Around the World in 70 Days, Weeks 6 & 7: Asia
"We've been gone over 50 days now, and had just one weather-related delay," says Thierry Pouille, organizer of Air Journey's unique round- the-world GA tour, now in Asia. "It's just chance, really!," he admits, noting that several times weather would have been a factor if they had planned to fly just a day before or after. "We've been lucky." Part of the group's luck stems from Pouille's work ethic. Back in Florida now, he is staying up nights and sleeping during the day, to manage the needs of his group of five world-spanning aircraft. And his daughter, J.P., travels to each site a day ahead, to be sure all details are looked after.
The pilots made it to Hong Kong on Wednesday. "I believe our PC-12 was the first of its kind ever to land there," Pouille said. After much fruitless effort trying to plan a GA flight across China, the decision was made to park in Hong Kong and visit via commercial flights instead. "China just doesn't understand the needs of this kind of GA aircraft," Pouille said. All five of the airplanes on the trip are pressurized, turbo-powered, and owner-flown. "With all of the extra problems there surrounding the recent earthquake, and now the Olympics, we decided to skip it for this year, and try another time."
"Another time" will be soon -- Pouille said the round-the-world trip will definitely run again next year. Changes next time will include longer layovers -- pilots and their companions found they need three nights per stop to have time to enjoy each destination. Also at least one week-long stop will be planned, allowing time to rest and take care of any maintenance or other issues that can crop up on such a long trip. And he hopes that stops in China can be managed for next year's trip.
This year, an Australian pilot joined the group for part of its Southeast Asian tour, and Pouille said he welcomes such flexibility. "We have a constantly changing group, with friends and relatives joining up and leaving, and that's good for the group dynamics," he said.
Since our last AVweb report, the group has visited Ahmedabad, in India, and the Taj Mahal; they then flew on to Thailand, where they explored both the green hills of Chiang Mai and the seaside resort of Phuket. Next stop was Cambodia, and the spectacular temples at Angkor Wat, then stops in Viet Nam, at Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Finally, they flew an 850nm leg to Hong Kong, adding hundreds of extra miles to divert around Chinese airspace. Now the pilots have a week off from flying to be tourists in China, before taking off again -- next stop, Taiwan.