News: 30 Jun 2010, Tarrafal







I was duly filmed getting a new brake cable in town and fitting it to the FIB in the fire station at Praia airport. I test ran it, brakes and prop seemed OK again so it was loaded once more onto the truck for our drive to Tarrafal at the northern end of the island, normally about two hours, double that because we often have to turn round and do so much again for the cameras.

This completed the filming of driving up and down steep hills, the idea for the story being that Stéphane's first flight is from the bay in Tarrafal and we discuss where he wants to go while we're going there.

Our earlier drive only took us about half way, what I didn't realize is not only is the other half all quite rough cobbled road, but it climbs up to 2600 ft into the clouds. It was blowing a real gale up there and was quite cold (relatively speaking, anyway). The crew have got some quite spectacular shots of cloud streaming across the road.

The FIB sits wheels up on some old tyres on the truck, and I'm really glad I brought some decent straps to tie it down. Every few miles I lean out of the window to check everything is still where it is supposed to be.

We arrived in Tarrafal about 30 minutes before sunset, it has a very distinctive bay with a long beach on the sheltered side of the island. Antonio tells me it is where people in Santiago go for a holiday. It certainly is quite a pretty place, and likely to stay like it, no chance of massive resorts here; nowhere to build an airport and tourists wouldn't tolerate the road. Christian immediately wanted to start filming Stéphane and I on the beach discussing our route, I managed to prevail on him that if he really wanted the FIB rigged as 'background' it would be dark before we were ready. He accepted this, it stayed on the truck and they filmed us sitting on a fishing boat poring over the map.

Next morning, early, we were down on the beach again. Wind was quite strong. I think I would have gone for a solo test flight anyway, but in this case the plan demanded it, followed by a flight with Stéphane, possibly followed by a flight back to Praia. I couldn't decide which way to go, clockwise is 55 Km down the windward side, thus smooth air but rough seas for an emergency landing, or 65 Km anticlockwise, smooth sea, but downwind of the island thus likely rather turbulent.

In the event it didn't matter, we got the machine into the water, started up and I did a fast downwind taxi to get into a takeoff position, turned into wind and was soon airborne - into an absolute washing machine, not very pleasant rotor generated by the hills, and I returned from my first solo flight in the FIB off water after about 5 minutes of it. The crew still don't really understand that wobbling is actually the way these machines are controlled, but anyway they all thought it looked far too wobbly for any further flights, and I was happy to concur. In any case some of my propeller repairs didn't stand the spray and need repairing before further flight.

There is a bit of a hole in Christian's story at the moment because Stéphane didn't actually take off with me, but maybe they will be able to fudge it. With much assistance from a group of local children the FIB was derigged, again, and loaded back onto the truck for the return journey to Praia.

On the way, the news came that the ship to Mindelo on São Vicente about 300 Km north of here leaves tonight and the FIB must be on it, and I will go with it. São Vicente is considered to be one of the windiest islands so I somehow doubt we will be doing any flying there at all, but one has to be optimistic I suppose. It also looks like the plan to go to Fogo, another of the islands, with a 10,000ft volcano on it has been completely abandoned. Although I'm not wildly enthusiastic about long flights over the open Atlantic in this machine, it's actually not far to Fogo, about 60 miles downwind from Praia so I could fly there, probably in less than two hours, but into wind it would be at least a five hour flight back which isn't possible, and the ship which goes there is apparently broken down, so the FIB could be stuck there indefinitely.

I'm beginning to worry about the FIB a bit. It's been getting a battering with all this rigging / derigging / loading / unloading / carrying around on rough roads, and it's already covered in sand. There is also no fresh water here to wash it with and keep corrosion at bay. For the moment it is OK, but it is already in a state that it will need a really good strip and clean at the end of the trip. Originally I think they were just going to send it directly to the next one of our five island groups but I've already explained to Christian in the strongest terms this just will not be acceptable and it will definitely need some TLC between trips. They will have to start thinking about the logistics of this quite soon.

Nobody knows much about the boat to Mindelo. It takes a day, runs approximately weekly, and it is thought a good idea to take your own supplies so we will go to the port via a supermarket. How stuff is loaded I have no idea, by crane I suppose. An Ana Paula will apparently be there when I arrive. The others will arrive by plane the day after I get there so I will have some time to find a good place to put the machine and perhaps repair the prop. I could always change it for our spare one.

Joint Aviation Services, suppliers of insurances to the expedition
Micro Avionics - Suppliers of pilot intercom and radio equipment to the expedition
Articole Studios - GRP mouldings
Cam-ARA - Suppliers of video equipment to the expedition
Polaris - manufacturer of the FIB
SKYDRIVE, the UK Distributor of ROTAX engines