Christmas Island

The aircraft is safely hangared near Perth and the crew back in the UK, waiting for part two of the expedition to start on 25th November. We flew 13500 miles, in 125 flying hours, 15 flights in 17 days. We were unsupported en route and with no UK operations team it meant very long days, flying, planning, refuelling, maintaining, so there was limited time for updates. We will bring you these updates over the next 2 weeks as we build up to part two.

Christmas Island – Where to start?

We arrived after just under 12 hours in the cockpit, having fought through 3 walls of thunderstorms between Singapore and the southern Indonesian coast. The weather cleared leaving us to fly around the island on a beautiful sunlit evening, admiring the beauty and grandeur of this isolated island.

Paul the airport manager, Darryl the multi-talented refueller, marshaller and fixer, Chris the operations manager and many others hosted us superbly throughout. We presented to the school, held a static display, refuelled from the local garage, met the notorious Christmas Island Centipede and swam in the sea. What a place, we’d recommend it to anyone as a non-touristy island holiday spot. Superbly friendly 

and honest people who go out of their way to help a traveller. We were sad to leave having only just scratched the surface of what the island has to offer. Diving, trekking, red crab spotting and some general relaxation will have to wait for another visit! I’m surprised more GA and business aircraft from Australia don’t visit. We made our way onto the airport flight arrival and departure board, a first for us! 

Armistice Day – 100th anniversary of the end of…

This photo of a poppy field was taken back in the UK in June, when the airframe had less than 10 hours on it, but comes to mind today as Remembrance Day marks 100 years since the end of the First World War.

The expedition aims to commemorate 100 years of the Royal Air Force, and this 3-week pause before we start again in Australia gives time to reflect on the lives lost and sacrifices made throughout this history.

Please visit our Fundraising page to help us support our charities RAF Benevolent Fund, RAF Association and Save the Children.

#WeWillRememberThem #ArmisticeDay100 #LestWeForget

Finally – some good horizons!

Chittagong, Bangladesh – arrived 26 October 2018

This leg took us out of the hustle and bustle of Nagpur and traversing across Eastern India and Bangladesh. The haze was trapped under an inversion with little fluffy cumulus clouds punching through the top. After a lengthy 8 hours, the descent into Chittagong brought the heat of the Far East back into the cockpit! Upon arrival we found a couple of Cessna 152s being used to train the next generation of Bangladeshi commercial pilots. A few of the trainees came to see the Eurofox, “you’ve flown from Nagpur in that? It’s lovely, but very small!” These students move onto the Dash 8 turboprop soon as part of the energetic forward leaning future of Bangladeshi commercial aviation.

Bangkok, Thailand – arrived 27 October 2018

En route from Chittagong to Bangkok, we flew across Myanmar, a truly beautiful country with small villages nestled in the mountains, traditional fish traps in the water and few roads to be seen. Below us too was one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today, with a huge refugee camp just inside Bangladesh. Please visit our Fundraising page to help Save the Children make a difference!

Butterworth, Malaysia – arrived 29 October 2018

The transit to Butterworth was a tough leg through the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ. Big thunderstorms to thread between down low in the hills. We flew over where the last VC to be awarded for an action in World War 2 was earned, more to follow on the history of these significant locations! Arrival into Butterworth was between thunderstorms with a stiff crosswind – proof that the brakes work well!

In the humidity, the Royal Australian Air Force helped with an oil change and refuelling, so a special thank you to Matt and Jason for their assistance. Thank you to the RAAF for hosting us and providing some much needed support and assistance!

Christmas Island, Australia – arrived 2 November 2018

Visiting Christmas Island has been the highlight of the trip so far: 960 miles with no land, 8 and a half hours, 55 litres of fuel remaining, 2 ships seen, a couple of cloud walls to get over, some whale tracks seen, then landfall in Australia. The journey to Christmas Island has provided a number of firsts: the first Eurofox to make an oceanic transit; probably the first Light Aircraft Association aircraft to make an Indian Ocean oceanic transit; and the first piston engined aircraft to visit Christmas Island for a very long time. Thank you to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force for permitting it. It was tiring, exhilarating, satisfying and the result of a lot of hard work by several people – Thank you!

 

The historical significance

As we progress along our journey, it is important to look back at the historical significance of the locations we have passed so far. There is plenty more history to these locations than what is written below, but hopefully it inspires some further interest and research!

East Kirkby (Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre)

Unfortunately the weather hindered us from getting a picture of our aircraft next to ‘Just Jane’ the Lancaster at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Site – for that would have really highlighted the size our our little Eurofox on its massive challenge!

The former RAF East Kirkby fully opened on 20 August 1943 as a Bomber Command Station and finally closed operations in December 1958. Over the years it was home to a number of RAF, RAAF and USAF squadrons including:

  • 57 Squadron – operating the Lancaster/Lincoln
  • 630 Squadron – an expansion of 57 Squadron, operating the Lancaster

 

Capel-le-Ferne (Battle of Britain Memorial above the White Cliffs)

Unfortunately due to weather and our altered schedule we did not pass over Capel-le-Ferne, but as you can see from the tracker page we were fairly nearby. This national memorial site had a part to play in both world wars: airships moored there from 1914 – 1918 and in 1941 the site hosted a gun battery.

 

RAF Tangmere (Tangmere Military Aviation Museum)

Founded in 1917 used primarily for training by the Royal Flying Corps and USAAF until 1925. In 1926, 43 Squadron operated the Gloster Gamecocks from RAF Tangmere. In the build up to the second world war, Hawker Furies, Gloster Gladiators and Hawker Hurricanes operated out of Tangmere. Tangmere was realised for its dominant position to defend the south coast and the station was used by the RAF Special Duty Service.

 

Saumur Tunnel

Once again due to the weather, we had to route down to the East of France and therefore did not overfly Saumur, however it is definitely one to mention! 617 Sqn, formed especially for the Dambusters raid, was used for the duration of the second world war as a precision-bombing unit. 617 Sqn bombarded Saumur Tunnel in France on the night 8th-9th June. It was a hurried attack due to intelligence that the Germans would use the tunnels to move a Panzer unit to the Normandy battlefield. Once again, the attack was a success and contributed to the successful Normandy invasion.

 

Lyon Bron

Lyon Bron, the international airport we know today was formerly established for that purpose in 1924. After the Battle of France in 1940, the Vichy French Air Force stationed Potez 630 heavy fighters at the airport. However in November 1942 Nazi forces took control of the airport and seized military aircraft held there.The German Luftwaffe proceeded to use the airfield from 1943 until it was heavily attacked in April 1944 by the USAF.

 

Toulon and Cannes

Operation Dragoon was conducted between August 15 and September 14 in 1944. A series of landings took place between Touson and Cannes with allied forces working in order to recapture the southern coast of France. Strategically this provided access to two badly needed ports for landing supplies: Marseille and Toulon.

 

Rome Urbe 

Formerly inaugurated by Mussolini in 1928 as a civilian airport. It was heavily damaged during WW2 and now is used predominantly by flying club activities, tourisitc flights and air taxis.

 

Heraklion

Just down the road from Herakilion, the RAF operated from the airfield of Maleme from 1 May 1941. The Battle of Crete was a significant time during WW2, markedly for a number of firsts: use of Fallschirmjäger (German paratroopers) en masse; first mainly airborne invasion in military history; first time allies made significant use of decrypted German messages using Enigma and the first major resistance of civilians against the German troops.

 

RAF Akrotiri

RAF Akrotiri today is an extremely busy Permanent Joint Operating Base that supports ongoing operations in the region as well as support for the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus. RAF history at Akrotiri dates back to 1 July 1955 with only 30 personnel, slightly different times!

Changing scenery…

Wg Cdr Pote and Wg Cdr Gatland left behind the stunning shores of Cyprus and undertook an arduous 1100 mile route across Saudi Arabia. They viewed spectacular desert scenery, lots of dust and some incredible towering thunderstorms to dodge before two tired pilots landed at Bahrain (21 October) at dusk.

They then progressed onto Al Ain in the UAE (22 October) before a long leg over water to Jinnah International Airport in Karachi (23 October). Wg Cdr Pote and Wg Cdr Gatland then flew onto Nagpur (25 October), an airfield commissioned for the RFC/RAF in WWI, used by the Royal Air Force in WWII, and today by the Indian Air Force as well as major airlines. This is where we bided farewell to Wgd Cdr Gatland after 4000 miles and welcomed Sqn Ldr Emma Landy.

Photos from our engagement with the British Council Pakistan – check out our engagement page for more details!

 

Finally – a break through!

After much waiting, planning…and replanning, there was finally a break in the weather! We got airborne late this morning and the view certainly looks a bit brighter on the other side of the channel. Long may the good weather continue (please)!

British weather..

Our original launch has been subject to a number of delays due to the British weather at this time of year. Our team meteorologist, Rachel Nugent, explains: “A big change in the expected conditions has left the South West in this very slow moving frontal system for the past few days. The change was due to the effects of Ex Hurricane Lesley pushing into Southern Europe moving the system NNW rather than W and clear.” Which means it is drizzly and horrible, but we’ll get out of here eventually.

Pictured from an airfield somewhere in Wiltshire, mist, drizzle and persistent low cloud. Disappointing. Yesterday we planned several options, Le Touquet, Lyon, Calvi on Corsica, but none are safely possible today. Part of aviation is knowing when to postpone; we’ll have a look again tomorrow and keep you all informed.

Watch this space!