Departure date now May 15, 2016

This has been a busy summer – getting support for the Wings Around the Mission!   We found that the delay was necessary to gather additional financial support.  Fuel prices are expensive in the middle east (close to $25.00 USD per gallon!).  However, we have not sat back relaxing – rather we have been at airshows (EAA Oshkosh, AOPA Fly-ins, Local airshows), events, presentations, etc talking about the mission and in particular, why we are doing it!

At one of the airshows, a fellow pilot and I were talking about how he would like to go around the world in the airplane but could not take the time off.  I pulled out a black, Sharpie pen, and said “Why don’t you sign the wing of the airplane and that way your signature can go around the world.  Just make a small donation to Wings of Mercy Foundation and sign the wing”  Hence, a new concept of involving more people was achieved.  To date, nearly 75 people have signed the wing of the airplane (see some attached photos).

To solve the ‘ink fading’ issue, we are taking pictures of the donors (and their signatures) and converting that to a permanent decal in addition to their real signature.  If a person wants to donate and have their signature on the airplane, that can now be done electronically also!  Refer to the web page, http://www.WingsAroundTheWorld.INFO.  Simply send us an email with your signature (or note) and donate $25.00 via the web site ($100.00 for corporate sponsors).

As a result, Bryan Budds of AOPA also signed the wing (and made a donation) and wrote a blog about us – see it here  http://blog.aopa.org/vfr/?p=2446.

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I have been remiss by not updating this blog!

Wow – when I looked at the last post in this blog, October 20, I questioned WordPress on dropping pages.  Then I realized that the problem was mine – I really have been remiss on letting you know what has been happening – so here goes – 5 months all at once.

We have had quite a few sponsors/supporters for the mission.  The biggest one to date is Ambience Interiors.  In fact, the airplane is going to Kalamazoo this week to be fitted with all new, custom interior, including custom designed pilot/copilot seats (extra wide, extra thick, lumbar support, etc) to let us tolerate the 14 hour legs!  We will have lots of before and after pictures and from everything I have seen, it will be great!

In February, the airplane underwent its annual inspection at Houghton Lake (Cornerstone Maintenance).  While it was getting the annual, Channel 9/10 did a feature story on the airplane/mission/etc and we got 2:30 of air time!  A copy of the tv coverage is on the web site.  Shortly thereafter, there was an article in the Houghton resorter newspaper (copy included on the web site).  We are in hopes of getting media exposure while the interior is being designed/installed.

Avionics have been totally updated, including a new dual reading altimeter (mill bars and inches of Hg) with a Baro Pot output to drive the new Insight Avionics TAS 1000 computer for graphically showing winds aloft in real time.  Now as we gradually ascend, we can monitor the actual (vs forecast) winds and pick the best altitude to minimize fuel burn.

Michelin has donated 2 complete sets of premium tires for the mission.  Challenger Aviation Products has donated performance air filters.   Ac-u-Kwik has donated online premium access to its database.  Lastly, Knots 2 U has donated several components to improve the airplane performance.

As of today, we have delayed the departure date of June 1 (from Oshkosh, WI) with an anticipated landing date of July 22 at Oshkosh (during the EAA Convention) to a departure from Oshkosh on July 22.  There were several reasons in the shift of departure.  The primary reason is to eliminate the pressure of making it back to OSH in time for the EAA Convention.  The vendors that have donated materials, time, and $$ on the trip want to see public to see their work during the EAA show – and if a delay should occur that would force us to miss the EAA convention, that would not be a good thing.  Consequently, we will have the airplane on display and depart on Wednesday of EAA week.  The delayed departure also permits additional time for fundraising!!!

The crew is 90% final – but we still have room for one more co-pilot.  If you are interested, please contact me within the next 3 weeks.

Lastly, the web site now accepts credit card donations.  There is also a ‘go fund me’ page and several other ways you can support the mission.

Stay tuned – updates will be coming at a very frequent basis from now on.

 

And just when I thought the route was set….

Last week, I thought the route was set ..  surprise —  its not!

It turns out that in order to depart Japan, you must depart FROM an ‘airport of Entry’.  In the US, we can depart from any airport so when I found out that I could not depart from RJCM (the most northeastern airport of Japan with a nice 8,200 foot runway), that caused some concern.  The closest airport to RJCM that IS an airport of entry is RJCC (with a nice 9,842 ft runway), but it is 127 nm southwest.  Add another hour to the longest leg and grumble a lot.  But surprise!  they do not have 100LL fuel either!  The closest airport to RJCM that IS an Airport of Entry and has 100LL fuel (Sendai).  That turns the longest leg from 11:47 into 14:06 – into the artic unknown.  Suddenly, my comfort level of the northern route through Japan seems like not the right choice.

Next is the fuel cost in Japan, Phillipines, and various permits/overflys, etc.  Just to land in the Phillipines is $2800 PLUS fuel.  Japan will be a lot higher than that.  So I am now exploring (correction, re-exploring) going the southern route – basically from Malaysia (WADD – YPDN – PBCS – YBAF – NZAA – NFFN – NSTU – PLCH – PHTO – KOAK) to Australia to New Zealand to Fiji to Christmas Island to Hilo, Hawaii to Oakland, CA.  The trip via Japan and Alaska would be 8,104 nm and take 58:43.  The new alternative route would be 11,637 nm and take 84:20 – 26 hours MORE in the airplane, however the COST will be about the same!!

Originally, the southern route was discarded because of the risk assessment matrix due to the long legs over water.  It seemed more prudent to stay closer to land and the Japan/Alaska portion did exactly that.  Granted, the weather in Alaska can change quickly and develop to low ceilings, but I felt that was less of a risk than all the open water.  Checking the winds aloft and if the Hawaii portion is selected, I generally get about 10 kt tailwinds – so the longest leg from Hilo to Oakland, CA would decrease from 14:39 to 13:33.   Hmmmm    Guess I need to talk with my safety officer and other pilots!  I am reluctant to tell Eddie (my handler) since he has been super so far – but he has to know what I am thinking….

On a more pleasant note, TURTLEPAC has agreed to donate most of the cost of the 160 gallon ferry tank AND the 37 gallon tank for the nose.  That gives me an extra 2 hours of flying and now the Hawaii portion sounds even better.  THANK YOU TURTLEPAC – you may have just saved this mission!!!

Reality setting in…..

Always think big.  Then do a reality check and modify the plan accordingly.  That’s where we are now.

The original plan had a ‘practice’ segment from Oshkosh to Ecuador and back through the West Indies and the Bahamas – a relatively simple trip.  Estimated fuel costs about $8,000.  The cost of the insurance rider would be about $1,000 – all seems plausible.  My current handler (Eddie Gould from General Aviation Support-Egypt) does not handle South America, so I checked with another handler – Colt.  Their quote for overfly permissions, landing fees, overnight fees, tips, etc was over $30,000!   After discussions with them reminding them that I was a light twin airplane and not a Jet, they confirmed that the prices were correct.  Consequently, that segment just got cancelled!

Setback #2 – from Eddie- Aviation Fuel availability.  I had known at the onset that 100LL fuel would be an issue – and it is becoming more so even now.  The original plan had a stop in Shannon, Ireland (with pilot exchange).  As of October, Shannon no longer carries 100LL av gas!  Minor change – now flying to Dublin instead of Shannon

Setback #3 – WIPK (in the Malaysia area) no longer has fuel either.  Eddie worked up an alternate route going a little more to the east with a stop in Bali.

Setback #4 – The two airport in the Western edge of Australia do not carry aviation gas (they carry jet fuel but that doesn’t help me).  Based on that, the entire continent of Australia has been dropped.

Concern #5 -Last fuel stop in Japan before flying to Alaska is critical – start of the longest leg of the trip.  Sapporo (RJCO) does have Av Gas but the runway is only 4,921 feet.  Normally, that would be fine – but at 20% to 25% over gross weight – it may be an issue.  We may be renting a truck to move 100 gallons of fuel from RJCO to RJCM (150 miles away, 10,000 ft runway) just to take off.

Bottom line, this is one large exercise in planning, developing contingencies, assessing risks, and trying to mitigate those risks.  I think flying the mission will be easy (maybe – ask me when I’m done).

This week, I am at Continental Motors in Fairhope, Alabama.  Continental is taking a look at the new engines since they do not seem ‘quite right’.  I’m sure when I leave here, tomorrow, next week, or in March, the engines will be perfect!

Flying a bunch!

The last several weeks have been full of flying – a lot for Wings of Mercy.  The last mission was today from Pontiac, Michigan to Rochester, Minnesota – the recipient needed to get to the Mayo Clinic.  The trip from PTK to RST was uneventful (except for the 30-35 knot headwinds.  However, the return flight was ‘fun’  (you can track the details on FlightAware using N47815 – look at the profile.

With Oxygen on board, we decided to test the service ceiling the cruise performance of the Piper Seneca II at altitude.  A flight plan was filed for 17,000 feet.  At that altitude, numerous test configurations were performed at 40%, 50%, 65%, and 75% power.  In addition, the full throttle ceiling was tested.  All this with a very nice 65-70 knot tailwind!

When those tests were done, we decided to fly the airplane to FL230 (yes, 23,000 feet) to find out how it performed.  At this altitude, oxygen is REQUIRED – and when the little connector on your oxygen connector gets bumped and does not supply you with the needed O2, it is immediately noticed.  Anyway, the airplane flew fine – at 23,000 feet.   On the descent, we managed to get to 297 knots (about 335 miles per hour) – crossed Lake Michigan in no time!

Basically, I have no issues with the airplane at high altitude.  We documented some ‘tweeks’ that need to be performed (again, all with the right engine), but nothing really abnormal.  That test confirmed that I should be able to cross the Alps in Europe with no problem.   One concerned solved – another 47 left to go….

New Paint Design Options

Scheme Designers has agreed to do the design for repainting of the airplane to better promote Wings of Mercy and the special mission.  They have provided FOUR different designs.  I would like YOUR input as to the best design and why (or what would you do different).  I am an engineer and readily acknowledge my lack of expertise in ‘graphics design’ and consequently, need to rely on you – my followers!

Design1 Design2 Design3 Design4

 

Airplane Issues

In January, 2014 both engines on the Piper Seneca II were replaced with new (Factory Remanufactured) Continental 360 EB engines. After the initial kinks were worked out, there is an ongoing problem that everyone has been trying to solve.  At idle, full power, and at 75% power, fuel flows to both engines is spot on.  However, at low power settings (45%-55% which I need to use for the trip around the world), the fuel flow consumption on the right engine is about 2 gallons per hour less than the right engine at full rich.  The right engine fuel flow is also below the manufactures states fuel flow when leaned.  As Continental and the mechanic are trying to solve the problem, we have been make ‘improvements’ for the trip.  First the right engine fuel pump was replaced.  Next both fuel flow transducers (that indicate fuel flow to the Shadin) were replaced.  Next the Insight 1200 Engine Analyzer was replaced with the new Insight G4 Twin analyzer.  This has confirmed that the problem still exists.

However, the engine analyzer has also detected that the #1 and #2 cylinders on the left engine are running about 125 degrees cooler than the #5 and #6 cylinders (left side).  This is a potential problem that was just discovered with the new analyzer and will also need to be solved.

The new engine analyzer is great!  is provides real time updates of each cylinder of each engine and logs the rpm, manifold pressure, fuel consumption, everything.  The best part is that it logs everything to a SD card in excel format so it can be viewed later (new sample every one second).  The only major problem is the placement of the instrument on the dashboard cluster.  It replaced the original Insight 1200 analyzer (located on the co-pilot side, directly above the yoke).  However, there is so much useful, real time information that is displayed, that the color display uses a small (very, very small) font for the results – so small that it is unreadable from the pilot’s seat — the co-pilot can see it fine!.   Hopefully, we can get it relocated….

Next week involves a trip to FlyingColorsAviation in Benton Harbor.  They have considered painting the airplane and allowing for recognition of the donors via decals/paint on the airplane.  When that trip is done, the next step will be going back to the potential donors and let them know the paint scheme and what place is reserved for the logo, if they commit to support the mission! 

 

Been getting a number of hits on the Facebook page – followers.  Trick will be keeping that page current and fresh!

 

 

 

Finding Donors/Sponsors

In order to achieve our goal of increasing financial support and public awareness for Wings of Mercy by flying around the world, we will need outside, corporate/foundation/individual financial support.  This past week has centered on writing Grant Request letters and providing a case statement with supporting detail that was sent to some 29 potential sponsors.  The web site was updated to show the various levers of support and recognition that a donor can receive for supporting Wings of Mercy.

As commitments are made, the donors will be recognized – here and on the web site.

TIMING:  It now looks like the South American portion will occur starting on March 31, 2015 and complete on April 13.  That will give more than ample time to do another 100 hour, and get ready for the international departure starting on June 1.  I realize that is a long way out, but for now, those are the targets.

General Aviation Support – Egypt:  You may get sick of me mentioning these folks all the time, but that really are incredible.  I wish someone would have mentioned them to me 6-9 months ago.  We are now working to coordinate a Public Relations Firm overseas to help promote the cause of Wings of Mercy.  The initial response from one PR Firm is they like the information for WOM and would probably be willing to assist/make it happen!

CONFIRMED DONORS THIS WEEK:
Insight Avionics (http://www.InsightAvionics.com)  has provided a G4 Twin Engine Analyzer for the Piper Seneca II at $1,000 below dealer cost.  This will enable us to run the engines Lean of Peak and monitor engine performance exactly.  Thank you!

Shadin Avionics (http://www.Shadin.com) has provided two new transducers for the Digi-Flow-L fuel flow system to accurately monitor fuel flow.  I would never consider a long flight with legs of 13+ hours without knowing exactly how much fuel was being burned and how much fuel is left!  Thank you!

Lastly, expect that this blog will now be updated weekly (usually on Sundays) until the mission actually starts (or there is very significant news)

 

Route Changes – again – and again

My previous post identified a workbook on ‘risk management’ and how I would apply it to this mission.  As a result of the EAA convention and various discussions, I decided to ‘rethink’ the route to go around the world.  The web site (http://www.WingsAroundTheWorld.INFO), has four routes selected.  Before Oshkosh, there was only one route.  However, applying the risk management criteria to the mission, the route changed – and I think for the better.

Originally, the plan after India was to visit Australia, then New Zealand (my 2nd oldest son was born in NZ), continuing north east to Pago-Pago, then Hawaii, then to the mainland.  This is the route that Matt and several others have taken before – but it is a lot of time over water – warm water – but still water.  The risk management template identified other considerations, like — skip Hawaii — and instead go up the coast along Asia to Alaska.  Originally, I had looked at this be discarded it because of a lack of fuel in Russia.  However, the flight time from Japan directly to Alaska (Aleutian Island) was the same as from Pago-Pago to Hawaii and it was within a few hundred miles of shore (or ice).  Roughly 30 hours of flight totally over water were eliminated.  The plan calls for now flying from RJCM in Japan directly to PACD in Alaska, overflying PASY (air base).  If there is an emergency (like Weather, or fuel), it gives me an option to land.  And after PASY, there are several other possibilities as well.  Risk analysis – well worth doing it.

Another change occurred on the ‘pre-flight’  The original plan was to fly from OSH to PTK and land at most of the US States east of the Mississippi before the actual journey overseas would start.  Theory was to make sure everything is working and allow for an additional ‘100 hour’ inspection before the trip.  By adding a relatively small section from Louisiana to Ecuador and back through the Bahamas, it provided an opportunity in the international, long flight of totally skipping Australia and flying direct from WMSA to RPLL (Manila) depending on fatigue factors.  Providing choices or opportunities – that is the name of the game right now.

As a result of reading the Blog of the Suleman’s and discussions with Matt, I have formally accepted General Aviation Support-Egypt as my preferred handler for this entire trip.  After exchanging several emails with Eddie Gould (owner), I know why the Suleman’s and Matt spoke so highly of the organization.  At first (several months ago), I thought that a handler would not be necessary – this is perhaps one of the best decisions made so far…..  Thank you Eddie for agreeing to work with us on this special mission.

 

Learning from Oshkosh

I just returned from the Oshkosh EAA Convention – what a wealth of information.  At this point, I need to confess that I have attended the EAA convention for many, many years – but only attended the airshows and the exhibitor booths.  This time, I had my eyes opened.  I spent the whole time attending sessions and forums and did not even see the airshow – perhaps the most meaningful EAA convention that I have even been at!

Beside listening to Dick Rutan talk about the “Personal Factors” that affect a long flight (Voyager) and new engine techniques, I spoke to him for a while on the mission and asked for his support.  He reviewed the overall mission statement of Wings of Mercy and the tactical objective of the Wings Around the World and gave me the word I was looking for – YES.  Look for additional information in the next “Dick Rutan Reports”

Other practical sessions that I attended (that would have a direct impact on the round the world flight) were “Aircraft Leaning” (yes, I have been doing it all wrong for 42 years); “Airplane Ditching and water Survival” (hopefully, I won’t need it), Foreflight Tips and Tricks, Iridium and aviation weather, and several others – all very, very informative.

In my ‘spare time’ at the EAA convention, I spent a fair amount of time talking with Matt  Guthmilern, the youngest pilot to solo around the world, about planning, problems, what to do, what not to do, etc.  Very informative – Still trying to write down all the details.  Other times were spent trying to secure corporation sponsors for Wings of Mercy for this special mission.  As each company is confirmed, there will be a separate blurp – stay tuned – or better yet, contact me regarding the various ‘levels of support’ that are available.

Another key item that has just been started is a ‘risk management’ document/workbook that attempts to identify various risk factors and identifies ways to mitigate the risk with the recommended solution.  If this workbook develops like I envision it to, it will be a good template for others planning a trip around the world.