A Circuitous Circumnavigation in the TBM 930 / Longitude

Day 11 and it’s off to Timbuktu we go.

We’re flying from Mali’s capital Bamako into its interior and possibly one of the most romantic locations we will pass through in this entire journey. Mali is a strange country as, in its present form, it doesn’t really have a great deal of history having been manipulated over the years by a variety of controlling interest until we arrive at its present incarnation.

Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade. At its peak in 1300AD the Mali empire covered an area about twice the size of present day France and stretched to the west coast of Africa.

In the late 19th century France seized control of Mali making it part of French Sudan. In 1959, now called the Sudanese Republic, it joined with Senegal and achieved independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation

Following the subsequent withdrawal of Senegal it finally declared itself the independent Republic of Mali, it’s present form.

Unfortunately the country has subsequently been riven with internal strife and military takeovers, mainly due to it’s geography. To the north the country is mainly Saharan desert inhabited by Tuareg arabs while to the south the population is mainly Mande who have overall control of the country.

The country is politically unstable, especially as we move north. As has been mentioned above aviation operators have been warned to maintain altitudes of over FL250 in order to avoid becoming of interest to insurgents with ground to air missiles. Fortunately this is no problem to G-MOLY and ATC aids us by clearing us to to FL310 immediately after takeoff and only directs us to descend when we are within 50 miles of our destination.

During our flight we are fortunate to avoid some active weather cells to the east and when we are descending we are fortunate to experience some of the wonderful colours of the desert.

Our approach goes without incident and we are soon turning on to final to land at Timbuktu.

Journey time today was 1:31.57
Total elapsed time so far: 16:33.51

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Day 12 Timbuktu to Naimey. Mali to Niger. A flight between two of the most deprived countries in Africa.

Timbuktu is located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, ten miles north of the River Niger. While it had its genesis in antiquity as a place of Islamic learning in modern days it has had a more chequered past due to the infiltration of al-Qaeda rebels and the continued enforcement of order by government forces aided by France.

As you can imagine there is not much to the airport itself, partly due to the reality of the location but also by the general poor support much of Africa has from MSFS and the scenery provided.

The landscape you end up flying over can be as uniform and featureless as flying on top of unbroken overcast cloud conditions.

Flying over massive rivers such as the Niger can however break up the monotony.

Occasionally, as we climb out over the savannah, interesting meteorological conditions can provide some interest. The cloud blank ahead could almost be seen as being a dust storm.

Eventually we break out on top and engage in a spot of cloud surfing.

Finally, coming in on approach into Niamey, the capital of Niger, the poorest country in Africa we could be anywhere in much of Africa. The scenery is so desperately generic.

We land and taxi onto the apron to shut down.

Flight time 1:22.17
Total to date 17:56.08

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That’s Africa for you, I suppose. There’s quite a lot of detail but the TBM’s too fast to see it.
I found the airport is quite impressive in size and as you said, the rivers are interesting, landing on the islands is fun.
Hope you had a good night, are less desperate now, and that the sights will get better soon :slightly_smiling_face: !

Interestingly, there seems to be a renovated second runway (formerly made of Laterite) and new taxiways which neither MSFS, Bing, or Navigraph seem to know about, but are clearly visible on Google maps.

What I feared apparently happened.

G-MOLY’s pilot seems to have been kidnapped by terrorists in Niger.

To pay the virtual ransom, help from pilots all over the world will be needed…

:wink: :grin:

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I’ll bet you never expected to see the day. G-MOLY is back! But not as you remember her.

It’s been 18 months since the TBM landed in Niger never to be seen again. As was guessed at as soon as the propeller stopped turning G-MOLY was surrounded by rather unpleasant fellows wielding machetes and Kalashnikovs. I was bundled away to rot in a Naimey prison cell for supposedly having the incorrect documentation for a flight from Mali while my precious aircraft along with my iPad and Google phone disappeared to some tribal warlord’s remote camp up country.

While I was in prison I struck up a relationship with a rather interesting chap who turned out to be the former finance minister of Nigeria. He spent all his time trying to gain access to the internet in order to email various people around the world to try and gather up enough money to buy himself out of prison. When he found out I was a pilot he suggested I come with him to provide an escape route out of Niger as he told me his business jet was parked at the airport, apparently still in one piece. I spent the time doing the work necessary to acclimatise myself to the workings of jets and completed an online course to legally transition to Citation jets run by the little known University of Naimey. Looked legit to me anyway.

The day came and we were thrown out of prison, blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight, our pockets lighter to the tune of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. We made our way to the airport and imagine my surprise when I saw our new ride. One Citation Longitude.

My friend had told me that if I could fly him safely to Cameroon he would let me have the plane, indeed he had already arranged to have the registration transferred to the jet. I filed a flightplan and we were off:

The route took us from Rwy 09R at DRRN, departing on the VOLT1E SID to VOLTI, thereafter R981 TENTU UQ181 UBERU UQ300 KOKAM then the KOKA1R STAR to the ILS X approach into Rwy 30 at FKKD Douala International Airport in Cameroon:

You don’t see the earth from this high in a TBM. I was sincerely impressed in the amount of automation in the Longitude and was able to take in the scenery during the two hour flight. This was topped off as we skirted Mount Cameroon on our descent:

The flight was sublime and we toasted our freedom as we turned onto approach into Douala as the sun was setting with Mt Cameroon in the background:

As the engines spooled down my mysterious benefactor handed me the title documents to the aircraft and stepped out to a waiting limousine with heavily tinted windows. His final suggestion was to check the bathroom as he had left me a “small” bonus.

What was the bonus? You’ll have to wait until the next instalment I’m afraid. Now I’m off to the nearest hotel for my first shower for 18 months.

Flight time: 1:54.07

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We’re SO happy there is a new G-MOLY with adventures to follow, I hope, around the world.
Please keep out of (too much) trouble from now on, Captain Dalwhat !

Having just waved off my friend from the Niger prison cell I took his advice and went to check out the bathroom of the business jet. To say I was slightly underwhelmed, having hoped to see at least one large suitcase full of money was my initial reaction as there was nothing of the sort. Sitting on the lid of the toilet was an envelope albeit adorned with the crest of the finance ministry of Nigeria. Inside was a bundle of crisp $100 bills amounting to $10,000. An accompanying note told me this was for “expenses” and that the fuel card tucked into the band around the bills had unlimited credit and was for funding my continuation of the circumnavigation in the Longitude. Finally I was given an introduction to an aircraft valeting company at the airport that would spruce up G-MOLY as the 18 months she had been in mothballs had taken its toll on the paintwork. The results were most pleasing:

I spent my time deciding my next move. I’d got as far as Cameroon and decided I should head towards Cape Town before turning back north up towards the horn of Africa and thereafter the Gulf states. Cameroon stands at the junction between West and Central Africa. The city of Douala sits at the point where the coast of West Africa turns a right angle and heads more or less due south. I decided to continue the theme of sightseeing and checking out significant waypoints by travelling first to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which sits on the banks of the mighty river which lends its name and lies just the southern side of the equator:

The countries of Central Africa are not unknown to be rife with corruption of one sort or another and both Cameroon and Congo are no exception. While both are former colonies of France the former also had British influence and so both French and English languages are spoken. The predominant religion is Christianity although Islam is becoming increasingly prevalent due in no small part to the rise of the militant organization Boko Haram. I would need my wits about me until I reached Cape Town as I was sure G-MOLY would be an attractive bauble for a corrupt government official.

As we flew over Equatorial Guinea I toasted myself with a cheeky cranberry juice to mark my first crossing of the equator on this trip:

As we began to descend we flew over the Congo River, the second longest river in Africa after the Nile. It is also the second largest by discharge volume in the world after the Amazon and the deepest river in the world with depths of over 700 feet in places.

As we dropped lower we could see that Kinshasa was covered in a temperature inversion blanket

Thanking the IFR gods we shot the ILS into runway 24 at Kinshasa

My piloting skills were improving, helped no doubt by the absence of any wind at ground level, and we greased the landing. Kinshasa it seems is surrounded by low hills which probably aids the inversion phenomenon. The low overcast made it feel more like landing at Manchester than equatorial Africa:

Overall flight time was 1 hour 40 minutes which makes the total trip to date 21 hours 30 minutes. And 18 months.


The next leg on the way to Cape Town was to Windhoek in Namibia.

The plan was to initially head south west towards Luanda in Angola before turning south towards Namibia. This was to be the longest leg to date at approximately 1,700 miles and showed the benefit of flying the Longitude over huge distances that are sparsely populated. This was the first time that I had used FSLTL on this project. It is a free third party traffic generator and works quite well although sometimes its interaction with the in game ATC can throw up some issues. As I taxied towards the runway I was told to hold short for an Ethiopian plane landing. After being told to continue and line up I noticed another aircraft approaching, a Kenya Airways 737. Fortunately ATC told the landing aircraft to go around which it subsequently did however it did get my pulse racing. As we rolled down the runway the weather decided to greet us with lightning however the clouds tops were quite low and we soon burst out on top as we headed for the coast.

Hitting the coast we began the turn south.

Flying over Luanda at FL400 the winds aloft were only 16kts

As we flew south we tracked the coastal escarpment that leads up to the great central plateau of Africa

As the coast bent away to the west we continued south and into and over Namibia, flying over the great Etosha Pan, a vast salt pan that extends for over 75 miles east to west. In the rainy season it will fill with water up to a depth of a few inches but most of the time it more resembles the surface of the moon.

As we hit the top of descent we flew over two mountains that looked like they may have been extinct volcanoes. Try as I might I have been unable to find their names.

We continued descending over the Khomas Highland Plateau on which Windhoek stands, at 5,600 feet above sea level this is the highest airport we have visited so far.

We turned on to the RNAV appraoch at Rwy08. Unfortunately the autopilot didn’t do a great job at capturing the glide path on this occasion so I had to hand fly the approach.

Namibia is the second most sparsely populated country in the world after Mongolia due mainly to the presence of the Namib and Kalahari deserts which take up much of the country. It’s capital Windhoek itself only has a population of 400,000.

Flight time was 2hrs 55 minutes, the longest leg so far. Total elapsed time is 24 hrs 25 minutes.


Hi Captain, maybe more like buttocks :slight_smile: … I think this is what you were looking for:

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Don’t know how I missed this thread originally, but I finally discovered it today and read through the whole thing. Absolutely love it! Fingers crossed that our captain doesn’t get detained again and can continue sharing this adventure with us.

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Superb. Thank you for searching this out. If I may say however, if your buttocks are as mismatched and as pointy as this then I suggest you seek medical help, or join the circus.

Fly day! And today I dumped a huge bill on the fuel card, topped off the tanks and set the destination to Cape Town at the tip of the African continent in South Africa. The route from Windhoek was as follows:

Taking off from Rwy08 at FYWH
Landing via the ILS19 approach at FACT

The route was 703 miles at FL440 and was expected to take around 2 hours.

The setup was to disconnect both FS Traffic and FSLTL and just use the AI Traffic within the sim which had been tweaked by SU12. By and large this has been successful for me, especially now with ATC vectoring and spacing aircraft on arrival and departure far more realistically.

There were no issues leaving Windhoek and I decided to forego VNAV and just trust in ATC to get me up to the flight levels.

Using the FLC option to follow the stepped climb offered by ATC

With the full fuel tanks it took me quite a while to get up to M.830 once I had hit FL440. Interestingly, the aircraft would have you try and cruise at M.840 although if you do that you are continually infringing on the barber’s pole and so I always set the speed manually to avoid the occasional overspeed warning.

As I crossed over central Namibia I flew over the Hardap Dam, the largest reservoir in the country which was opened in 1962 on my left wing.

A little further on I came across another interesting geological feature, Brukkaros Mountain a former volcano that exploded 80 million years ago leaving a large caldera. The mountain is over 5,000 high although the crater floor is 1,100 feet below the level of the rim.

Crossing over into South African airspace we began to see the Atlantic coast again over on our starboard wing

Hitting the arrival and travelling down the coast we saw a bit of cloud beginning to bubble up, no doubt generated by the collision of the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans off the coast of Cape Town. I have to say that in my view the improvement recently in the quality of the clouds in the sim has been considerable.

Coming through the clouds on a straight in approach Table Mountain was clearly visible to the right.

Now on final, sandwiched between two cargo aircraft, realistically vectored by ATC Table Mountain passed by the vacant co-pilot’s window.

ATC did make a bit of meal of our approach by trying to get us to climb to FL170 only 25 miles form our destination but as there were the two cargo haulers in the vicinity maybe they were intending to have us fly a holding pattern. I casually ignored the controller however and followed the VNAV restrictions for a straight in approach, and to give ATC its due it did a fairly good job at slotting the AI aircraft in around us. We landed and vacated the runway quickly at the earliest opportunity although the aircraft following us was still instructed to conduct a go around which was a bit embarrassing all things considered.

Shutting down on the ramp you can see the really well generated clouds as well as the other aircraft generated by the sim albeit with generic markings. The aircraft in the distance was taking off and did so realistically from the rotation to the climb out. Thumbs up Asobo.

Flight time was 1 hr 32 minutes thanks to a stiff old following wind of over 60kts. Total flight time to date is now 1 day 1 hr 57 minutes.

We will turn back to the north on our next trip as we seem to have run out of land to the south to fly over. Fly safe me hearties.

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