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Today is the day we
are heading home and starting to split with our Russian counterparts. As usual, lots
of paperwork, another Russian medical, visit the controller for stamp of permission, get
weather, sign weather, sign flight plan, and sign the book and write "I take decision
to fly." Nikki and I hauled a lot of baggage last night. We are shipping
boxes home. Along the route, we received a bunch of gifts. A lot of
books. At the airport, we fueled the Maule to the top everywhere. Now at this
point in our day, everything went to hell in a handbasket. We did our hugging,
kissing thing with Natasha, Valery, Anatoly, Rafael and the rest of the crew with the
exception of the military pilots, Yuri (mechanic), Peter (engineer) and Khalide.
They are going to Euensk with us. Khalide and I taxi out, fully loaded. When
we made our slow turn to line up, POW. There went another tail wheel tube. Now
I know why everyone looked at our tail wheel. Too tiny for this area. Sitting
cross ways of the Magadan runway, I was in full knowledge that I was the one who closed
the Magadan International Airport for 2 hours because they didn't have any thing to help
the plane of the runway. Now on Nikki's side of the coin, she was sitting in the
AN-2 with Constantine. They were preparing to leave and had the tower frequency on.
Constantine looked at Nikki wild-eyed and said "Rhonda, Boom." He did a
blowing gesture with his hands. All poor ole Nik could think of was taking off with
all that extra fuel on board. She said her heart went up in her throat until she
could get out of him "the tail wheel!" Valery and Rafael have had a hard
time understanding me. I like to be out at the plane. They want me to sit and
drink tea while the guys fix the plane. We finally found a little cart to put the
back of the plane on and haul it off the runway. We now had 2 tubes with holes in
them. This day just didn't have a good feel to it. Constantine found a patch
kit and read the Russian directions to Mikey. When it looked like it would work, we
sent Nikki and Constantine on to Euensk by their selves. We would follow
later. As they were leaving, a thought hit me. VISAS! The hotel still
had them. Another negative! Hotel is 60 KM away. Rafael got on the
phone, hired a taxi to pick them up and drive them to us. Finally we get to
leave. Boy, were we heavy. Carefully, onto the runway. I am rally proud
that no one can see my takeoffs on these crappy runways and being this heavy. Not a
pretty sight. Climb out was slow (looked slower because of the mountains) When
we got about one hour from Euensk, we radioed for weather there. Overcast at 200
meters. That's about 650 feet. Ok, it's minimums for their approach. Khalide
and I got the Russian approach plate out. Steep descent over the mountains onto the
runway. Khalide asked for an approach from over the sea. The controller said
"Good, I will make one."
Khalide said, "Just
follow what I say. Descend into clouds"
Rhonda, " What altitude?"
Khalide, "Oh, about, what do you say maybe 5,000 ft".
Rhonda, "5,000 will be fine"
Khalide, "Turn to 250 degrees. no 025 degrees, descend to 3,000 feet, now to
1,300 feet, turn 025 degrees, now 030 degrees, wait 020 degrees, now 025 degrees, descend
to 200 meters"
At 200 meters (650
feet) no runway.
climb!, how fast, mountains?"
My Russian vocabulary
was working overtime. S - - -, S - - -, S - - - !!! When we tried the approach
again, Khalide asked to go farther out to sea so we could get down and look.
Finally, we were turning back to the airport.
down to 200 meters, 100 meters,"
Rhonda, "No runway, Khalide!"
Khalide, "Go down more"
Well, at about 50 feet
above the water, we were out of the clouds. Runway was ahead and looking good.
When we pulled on the ramp, there was the usual crowd, kids dressed up and the
Mayor. Before we stopped, Khalide put her head down and sighed. I followed her
lead. I shut the engine off and there was a tap on my door. Nikki was wrapped
in Constantine's coat, freezing and white as a sheet. When I opened the door, she
broke down. On the other side of the plane was one of the Russian pilots smiling and
giving me 2 thumbs up. They had done the same 40 minutes earlier and popped out at
300 feet. The ceiling came down a lot before we got there. Later, I found out
that the guy at the radio (they called a controller) was giving me those great vectors by
holding his head out the window and listening to the engine so he could figure out where
We decided that we had
put in enough for this day and just packed it in. It was a great dinner with the Mayor and
2 Constantines (military pilots), Yuri, Peter, Nikki, Khalide and I. A great ending
to a great flight.
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