Phenom Trip Day Six “Put Your Mask On!”

Russian transport in Khabarovsk

The taxi ride from the hotel in Vladivostok to the airport in the morning was by far the most dangerous part of the trip up to that point.  We saw no less than three accidents on the highway wide dirt road, one of which was probably fatal.  At one point a Russian jet fighter went roaring past us and I said to Marcio “Hey look, a Mig!” at which point our cab driver leaned forward and looked out the windshield and proclaimed it to be a Sukhoi.  Although I was embarrassed by my miss-identification of former Soviet aircraft I was more concerned with the fact that the driver wasn’t watching the road and didn’t see the dump truck that had pulled out in front of us.  Not to worry though, I drew his attention to the situation by screaming like a girl.

      After Marcio and I finished scraping the ice off the Phenom’s wings with our credit cards, which  still took less time than it took customs to finish interrogating our camera man, we finally rolled down the pot hole filled taxiway and took off.  With just three people aboard the Phenom climb’s like a raped ape in cold dry Siberian air and it wasn’t long before we were passing sixteen thousand feet.  Suddenly my ears started popping like mad.  Marcio yelled that the pressurization system was malfunctioning and that I should put my oxygen mask on.  I”m sure I beat the eight seconds it took me to put the mask on when Marcio tested me on the system the first day of flying the Phenom, gotta love adrenalin!   I leveled off while Marcio tried to get the pressure equalized in the cabin., my ears were really hurting as the air pressure built up.  Air traffic control then started squawking about the mountains in front of us and demanding that we continue our climb.  I tried to explain our problem but I didn’t want to go so far as to declare an emergency and deal with whatever passed for the FAA in Russia.  We were unable to fix the automatic system but were able to stabilize the cabin pressure in manual mode, take the mask’s off and continue our climb to altitude.  For the rest of the day the pressurization needed constant attention and then started working just before landing.    Just another day on the road.

  After landing in Khabarovsk Marcio called Embraer and the engineers there told us that the rough taxiway in Vladivostok probably was the cause of the malfunction and that we could still fly the Phenom in manual mode and be legal.  That was good news because we were going to keep going anyway.

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