Back home safe

Hi all.

This is the last email from me, sad really personally. I wanted to get through Japan, Macau or the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Pakistan and Iran to get back to Europe and home. I did say in an article, that if I didn’t screw up, the engine didn’t quit and the Japanese got their act together, I could see no reason why I couldn’t now make it politically or physically back home. So the engine quit. Just sad. I don’t get to get my moment of joy returning home, to return the plane to where it took off and went west. I don’t get my 15 minutes of fame or my well earned moment of glory and appearance on the BBC’s One Show, like so many other adventurer’s have… Never mind.

I have returned home safely with no problems at all and I have settled back at home. It is a bitter sweet moment as its not how I would liked to have ended or paused the worldtour we were on. I am now dealing with the many issues of being away from home for a long time, but I have so many good new projects to get on with that there is no time to look back or be sad.

Last Friday, I got the all clear from the Spinal Fractures Clinic in the John Radcliffe Hospital here in Oxford. Everything is fine and I can return to work and light duties in about a month or so and I can now already lift anything I think I am capable of. What I do struggle with is how I’ve gone from a very dark place, with not knowing what to do in a Japanese Hospital with a broken back and smashed up face, to being back home, walking pretty normally and with not much left of my hero scar either, within about a month.Its all a bit too quick.

I could write about my head state and how lucky I have been and how unfair life is since I’ve lost the plane, but I won’t. I’ve lost the plane at least for a while until I can rebuild it. Its not worth rebuilding really, it is too badly damaged. Any normal person would start again, but I love aircraft and never wanted to damage one, especially my own. We had been through so much good and bad times together. I loved that plane. So I will try to rebuild it when it is returned to me after the Japanese have finished their investigation. There is a lot I can reuse. But actually my head state is pretty normal and average really to be honest, and not worth writing about.

The reason for the engine failure was a massive fuel leak 3 hours and 15 minutes into the flight. I smelt fuel and in 5 minutes it emptied the tank of 30 litres of fuel and enough for an hour and a half of flight time, over the mountains. It looks like the leak was from the engine driven fuel pump. The engine is brand new, well 50 hours is next to new and there is no reason for this fault. It has nothing to do with siting out at Niigata for 7 months either and the fault was not present for all the inspections I gave the plane as it developed in flight and I’d have never have seen it. So, its just one of those things. There was nothing I can do and only had 20 minutes left to the destination. I thought it would make it but no. As I’ve said, I was flying a lucky charm. I had lucky Teddy bears on board, lucky letters, lucky stones, lucky food, lucky chocolates, and so much good luck and good will offered from so many people, the aircraft should have been carried aloft after the engine ran out of fuel by a wave of good will and placed down at the destination. The golf course, cut into the trees and mountain side, was the only option. It was a good option and looked flat as I looked down on the fairway to make sure it was clear of golfers and safe to land on, but as I lined up and put the plane down, there were 5 tears of 100 yards of flat fairway and then a step up, so the plane kept getting shot into the air and the brakes don’t work unless the wheels are on the ground. In the end, as the club house approached, I was still travelling at some 50 mph and had to force the plane into the ground and it stopped on the step up to the first T’ off area.

I stupidly said I wanted to experience everything in life, but then that also includes pain and aircraft crashes and foreign doctors coming along side you on a stretcher and telling you that they have bad news. The hospital wanted a lot of money for the operation to be paid up front. I didn’t have it in my wallet and couldn’t raise that sort of money on my credit card. I didn’t want to borrow the money, I got myself into this problem and wanted to get myself out of it. But the only option was to sit in a cast for 4 months and wait for the bones to mend on their own, but that 4 months in hospital was more expensive than the operation when I would be released after a few weeks. So they pushed me in a corner overnight to consider things. It was a horrible night. A message got back to my parents and they said they would pay for the operation and I was not to argue with them. But also a friend of mine thought it might be nice to try to raise some funds towards the operation by crowd funding. I knew nothing about this and personally am quite embarrassed about it. I would never have asked anything of anybody. But £10k was targeted with an apparent hope of maybe raising £4k or possibly even £5k. Some 18 hours later, not even a day, the £10k target was reached. Completely in shock and not knowing what to do, the request was raised to £20K. It took 4 days of the month the funding was to run for.

I don’t know why or how anyone thinks myself or my journey are worthy of such kindness and generosity, but my cause was rated as the most successful crowd funding of the month. We were number one in the funding charts for over two weeks. Anyway, now I have a lot of cars to wash and lawns to mow and 50 hour maintenance checks on aircraft to do for the rest of my life. I am shocked by the generosity shown. There is enough in the kitty to get the plane back home and probably rebuilt as well with still money left to go to a flying charity. I wanted to give a lot of it back, but most people I have talked to say, don’t be blumin stupid, if people didn’t want to donate, they wouldn’t have so use it for a good cause and get me fixed and the plane.

I still have no idea who has donated or not or what as I couldn’t see any of this online with my old phone while in Hospital, so I have 420 thank you letters to write now and that could take some time, but if you did put something towards helping me out, thank you so much and I’ll be in touch.

So now I also have to concentrate on making a film and writing the book. As I lay in hospital I was sad that I couldn’t now tell my tails as I never finished the journey. But then I got told that not every endeavour goes to plan and what drama and actual reality. So I will try to do this.

With regards to work, well my old job is still available thanks to my good friends and enigmatic Boss, but also there are small charter and reconnaissance aircraft companies hiring pilots now and I should also be able to fulfil my dream of actually using the commercial pilots license I have held now for some 15 years. Once I get my medical returned and can renew my Instrument Rating. That’s a pleasant surprise and we will see how it goes.

So there, I’m back and getting on with life.

I’m the entertainment at the LAA flying Rally on Saturday night 2nd September at Sywell, before the band starts up. An hour of entertaining stand up comedy is promised, which is or was my life and the journey. Maybe a new career as a stand up comedian or adventure travel show commentator and I’ll be at the Rally all three days, so come and say hello and for those abroad, the talk I do will be recorded and go online somehow, if its any good.

I would like to thank all the Doctors and Nurses at the Hirohata Hospital for all that they have done for me after my accident. Hospital is not fun and at times it was not, but also at times they really liked me and we had a lot of fun. I’m not sure if they were laughing with me or at me though. Attached are some photos of the Nurses I said I would send to them. I have many photos I must send to people. Everyone was so nice and friendly, considering the language that I spoke no Japanese.

So thank you very much again for putting up with these emails in your inbox. That may be it. Who knows if I get the plane back and rebuilt, in the future, I may ship it out to Japan or just to Thailand again and finish of what I consider as unfinished business.

Best regards,

Colin Hales.