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Looking at my logbook for the recent past shows I’m out of practice. Not just a few months, but years. The last flight I managed to complete was for the last Around the World Challenge! Since then, I’ve been busy, mainly with college but also with work as a train timetable planner. So, flight sim hasn’t had a look in! However, as planning has become my profession (at least for a placement and summer job!), this should be easy enough. As it happened, a local Chinese carrier was evaluating the Avro RJ85 in the area, and were happy for me to get a seat and some stick time again. The only problem? They were doing radial routes from Beijing Capital. In my case, to Taiyuan Wusu. Only a 500nm diversion, but with the promise of onward transport to Lukuo, hopefully with the same aircraft and crew. I was told to turn up at the airport at 0330. Not a pleasant time to get up, shower, get ready and turn up at an unfamiliar airport. But once again, the airline turned up trumps and arranged my taxi and all associated costs. So far, the Hangar GISA card hasn’t been touched since Ros gave it to me. Hopefully the boss gives me a raise from nothing to something Turned up at the right gate, and something from home greeted me With Cityjet starting to replace the Avro RJ85 with Sukhoi SSJ’s, their aircraft are starting to turn up all over the place. Although normally de-branded, someone must have known I was coming and left it in familiar colours Climbing into a cold and dark cockpit. Where’s the battery switch? With the ground power unit plugged in and turned on, we start getting the aircraft alive. I should add there is a Cityjet pilot and fitter aboard, as well as the chief executive of the Chinese airline and a handful of his pilots. Monitoring engine start The fitter looks on, making sure I haven’t blown the thing up yet Having had a long taxi (that helped me get used to having a stick rather than rails to guide me), we are cleared for take off Spooling up the engines on the parking brake, ensuring even thrust And go! With a lightly loaded aircraft and suitable fuel for the trip, we soar quite dramatically into the sky Autopilot engaged, we climb our way to an eventual 25,000ft Some photographers go all out to get the shot Approaching the top of the climb Turning left Having settled into the cruise, I had a wander around the cabin and took some different photos Having had an hour or so of uneventful (or interesting) cruise, it’s time to start heading down to Wusu Getting closer to the airport Starting to make the aircraft a bit dirty aerodynamically Airport in sight, gear down and locked A touch high, but plenty of room to make things right The tower has a tradition of taking a photo of every aircraft landing at the airport. Luckily, they sent me a copy later on After another uneventful taxi, we park up. The Irish airliner next to some exotic birds I was told to leave the aircraft in a “cold and dark” state to allow some pilot training in starting the systems up etc. So that’s what I did and I left the aircraft to get some food Just as I sat down to eat, my phone went off. As I am regularly in noisy environments (when the phone can be on anyway), my ringtone is loud and unmistakable. “We have a problem……”. Basically, when they were getting ready to refuel the aircraft, they discovered that the refuelling point on the aircraft was cracked. Rumours of a rough landing were quickly dispelled by me, blaming the autopilot on any rough work. Whilst they hope to have it fixed in a day or two, the prognosis isn’t great for that, due to a lack of facilities at Wusu. Worse still, the airline couldn’t pay both me and for the aircraft repair, so the GISA card came out for lunch, and to find accommodation. Looks like this will have to do until I find alternative flights. The Yijiang Hotel. Not too shabby Part 2 to follow….. --- Aircraft used: Quality Wings Ultimate 146 Collection FSX
Part 2 All the airlines [China Eastern, Shandong and Shenzhen] were booked up for a direct flight, and any option via Beijing was both unappealing and hideously expensive. GA isn’t really my cup of tea, but the military was out (even for the baton), so it was looking increasingly likely that I would have to hire a GA aircraft and face the 500nm leg in something a lot smaller than what I am used to. After about the third day of scratching around looking for a suitable aircraft (and someone who didn’t mind travelling to Nanjing for the day, I was approached by an older gentleman with a gleam in his eye. “You look for plane?” With most of my options exhausted, I felt I had no choice but to talk to this stranger and see what he had to offer. First I had to buy him a drink, of course, to sweeten the deal. “I offer you plane. Big plane. Old plane.” Intrigued, I asked him what the aircraft was. I hadn’t noticed anything unusual in Wusu whilst I was finding out a lot of useless information that had no relevance to the challenge, or life in general. I had noticed a few more people arrive in the bar, and they all acknowledge the man with a smile and a curious twitch. “Turn up tomorrow at 0300 and find out”. What is it about the Chinese and stupidly early starts?! Anyway, that left about 5 hours for sleep. Hopefully no inspectors turn up and find out! It was, naturally, dark by the time I arrived at the airport, having had great difficulty in finding anything in the town. What I found when I arrived at the gate, I wasn’t expecting at all……. A fully functioning (I think) KC-97L. A C-97 freighter with refuelling equipment and added jet engines. Why not?! I was assured everything worked. So when I sat down into the captain’s seat and switched on the cockpit light, I was expecting, erm, light. Luckily the crew that had been assembled knew where everything was. This is starting to seem a little bit suspect…. The runway lights did little to illuminate the interior of the cabin as we accelerated down the runway Climbing out One nice thing about flying at night is seeing the stars The first signs of dawn appear on the eastern sky Flying over a large town Dawn over China Ploughing through the sky at 25,000ft. Hardly elegant but it’s doing the job Making the turn towards Nanjing My guide then motioned that I should join him in the rear of the aircraft. To watch the refuelling boom be extended and the light show that goes with it All tidied back up again, we carry on to Nanjing, with the descent starting Flying past Dajiaochang (Z08T). Nice railway station there My rusty flying skills showed up, with the airport exactly 90 degrees away and about 10nm to run Turning onto finals and a bit high Touchdown was a little bit left of centre, but still on the tarmac! A Beech departed after we vacated the taxiway. Slight difference in ‘personal' aircraft size! And parked up. At this point, my guide thrust a piece of paper in my hand, and ran. Immediately. Sensing that Putinfeld could be behind this bizarre leg, I checked my flight bag. It had been gone through, but nothing stolen, and the baton was still where it should be. The GISA card had moved slightly, but I presumed this was due to landing. I opened up the piece of paper Not knowing much Chinese, I didn’t have a clue what it meant. However, I didn’t like the look of it. I passed on to an airport security guard to explain it to me. Then checked the bank balance Oh dear. I think my pay rise has evaporated. You always wanted a KC-97 didn’t you Joe? Aircraft bought: Manfred Jahn / Team Stratofreighter C-97 Collection (FSX) The text of the above "item"