ALK-VA | 'Monara' E-Zine

  News Magazine of SriLankan Virtual Airlines



Recreating ‘Flight of the Double Sunrise




SriLankan VA is proud to announce the recreation of epic flight of World War II era, ‘The Secret Order of the Double  Sun Rise’ flight originally operated by Qantas Empire Airways in 1943 using PBY Catalina aircraft. Distance of 5650km, 29hr nonstop flight is from Koggala Lake, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) to Swan River near Perth, Australia.

You can read more on these original historical flights:

Here is a brief note from one of the articles:

I stood on the boat and stared. This here then was the water runway of the Koggala Lake. The exact place where some Captain synchronised his gyros, tested controls, pushed his thrust levers and revved his engines to go. I’ve done the same a thousand times in thousand runways. But that is nothing. This would have been all so different. The sheer romanticism alone was something the pilot in me could barely imagine in my wildest dreams. What are modern heavy jets and neon lighted runways? This here was the "real-deal," the incomparable beauty of flight transformed into reality by men who dared to buck the odds and perhaps became half birds themselves in the execution of their indomitable task.

The water here was where they took off in their cumbersome seaplane on its long journey from Koggala Lake to Swan River Perth on the West Australian coast. 28 hours of non-stop flying on a Catalina Flying boat, flown by Qantas Imperial Airways pilots, the longest leg of Qantas’ link flight between London and Sydney, in the war torn years of the forties. The flight was so long that the passengers saw the sun rise twice whilst being strapped to their seats. That is how the name "flight of the double sunrise," came about and entered Koggala to the record books in the world of aeroplanes.

Faithfully designed to the original specifications, ALK-VA PBY Catalina aircraft will be operated using similar war time equipment. Transponder is the only modern item fitted in the aircraft to operate it under Vatsim requirements. Aircraft is fitted with additional fuel tanks for an endurance of 30 hours at 100 knots. Two pilots will operate the flight under Vatsim network, but preferably under total radio silence, just like in the historical flights. Aircraft will depart from Ratmalana (VCCC) to Perth (YPPH) as Koggala and Swan river is not in Vatsim data base. But aircraft will perform water landings at both original landing sites at the beginning and the end of the flight. VCCC to YPPH flight is provisionally planned to operate between 10-13 July, the original date of first flight  between the cities. Return flight is also planned in time to celebrate 70th anniversary of original 29 June 1943 flight.

Catalina - General characteristics
Standard Crew: pilot, co-pilot, flight mechanic, radioman & navigator
Length: 63 ft 10 7/16 in (19.46 m)
Wingspan: 104 ft 0 in (31.70 m)
Height: 21 ft 1 in (6.15 m)
Wing area: 1,400 sq.ft (130 sq.m)
Empty weight: 20,910 lb (9,485 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 35,420 lb (16,066 kg)
Engines: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW each) each
Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0309
Drag area: 43.26 sq.ft (4.02 sq.m)
Aspect ratio: 7.73
Armament: Nil
Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)
Cruise speed: 125 mph (201 km/h), Long range cruise speed: 100 mph
Range: 2,520 mi (4,030 km) to 3500 mi (5600 km)
Max. Service ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,000 m)
Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)
Wing loading: 25.3 lb/sq.ft (123.6 kg/sq.m)
Power/mass: 0.034 hp/lb (0.056 kW/kg)
Lift-to-drag ratio: 11.9


To successfully accomplish this historical flight ALK-VA has;

  1. Modified the Consolidated PBY Catalina aircraft to original specifications

  2. Updated Koggala scenery to include correct geography and landmarks

  3. Custom made a home cockpit to operate flight under Vatsim network

ALK-VA pilots have completed Catalina route proving flights. Flight details are highlighted below. Stay tuned for news updates.

Data from this flight was recorded for initial aircraft performances calibration. Engine fine adjustments were practiced to maximise the range. Flight duration 06:04hrs.

After fitting extra fuel tanks, flight was operated with a water landing at Koggala Air Base. This flight was used to calibrate engine fuel consumption and practice navigation using only a compass and manual drift calculations. After departure from Katunayaka aircraft landed at Koggala, then continued to Male. Flight duration 05:12hrs.

Several issues of engine overheating was fixed during the Male stopover. Fuel consumption confirmed pre test values. Further fine tuning to be followed in the next test flight. Gyro equipment accuracy is still an issue. It should be monitored and calibrated. Flight duration 04:46hrs.

Painted with new insignia, 4R-SLAF is waiting on ALK-VA hangar apron.

Aircraft was painted  at Sri Lankan hangar with SriLankan VA and Sri Lankan Air Force insignia. 4R-SLAF flown to Karachi as a dress rehearsal for the real event. Gyro equipment readings were calibrated using VOR/ADF signals, since Celestial navigation readings are not possible with FSX. Maximum possible 1988 gallons of gasoline was loaded for the flight. At the end of flight 60% of the  fuel load was remaining, within the predicted values. Flight duration 13:28hrs.

Cruising at 2000ft, west of Mumbai

Flight was operated to check navigational accuracy during night flying. Aircraft was under VatInd radar control. On board navigation calculations were calibrated using radar readings. Numerous engine settings were tested to optimize fuel flow/air speed settings. Flight duration 4:46hrs.

Ghost of the night approaching position NOBAT, 2000ft. Moon was chaperoning Catalina to Mumbai

Aircraft was under VatInd radar control. Navigation calculations were calibrated using radar readings. Fine tuning of navigation procedures continued. First flight using new Catalina home cockpit. Flight duration 2:02hrs.

Flight operated under partial VatInd radar control. Navigation calculations were calibrated using limited radar readings. Fine tuning of navigation procedures continued. Various Catalina home cockpit features tested and optimised. Flight duration 2:54hrs.

Continued flight testing using Catalina home cockpit. Dual throttle controls introduced. Individual engine fine tuning is carried out. Hot engine conditions tested for optimum performance. Flight duration 1:42hrs.

Aircraft was under VatInd radar control. Navigation calculations were calibrated using radar readings. Used 7000 feet cruise altitude. Water landing test successfully accomplished 20nm east of VOMM. Flight duration 4:08hrs.

Final long-range test flight. Navigation calculations were calibrated using manual control readings. Used 7000 feet cruise altitude. Emergency back up navigation methods practised. Fuel consumption data verified and finalised.  Flight duration 3:37hrs.

The real thing. Finally the actual flight. Read all about this record breaking Vatsim flight below.


Date: Friday the 13th July 2012

0035z / 0605 local: All systems go! 4R-SLAF was cleared to take off. After runway 22 takeoff heading to Koggala Lake at 1500ft. Nearly overcast cloud base prevented sun rise from seeing over central hills.

0110z / 0640 local: Touch down on Koggala lake,  winds were 243deg/07k. After taxing next to the jetty near the Koggala airfield all aircraft systems were checked for one last time. Fuel used 3%.

0116z: Start of the epic journey. Take off heading 140deg, almost on the direct heading to Swan Lake 3100nm away. Slow climb to 1500ft.

0120z: View of first beautiful sun rise among nearly overcast cloud base.

0130z: Last view of Koggala coast line along the horizon, Swan river here we come!

0230z: With its huge wing span, Catalina is rock steady at 97k IAS, 1600ft, heading 145 magnetic. Fuel used 5%.

0330z: Slow climb to 2000ft. Few dark clouds over head. Decided to stay below clouds, as aircraft is still too heavy to climb over clouds. Distance flown 280nm, Fuel used 7%.

0430z: Alt. 2000ft, Heading 143mag., Speed 93k, 378nm done/2732nm to go. Scattered clouds above us at 3000ft. Fuel used 9%.

0530z:  Slow climb to 3000ft, Heading 141mag., 454nm done/ 2656nm to go, Fuel used 12%.

0601z: Passing from North to South above equator.

On the equator

0630z: Slow climb to 4000ft, Heading 138mag., IAS 91k, Fuel used 14%.

0635z: Murphy struck. Disconnected from Vatsim due to network error. Connection re-established again by 0646z. Decision was taken to proceed with the flight as no disruption to actual FS flight.

0730z: Slow climb to 5000ft, Heading 138mag., IAS 91k, Fuel used 17%.

0742z: Abeam position DOGAR. Colombo FIR boundary crossed at 5000ft.

0830z:  Passing 5465ft to 7000ft, Heading 138mag., IAS 91k, Fuel used 20%.

0930z: Slow climb to 9000ft, Heading 145mag., IAS 88k, Fuel used 23%. Intermittent rain, overcast sky.

1030z: Descending to 8000ft. due to heavy head wind. Clear of rain. IAS 82k, Fuel used 25%.

1130z: Altitude 8027ft., IAS 86k, Heading 142mag., Fuel used 28%.

Sunset at 1130z

1230z: Altitude 8085ft., IAS 87k, Heading 142mag., Fuel used 31%. Fuel planning is strictly adhered to as per pre planned settings.

1330z: Altitude 8050ft., IAS 87k, Heading 144mag., Fuel used 34%.

1430z: Altitude 8007ft., IAS 88k, Heading 139mag., Fuel used 36%. At 14 hours after takeoff from Ratmalana Catalina exceeded maximum nonstop distance flown during test flying.

1530z: Altitude 8020ft., IAS 89k, Heading 139mag., Fuel used 39%.

1555z: Abeam Cocos Island. Attempt to climb to 9000ft. was abandoned due to unacceptable headwind.

1630z: Halfway point of the flight. Altitude 8011ft., IAS 100k, Heading 138mag., Fuel used 41%.

1730z: Altitude 8176ft., IAS 100k, Heading 138mag., Fuel used 43%.

1830z: Altitude 8149ft., IAS 100k, Heading 138mag., Fuel used 45%. Note the gradual increase of altitude due to decrease in fuel weight, even with pitch hold is active in Sperry gyro autopilot.

1930z: Altitude 8180ft., IAS 100k, Heading 138mag., Fuel used 47%.

2030z: Altitude 8259ft., IAS 100k, Heading 138mag., Fuel used 49%.

Ghost of the Night, slow and steady

2130z: Altitude 8320ft., IAS 102k, Heading 138mag., Fuel used 51%.

2230z: Altitude 8380ft., IAS 104k, Heading 138mag., Fuel used 53%.

2330z: Altitude 8476ft., IAS 104k, Heading 137mag., Fuel used 55%.

Second sun rise at 2335z

Date: Saturday 14th July 2012

0030z: Altitude 8500ft., IAS 91k, Heading 137mag., Fuel used 57%. Catalina is airborne for 24hours. It has exceeded all present day commercial aircraft endurance limits.

0130z: Altitude 8531ft., IAS 91k, Heading 137mag., Fuel used 60%. Encountered strong head wind and speed reduced accordingly.

0230z: Altitude 8562ft., IAS 91k, Heading 137mag., Fuel used 62%.

0330z: Altitude 8562ft., IAS 91k, Heading 137mag., Fuel used 65%.

0430z: Altitude 8560ft., IAS 90k, Heading 93mag., Fuel used 67%. Catalina turned eastward heading direct to western Australian coast.

0444z: Perth VOR is active at 189dme. Scattered clouds.

First view of Australian coast

0530z: 118dme Perth VOR, Altitude 8528ft., IAS 91k, Heading 173mag., Fuel used 70%. Heading southward along the coastline.

0548z: 95dme Perth VOR, Slow descending to 7000ft. to avoid carburettor shock cooling,  IAS 91k, Heading 174mag.

0600z: Altitude 4000ft., IAS 97k, Heading 155mag., Fuel used 71%. Stopped descending to avoid rapid engine cooling, outside temperature 1deg. Celsius.

0616z: 40dme Perth VOR, descending to 3000ft.

0620z: Swan river is insight. What a sight for tired eyes!

0630z: Altitude 1500ft., IAS 95k, Heading 152mag., Fuel used 72%.

0638z / 1438 local: Swan river touch down! 29hrs 24mts after taking off from Koggala lake Catalina achieved its mission object. Fuel used 73%. After making 360deg circle close to Perth downtown Catalina lined up again facing south west.

0642z / 1442 local: Takeoff from Swan river. Joined downwind to Perth YPPH runway 24. Couple of Vatsim arrivals were lined up for runway 21 finals.

After taking off from Swan river, inbound to YPPH for final landing

0654z / 1454 local: Landed on YPPH runway 24. Taxied to the apron and on blocks by 0658z. Total voyage time is 30hrs 11mts. Fuel used 74%.


Linked Vatsim flight log starts at re-connected time 0642z. Previous 6hrs of flying data got erased due to network error.

Celestial navigation which was the method used for original Catalina flights, is not possible in FSX, therefore ‘Dead Reckoning’ (DR) is the process that we used for the whole ocean crossing. DR is the process of calculating aircraft’s current position by using a previously established & confirmed position, or fix, and advancing that position based upon known current speed over elapsed time, and course (magnetic heading).
Our first fix was line up position of runway 22 Ratmalana. Next fix was coastline next to the Koggala airfield. Fortunately our flight path was nearly constant without requiring any abrupt heading changes. Hourly calculations were carried out to update the flight path. Though we received Cocos Island VOR/NDB, we didn’t use its readings to correct our DR estimates.

From the date we planned to recreate this flight months ago, we wanted to stick to the authentic flying procedures as closely as possible. Even the ambient room lightings were adjusted to match the time of the day, with total darkness at night with only dim instrument lights are visible. It really created the atmosphere that we wanted to experience, constant engine sounds, darkness all around, total radio silence with no other traffic (even with Vatsim), hours of loneliness in a remote area, constant fine adjustments to flying & engine controls, etc. Only condition that was lacking in the flight was any threat from enemy action. We were never bored at any time, and rotated piloting every 4 hours, but were truly tired after the second sun rise.

Our original plan was to head direct to western coast of Cape range national park, then follow the coastline to Swan river. But we realised then the flight time could have been excessively long. Therefore more direct path was selected and reached the coast south of Geroldton. Original east bound flights were generally operated at 10000ft – 12000ft due to favourable wind conditions, but we never encountered such conditions. We used Vatsim weather, and it was more or less headwind all the way, may be due to Vatsim/FSInn wind model. Light rain experienced 9hrs into the flight was a welcome change. Catalina which is truly an unique bird, who behaves well, but with untamed beastly characteristics at low level flying. It needs full time attention, but rock steady while cruising, with those magnificent and ever so reliable Wasp engines. Treat them right, and they will run for an eternity.

Catalina flight was fully depended on the fuel management and accurate navigation without ground based beacons or GPS assistance. Throughout the flight fuel status as well as engine parameters were constantly monitored and fine tuned for optimum operation. Unlike in modern airliners no warnings are available in Catalina other than actual direct gauge readings. Due to this attention to details when engines were finally stopped at Perth Catalina had remaining reserve fuel that was sufficient for another couple of hours. Even though we were able to cruise at 110-115k during last 8hrs of flight we maintained the original cruise speed of 99k or less as per the historical records. Parameters recorded during the flight will be very useful to us for the planned return journey.

Whole flight was immensely satisfying and made us to understand and admire the dedication of those original aviators. ALK-VA salute to all those fine airmen who have taken so many known and unknown risks during each and every crossing.

Join us again in 2013 for the 70th anniversary flight.


Read the full report about 70th anniversary flight of 2013.




New area scenery designed to create Koggala Lake

Correct geography and land marks are missing from FSX default scenery. ALK-VA created final scenery version is shown below for comparison. Landmarks such as Madolduwa island, Bird island, Koggala railway bridge, Jetties, etc. and landing aids such as buoys and wind socks were added to support Catalina flights to match World War II conditions. Maximum available water runway length is 11525ft. This will be barely sufficient for overloaded Catalina to lift off.

When finalised updated Koggala scenery for FSX will be made available for ALK-VA pilots.



Home Cockpit Project For Catalina Flight

ALK-VA staff assembled a custom cockpit to use with Catalina flight. It has panoramic 3 monitor external view, two separate monitors for cockpit instruments and Vatsim, FSinn and other support programs. Complete setup contains following:

  • Three 21" LED monitors for external view

  • One 23" LCD monitor for Instrument panel

  • One 19" LCD monitor for all support programs

  • i7 Intel DX58SO pc with 6GB ram, four sata hard discs, Win 7 pro 64bit

  • Dual ATI Radeon HD5770

  • Matrox TripleHead2Go Three-Monitor Graphics Expansion - Digital Edition

  • Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with dual Three-Lever Throttles (PZ44/PZ45)

  • Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals

  • Saitek Pro Flight Multi Panel

  • Saitek PRO Flight Radio Panel

  • Saitek PRO Flight Switch Panel (PZ55)

  • Creative Inspire Multimedia Speaker System

  • Corsair Liquid CPU Cooler CWCH60

  • ButtKicker BK-GR seat vibration generating system


Where to start?

Monitor testing in progress

Almost finished, but few more hardware to assemble.. and the yoke is not centered, yet...need more desktop space

Captain, aircraft & cockpit ready for the flight!

After 3 months of planning and testing, the aircraft, cockpit & pilots are ready for the flight.




Read the full report about 70th anniversary flight of 2013.




12-12-12  First Flight to Hambantota International [VCHI]

Notam: Photo real Sri Lankan airport runways

Recreating 'Flight of the Double Sunrise'

Round the World On Equator

Frequent flyer? Travel by air for vacations? Pilot, or wannabe?

Understand What is True Professionalism


Actual Airplane Maintenance Log Book Entries

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The course of the flight up and down was exceedingly erratic, partly due to the irregularity of the air, and partly to lack of experience in handling this machine.

- Orville Wright -


©alkva 2012-13

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