Recreating ‘Flight of the
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
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.
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
Standard Crew: pilot, co-pilot, flight mechanic, radioman &
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
Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)
Cruise speed: 125 mph (201 km/h), Long range cruise speed: 100
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
accomplish this historical flight ALK-VA has;
Consolidated PBY Catalina aircraft to original specifications
scenery to include correct geography and landmarks
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.
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.
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
Flight duration 13:28hrs.
Cruising at 2000ft, west
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.
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.
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.
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.
FLIGHT LOG 4R-SLAF
Date: Friday the 13th July 2012
/ 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
/ 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
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
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
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
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
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%.
/ 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.
/ 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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
us again in 2013 for the 70th anniversary flight.
Read the full report about
70th anniversary flight of 2013.