The celebration begins

Friday, November 01, 2013
Odesa, Odessa Oblast, Ukraine
This was it. As far as the itinerary of the trip was concerned, this was the last group stop. From here everyone would go their own ways. Hard to believe this would also be the last time I'd sit left on the world trip. I would be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a little nostalgic upon waking up.

For us it would be relatively short flight of under 4 hours, so we didn't have to start super early . Still, every day we were gaining at least one time zone lately, so it wasn't really possible to sleep in. Our taxi driver wasn't the Schumacher of the evening before and for that I was grateful. What wasn't at all great was that I left my iPhone in the taxi. Ugh! I noticed it was missing after going through the second security check after immigration. We tried calling the phone, I tried using find-my-phone, and the handling agent called the taxi and even went out to the taxi to look for it. All without luck. it sucked but after 20 minutes and no chance of getting it any time soon, we went off to the plane. We sent text messages in Turkish and English saying what number to call if found. there wasn't much more I could do. I the grand scheme of things, if this was the biggest thing I lost on the trip, the trip was a resounding success.

By the time we made it to Maggie, our flight plan was in danger of closing. We packed and pre-flights quickly and barely made our initial radio calls before the plan was closed . We received our clearance, albeit with a couple detours and headed out. Here too we were sandwiched between various airliners. This was becoming so common I don't think we even took any pictures ;-).

Once en route we heard Dietmar and Veronika from the Silver Eagle. They were on a converging air highway and were going to beat us to Odessa by
10 or so minutes. It was somehow a bit comforting to be covering our last over-water stretch in the Black Sea with a a familiar crew only a few miles away and in radio contact. Almost the entire flight over the Black Sea we were above clouds and couldn't see the water. That was just fine too.

The approach was in clear visual conditions but we were on a vectored ILS approach anyway, just a few minutes behind the Silver Eagle. The runway was bouncy and my third least favorite of the trip behind Romblon and Palo Alto. The taxi ways were the worst, that's for sure. We taxied behind the follow-me car so slowly even the tower called to ask if everything was okay.

Once we got our of the plane I couldn't help but smile. My left seat time was done. We'd just flown the last official leg of the entire trip. It was a great feeling.

We had mandatory handling agents and they took us through customs and drove us to the hotel. Odessa made a really nice impression. It reminded me the old town portions of Kiev and St. Petersburg with wide streets, giant trees, and art nouveau facades in pastel colors. Many were in need of some TLC but still had lots of charm.

Johannes and I had lunch in a random restaurant that not only didn't have English menus but also was hosting a ladies group meeting. We enjoyed being in the company of 20 women, even if it looked like most had eaten too much borscht. Beers and nostalgia about the trip were in order.

Jan hosted a group dinner for the whole group which was lots of fun. All nine aircraft were present, all made it to each leg on the entire trip without delay, and no one had major technical issues. That was unusual for such group trips, and astounding on such a long trip with so many chances for things to go awry. Everyone was all smiles. As part of a photo presentation, Jan had each group come up and he said nice and memorable things bout each crew. We were acknowledged for being the crazy guys flying a piston-engine plane. Indeed, everyone applauded. Later one of the crew of the King Air, himself a pilot of the A380 for Lufthansa, said he'd never do anything so stupid ;-)

It was a fun but tame night with lots of heartfelt goodbyes and not the over-the-top drinking I expected. For that kind of action we'd just have to remember other fun nights out on this trip: Cold Bay, Tokyo, Manado, Muscat... ;-). I really respect everyone in the group. Almost all had created their own successes and everyone was surely a different personality. They were all quality, professional pilots from whom I learned a lot. If the possibility arose for a future fun flying adventure, I'd be happy to have any of them in a future group.

Now all we had to do was get back to Straubing, Germany, where the fun started 2.5 months ago. There was much talk of the bad weather front moving eastward over France that we'd all have to cross through the following day regardless of our final destination. We'd largely escaped very bad weather, and hoped that on our final leg of the trip we wouldn't be sidetracked from our objective. As always, our approach would be to take advantage of being a piston-engine aircraft and fly low under the risk of ice. Fingers crossed ;-)

Routing from Ankara (LTAC) to Odessa (UKOO):
BUK M861 RAKUR M856 ODS at FL180 and a flight time of 3h40m.
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