Take-off: Indira Gandhi International Airport (India) – ICAO: VIDP
METAR VIDP 231200Z 29005KT 1000 R28/1500 R29/1500 FU FEW100 16/09 Q1019 TEMPO 0800 (decode)
Landing: Tribhuvan International Airport (Nepal) – ICAO: VNKT
METAR VNKT 231150Z 26006KT 220V310 3000 FEW015 11/04 Q1019 (decode)
On the doorstep of the Himalayas
It has been difficult to plan this flight, because we had to travel a longer distance of 439.3 nm, the second longest leg with only 5 nm less than our flight from Dubai to Turbat (leg 17). It also becomes increasingly difficult to find airports with fueling within a decent range, so we’ll have to be careful with our future planning.
This 23rd flight brings us very close to the Himalayas, home of the highest mountain on earth, Mount Everest. It’s also a waypoint on my personal shortlist that I composed at the start of the world tour. Although the first part of this flight would take us over flat terrain, the appearance of those majestic mountains on the horizon, after almost 10 000 km (~ 5400 nm, ~ 6200 miles) from our home airport, was something to look forward to. If I may give one tip to fellow world travelers: make a shortlist of must-see locations, these kind of small goals make it fun.
The take-off was planned in the early afternoon and we would arrive at sunset after a flight of 2,5 hours. For the departure, I installed freeware scenery for the departure airport Indira Gandhi Intl. The textures weren’t all that special, but it’s little over one year old (quite recent compared to some other scenery) and the author claims that it’s a very accurate rendition, so who am I to critize? 🙂 The smog was still very present in the city of New Delhi, concentrated within city borders. After take-off on runway 28, we followed the traffic pattern to leave in eastern direction and climb out of the smog to a cruising altitude of 13600 feet (don’t look at me, it’s what our flight planning software Plan-G gave as suggested altitude).
Half of this IFR flight would go across the mainland of India and lower mountains would welcome us at the southern border of Nepal. And what a welcome it was… I’m glad we got the FreeMeshX add-on installed, because topography fidelity in mountain ranges is always a big plus and it’s good for the eye candy.
From south to north, Nepal has three zones: the “lowlands” (also known as Terai region) in the south, hills and low mountains in the center and the Himalaya mountains in the north. Nepal has a lot of high mountains: eight mountains of the world’s top ten highest mountains are located in Nepal!
After some moments of enjoyment above Nepal, it was time to think about our approach. At departure, the weather conditions for our destination airport Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu (Nepal) looked good with few clouds, but reality had something else for us in store: clouds, hanging low, and lots of them!
Before the flight, I had – like a good student – done my homework. I was prepared and I knew that Kathmandu is situated in bowl-shaped valley. Most arrivals (if not all?) are done at runway 02, because of the surrounding hills. Departing airplanes on runway 02 never do a straight-out departure, but circle around the airport to gain altitude. I had the arrival chart next to me, but being unfamiliar with the airport and its surroundings, descending with dusk into a thick layer of clouds with mountain tops sticking through is a precarious undertaking. Fortunately, this is just a virtual experience and even better, we have a G1000 glass cockpit with terrain proximity radar!
After clearing the last mountain obstacle in our approach path, I still had quite some altitude, so I enabled speed brakes to get a good, but acceptable, descent rate, heading for runway 02 at an altitude of 4389 feet. When we sliced through the bottom layer of the clouds, I was happy to have the PAPI lights as a visual reference on this VOR/DME approach. For someone with average flight simulation experience, like yours truly, it’s a good thing to have and it made me notice that we were too low. I planned on intercepting the glide slope at lower altitude while keeping visual contact with the runway to avoid any surprises. It wasn’t a textbook-perfect 3° glide slope, but I managed to put the aircraft down softly. Welcome in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
In my home country Belgium, we celebrate Christmas on December 25th (with a tasty family dinner the evening before Christmas). It’s the perfect moment to spend some quality time with the people who you love and care for. Through this way I wish everybody a Merry Christmas and, because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do the next flight before the end of 2015, I also want to wish everybody a happy New Year! (for all those with Gregorian calendar 😉 ) I hope all your wishes may come true.
One last trivia: New Year in Nepal is celebrated on the 1st of Baisakh (12–15 April). So my virtual world traveler counterpart will have to celebrate New Year on his own in the Himalayas. 😀