Flying North and South

Late Friday afternoon 9th February I joined the crowds to catch a Thai Lion Air flight to Chiang Mai. The cost was a bit higher, 4,790 Baht as it was the Chinese New Year holiday period.

In the mountains enroute to Pai

The objective was to fly the weekend with Mike and his wife Mam around the Mae Hong Son loop, stopping at Pai, Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang, and then returning via Doi Inthanon.
There was also a visit by Nigel who is a pilot for BA flying Boeing 777s, and who travels the World to see classic aeroplanes. For him I helped to organise a trip to the Tango Squadron museum at Chiang Mai Airport as well as accommodation.

All went to plan for once except for a bit of a glitch in Mike and Mam's online hotel room bookings.

The landmark to Pai

Saturday morning and I topped off the tanks with 100LL. Fuel is not available on this route and so full tanks are required.

The battery was too low to turn the engine over, and so I hand propped the six cylinder O-300 engine. Started easily enough.
We were airborne at 12:03 into the smoky air to fly to Doi Saket, and over Mae Rim at 2,000 feet (1,000 feet AGL), and then up to 6,500 feet to cross the mountains. A slightly bumpy landing was made at Pai at 12:50.

Pai Aerodrome

The Cessna 172G

Mike did not like the walk into town... Too far! (It only took 25 minutes).
We sat in a restaurant on a corner of the main junction; Google maps had it as "The best Khao Soi in Pai". I love kao soi, very tasty, but this was no where near the standard I am used to. I can't say it was the worst kao soi I've had as I have never before had a bad kao soi; this was simply awful.

On the bridge in Pai

We walked another grueling 200 yards to the bus station nearby which you can get a taxi... The taxi first drove us to the river, this would have been nearly 500 yards further!, and then we returned to the aerodrome.

Paid the landing fee (85 Baht), and we were airborne again at 15:14 to fly south and then along the valley to Mae Hong Son at 4,500 feet.
Radio communications is never easy in the mountains and so I was not able to contact Mae Hong Son Approach and only able to talk to Tower as we emerged from the valley.
My favourite route means passing the mountain pictured below, to the south of it, and then descend in the valley to join a slanted downwind at 2,500 feet to a base leg for runway 11.

The landmark mountain to Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son is one way in and one way out for most aircraft, and in fact all aircraft do this. Land on 11, and takeoff from 29.

Mae Hong Son

Evening light, a view from the pub before dinner at the Fern Restaurant

We took a TukTuk into town to the Panorama Hotel where we stayed the night. Dinner was at the Fern Restaurant which was as good as ever.

Piya Cat and local girls

A walk aroung the pond in the centre of Mae Hong Son with a visit to Piya Guest House (prefered place to stay, but full this evening), to see the friendly lady there, who I have met every time I have come here, and a white cat who was lolling in a hammock until rudely disturbed by us.
There was something going on at the Wat and so we came across some girls in local costumes.

The Landrover that has sat here ever since I first came to Mae Hong Son

Airborne from Mae Hong Son at 10:37 after the morning fog cleared

This time of the year there's fog in the early morning and so we planned to depart at around 10:00am or as soon as possible after the arrival of the Bangkok Air ATR72 from Chiang Mai.
I measured 21 USG in the tanks.
As it was the ATR had a technical problem and had turned back to Chiang Mai, and so the airspace was ours. We were airborne at 10:34 and heading south in the murky air.
This is burning season and so the pyromaniacs are burning the undergrowth everywhere.

Khun Yuam airstrip, available for emergency landings, half way between Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang

Arrival at Mae Sariang at 11:20

Mae Sariang is a tranquil place where Khun Beng has Sawwadee Bar and Restaurant at an ideal location beside the river... It is usually very nice to relax and meditate over a lemonade while the river dribbles by at Beng's place... But she has closed it for a while, while her husband gets over a motorcycle accident.

Khun Beng here to pick us up for a quick lunch

Nevertheless, we were picked up and taken for lunch... But we were short of time as I'd only allowed for an hour stop here... The aeroplane was supposed to be back by around 13:00, but the Cessna's owner cancelled his flight that afternoon so we did have some more time.

Serene rural Mae Sariang

The engine was a bit awkward to start this time, I swung and swung it... We were airborne at 13:16 and using the sunny side of the mountains for assistance we climbed to 7,500 feet to cross the mountains to Doi Inthanon (the highest mountain in Thailand), and then back to Nok aerodrome.
Chiang Mai gave us a series of descents, finally down to 2,000 feet, and told us to go to Mae Tha... 'Problem with this is the high ground in that area, which both needs to be avoided, and which gets in the way of line of sight VHF communications.
This routing also caused us to be in the air for longer. On landing there was a measured 9 US gallons remaining; enough for another hour.

The Chedis on Doi Inthanon

Final for Nok Airfield at 14:34

Nigel had managed to get a taxi to the airfield and so after a bit of lunch at Hong Na Cafe we went for a flight.
Robert, a friend from Canada who had been instructing there and in the USA before, ballasted the rear.

Developments by the Mae Kuang reservoir


The little car that once in a while tackles the motorway to Pattaya and back.

After another five days at work I drove down to Jomtien late Friday afternoon to visit friends, and go for a couple of flights.
For some reason I was not able to get on the elevated toll way as the police were diverting traffic... So I stayed low on the Vibhavadi - Rangsit Road into Bangkok - Din Daeng and out on the Rama IX Road to Motorway 7 with no tolls, and it was actually a quick run with no delays at the toll gates! I did pay a 60 Baht toll on Motorway 7 to the Nong Prue turnoff.

Khun Tiki, ready to make coffee at Eastern

Eastern Air Park is the most friendly and active sport flying location in this part of Thailand.
Bang Phra has two flights a day at the Thai Flying Club; Nong Khor has it's parachuting, autogyros, microlights, and LSA aircraft; Klaeng has parachuting, and U-Tapao was busy with airline traffic and American military aircraft taking part in the Cobra Gold exercise.
Alasdair took me for a flight to Bang Phra in the Eurofox... We did some slow flight, steep turns, and stalls over the Bang Phra Reservoir, and a Practice Forced Landing to the runway.

Bang Phra, nice to see old friends

Khun Charn's touring Extra 300

Cessna 150 fin sticker and the Garmin G5

There's a Garmin G5 fitted to the Eurofox now, and it's a brilliant certified instrument.

Much shipping out of Laem Chabang

Sunken ship

Pattaya in the murk

Back at Eastern we did some circuits to practice slipping.


Sunday morning was social time, and this delayed the plan to go for a flight in the Cub... At 12:48 we were airborne, Jim and I, in Jim's J3, to challenge the gusty crosswind, just for a few landings for fun.

The Cub resting after some fun with the gusty crosswind

Soon enough I was back on the motorway for an easy run as far as abeam Survarnabhumi where I ran into the usual traffic jam... Slow past the Ram Intra turnoff, then I went the toll route to Din Daeng, and the low level road home on the Vibhavadi - Rangsit Road. It's not so bad driving in Bangkok sometimes.

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