Today would be the final flight of section 2, to my parking place with the Thai Flying Club at Bang Phra airport. The hotel offered a “free shuttle” to the airport which turned out to be a pick-up truck with a rug in the bed for one to sit on. Happily, it wasn’t too far to the airport; and a British family who were also on the “shuttle” decided to all sit together in the back and insisted I take the only real seat up front. Happy to!
Passage through the airport was quick and easy, and the fuelers even turned up early to fill my tanks. AVGAS here was supplied in barrels, as with most of my other stops, but these barrels were only 50 liters each. I had been carrying much more fuel than needed for the previous day’s flight in from Sri Lanka, in case of the need to deviate long distances for weather, so I didn’t need too much fuel to have the tanks full to the brim again.
Despite being the only aircraft parked, pointing outwards, on a vast empty apron airport regulations apparently mandated that a marshaller guide me out. I hung around for 5 minutes until he arrived; he showed up, waved his batons in the general direction of the taxiway, and departed, considering his job well done. A couple of airliners had departed earlier, and I was now the only aircraft remaining; I lined up on the runway, pushed the throttle forward, and I was off on the final flight of Section 2.
Due to VFR charts for Thailand being a little awkward to obtain, and quite expensive, I elected to fly IFR. Less chance of getting oneself into trouble with ATC directing your flight, too! My selected airway took me straight up along the coast towards Bangkok, before turning across the bay towards Bang Phra. Weather conditions were ideal with the occasional fluffy cloud around, and otherwise smooth air and perfect visibility. I cruised along up the coast on autopilot, taking in the views and wishing I had floats to drop in and check out some of the idyllic looking beaches! As I passed south of Bangkok, I hit a major milestone; I passed exactly 180 degrees of longitude opposite Pittsburgh, halfway around the world. From now on, the quickest way back to my starting point was to keep on going east!
I had visited Thailand for a short stop back in 2012, on the way home from China, and at that time I’d taken the opportunity to rent a Cessna 172 and instructor from the Thai Flying Club and go for a short flight around the area. As a result, Bang Phra was not entirely new to me, which was a good thing given the challenging approach when the wind is coming from the west. U-Taphao approach (which services the Pattaya area) took me straight in towards Bang Phra and cut me loose to contact the airport a few miles out. Their controller cleared me to fly a left downwind, and then land on the westerly runway. This requires a very low, tight base leg, with a turning descent to land. The club was quite twitchy about foreign visitors, after another round the world pilot had sadly crashed and died on approach just a few months before. The briefing they’d given me was comprehensive, though, and arrival was uneventful.
Being a Sunday, a few people were around to welcome me. The club staff were extremely friendly and helpful, assisting me in an oil change and spark plug clean/rotate, as well as diagnosing and (hopefully) fixing an oil leak on cylinder #5. One of the pilots to come by and say hello was Tom Claytor who’d been assisting me by email with the preparations and all kinds of helpful advice. He’s an incredibly experienced and well known adventurous pilot, having flown his Cessna 180 all over the world, mainly in the 90s with visits to places like Yemen. I had read a bit about his exploits before and it was exciting to meet him for real.
I spent a few hours working on the aircraft and sorting out everything to leave it for a month. The club parked me right outside the main office door; the original plan had been to put me under the covered parking across the apron but apparently they were “having problems with monkeys” over there. Not an issue that I’d had to deal with before! The sun was gradually setting as flying at the club finished for the day, and radio control modelers took over the runway for a while. The club called a taxi for me, and I settled in and headed for Bangkok for a few days relaxation. I’d built in time at the end of the section to allow for any delays along the way, and now had a bit of time to kill!
90 minutes or so later, I arrived at my hotel. Traffic had been awful with the rain that had set in, and I was exhausted. I dropped all my washing at reception, ordered room service, and settled in for a long relaxed sleep. No flight planning to worry about! So far, I’d flown over 16,000 miles, visiting 24 countries, and all in just under 120 flying hours.
The next four days, until my late evening departure from Bangkok airport back to Iraq, were extremely lazy and relaxing. I was able to catch up on plenty of sleep, enjoy a movie and variety of food in the astonishingly huge nearby Terminal 21 mall, and even do a few tourist activities such as visiting the beautiful Jim Thompson House (the former home of a renowned American businessman and trader who settled in Bangkok, and one day vanished mysteriously on a short walk in the Cameron Highlands of neighbouring Malaysia.
The days sped by and before I knew it I was sitting on an Emirates A380, crossing in just hours territory that had taken me weeks to crawl my way across in the C182. Another 4 weeks of work, and then it would be back to Thailand, and on with the adventure!
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