Christmas Island to Honolulu (Hawaii, USA)


03/07/2008


Got up at 5.00 am, keen to get going on another long flying leg. Breakfast was a small packet of rice crispies, which would do me nicely – I can have a few nuts and a minimum amount of water on the flight, but need to take care not to get dehydrated. The taxi (one of relatively few cars on the island, I suspect) took me to the deserted airport. The dawn had already broken and I wanted to get away as soon as possible. Sue had already phoned from the UK to my satphone with the weather that she had obtained and said that it still looked OK and a fine day was forecast for Honolulu. I had realised overnight that I had filed the flight plan with a take-off time an hour later than intended, probably due to being tired or just confused with the time zones, and I was hoping that someone who could help would be in the control tower.

Lucky Jim. There was a young lady in the control room (a hut no more than 12 feet by 12 feet, I would think, with a rack of radio equipment, desk and phone). She was the controller today, she told me, and I said I hoped that I could check if my flight plan had been accepted, and possibly leave half-an-hour earlier than planned. She picked up the phone, dialled, spoke briefly , then handed me the phone, saying “Oakland Center, California”. Brilliant! I spoke to the duty officer who confirmed that he had my flight plan. I asked him if I could leave earlier than planned and he said that would be OK but he needed to allocate a 15 minute slot and I would have to leave before that time was up or I would have to re-file. This 15-minute slot was, he said, only a computer requirement at the control centre – I was certainly the only light aircraft flying from Christmas Island to Honolulu that day. Could I leave within the next twenty minutes? “Yes”, I said, as I had already checked over Romeo Tango. I had refuelled yesterday on arrival – had to buy two barrels (400 litres) of fuel although I only needed just over 300 litres. The two barrels had cost 1940 Australian dollars (about 1870 US dollars or 950 UK pounds sterling, the most expensive fuel yet, I thought). But Christmas Island only has a few deliveries per year and these two barrels were part of the last delivery of 42 in February of this year – the Kiribati Oil Company had confirmed that to me a few months ago in the final planning stages.

Anyhow, jumped into the plane, started up, spoke to the nice young lady controller on the radio and she gave me clearance for departure on runway 08. As soon as I was airborne she asked me to transfer to HF radio and contact San Francisco on frequency 8867, with 5643 as the secondary frequency. Didn’t have any success on 8867 but made contact on 5643 and was cleared to 11,000 feet as requested.

I had planned a standard route but, after less than an hour, San Francisco called, requesting me to route via two new waypoints which they gave me in terms of longitude and latitude. I had barely got these points inserted into my GPS before they were asking me for my time estimates for these. There was another thing I was beginning to notice about the San Francisco radio operator – I was sure she knew what I was doing, because she only ever came on the radio after I had taken a mouthful of peanuts, making it difficult for me to give her a fast response! The reason for the re-route was apparently because of some exercises in that area of the Pacific. I noticed that this change had added another 60 nautical miles to my route, and so today’s flight would be approaching yesterday’s in terms of distance to be covered.

It was a beautiful day with blue sky above and white fair weather cumulus clouds below but with plenty of breaks to allow views of the sea. The hours passed, but I was fidgeting more today, perhaps not having fully recovered from the 10 hour flight yesterday. I gave several position reports, some on request and some just to let them know I was still out there. The fuel situation was looking good, with an estimated 100 litres remaining on arrival at Honolulu if no diversions were necessary, and so I applied a bit more power with 4 hours to go, in order to arrive a bit sooner. I realised as I flew along that I would be arriving at Honolulu International on the eve of the July 4th holiday and wondered what the traffic would be like. I needn’t have worried, as the controllers had it all sorted out. Almost two hours before my ETA at Honolulu I was asked to transfer to VHF radio and enter a transponder code to identify myself. There was also a call from my nominated handler to ask for my ETA so that Customs could be advised.

I was then passed headings to steer and was finally given the choice of a visual or ILS approach to runway 04 Right. I chose the ILS, just because there was also a parallel runway 04 Left (as well as two parallel runways 08L and 08R) and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t stray from the centreline. Once on the ground I was directed to the handler’s area where I was met by the handler’s reps and by three Customs officials who obviously took pity on me, seeing I was looking a bit tired, and they cleared me through with the minimum of fuss and paperwork. Air Service Hawaii were the handlers and I had advised them in advance that I was going to have the plane serviced in Honolulu. They had made the necessary contact and, after Customs clearance, Romeo Tango was towed a few hundred yards to the service hangar.

It felt good to be here, and to have completed the more remote Pacific legs, even though the longest leg was yet to come.

Flight Data: 1222 nautical miles in 8 hours 45 minutes.