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Leg 34 Part two: MPMG Marcos A Gelabert Intl (Panama City, Panama.) to MPFS Sherman (Fort Sherman, Panama)

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Leg 34 Part 2: MPMG Marcos A Gelabert Intl (Panama City, Panama.) to MPFS Sherman (Fort Sherman, Panama)

I didn’t like this.  We were waiting too long for a ride out of here, and for a short hop as well. Putinfeld has a great opportunity to get men here and also to our destination. If we didn’t get on our way soon we ran the risk of being royally fecked over.

It had been a week now and it looked like becoming two. It had seemed like Jasmine had been on the phone 24/7 since we arrived in Panama City demanding a replacement aircraft and to know what had been going on with the whole missile attack on the previous part of this leg.  No details were forthcoming. I couldn’t help feeling we were becoming more vulnerable by the minute. If I was Tim I would be getting more and more concerned by this delay. The longer the delay the more time P. had to find us and the Baton.

The only news that had come through was an update on the discovery of the Putinfeld base found on leg 5, and the news that came through on leg 22 that it had been destroyed. It seems that a nuclear bomb wasn’t the only intention P had for the base. There was documentary evidence that P. had up to a kilo of one of the most dangerous forms of Novichok. Its whereabouts was unknown. This was frightening.  A kilo of this agent, that’s enough to kill half the world’s population. Fortunately, the evidence pointed to the fact that it was still in its binary constitute parts and that he hadn’t managed to unite the locations of these binary elements and therefore it was relatively safe. Ongoing investigations were looking at where he got it from, and where the two parts were now.

Meanwhile we were whiling away the hours in the airport detention centre, the most secure part of the airport. My accommodation was a luxury apartment, with a whopping 9 square meters floor space, a designer bed, made by Dr. Mengele and Sons of Auschwitz, and an en-suit bucket in the corner. At least they didn’t lock the door, which incidentally, was also a designer Item. Designed and built from re-cycled Panzers by the Krupp group, steel manufactures to the Third Reich.   

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Bijou accommodation.  The en-suit bucket is just out of shot to allow you to keep your breakfast.

On the third day I woke to the sound of gunfire. I lay back and wondered if Columbia would ever be free of violence. Then I remembered I was in Panama.  I leapt out of bed and grabbed my gun. It’s funny how personal opinions on things can go on the backburner in extremes don’t you find?  Gingerly I opened my cell door. Jasmine emerged from hers next door, and we peered down the corridor. The firing was coming from somewhere beyond the exit to the detention centre offices. Jasmine was on her phone dialing a number as fast as she could, and after brief “what the fek was going on?” call pushed me back into my cell and shut the door. Then I heard her locking it. “Wait there and I will be back for you” she shouted through the door. Like I had a choice.

The sound of firing soon tailed off but it was an hour before Jasmine returned. “Come on you need to get out of here” she said.

“What is going on?” I asked, but it fell on deaf ears. We hustled outside and on to the airport apron.  There was a Royal Marines Gazelle helicopter waiting on the tarmac, engine running and ready to go. I was waved towards the pilots seat which was vacated by a burly Royal Marine before I climbed in. Jasmine shouted over the noise of the rotors that I should head to the mouth of the Panama Canal and the turn inland and follow it to my destination. Clearly she wasn't commimg with me.

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Waiting Gazelle helicopter.

The radio chirped, it was Jasmine.  It seemed that I could relax for this flight. This aircraft was a Royal Marines bird. That meant a couple of things. Firstly there was a Royal Navy ship nearby and secondly she had a full complement of Royal Marines aboard.  Hard men and some of the best soldiers in the world, way superior to anything Putinfeld could send against them.  Remember, it was 45 Commando of the Royal Marines that, when their Chinook Helicopters were destroyed on the Atlantic Conveyer in the Falklands conflict, marched (“Yomp” in RM slang) all the way across East Falkland and some of the most rugged and inhospitable terrain there is, in the start of the southern hemisphere's winter and then destroyed a much larger Argentinian force at the end of the march.

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“Yomping” across the Falklands

I pointed the aircraft north west towards the sea and then I started to set up the GPS. I had left the airport as fast as a scalded cat and had had little time to go theroug the usual procdures. Then I thought about where I was going. “To hell with the GPS, I am just going to fly along the Canal, it’s not like I can miss it!”

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Panama Canal map

So I would be flying from the Pacific to the Atlantic, or more accurately from the North Pacific (only just as Panama City is in the northern hemisphere) to the Caribbean Sea.  The flight would short, but will be interesting as it would be a chance to see the whole Panama Canal with its massive locks, built by the USA just over one hundred years ago.

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Hover Taxi

The Gazelle has excellent all-round visibility and so seeing the sites of the canal would be just about as good as they could be from any aircraft. We would start at the Pacific locks and fort , fly along the Gaillard Cut, across the Gatun lake to the Atlantic locks and to the town of Colon. (There has to be some toilet humor there somewhere, I just can’t think of it right now). On the other side of the canal from Colon was Fort Sherman, now called Admiral Christobal Naval base, a former US base guarding the Atlantic entrance of the canal. This base was handed over to Panama in 1999.

As I found the opening to the canal, I asked the question about the shooting again, this time over the radio to Jasmine. The reply came, “Putinfeld sent his men to attack us in the airport security center, He didn’t reckon on half a dozen Royal Marine Commandos dug in around the immediate area.  They saw them off with no Marine casualties. I don’t know about the enemy casualties but I believe there were some.  Rumor has it that Putinfeld himself was directing the attack, but we have no evidence to support that.”

Putinfeld was licking he wounds now and I shouldn’t be bothered for the rest of this leg. The plan was to follow the canal to the other end, drop the Baton with Tim and then fly on to the helicopter to its Royal Navy Ship and safety for a while. When the time came I would be flown out from the ship to the start point of my next leg. The ship was currently off the coast of Costa Rica and steaming north.

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Panama Canal Pacific Entrance.

At the entrance on the canal and its massive docks, I took the aircraft to 130 knots, I Flew over a cruise ship and a container vessel using the Miraflores Lock and another cruise ship entering the distant Pedro Miguel lock. A busy place this canal.  The water between them was the first lake of the eastward crossing, Lake Miraflores, a relatively small lake.

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Good-bye Panama City

Shortly after clearing the Pedro Miguel locks the Centennial Bridge passed beneath me and I was over the Cucaracha Reach with the Culebra Reach ahead and the Empire reach in the distance.  These, with the further Cascadas Reach and the Bas Obispo Reach, make up the Gaillard Cut.

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The Centennial Bridge and the Gaillard Cut

Twenty minutes into the flight and I could already see the Alantic Ocean in the distance. The canal was only 77 kilometres long, thats 48 miles to those who prefer their distance measured by the Romans.


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The Mamei turn and Lake Gatun beyond.


I over flew over the Gamboa reach adjacent to the town of Gamboa where the canal “S” bends through to the Gatun lake, a large body of water stretching almost half of the distance between the two great oceans.


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Starting my decent.

Having crossed the majority of lake Gatun I start my decent as I near my destination.

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The Agua Clara Lock

As I approach the Agua Clara Lock I see a large American aircraft carrier starting her journey through the canal.  She had probably come from the just completed Anglo-American fleet exercises in the Atlantic, to which I owed the presence of the helicopter I was flying.

 

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More ships entering and leaving the canal.

Lower now, I passed over the Agua Clara locks and into the Atlantic entrance to the canal.

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The City of Colon

To my right now was the city of Colon. Presumably named before the canal and at a time when this area was the arse end of nowhere. I wouldnt be visiting it so I guess I would never be able to see if there was anything in its name.

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My destination, Fort Sherman Airfield.

To my left and rapidly swinging into my forward view was my destination I can now see Fort Sherman. Formally a US base guarding the Atlantic entrance to the Canal, it is now under Panamanian control, the large dock there has been converted into a marina and many of the defences are now overgrown. 

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Landing

I had soon landed, and when instructed to do so, I hover taxied to a parking place near the tower.

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Hover taxi to parking

I shut down the aircraft and opened all the doors to get a breeze through the cockpit.  The Gazelle has great views from its bubble cockpit, but it can soon turn into a greenhouse with no ventilation running. The whole flight lasted just forty five minutes, one of the shortest I have ever done on any ATWC.

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Parked, awaiting my return

I set off to find Tim and hand over the Baton. I wasnt sure where to meet Tim so I headded over to the marina bar. Once this was done I was to fly the Gazzelle back to its ship somewhere in the Caribbean Sea to the north of here.  The fun was over and I had to go back to the world of Putinfeld and now it seemed WMD in the form of Novochok. But that’s a story yet to be told and not part of this leg.

 

Edited by J G

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Well done Team J+J. Loved all the images and the story. I missed the musical score for this leg, but at just 45 minutes for the flight one can't expect InPost entertainment or snacks, especially in a chopper, and a beauty at that.

Got to hand it to you... It sure pays to have friends in high places, especially when you have such low down enemies. Good Hunting John!

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Yey! Well done JG the end of another outstanding PIREP, I guessed you would get the colon joke in somewhere :D

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Nicely done JG, never a boring day for you.:D

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Loved your Pirep JG.. as always a great yarn with plenty of suspense and intrigue :thumbup:

 

Some great pics of the Panama Canal too.. is that an add on?

 

Keep us posted with the next update on Putinfeld.. 'Sharon' will need to stay clear ;)

 

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