Fly­ing Ad­ven­ture: KR2 solo across Rus­sia

Get­ting into Rus­sia was one thing, get­ting out was quite another! Fly­ing solo in an aero­plane he built him­self, Colin Hales’s world tour con­tin­ues

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Words & pho­tos Colin Hales

We left Colin and Itzy in Anadyr, their first stop in Rus­sia. Now they are try­ing to make it across to China

Ever since I’d made it to Rus­sia, I hadn’t been very well; nerves were mak­ing me feel sick. There would be no KR2 World Tour if we couldn’t fly through Rus­sia, so I had to go on. Alex, my han­dling agent, joked with me, say­ing “What are you talk­ing about? You will have no prob­lems while you are in Rus­sia!” But we would, and we would have plenty!

On day two of our Rus­sian ad­ven­ture, the Krem­lin’s Chief of De­fence flew into Anadyr, along with 250 fed­eral agents, for a con­fer­ence on re­build­ing Rus­sia’s East Coast De­fences. Two mil­i­tary transport planes now stood be­side Itzy and, soon af­ter­wards, our flight clear­ances to Blagoveshc­hensk were strangely can­celled!

More wor­ry­ingly, three of the four fuel blad­der necks had failed, re­quir­ing four more of a dif­fer­ent type to be sent out. They would ar­rive on a Ber­ing Air flight from Nome, but not for five days. Mean­time, Itzy and I were adopted by the lo­cal pi­lots.

I was in­vited to beach par­ties, with freshly-caught and bar­be­cued salmon, and Bel­uga whale meat, washed down with lots of home-made spir­its. There were moun­tain bike rides along the coast and his­toric tours of the town with an English­s­peak­ing air traf­fic con­troller.

One of the flight en­gi­neers was mov­ing back to Moscow and all his be­long­ings needed load­ing into a con­tainer on a ship in the har­bour. Ev­ery­one helps ev­ery­one in Anadyr and more than enough peo­ple turned out to make light of the work. I joined in, which earned me an in­vi­ta­tion to the garage party held by the home own­ers to thank ev­ery­one who’d helped.

Garage par­ties are com­mon; all the blokes have garages, any­thing from a wooden shack to a proper con­crete box with wood-burn­ing stove. There was ev­ery type of meat−deer, elk, boar−with bread and cheese, and bot­tles of vodka and whisky. It was all de­voured over many toasts to fly­ing around the world.

Each evening I gave English les­sons to the en­gi­neers and pi­lots look­ing to get jobs with Aeroflot, and I tried to ex­plain Brexit to the older mem­bers. I wrote a scathing email to the Aus­tralian Con­sulate af­ter Alex and his wife had their hol­i­day visas re­fused for rea­sons they could not un­der­stand. The Rus­sians loved Itzy and what I was try­ing to do, and ev­ery­one went to great lengths to calm my nerves and con­vince me that there would be no prob­lems for us while in Rus­sia.

I was told the FSB wanted me to find another route to China. The only other route was via Khabarovsk. It was submitted, but the FSB blocked that too! From what I gather, a mon­u­men­tal row then broke out be­tween the Fed­eral Air Transport Au­thor­ity and the FSB. We had been in­vited into Rus­sia, but now only had one way out and that was back the way we came in. This was all quite mad! The ATC man­ager at Anadyr said we still had per­mis­sion to fly on to Ma­gadan, and to go for it, as it would be far more dif­fi­cult for the FSB to turn Itzy around from half­way to China. It was a good idea and the next day we were on our way.

The up­hill take­off was dif­fi­cult and Itzy had lit­tle to no sta­bil­ity again un­til I could pump fuel from the rear­most blad­der tank to the main tank and move the C of G fur­ther for­ward. I was also bank­ing on the weather, some­thing I hate to do. There was a high pres­sure ridge which I was hop­ing would keep the air­field of Ma­gadan, sur­rounded by moun­tains, clear of cloud for the next eight hours.

Rus­sian ATC were won­der­ful; they mostly left us alone and I had good com­mu­ni­ca­tion via re­lays from air­lin­ers some 30,000 feet above at all times. Ma­gadan was clear, as I had hoped, and I could carry out a vis­ual ap­proach to land but the Tower told me there were no vis­ual ap­proaches and I had to choose a pro­ce­dure. I de­cided to go for the NDB ap­proach for 27−I didn’t know what it was but must have guessed right as there were no com­plaints. On the flight we had 20mph tail­winds: 7:58 hours, 942 miles in mega cruise mode. We landed with two hours of fuel left on board, and be­fore we took off I had planned where to go if we needed to land short some­where.

Hav­ing used up all his Alaskan av­gas Itzy was now run­ning on Rus­sian 95. I had hoped to get air­borne and quickly throt­tle back to avoid pos­si­ble long-term de­to­nation with the un­known Rus­sian fuel qual­ity, but the plane was so heavy with all the ex­tra fuel needed that for the climb to FL100 throt­tling back was not an op­tion.

Then, as if by magic, Vladimir Buhonin, a veteran Cap­tain with some 44 years fly­ing An-2s, ap­peared and asked if I wanted to buy a bar­rel of av­gas. Av­gas is like rock­ing horse poo in Siberia; Rus­sian pi­lots strug­gle to get it let alone com­plete strangers! Why was I be­ing of­fered this mirac­u­lous bar­rel and at a rea­son­able

price? Vladimir told me that he’d had phone calls from Anadyr. One was from a friend of his, ex­plain­ing that he and his wife were go­ing on hol­i­day, now they had re­ceived their Aus­tralian visas, and oth­ers say­ing that I was ‘al­right’ and to look af­ter me. And was I ever looked af­ter: guided tours of the forests, vis­its to the Gu­lags, even my own flat. Ma­gadan is steeped in dark his­tory−if you ar­rived as a Soviet dis­si­dent, you never went home! How times have changed…

The fight be­tween the au­thor­i­ties con­tin­ued and, sur­pris­ingly, it was the FSB that backed down. My flight to Blagoveshc­hensk was on again but re­quired a diver­sion to Zeya Air­port’s VOR, tak­ing Itzy away from the new Vos­tochny Cos­mod­rome, adding 200 miles to the flight: 1,320 miles. Itzy couldn’t do it−he just didn’t have the range. What were we go­ing to do? One more flight and we would be on the Chi­nese bor­der. If we took off and went straight for Blagoveshc­hensk, against the or­ders of the main air traf­fic man­age­ment, we might get there−but they had been so good to me. We could land at one of the air­ports on the way to re­fuel, but land­ing at a domestic air­port would have the plane im­pounded and me in jail, ac­cord­ing to the rest of the world… but by now I begged to dif­fer.

The first snow of the year dusted the moun­tain tops. We had to move on. I filed the flight plan know­ing we wouldn’t make the des­ti­na­tion. It was ac­cepted and early one Septem­ber morn­ing I jumped back into Itzy to head

The fight con­tin­ued... sur­pris­ingly, it was the FSB that backed down

west. The en­gine all but re­fused to start in the freez­ing con­di­tions but it just caught and we tax­ied out. I had strug­gled to move the bar­rel of av­gas I’d bought from Vladimir. Now its con­tents, and a lot more, were on board and be­ing lifted up to 10,000 feet at 120mph by a 75hp en­gine and eight feet of wing vis­i­ble on each side. I of­ten just look out at that tiny wing and won­der, “How are you do­ing that?” I could only see the left wing: a fuel blad­der blocked my view to the right, un­til I could empty it.

Half an hour into the flight the big red ‘panic’ light came on! Oil pres­sure was OK and the temps showed hardly warm−low bat­tery volt­age was the prob­lem. I hadn’t no­ticed but the charg­ing cir­cuit breaker (CB) had popped out and wouldn’t stay back in. Who needs power any­way? Hang on, we do! I had 140 litres of fuel to pump into the main tank or we wouldn’t reach any des­ti­na­tion, and we were not turn­ing around and go­ing back. The prob­lem was that the new Jabiru en­gine fit­ted in An­chor­age had a big­ger al­ter­na­tor out­put and the ten-amp CB couldn’t cope with the higher charge rate be­ing fed into the bat­tery, which I had all but flat­tened try­ing to start the en­gine ear­lier.

I care­fully dug out the CB from be­hind the panel. It needed by­pass­ing. I grabbed the two ter­mi­nals with my multi-tool pli­ers. There were a few sparks but once a good con­tact was made it seemed to work fine. The wires got warm, but the big red light went out! This was all OK un­til ATC gave me a new re­port­ing point and re­quested a list of new es­ti­mates. It was prefer­able to let go of the con­trols rather than the pli­ers and avoid cre­at­ing more sparks in the fuel-laden cock­pit. I’d write down the re­port­ing points, quickly cal­cu­late es­ti­mates and then grab the con­trols to re­cover from what­ever po­si­tion the plane had put it­self in, such was the in­sta­bil­ity with the fuel load. This went on for an hour un­til the charge in the bat­tery al­lowed the CB to stay in and I could put the pli­ers down and start to pump fuel for­ward to the main tank and re­store some sta­bil­ity.

I had eleven hours and 1,200 miles to de­lib­er­ate what I was go­ing to do be­fore run­ning out of fuel. Go­ing

straight for Blagoveshc­hensk was prefer­able. Al­though the Rus­sians would be up­set, we’d be on the Chi­nese bor­der and it would be eas­ier for them just to let us out. But the Rus­sians had been so good to me, I didn’t want any ill feel­ing. Ill feel­ing? feel­ing ill… That was it! I didn’t want the won­der­ful plane to be at fault or short of range, so what if I de­clare a med­i­cal emer­gency? I’d say I felt sick or dizzy and needed to land at Zeya. I was happy for the first time on the flight as now I had a half-de­cent plan!

I called Khabarovsk con­trol ap­proach­ing Zeya and told them I was feel­ing sick and was go­ing to put down there. Khabarovsk wouldn’t ac­cept my re­quest, say­ing I couldn’t land at Zeya. I gave them no choice though, and lost them on the ra­dio as we de­scended to­wards the field. But ap­proach­ing the down­wind leg it didn’t look right−there were a load of trucks all over the air­port. Oh no, they were in the process of re-tar­ma­c­ing the run­way, and it re­sem­bled an off-road dirt track. I had read the No­tams but they were in Rus­sian and I didn’t un­der­stand them.

Some­one very dear to me said “Never run your­self out of op­tions”. Well, the two left to me were the main road to town or a 600m peri-track, marked out as an emer­gency run­way. With nil wind and no flaps, Itzy needs 600m to stop. Us­ing 595 me­tres of the peri-track, with smok­ing brakes, Itzy tax­ied in and was wel­comed by the air­port man­ager. Five min­utes later an Air Med­i­cal Evac­u­a­tion An-3 tur­bo­prop landed be­hind me, a doc­tor jumped out and I was of­fered med­i­cal as­sis­tance for my Os­car-win­ning per­for­mance of a dizzy air­man. (Don’t worry, they had come to pick up another pa­tient.)

The FSB ar­rived with two English teach­ers from the lo­cal school, but ap­par­ently they just wanted to talk to an English per­son hav­ing never met one be­fore. The FSB of­fi­cers wanted to know what had hap­pened and what I was go­ing to do next and, af­ter tea and choco­lates, we all went out to the plane for self­ies and pho­tos. The se­cu­rity guards fed me and I was given the air traf­fic con­troller’s bed. In the morn­ing the air­port man­ager showed me around town and I got another forty litres of 95. Two hours later I landed safely in Blagoveshc­hensk. Here I was met with tea and cake and no fuss. (Un­like the ‘armed guards at the Chi­nese bor­der’ that a Bri­tish news­pa­per re­ported. Fake news or al­ter­na­tive facts? I think we are go­ing to hear a lot of this in the fu­ture.)

As for Chi­nese flight per­mis­sion, I said that I’d try and get to the Chi­nese bor­der

and take it from there. Well China was now just on the other side of the river. I had sent the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion to the Chi­nese avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties from Nome, but never got a re­ply. I wasn’t con­cerned; I’d just file a flight plan to Harbin and head for China. I couldn’t see why the flight plan would be re­jected−as yet, they had no idea what a KR2 was and I was in no rush to tell them. The difficulty is al­ways get­ting in to the coun­try; once in­side nor­mally any is­sue can be re­solved. Peo­ple said “they will never let you into China.” Well that’s what 99.9% of the world said about Rus­sia so I just ig­nore these neg­a­tive state­ments and keep mov­ing on. The Rus­sians had been sim­ply amaz­ing so far, just as I thought and hoped they would be.

Sergei and AOPA were fight­ing tooth and nail for pri­vate fly­ing in Rus­sia

I took the Siberian Ex­press train to Khabarovsk to get my Chi­nese visa from the Chi­nese em­bassy in town. I was met off the train by the pi­lots of the Kalinka Ae­ro­club and this is where I met Sergei Dolzhenko. Sergei is AOPA’S east Rus­sian rep­re­sen­ta­tive and main pro­tag­o­nist for Gen­eral Avi­a­tion in Rus­sia−and a funny, funny guy! He took me to see the fledg­ling and pi­o­neer­ing gen­eral avi­a­tion pi­lots of the Vino­gradovka fly­ing club. I was shown what is recog­nised to be the first gen­eral avi­a­tion air­craft in Rus­sia. It has a Piper L-4 Cub fuse­lage, tail and wings, I think. They had to make their own un­der­car­riage and wing struts from ‘scaf­fold­ing tube’, but I loved it! The Heath Robin­son en­gi­neer­ing, the ethics, the de­sire to make these scant parts into a fly­ing ma­chine... and it still flies to­day. The Rus­sians’ in-joke about West ver­sus East was that they were all go­ing to get big bot­tles of Coke and buck­ets of pop­corn. I kept hear­ing “Colin China, Ja­pan! Coke and pop­corn!” and had to get them to ex­plain it. Sergei said they all planned to sit down and en­joy these west­ern icons as they watched me try­ing to get through China or Ja­pan.

There was a Cessna 150 to put back to­gether af­ter new main gear mounts had been fit­ted. The prob­lem was that no one knew how and no one could read the man­ual. I re­built im­ported 150s as a lad, so set to with a group of guys. It took all day, but the owner was so pleased that we had an im­promptu banya (sauna and cold water bath) for ev­ery­one. All sorts of food was brought in, along with bot­tles of homemade whisky. I was treated to the full banya treat­ment; yep−in­clud­ing be­ing whacked on the bum with branches and leaves. Google it, be­cause I’m just not go­ing there!

The Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties sim­ply don’t know what to do with these pi­lots. None of the air­craft could be cer­ti­fied as the process was so ar­du­ous. The penalty fine for not hav­ing the cor­rect doc­u­ments was far less than the fees, so no one both­ered. The au­thor­i­ties were try­ing to re­move this small GA nui­sance by stat­ing that ‘any air­field had to have a fence around it’, to pro­tect the air­craft and fly­ing op­er­a­tions from out­side in­ter­fer­ence. Sounds fine? But this fence had to be erected by the gov­ern­ment, to gov­ern­ment stan­dards, and cost a mil­lion rou­bles per fence post...

Sergei and AOPA Rus­sia were fight­ing teeth and nail for pri­vate fly­ing in Rus­sia. In Nome I’d paid Uni­ver­sal Avi­a­tion Han­dling thou­sands of dol­lars for ar­rang­ing my air­port slot and park­ing per­mits. Sergei was dis­gusted and took it upon him­self to ar­range Itzy’s slots and park­ing from then on, and in­vited me to bring the air­craft to Khabarovsk. I agreed and got back on the train to go get the aero­plane.

Pi­lots from the lo­cal Blagoveshc­hensk fly­ing club met me at the sta­tion and, hav­ing heard of my work with the 150, asked if I would look over their fleet of air­craft in­clud­ing a newly im­ported 182,

where I found that the fin post bolts were met­ric and put in back­wards. This lim­ited the up el­e­va­tor move­ment by half, as they in­ter­fered with the el­e­va­tor torque tube. I turned the bolts around and also freed up the sticky con­trol col­umns and a few other bits. Af­ter­wards we flew over the lo­cal tun­dra and rivers, and the own­ers mar­velled that they could now fly the aero­plane with their fin­ger­tips, trim it eas­ily and carry out fully flared land­ings for the first time. For this, I was taken out for din­ner and given a tour of the lo­cal avi­a­tion mu­seum. From then on it was free fuel, transport, no fees, gifts and sou­venirs, and farewell send-offs. With Itzy in Khabarovsk, it be­came ap­par­ent that the Chi­nese were never go­ing to agree to any flight through their coun­try. They said their air­ports were too busy to ac­cept our ar­rival and that my plane was ‘a mil­i­tary threat’. With such stupid re­sponses from such a be­wil­der­ing so­ci­ety, it was fu­tile to con­tinue. The Chi­nese pro­mote a view that they are

The Chi­nese said my plane was ‘a mil­i­tary threat’... The only real op­tion was to head on to Ja­pan, and quickly...

ex­pand­ing GA but to them this only means any­thing not mil­i­tary like Boe­ing and Air­bus but not KR2S.

The only real op­tion left was to head on to Ja­pan and quickly, be­cause win­ter had se­ri­ously ar­rived. We wouldn’t fly straight to Ja­pan over 200 miles of freez­ing sea. I hate water cross­ings and had sent my life raft home, as tran­sit­ing China would have meant no more sea cross­ings. We would have to head way up to the top of Sakhalin Is­land, jump the thirty miles of frozen sea and fly back down to Yuzhno Sakhalinsk. From there it was a twenty-minute flight to Hokkaido, Ja­pan’s north­ern­most is­land. This was a mas­sive flight again, but with the whole of the Rus­sian avi­a­tion fra­ter­nity now work­ing with us, any­thing was pos­si­ble. Fees were waived, fuel pro­vided, per­mis­sions were un­lim­ited, and the FSB didn’t raise their heads. With hand­crafted teddy bears pre­sented to add to the crew, and me­dia and TV re­ports for the good of GA, we could do no wrong… ex­cept I did.

The flight to Yuzhno Sakhalinsk did not go well. The en­gine re­fused to start again, the tem­per­a­ture be­ing be­low -10°C. It had to be warmed by buck­ets of hot water and then a cabin heater, and we took off hours late. At FL100 I saw -32°C on the OAT probe and the CHTS were down at 38°C.

The Jabiru needs CHTS of more than 100°C be­fore you can take off. I had to run the en­gine at full power to keep it warm and it wasn’t work­ing. The en­gine bar­rels were cool­ing and tight­en­ing around the pis­tons. How it didn’t seize, I just don’t know. Six hours into the eight-hour flight, I couldn’t feel my feet nor stop shiv­er­ing. I was in my im­mer­sion suit, but be­cause I was un­able to move much I couldn’t cre­ate any body heat and I was in trou­ble. There is no heater in the plane and with two hours left, I just wouldn’t have made it to our des­ti­na­tion in any fit state to fly or try to land.

With teeth chat­ter­ing un­con­trol­lably, I called another emer­gency, telling ATC we were pick­ing up ice and go­ing to land at Shakhty­orsk Air­port. The fact that the ice was on my feet made me feel less guilty about say­ing this and I headed out to sea, where there was less cloud to de­scend through and less rock to hit, and scooted back in to land at this re­mote air­field, which ser­vices a coal min­ing town. I strug­gled to get out of the aero­plane−no act­ing this time−and even­tu­ally hob­bled off to the Con­trol Tower to try and warm up. The ATC guy un­der­stood my plight and brought tea and blan­kets and sat me down next to the heater.

I thought we would be in trou­ble, declar­ing emer­gen­cies in Rus­sia, but ac­tu­ally that’s when the real ad­ven­tures came, es­cap­ing cities and ma­jor air­ports, meet­ing ru­ral Rus­sians and go­ing places that you just wouldn’t go oth­er­wise. Itzy’s ar­rival, out of the blue, was the most ex­cit­ing thing that had hap­pened at the air­field that year and they were grate­ful for me land­ing there, when it should have been the other way around. Later I was sent a Rus­sian news­pa­per from Ugel­gorsk news; Itzy was voted the best news story of 2016. There is an award wait­ing for us if I want to go back and pick it up.

Shakhty­orsk was pos­si­bly as far as we would go if there was no cabin heater or sim­i­lar to heat up the en­gine, but the ground staff were just spec­tac­u­lar−noth­ing was too much trou­ble. Via pid­gin English they said they had a heater some­where and found it in a shack. It needed rewiring, the boiler and oil in­jec­tors clean­ing, but even­tu­ally it burst into life. Peo­ple came out of the wood­work to meet the ‘English pa­tient’. I was put up by an el­derly gent who was the cen­tre of at­ten­tion as ev­ery­one filled his house to come and meet the for­eigner. The FATA sent out an English-speak­ing air traf­fic con­troller on a com­mer­cial flight to make sure my ‘IFR Air­ways Clear­ance’ could be un­der­stood when we wanted to leave. No charge; they just wanted us to be safe and ev­ery­thing to run smoothly. In front of the crowds from

town, the heater ran for half an hour blow­ing heat out of a ten-inch pipe into the lower cowls till the en­gine was warm and toasty. Itzy fired up and away we went.

Ar­riv­ing at Yuzhno Sakhalinsk In­ter­na­tional, again noth­ing was a prob­lem. We had just a few days to get out of there be­fore the snow ar­rived big time, or that would be it un­til April. I got the 95 fuel through the se­cu­rity gates with­out is­sue, which is un­heard of. Even Rus­sian pi­lots asked how I’d done that. It helped I’d been on na­tional TV the night be­fore and said all the right things and joked with them… Coke and Pop­corn!

The prob­lem now was Ja­pan. They were be­ing silly about han­dling our air­craft and ev­ery air­port wanted $8,000 for a han­dling agent to as­sist with my ar­rival. ‘As­sist’ meant fly­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive out from Tokyo to wave and smile, shake my hand and show us where the Customs of­fice was. But the Rus­sians got the IFR flight plan through and I planned to go as far into Ja­pan as we could to es­cape the weather. The Ja­panese AIP is ut­terly use­less and doesn’t men­tion any­thing about Per­mit air­craft or any spe­cial re­quire­ments. Ev­ery­one avoids Ja­pan like the plague as per­mis­sions are ap­par­ently needed but can take up to three weeks and be­yond. We didn’t have three days. The fees at Yuzhno Sakhalinsk were $850, but the air­port man­ager joked that if Trump got in, he would waive them! Coke and Pop­corn, Sergei! On the day of de­par­ture a huge heater truck pulled up and warmed both Itzy and the sur­round­ing coun­try­side. Itzy’s en­gine fired eas­ily and we set off for Ja­pan.

Sev­enty-two days af­ter ar­riv­ing in the coun­try, Rus­sia dis­ap­peared un­der Itzy’s port wing. In si­lence and sad­ness I cried. (I told you I’m a wuss!) Wow, what an ad­ven­ture, what great peo­ple we were leav­ing be­hind. But we had done it, we had done what we were told was im­pos­si­ble only months ago. Peo­ple of the world take note: the Rus­sian peo­ple are won­der­ful−or at least they were to us!

Itzy landed at Ni­igata Ja­pan. They were ex­pect­ing a biz­jet and a suit­case of dol­lars. We were grounded im­me­di­ately. Ap­par­ently we didn’t have flight per­mis­sions or a han­dling agent.

If the rest of the world’s at­ti­tude is sim­i­lar, and I have to pay $8,000 each flight to han­dling agents to shake their hands and walk on their mar­ble floors, then I’m go­ing to strug­gle to get Itzy home. If you read ‘Hooded air­man fights to get flight per­mis­sions and ex­or­bi­tan­tant fees waived’ that will be me. Why ‘hooded’? Well it is my me­dia an­gle, my hash­tag, my pro­file, al­though ac­tu­ally I just like wear­ing my Spi­der­man hoodie. I think we are go­ing to need the me­dia to help us get home. Itzy has sat out at Ni­igata since Novem­ber, and it’s now March. Itzy is grounded un­til the Ja­panese can be con­vinced that Per­mit air­craft can fly in their coun­try. (They can, the Ja­panese just don’t know it yet! But that’s another story.)

The word is out and peo­ple are ask­ing, “Colin, can I fly through Rus­sia?” Well it can be done−we’ve done it−but my an­swer is, “Are you flex­i­ble, ca­pa­ble and will­ing to fit in? Are you adapt­able, hu­mor­ous, ded­i­cated, pa­tient and tal­ented at fix­ing planes? Can you drink like a fish, sing a song, tell a tale or three? Do you have a teddy bear crew and the small­est but bravest lit­tle plane? If so, you can ask them… that’s all we did!”

With­out these two gents and that re­built heater, we would still be in deep­est dark­est cold­est Rus­sia now

With con­di­tions like this, not only did the en­gine need pre-heat­ing be­fore start-up but cylin­der head tem­per­a­tures be­came wor­ry­ingly low in flight

With no heater, buck­ets of hot wa­ter were used to un­freeze the en­gine

Wear­ing his im­mer­sion suit, Colin laces his boots be­fore de­part­ing for Yuzhno Sakhalinks­k

Sergei say­ing his bit for Gen­eral Avi­a­tion in Rus­sia... ...and Colin is asked, “Please an­swer; what do you think of Rus­sia?”

Prob­a­bly the first pri­vate air­craft in Rus­sia, the Vino­gradovka fly­ing club’s Piper L-4 Cub-based ‘spe­cial’

Colin had won­dered what eastern siberia would look like. ‘Hours of wet tundra,’ he ob­serves

Hav­ing to bi-pass the al­ter­na­tor cir­cuit breaker in flight with my left hand and fly with the right.

A su­per star tak­ing it all in his stride and Colin try­ing not to say some­thing dumb

Oil, av­gas, Antonovs, Rus­sian beasts... with a sup­ply of the es­sen­tial fuel and lu­bri­cants avail­able, and be­ing sur­rounded by his­toric ma­chin­ery, Colin says ‘I was made’

If you can't make your­self un­der­stood, you can al­ways draw!

Colin sports a hat bought in Ice­land ‘as a bit of a joke... I wish I didn't need it so of­ten!’

who staff and or­di­nary fly­ing club mem­bers It was in­di­vid­ual pilots, friendly air­port alike, for Colin’s flight across Rus­sia opened the gates, ma­te­rial and of­fi­cial

‘Fly safely Colin’ — be­fore Colin left Anadyr the ATC chief pre­sented him with an­other crew mem­ber and a draw­ing by his son of Colin’s home­built Itzy

Goodbye Yuzhno Sakhalinsk, goodbye Rus­sia and thanks for ev­ery­thing!

The Yuhzno Sakhalinsk Air­port man­ager made a bet with me. He would waive all $850 air­port fees if Trump got in! He kept his prom­ise..

Af­ter fly­ing over Rus­sian ter­ri­tory for 72 days the last bit of it slips un­der­neath Itzy's port wing — a sad sight

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