26 March 2006. Fazenda Mangabal, Pantanal,
to Campo Grande (VFR/IFR 0:50 hrs). Then Campo Grande to Belo Horizonte
(IFR 4:30 hrs).
Breakfast at 6:00 and a 7:00 am take-off . We took off from Fazenda
Mangabal in marginal VFR conditions without a flight plan, but soon we
were on top in nice sunshine. Called up Campo Grande approach on VHF
radio and asked for a weather report. All they could give us was ‘IFR
conditions’. We then asked to join IFR, were given an IFR clearance at
FL50 direct to Campo Grande NDB CGR for an ILS 06. We then asked for the
weather again, and again the silly cryptic weather report ‘IFR
conditions’ – nothing more nothing less. So the weather was going to be
what we see when we get there. Clearly we were on top of a solid
overcast, but what was the ceiling at Campo Grande International, which
is at an elevation of 1833 feet versus the 500 feet of the Pantanal
plains? We reported over the NDB outbound, joined the ILS and passed
over the NDB (outer marker) inbound and expected to be passed on to
tower, but were told to ‘report runway in sight’. Asked again for
weather report, and the same stupid weather report: no information on
visibility, ceiling or wind, just ‘IFR conditions’.
Memorized the missed approach procedure, final check: mixture rich, gear
down, flaps, prop forward, and EXACTLY at the decision height of 200
feet (about 20 seconds before landing) we popped out of the low overcast
and immediately saw the runway. Called approach: ‘Campo Grande approach,
HD-DVN, runway in sight, will call tower 118.1, good bye. So 10 precious
seconds were now gone, and only 10 seconds remained before landing. Did
not even wait for the reply and called tower: C.G. tower, HB-DVN, short
final, confirm cleared to land? Fortunately nobody else was talking on
the tower frequency, and we got the landing clearance just a few seconds
before landing. Very stressful!!
After landing we then complained to Campo Grande approach what an
unusual and very dangerous procedure they had just used. To ask an
airplane with only one pilot on board, and making an ILS approach to
minimums, to report the runway in sight and then change frequency and
make several radio calls during a critical phase of flight only a few
seconds before landing is an accident waiting to happen.
In such conditions most airports transfer the airplane from approach to
tower controller at the outer marker, and certainly do not wait until
the pilot reports the runway in sight! The pilot then only has to fly
the airplane, and can make the land versus missed approach decision, as
well as the difficult transition from instrument to visual references
without any radio call distractions. However, after several attempts to
explain approach how bad this was, they did not at all understand what
our problem was! Probably because of their limited understanding of
English when it comes to non-routine messages.
When we later tried to file the next flight plan in the AIS office, we
found out that both São João del Rey (close to Tiradentes) and
Diamantina airports were closed by notams, so we had to make alternate
plans: rent a car in Belo Horizonte. Petrobras was out of Avgas and
Aeroshell refused to sell us the tax-free Avgas to a foreign aircraft,
even though Campo Grande is an international airport. Spent 3 whole
hours on the ground in Campo Grande as the Infraero supervisor could not
figure out how to work his computer to calculate the landing fees.
Infuriating to say the least!! Meanwhile, the CBs were of course
building up rapidly, so it became a difficult afternoon flight instead
of an easy morning flight. It’s always best to fly in the morning in the
tropics, but in Brazil this seems to be impossible if you take off from
an Infraero airport.
By the time we got to Belo Horizonte, the rain was bucketing down and it
was too late to set off for one of the colonial towns: we didn’t want to
drive in the dark on wet and possibly potholed roads. So we stayed the
night in BH.
Threatening clouds as we approached Belo Horizonte airport