Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Starter Problem - Brunei-Hong Kong - Taipei

July 1 to July 3 – Brunei

We almost skip Brunei because there is no Avgas. However, when in Singapore, we were told that just a few months ago, the Sultan of Brunei bought the Piper Aircraft Company. Singapore airport service center helped to call the Piper company and they extended an invitation for us to go there. They have Avgas and love to share with us.

Brunei is an rich small country due to oil. The Sultan has been in place for 40 (?) years. He is the King of the country and has the highest managing authorities. People enjoy benefits like free land and housing, education (including overseas studying and boarding) , and medication. Population is only 400,000. Seems that most people is happy and grateful to be a citizen of Brunei.

Spectacular view of sunset from Empire Hotel. Dancing clouds as if it were on stage.

Sultan's mosque.

Children let out from "Friday" school. Pink is Sultan's favorite color.

Water Village.

Gold and white mosque next to the water village.

The Starter Problem -

The airplane’s start up has not been perfect for the past few take offs. Jeffrey decided to have the starter and battery checked while we are in Brunei. It was thought that it may be a simple starter or vibrator clean up will solve the problem, yet it is not as simple as thought. With involving several U.S. technicians (Kevin Mead and Tom had to be waken up by Jeffrey in the middle of the night, sorry,) over the phone, emailing trouble shooting procedures back and forth, the starting system doesn’t seem to want to work.

We did not tour too much. Only thing we know is people at the airport. Piper Corporation staff is very supportive and kind to us. Jeffrey’s airplane was towed to a huge hanger and he avoided needing to work under the 38 degree C airport parking lot. Alex of Piper Corporation gave Jeffrey rides to and back between airport and hotel many many times. Jeffrey put it nicely, he said, if not for the problem of the airplane, we would never have the opportunity to get to know and make new friends here. So, well worth the experience.

After two exhausting days of crawling under the airplane, Jeffrey decided to stop working on the plane and wait for a new starter to ship to Brunei. We decided to fly commercial to Hong Kong, wait there and then go back when starter is arrived. Meantime, a technician from Singapore is commissioned to fly to Brunei to work on the airplane.

Jeffrey and Alex at Piper Hanger.

July 4 to July 7 - Take commercial flight to Hong Kong awaiting parts from the U.S. Get to see dear friends like David, Mahaz, Jie, son, Josh. It was sweet to see David and Mahnaz two nights in a row.

Airport pick up by Peninsula Hotel. The sophisticated Hong Kong.

Dinner on first night.

Lobby of the landmark Peninsula. Will be filled at afternoon tea time.

Second night dinner with David and Jie.

Renee, Mahnaz and Vennesa.

Hong Kong has many islands and is connected by cross sea bridges like this.
Hong Kong at night.

Notice the fried fish skin in front. Those are supposed to dip into the fish ball noodle soup and is delicious.

July 7 – Part (Vibrator) arrived Brunei, Jeffrey depart Hong Kong to Brunei. Renee took commercial flight to Taipei waiting for Jeffrey.

Jeffrey arrived Brunei in the late afternoon and started to work on the plane right away with the mechanic from Singapore. Again, the Piper corporation’s supported is 100% . Allowing them to work at night in a hanger provided was a huge favor. Once the vibrator is in, the plane started like a whistle. By then, it was after 10 PM, everyone was tired. The good news was airplane is fixed and can continue the journey now.

Burning the night oil.

Starting an engine inside of hanger is so loud even for these experienced ground handlers.

Finally, airplane is good to go.
Flying to Cambodia. 6 hours yet seeing clouds builds up. It was spectacular but later build up to be a major thunder storm. Not fun.

July 8 - The plan is to fly to Cambodia as original scheduled, just a few days late. 7:00 AM, as the airplane has started the engine, the tower hold the airplane for 45 minutes before granting take off permission. After took off, one hour through the flight, the radar controller informed them that since Singapore has not grant permission for the plane to pass, they cannot proceed and need to fly back to Brunei. As Jeffrey were scrambling calling airport handler and ground support, the satellite phone was low in battery and the backup battery were nowhere to be found. Jeffrey end up had to turn off the phone and flew back to Brunei. That was 3 hours of flying back to where he started.

As it turned out, the permission was granted within 10 minutes of their turn around only the phone was not working and he has no way of knowing it. So, after landed, the fly plan had to be refiled, and again, scramble for fuel, and again, on route to Cambodia. That was around 1:00 pm already. After 6 hours of flying, with time difference, arrived Sim Reap airport at 9:00PM. Meanwhile, Mr. Un Rithy, friend of Don who is friend of our L.A. friend, Phillip, accompanying a fuel truck from Phnom Penh drove 5 hours to Siem Reap to deliver the fuel to Jeffrey. Mr. Rithy gave 100% support to Jeffrey as he was a high ranking air force official knowing the manager of the airport, Jeffrey got fueled, and cleared customs at maybe a record speed. After an engaging conversation and dinner with Mr. Rithy, they said good bye and Jeffrey called it the day. Next day either to Hong Kong or Taipei. Preferably direct to Taipei but Hong Kong is an important back up if landing for fuel is needed.

11:00 PM, Jeffrey was informed that there were no avgas for sale in Hong Kong. The only people have some are the Hong Kong Aviation Club. David was able to call on the Chairman of the Club near mid-night, asking for 2 barrels of fuel. It took many people calling each other in the middle of the night to secure the avgas to Jeffrey if needed.

In Cambodia air Controller tower. Mr. Rithy on the first right.

Fueling with fire truck standing by.

July 9, 7:00 AM, Jeffrey decided to fly to Taipei directly as landing permit was granted even though it is 8 hours continuous flying. Landed in Taipei at 8:30 PM (with time differences). By this time, all one can think of was to check into the hotel and get some rest however, a fuel truck waiting for them by the plane. The fuel truck drove 2 hours from another city to Taipei and waited for 4 hours. They need to fuel the airplane and get back. Fueling at departure was not an option. AND, they only take cash. Low in cash, Jeffrey ran to terminal, found ATM, and got some of the cash. He was short, fortunately, the ground handler pay the rest as a personal loan. By 10:30 PM, Jeffrey, exhausted, with 20 bucks in the pocket, got on the hotel transfer car and on their way to Four Seasons, Taipei.

Dear friend David, and son, Spencer welcome us with the best wine. Restaurant is "Sabatini". The best Italian restaurant in Taipei. Great recovery from a chanllenging pass few days. Thanks, David.

Drinking 82 Margaux and 89 Petrus. Expensive wine yet the friendship is priceless.


Now, there it is, the story of all the drama due to a starter malfunction. With all these difficulties, the challenge of physical and emotional strength is one thing, the other thing is that along each steps of the way, there were supports from new and old friends. Without everyone’s relentless support, every step can be 10 times harder to solve considering the whole scenario happened across several foreign countries at a highly controlled airport and airspace environment. Thinking back, no proper words can describe the experience. It was just lots of high tech coordination, communication, flying skill, experiences, blessing, and luck.

Back to business. Pilots meeting prior to next day's flight. Now next stop is Nagoya, Japan.