Today, we woke up with very cloudy and dark weather conditions. Today we are on our way to Attu.
It is now Saturday, 7th September, 10h00 local time, SA Time, I do not know right now.
Just now we got the flight permission to go to Russia and Dietmar is so relieved. He would not have left this place without it, we do not know how the other crews would have decided, but us in a smaller plane can not afford to turn around half way if they refuse landing permission. Now we can go and I see how relieved he is, and how busy he is preparing the route etc etc
Adak, 12h00 local time
Okay, another EMail from Russia telling us the flight plan is only approved for a height of 28,000 feet, which we can not comply with. We can only go up to 18,000. Our plan to accept that level and then inform them we have problems climbing to that level was also smashed to pieces. They acknowledged the Aircraft we have got and explicitly said: you do not get permission because of the fact that your plane can not obtain that level.
WE DO NOT WANT TO GIVE UP
Again we phoned our flight support agent, asking him to apply for a "special permission flight" over and into Russia at the height we are able to manage.
We talk with other crews about the fact that many aircraft not capable of operating at FL280 (28 000 feet) have flown this stretch and got permission. Why all of a sudden does this present a problem? We were told all along, no problem, we will get a clearance for you guys...
Well, in 2 hours latest we have to depart to Attu in order to arrive in time for sunset. Dietmar is adamant: he is not going into Petropavlovsk the following morning without the permission, we will stay behind......what now?
In the meantime the Redaktions Flugzeug has already left for Attu with their own extra fuel and our 12 fuel canisters to establish a fuel cache.
We decide the following: Up and until the last moment and that is Sunday Morning local time Attu we assume we will receive our flight permission. If we change our plan now and do not leave for Attu now, and we will then receive the 'special' go ahead last minute, time would have run out, we would miss our arrival slot in Russia Monday 10:00 which is Sunday 13:00 Attu local time.
From Attu to Petropavlovsk we need 3h40 if wind is reasonable. Yes, we MUST pretend for the next 12 hours everything is going to work out. We know now: if we do not leave right now, everything will fall apart.
OFF TO ATTU
2.6 h flight. Some other group members waved us Good Bye (good feeling), all feeling sad for us. No-one actually believes we will get a permission.
The End of The World or Paradise?
We arrive in ATTU, welcomed by sunshine, very little wind and moderate temperature. Attu has 10 sunny days in the year, we were presented with one out of 10 :)
We are smiling and start discovering the Island. For about one hour we were walking around, first finding a place to pitch the tent. We walked from building to building looked inside, some doors were locked, many were unlocked. Treasure Hunt pure!
In between we used our Sat Phone to contact the agent regarding our flight permission. No such luck. The end of the trip is moving closer, now we must phone back at 21h00.
Lets get on with our Treasure Hunt...we find tools, spare stores fully stocked. One huge hall, an electrical driven Basketball mechanism on both sides installed, gym equipment, workbenches, one corner behind wire-fencing full of table lamps and workbenches. It seems to me that on one particular day people worked and operated like any other day, then the lunch siren went, people left their work place....never to return. Thats how it looks.
Protection goggles next to gloves and the part they were working on...just on the workbench...
We found very expensive tools, machinery and analyzing equipment. I could go on and on.
There would have been plenty of space to set up tent in any of the halls or stores but we set up outside. Next to, yes, believe it, picnic benches. Dietmar made fire ;) we do have enough Jet fuel! and I set up home.
We had a picnic, some wine, admired and enjoyed the nature, the weather and we love the feeling of being alone on such a big island. At this moment we are the happiest people on earth and we thanked God for that. We both felt the same, if we had to turn around now, no matter. We managed to get to Attu and if that is the way it turns out to be, it shall be that.
We phoned them at 21h00, no news. They asked us to phone again six hours later. We did at about 05h00 and again at 07h00, and received our clearance 2 hours before departure. It had started to rain, just a drizzle, soft rain, nevertheless tent, equipment, everything wet. Dietmar suggested to leave my wonderful tent...over my dead body.
We started to feed the aircraft out of the 12 containers one after another, in the pitch dark, in the rain, on top of the wing with our head lamps attached (Sorry, no picture)...
And I started complaining why we did not do that at arrival as we always do...No, if we had NOT been able to depart to Russia, we would have gone back to ADAK and would have still had a fuel cache at the island for another attempt to go across. Okay that made sense. We ended up with full tanks and jackets full of smelly Jet fuel.
We took the camp down and packed. Just after sunrise at 08h50, Sunday, we took off. In a bit of clouds but as we climbed over the bay we had clear weather most of the time with fantastic views of the Pacific ocean. We are on our way to Russia, the country which had put rocks into our way all along, from obtaining Visa to hotel bookings and permissions. Everything was difficult. What can we expect now at arrival?