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The pupose of this Blog is to keep in contact with many good
friends spread out all over the world.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crazy 5000km Helicopter Flight

Mark, that is my son, has been on a few tours to the Sudan late last year and once or twice this year.
He is a commercial Chopper Pilot and is flying Long Rangers as well as Bell HU1's amongst other
types like Bell 407's Robinson R22, R44 etc.
The Helicopters and crew's are supplied by South African Aviation Companies to virtually all African
Countries for a variety of tasks.
In the Sudan, which has almost no roads and the few it has have been beneficiated with land mines, the only
way to go anywhere is by helicopter.
He's job was to take workers and supplies to the oil fields and back amongst other things.
Then the North and South had their much publicized split which culminated in the obligatory
exchange of gunfire and bombs. True to form, nothing new.
So everybody had to get out from there. There was some advance warning so everybody
got out safely. They did not want to leave the choppers behind so someone had to fly them
back to South Africa. Since Mark at that time was on tour he took the Long Ranger, fitted the
ferry tanks and set of for Kampala (Uganda) to have some new Rotor Blades fitted. That took a week.
As he was the only pilot (he had a passenger, one of the fixed wing engineers who also had to get
out) it was up to him to get them and the chopper back safely.
I am going to upload a lot of the flight documentation (flight plans, military clearances etc.)
The first leg was to go across Lake Victoria in a single engine chopper
(a 2 hour flight across water with no floats or life jackets)
into Tanzania, across the well known Serengeti to Mount Kilimanjaro where they spent the night
at the hotel.
A few years earlier one of his class mates was the co-pilot of a plane that crashed into the mountain
a few feet below the summit. As it involved a number of wealthy international tourists the crash made
headlines around the world.
Then further on to Dar Es Salam and then due south along the coastline into Mocambique
re-fueling a number of times along the way. Finally across the South African border at the Kruger Park.
Then the last leg from Kruger Park (Nelspruit Airport) to Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg.
The whole trip lasted 9 days. The flying part alone was 5 days (40 hours). 5000 km exactly.
Lots of red tape on the way as usual when flying in Africa.
Since most choppers do not have an auto pilot all of the flying is done by the pilot. And a chopper
needs to be hand flown from take off to landing. One can lock the throttle, that helps a bit but there is
no lapse of concentration allowed.
As I said I will upload a lot of the documentation which he accumulated. Have already scanned in
most of it. Not many people have the opportunity to go on such an adventure. Flying in Africa is still
a hazardous business due to the sheer size of the continent alone. It is also a very beautiful continent, not
yet dragged into the 20th century, let alone the 21st.
At the moment Mark is in Angola on a 3 month contract. They took 6 choppers up to Luanda
(13 hours flying time). Last time I had an e-mail from him he was taking some ballot boxes
and election officials around.

The Water Lab Report

More panels and a new inverter

Had a spot on the roof which was begging for some Solar Panels.
Fitted 3 more 250 Watt mono-chrystaline. Now we are full house
so to speak. Total installed Solar Capacity is now 6 kW.
At the moment we are at the end of winter so we are 20 to 30%
down on what is available in summer. Saw a maximum of
6000 Watts being generated 3 days ago. For the past two days
we had the most extreme weather ever experienced in South Africa.
We had snowfall in all 9 provinces with many roads closed and
icy conditions. No sun in sight. Still managed to get a total of 30 kWh
for these two days. Almost breaking even with consumption.
Today the weather was back to normal, beautiful blue skys with
no cloud in sight but still a bit on the cool side. Managed 35kWh.

Also ordered a new model of the Grid tied Inverter.
Also 8kVA but with 2 100 Amp MPPT (Maximum Power Trackers).
Will split the 24 Panels into 2 groups of 2x12 and feed one each to
the 2 MPPT. So that will give me some redundancy.
Will keep the old inverter as a back-up. Its only 2 years old but
it was one of the first of the 8kVA models produced by the
manufacturer and it had a problem after two months of operations
which necessitated a major repair. Been working fine since.
But you never know. So the new one is coming this week.
It's an upgraded version which carries a 5 year warranty.
Not exactly cheap at almost R70,000 ($9,000) but as I said
before, my Porsche deserves a warm garage.

An other interesting little episode happened 2 months ago when I
checked the water levels in my 1660Ah battery bank.
Was getting a bit low so I shopped around for some distilled water.
Not as easy as you would expect. Bought 5 liters from one of my
suppliers I also use for my business. He sourced some from some
shady supplier. I phoned them asking for a spec sheet for the
distilled water they are selling for as much money as I would pay
for a bottle of Whisky. Got a spec sheet but it was very cagey.
So I also bought a 25 liter container from the manufacturer of the
batteries. Should have thought of it earlier, but they are 30km
away so the first option was more convenient.
So I filled 3 little bottles with the 2 distilled waters I bought and
one more with some tap water from my tap in the kitchen.
(As a control).
Then took them to a approved Water Laboratory in Pretoria
and had them analyzed.
No surprises there. The water from the battery manufacturer
was proper distilled water. The other two were ordinary tap
water. The one from my own tap and the other that very
expensive one. These two were virtually identical!

So my supplier then demanded from the supplier of the
expensive tap water that they pay for the water analysis.
This they did to my surprise considering the cost of the analysis
was R2200 ($275). Hopefully this will teach them a lesson.

If I would have used that water to top up the batteries and they
would become contaminated with all the impurities and develop
a much reduced capacity my warranty would be invalid.
Since the batteries are the most expensive component of the
system costing R96,000 ($12,000) it pays to be careful.

Vorna Valley Johannesburg

Vorna Valley Johannesburg
I live right in the middle of the picture

My Life Philosophy

My Life Philosophy