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Leg 8 - VQPR - ZLXY. Out of retirement.

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    I get a phone call.  I hate phone calls. I hate phones if I'm honest. But phone calls have a way of being especially annoying. In a world of text messaging, emails and Facebook, the phone call usually only means one thing to me. It's that time again. Shuddering, I answer the insessant ringing and as expected, it's the Boss, Mutley himself. Without a chance to say anything, he blurts out my instructions and puts the phone down. So it begins. 

    I'm now a veteran of the ATWC and it's beginning to show. My hair is noticeably greyer in place. It's not just my hair that's showing signs of weariness. Life hasn't been to good to me after the last ATWC. The pressures of flying to god knows where in god knows what finally became to much and I sank into bad habits. As a way to cope, I took up the ancient art of jigsaw puzzles. It was incredibly soothing, having a 500 piece picture of an olde times shop to put back together. But soon it wasn't enough. Before long the 1000 piece jigsaws were here, then ever bigger and bigger ones……until…..until the ‘incident’. I don't remember much, but during the proceeding court case, I learned that the police broke down the door of my home to find me rolling around the floor amongst the pieces of four 10000 piece jigsaws, dressed only in my underwear. I was apparently babbling something about how ‘edges were just a figment of our limited understanding of the universe.’ Needless to say things weren't going well. Being a Mutley’s crew member can do strange things to you.  





    The court case made all the papers and I was ordered to stay 200 meters away from any jigsaw.  I got help though. A sessions of mandated therapy and I'm once again ready to face the world. Until that phone call. 

    I sigh. It's already to late to fly out tonight. Besides, I need help. We'll need is a strong world. I have help, if you can call him that. For the next six months I have a helper named Eddie. His job it to keep me on the straight and narrow. I dislike Eddie. I don't dislike him because he's stopping me from doing bad things. No I dislike Eddie because he's an idiot. Eddie is a cross between a cabbage and a brain damaged Labrador. He's inanely cheery. Constantly cheery. Still he tries hard. I text him and tell him the news. Like a puppy dog that's just so gosh darned happy to be here, he texts me back immediately, and cheerily. Ugh. Somehow I suspect he's also peed all over the carpet, just like an excited puppy dog.  I explain the situation and Eddie, ever keen to help, assures me he'll take care of things in Paro for me, including getting me an aircraft. Why not? Normally I'd grab Siggy, my tame A320, but he's in the hangar getting overhauled. Instead I book my flight to Paro and leave from Vienna the next day. 


I've arrived two days early and get a room at the local hotel. The food is good, and the local alcohol is, off limits. Eddie’s already phoned ahead. This makes me a little annoyed, and I feel the need for a 500 piece jigsaw. Instead I practice my breathing, which at 7000+ feet above sea level, isn't that easy. So I wait. The time gives me a chance to catch up with the previous pilots reports. With talk of spies, violated airspace and fighter escorts, that little stressed vein on the side of my temple twitches. Hopefully my flight will be bereft of hassle.  Finally I meet Beejay and I take command of the baton. I grab a nice lunch and head to the airport. It's time. 


    The sight that greets me is unbelievable. Eddie has done the unthinkable. Now I told him that whatever aircraft he could get, it would need to be something small enough to fly a domestic flight. What Eddies got me is a bloody 747-400! D. This is a Japan airlines 747 domestic. It has all the size of the 747 but none of the range. The lack of range is fine, but I have concerns getting the damn thing out of here. The mountains are everywhere and the 747 isn't the most manoeuvrable aircraft. I head to the pilots centre to plan the route. Word has gotten around of who I am and why I'm going to do. How could it not. Parking the 747 in Paro has basically blocked a whole taxiway. 




Thank goodness the cloud isn't to low. My departure is set off of runway 15 and up to FL410. Getting in to the cockpit I realise I haven't flown a Boeing anything in years. So I really hope i can still Remember how to do this. I can, and once I've got the route installed and the engines running, I can start to worry about the take off. I push back onto the taxiway and then taxi past the terminal. There are more than a few people watching. Backtracking down runway 33 I take a deep breath and curse the fact that I have to use 15. The mountains are much closer on 15.




I turn the gigantic behemoth and line up. Flaps are set to 20, full power applied and we’re off. v1 comes quickly and Vr even more so.


I ease the yoke back and the queen lifts off with no fuss or bother. There's still some tarmac left down there.




It's an immediate left bank to avoid the mountains and I hand fly the old girl to the first waypoint, dodging peaks as I go.




With the flaps fully retracted and George at the controls, I can finally relax. And there it is. That moment when you stair out of the cockpit window and the view, and all your troubles melt away. It's so good to be flying again. 




I grab a snack from the Galley. Being a Japanese aircraft I'm happy to discover a fresh meal of TonKatsu curry and a few tempura Prawns waiting for me. A dessert of Mochi really makes me happy though. For those who don't know what mochi are, they're small bean paste patty covered on sweetened rice flour that's been thickened to a icing like quality. They're delicious and a real experience if you haven't tried them before. 




 Ahead of me, the mountains look close, and considering I'm at 41000 feet, that's pretty good going. Peaks piece the cloud base whilst others cloak themselves in the mist. Everything is serene up here. I spent the next hour looking at the view, watching the instruments, and switching off the fuel tank pumps are that particular tank empties. The mountains never seem to go down. This is one mountainous region, no doubt about that. I'm also chasing the dark. After 90 minutes flying time, dusk begins to fall over the region and the view just gets more beautiful. It's now just an hours flying time to my destination. 




    With the evening rapidly turning into night, I decide to check the weather for arrival. The news isn't good. Paro was in gorgeous weather , but Xianyang is not looking so friendly. Visibility is just 2500 meters and the sky is overcast at 1000 ft. It's looking like i need to adjust my route as well as the wind has swung around to a 4kt tailwind on landing. Oh and it's raining. Yay. I can feel the stress levels climbing once again.  




    The mountains have thankfully fallen away,  but as the descent continues, there's little to see except cloud. That sense of fear is starting to rise and the cloud just keeps getting thicker. It's not looking good. All to soon I enter the cloud layer and the world turns black. Then things get worse. The 747 doesn't pick up the ILS and visibility has worsened since the descent started. I break out of the cloud at 1000 feet and see nothing. No airport lights. Then, off to my right I see the approach lights. I’ve no choice but To go around. This is not greeted well by the 747. She’s light on fuel. The second approach is going to be the last one I make then. I switch off the autopilot and fly the pattern manually. I can't see a thing. Once again the ILS fails to pick up, so i rely on the ND and hope for the best. The flaps are set to full, the gears down and locked. Beads of sweat are pouring off of me and then I catch a glimpse of the lead in lights. I'm still to the left but I've time to adjust. It's not great thought. The landing’s long so I slam on the brakes and pull the reverse to full. With 100 meters remaining, the aircraft slows to a nice pace and I take the far taxiway and make for the Terminal.




The baton has made it to China. I park at the gate, shut down the aircraft and dig out the company credit card. It's about to get a hammering. Leaving the airport I pass through duty free and bag a litre of Bacardi. I need a drink, that's for sure. However, as the taxi pulls away from the terminal, and with me opening the Bacardi with my teeth, all I can think is ‘damn I've missed this.’




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Great read, but regrettably the images aren't showing up for me. Nevertheless, you write so well I almost didn't miss them.


Great job getting an unfamiliar bird out of inhospitable terrain only to deliver it into piss pouring inhospitable weather.

The Bacardi sounds like just the ticket after that flight.


Cheers Jess.

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Hey Jess, I managed to finish reading your PIREP today. As you found out yesterday during our crew fly-in, I was cracking up reading your post, so much so, I almost lost control of my aircraft!


One thing you seem to conveniently missed from your PIREP was the purchase of a CNC machine on the GIZA card, to make industrial strength jigsaws? So I find the comment that I expect too much from my pilots to be a slur on my good character as I approved the purchase with good nature. Therefore, I am going to send Andrew around to “take care of you” – have fun.


Thanks for some great entertainment and of course getting the baton safely to Xianyang.



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