IFR for the moment and fly along the coast of Albania about about 4000 feet to see if the weather would clear up more North, which it did.
We were able to fly here and there in between cloud layers, but also picked up some ice on the leading edge while descending later on into Vienna airport.
Just before landing in Vienna, we had a great sunset and again great weather.
The last stretch was from Vienna back home to Teuge airport (EHTE) back home. We stopped half way at a small airfield in Germany for lunch before arriving at 14:00 local time at Teuge. Here we were welcomed by family and friends.
Friends and family were awaiting our arrival.
Here is a small picture impression of the city of Cairo, the Pyramids and a visit to Jos and Adrienne Strengholt.
We entered Egypt via Aswan.
The river nile. Picture is taken in Aswan.
Below you can “see” the Pyramids… The weather enroute from Aswan to Cairo International Airport was pretty bad with a thick fog.The fog prevented us during this flight from seeing the Pyramids from the air. Later on we had to fly from Cairo Int’l to the airport 6th of October to refuel and that gave us the opportunity to see the Pyramids from the air.
Enroute to the Pyramids (by taxi) we had to cross through the city of Cairo and its traffic.
We visited Jos and Adrienne Strengholt enjoyed a glass of wine on their rooftop terrace.
Picture above right is of the “City of the Dead. This is a huge “city” where the dead are burried in old houses. Nobody lives here except for the dead.
Yemen was our entry point into Asia (yes, it is Asia). From Aden, Yemen we flew to Aswan in Egypt with a fuel-stop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The flight over Yemen was over mountains and dessert landscape. Once we got close to Saudi Arabia, we got a good view of the Red Sea and some great looking islands in them.
While enroute we are able to communicate through the Thuraya Sat network with our AeroPlus operations centre in The Netherlands. This helped in getting everything well prepared for our arrival into the next destination. Our ops staff would call ahead and inform the airport and handler of our estimated arrival time and would confirm again the arrangement made earlier on and if all was going to work out as planned.
Jeddah is right next to Mecca, which is a prohibited area that we could not overfly.
Here some pictures of our approach into Jeddah airport, which according to them has the largest airport surface area of any airport in the world.
The reason for our stop was to refuel. The tanks were filled including our ferry tank inside the aircraft. While taxiing out to the runway, the tower warned us of a possible fuel leakage. At the holding point for the runway we stopped for final checks and a pool of fuel was appearing underneath our aircraft. So .. we returned to the apron but could not find a problem other than that we had filled the tanks to the top and that some fuel had spilled over through the overflow valve. That fuel had been leaking onto the apron and taxiway. Actually, a firetruck was cleaning up the mess. It seemed strange to us that we had lost more than usual.
Once airborn enroute to Aswan, we wanted to pump some of the fuel from the ferry tank on the back seats to the right wing tank using an electric fuel pump. However, we then found out that most of the fuel in the ferry tank was not there anymore.
What happened was that we filled both the ferry tank and the wing tanks fully, but forgot to turn off the electrical pump that pumps fuel from the ferry tank into the right wing tank when we need to. So, the pump was pumping fuel into a full rightwing tank and this right wing tank did not have room for extra fuel and thus threw it overboard via the overflow valve. We lost 50 liter of fuel while flying into the night overhead the Red Sea and just having received an amendment to our flightplan. We could not fly directly anymore to Aswan in Egypt, but had to fly via Luxor to Aswan. That addition to fly via Luxor added about an hour to our expected flying time. Seemingly there was a military exercise in the area that we had to circumvent..
So, I suggested to the Egyptian air traffic controllers to give me a direct flight to Aswan through the military area or that I would have no other choice but to declare a fuel emergency. It helped and after a clearance from the Eqyptian military and having to tell them from which country we were, we got permission to fly direct to Aswan from our current position overhead the Red Sea.
We arrived save and were welcomed by a full staff of fire trucks at the Aswan airport.
Above we are pumping fuel with a small handpump from a jerrycan into the ferrytank. After the pumping we cleaned the pump outside the aircraft to get rid of the fuel smell.
Not having received the permit to overfly the North of Sudan and land in Kharthoum, we were now flying towards Yemen and Saudi Ariabia to get to our destination in Egypt. We were not sure what to expect from Yemen. Normally it is not at all easy to get into Yemen and we were not even sure we would be able to get fuel. AVGAS would definitely not be available, but if the handler at Aden Airport in Yemen would help us get fuel from the fuel station was uncertain to us. We had decided not to ask ahead of time, with the risk of getting no for an answer, but to just fly out to Yemen and confront the handler there with our ‘fuel problem’.
After landing we were greeted by our handler and welcomed to Yemen. He was personally going to take care of us and would guarantee our stay to the local security police and officials. Our passports had to be handed in and we could not easily move without him on our side.
Close to the harbor we went looking for fuel jerrycans and ended up in the poor part of Aden. Have a look at the picture above. Do you recognize the feet of someone sleeping in the hut?
Eventually we bought 9 jerrycans and headed to the local fuel station to fill them up with gasoline.
Juba felt armed, but here in Yemen lots of people were carrying guns and the army was present everywhere on the streets.
After filling up our Piper with the fuel we bought in the harbour at the local fuel station, our guide took us around the city of Aden en finally took us out for diner in the centre.
Above is our guide posing on the beach somewhere just outside of Aden.
The restaurant was a local one and quite an experience. Only men were in the restaurant as the women were not allowed to join. Families have their own restaurants, but in all cases it was only the men that we were dealing with and the women were either under their burkas on the streets or at home.
In the end our guide even took us to his home for a tea. His wife had to go immediately to the kitchen and we never saw her. However, we did meet their 3 children.
Our handler drinking a Coca Cola with Arabic text on the bottle. No alcohol was served anywhere except in one hotel (not ours).
Even our hotel was highly secured. Entering the hotel compound was only allowed after the car of our handler was checked and after passing road blocks and fences and armed guards.
In each bedroom we had the Koran ready and available as well as a plaid to use for prayer.
The next morning we left Aden in Yemen for a direct flight to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Where we had in mind to fly over fast flat desserts, we actually had to climb and pass over the mountains. Have a good look at the mountains as you will note the houses there on the top and along the ridges.
The runway elevation at Addis Abeba was almost 8000 feet and we were full with fuel including a ferry tank and an extra jerrycan. The runway was quite long, but would we succeed to climb out with the outside air temperature reaching almost 30 degrees? Sure, the temperature was much better than in Juba with its 43 degrees Celsius in the shade, but the high altitude had an effect on the aircraft performance.
After takeoff we had trouble climbing out and it took us all effort to lean the engine and configure the aircraft to get over the mountains which were ahead of us enroute to Djibouti.
The day before we landed at Addis Abeba International airport. We were relieved that we were out of Juba and arrived at a well equipped and modern airport.
The airport is the home of Ethiopian Airlines. A big lineup of Boeing Triple 7 and other modern aircraft were a strange view after our trip through Africa. We still had a view from years ago of the hunger in Ethiopia and now had to adjust our view, at least of the airport. Later we found out that also the rest of Addis Abeba was relatively modern compared to what we had seen before in Africa.
We had ordered a barrel of AVGAS and it was time again to use the handpump to fill up the aircraft. Thanks to the help of the Ethiopian guys from Ethiopian Airlines it was done in no time.
Now it was time for a small party. We were out of Juba and took the time to visit the nightlife of Addis Abeba, visiting first the Jolly Bar and then with new friends we made there we ended the evening in the H2O club.
The last few days we have been waiting in a hotel in Juba, South Sudan for our overflight/landing permit to fly over Sudan/Khartoum to arrive. At the same time we worked out an alternative route via Addis Abeba in Ethiopia, over Djibouti to Aden in Yemen, then onwards via Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Aswan in Egypt. As we kept waiting for the approval from Khartoum we got our alternative ready and approved and decided to fly towards Yemen instead.
Being bored and having to stay in the hotel, I got my shoes polished for 2 US$. The guy made all effort to make my shoes look new. However, with all the desert sand around us it was short lived as my shoes looked dirty again the same afternoon.
The military in Juba even came into our hotels and at night we had to stay in the hotel and could not go out. It was not safe with rebels infiltrating the city of Juba.
This is how building, houses and hotels were protected. Thick walls, wired fences and armed security inside.
Back at the hotel we passed these UN helicopters. Then we hit a military convoy of young South Sudan soldiers on open trucks. We even had to move out of the way. According to the handler they were young and could do anything they want including torture or capturing you, so when they waved at us to move to the side, we immediately did so.
On arrival in Juba we parked our Piper Archer next to a Cessna Caravan of Flying Doctors. Now that aircraft was gone and replaced with another Caravan from Flying Doctors.
We quickly passed by the tower and aviation office to check if all the paperwork was in order and set out to our aircraft.
Taxiing out to the holding point for the runway we past some locals that were there to say goodbye to an important official, then we passed some helicopters from the United Nations before hitting the tanks at the holding point from the Ugandese army, which were there to help protect the airport and the South Sudanese army.
The tanks were aiming their gun at short final, so that they were able to shoot down any aircraft on approach.
Once airborn, we were on our way to Addis Abeba in Ethiopia. Finally we were released from the warzone and on our way again.
South-Sudan would not be the first destination I would pick out for a vacation. However, in order to reach the North of Africa, we have to cross the North-Eastern part of Africa. There are a few options to do that. The route we prefer is from Juba to Khartoum and onwards to Egypt. Another option is to fly over Ethiopia to Djibouti, then cross over to Yemen, Saudi-Arabia into Egypt. Once you fly over Ethiopia, you can not cross Eritrea. Eritrea and Ethiopia are not best friends at the moment. There are other fuel hindrances to fly in the direction of Djibouti, so we are currently waiting for the permit to overfly Sudan to arrive.
At this very moment, there is severe fighting going on in the North of South-Sudan around the city of Malakal. This city has been largely destroyed over the last few days with rebels and government troops fighting each other. Malakal is also more or less on our route from Juba to Khartoum. From inside information from UN officials and pilots flying here, we have heard that it should be safe to overfly the war zone at 6000 feet or higher. “The higher we can fly the better,” was the slogan.
We arrived yesterday at 11 o’clock local time at the Juba airport. The only radio communication with the tower operator (also having the role of approach controller at the same time) was with United Nations aircraft in approach, landing or take-off.
While in approach we spotted the first military and UN base camps underneath our wings. The whole airport seems to be taken over by military units and here we come with our small Piper Archer to land and park it right in between.
Only after the landing it became clear that this airport is really taken over by the UN. Blue helmets everywhere and here and there another aircraft from humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross or Flying Doctors and of course our own Piper.
We were greeted right after landing by the local MAF staff who agreed to sell us their remaining AVGAS fuel. The MAF base in Uganda arranged this for us and even informed them of our Estimated Time of Arrival. After the refueling we took off to the tower to pay the landing fees and to contact the Operations Desk of AeroPlus in The Netherlands. Seemingly the overland and landing clearances for Sudan/Khartoum did not arrive yet and we had to stay and wait in South-Sudan/Juba for these documents to arrive.
At first we were hoping for the the clearances to arrive within a few hours, so we waited on the apron underneath the wings of a Cessna Caravan of Flying Doctors. We found passenger seats in the grass right behind the tarmac and dragged them to the shading area that the high wings of the Caravan provided to us. Seemingly pilots just drop their passenger seats in the grass when they have to carry cargo instead of passengers. They would then pick the chairs up again later when returning to the airport. We just borrowed some and watched all the UN aircraft passing by on the taxiway. Nobody cared that we were just sitting there and greeted us while taxiing by.
One other thing. In quite a few places in Africa we had to rely on satellite communication to stay in contact with our operations centre in The Netherlands. Also here in Juba, we were not getting any GSM signal. Seemingly T-Mobile doesn’t have roaming agreements with all the countries in Africa other than those that are considered popular tourist destinations. I wouldn’t call Juba a tourist destination, so also here we had to rely on our Thuraya Satsleeve phone.
The temperatures got up so high here while sitting outside that after spending some hours underneath the wings of the Caravan, we could not cope with the heat anymore. Even enroute in the air we would sometimes hit outside air temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius. Right now, we are waiting in a local hotel in Juba. Waiting for our permit to arrive.
To be continued …
Arua Airfeld is a non-radio dirt strip in the far north of Uganda. Before crossing the border of Uganda into South-Sudan we had to clear immigration/customs at either this airstrip at the Ugandese-Sudanese border or we would have to fly from Kajjansi airfield to Entebbe airport and clear customs here before flying to South-Sudan.
We left Kajjansi early in the morning just after sunrise. We were topped up with fuel but had no problems climbing out in the early morning relatively cool temperatures.
We climbed out over the swamps right there on the extended centerline of the runway. We had read the warning poster in the hangar informing us of the Cobra snakes in the swamps and the thought of having to ditch there did look too appetizing to us.
While climbing out over Lake Victoria en before flying out towards Arua we were treated with a beautiful sunrise. It wasn’t for long that the sun broke through completely starting its work to heat up the air.
The typical African dirt strip was well maintained and the landing was a non-event. Just before turning final we had to watch out for several antennas and the airfield chart provided by MAF to us noted that we should not overfly the central market square of Arua.
The door to the Meteo “department” was closed and the table with the sign to pay was outside under a veranda to provide some shade. After all the reason for landing here was just to clear immigration and leave Uganda for our trip into South-Sudan. This time everything was quite efficient and we were airborne again within half an hour.