Daily Diary » July 12, 2008 - August 10, 2008

07/12/2008 - TBD
Darwin, Australia / Cairns, Australia

We landed in Darwin airport, staying only overnight. The next day we took off to Cairns. At Cairns we decided that while we were diving we would change oil, replace the left vacuum pump, and check the new A.I that we replaced in Phuket, Thailand. Gery from FNQ Avionics found that the "chief engineer from Thai Air" installed the new A.I incorrectly and reversed the air tubes. After Gery fixed it, the new A.I and the replaced vacuum pump were working properly. Unfortuantely, we also had a fuel leak (see paragraph below) in the left wing, and instead of flying to an airport that Lazslo from "Turtlepack" recommended, we decided to fix it with Aero Tropics in Cairns. After locating the fuel leak we rushed the bladder by air to a shop south of Brisbane to be fixed. Unfortunately the bladder was sent by truck instead of by air, delaying our departure by five to six days. We took advantage of the situation, going diving again, hot air ballooning, and taking another trip to the rain forest. In the Cairns airport we met Itzik Perez (originally from Israel) and his wife Leeanne who own the Airport Kiosk Restaurant. A very nice couple and great food. Coming back from a diving excursioin we met Eli Gallili (also originally from Israel) who works for Raging Thunder, a hot air balloon company. Eli arranged for two flights in a hot air balloon for half the price. It was beautiful and we had a great time. The following day we took his nephew, Nir, who is visiting him from Israel, on a trip to the rain forest. Hopefully the bladder will arrive Wednesday the 23rd so we can continue our journey on the 24th to Port Vila.

In Dubai we discovered that we had a leak in the left wing, causing a deficiency in the capacity. We were only getting 55 gallons instead of 83 gallons. In order to continue our trip we kept filling the left wing with 55 gallons, right wing with 83 gallons (which is full capacity) and 100 gallons in our ferry tank. During flights, after using 30 gallons in each wing, we would transfer 30 gallons to the left wing from the ferry tank to equalize both wings. When we got to a quarter in each wing we would fill both tanks up to half the capacity. This enabled us to keep flying to Australia. Now that we are staring down The Big Pond, we decided to fix the leak. Otherwise, we'd be doing a lot of rowing.

Cairns, Australia / Brisbane, Austraila

We thought that we would be taking off to Vanuatu - Port Vila on July 24th. When we arrived in the morning we found out that because of the bureaucracy of the customs and immigration that we'll have to take off around noon and arrive at night in Vanuatu. We decided to postpone our flight to the next morning. LUCKY FOR US, when we arrived the next morning, we found a big pool of fuel under the left wing of the airplane. Back to the hangar at Aero Tropics where the mechanics pull out the bladder again and find the bonded glue which was used on the repaired bladder ruptured (bad repair job). LUCKY US!! We insisted on a new bladder and that all expenses would be picked up by the repair shop in Coolagatta airport (where our original bladder was repaired) with shipping same day to Aero Tropics. The new bladder arrived late afternoon and Bini from Aero Tropics finished installing it by 10am Saturday next day. We decided to fly south to Brisbane over land instead of 1300 miles over the Pacific to Port Vila to make sure the new bladder is not leaking and all other services that were performed on the airplane were working perfect.

07/27/2008 - 07/28/2008
Brisbane, Austraila / Port Vila, Vanuatu

We took off early in the morning from Brisbane, finally leaving Australia after 14 days, starting our flight over the big pond towards home with our first stop in Port Vila, Vanuatu. It's about 1000 miles from Brisbane. We had a great tailwind and it took us about 5.50 hours of flight time. Next day we toured the island and saw some beautiful beaches and gorgeous waterfalls. Tomorrow July 29th we take off to Nadi, Fiji.

Port Vila, Vanuatu / Nadi-Fiji

Before taking off to Fiji we met a local pilot that flies an Islander commercially and he warned us about the bureaucracy in Nadi-Fiji. We took off, weather was clear, we had a smooth flight and we managed to land with a 10 knot tail wind on an 11,000 feet runway. After landing we were approached by an ATM (airport traffic management) person that collected the airport fee and warned us that if we use a handler the fee would be $700-800. We elected to clear customs and immigration ourselves since we faxed all of our flight information to customs and the authorities ahead of time. We also verified via phone call that they received the fax. When we entered customs and immigration they didn't have any information about our arrival. We found out the person who was responsible was on vacation and didn't pass the information. It took us over 3 hours to clear customs. The pilot in Vanuatu was correct. Lucky for us, Mr. Vula Seru, the manager of ATM, took care of all the formalities. If not for him our delays in customs may have taken longer. Thank you Vula.

Nadi-Fiji / Pago Pago-American Samoa

After completing the general declaration we had no problem with customs. We fueled and took off within an hour. With a good tail wind we landed in American Samoa after 4:40 hours. Landing in Samoa is very easy. There is no tower. You just announce on the Unicom frequency that you are landing. After landing we felt immediately that we were in America. We were surprised to find out that we arrived at the last day of The Festival Of The Pacific Islands, which lasts for 2 weeks. That evening we watched at the football stadium different performances by different islands which was very nice.

Pago Pago-American Samoa / Christmas Island

In the morning we went to the NOA MET station located in the airport to check the weather, realizing that we will encounter head winds 20-25 knots incoming from 45 degrees of our track. We took off climbing through 5000, 7000 and 9000 feet while checking the wind component. After 1 hour of flight we figured that the fuel reserve we had will not permit us to complete the flight safely, so we decided to turn back to American Samoa and land. After landing we refueled our ferry bladder to give us capacity of 2 more hours of flying. We took a taxi into town, had lunch and waited until the following day. While in Samoa we stayed in the star Hotel which is a Hotel Apartment with a areasonable price and is owned by Mr. Star and his family. Very nice family and very accommodating.

08/01/2008 - 08/03/2008
Pago Pago-American Samoa / Christmas Island

Now that the airplane had enough fuel we took off to Christmas Island. The flight took 8 hours and went smoothly in blue sky but as we got closer to Christmas Island we saw clouds covering the entire island. When we started our approach we entered the clouds in heavy rain showers and we had to descend to minimum altitude (MDA) in order to see the runway about 3/4 of a mile before the threshold. After landing the fuel truck approached us with fuel barrels and a hand pump, but since it was raining we told them that we'll refuel the airplane the day we depart, which was in 2 days. The day we were scheduled to depart, in the morning, we get a message in the hotel room that the fuel was sold and there is no more. So we called the fuel supplier company and after long negotiating with the manager we convinced him that the fuel he sold was ours since we didn't fuel the airplane the day we arrived because of the rain. For pilot information, there is no more AVGAS for the next month in Christmas Island (see NOTAM). WE WERE LUCKY! CALL ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE AND EXPECT TO PAY $4.65 AD a Liter. The following day after arrival we took a boat to Cook Island which is a wildlife conservation. Thousands of birds come to hatch the eggs on this little island at this time of the year and we were lucky to see this. In a month they will all migrate. We did some snorkeling in the island, observing the beautiful coral and magnificent fish. In the evening at Captain Cook hotel we had a local culture show performed by the employees of the hotel. We met a few people from Australia, a couple from Italy and an Austrian couple, who all came to fly fish. Ingrid and Lube, the Austrian couple, also came to the airport the day we departed to wish us farewell before we left to Hilo Hawaii.

08/03/2008 (departure) 08/02/2008 (landing) - 08/06/2008
Christmas Island / Hilo, Hawaii

Taking off on August 3rd, the flight was relatively uneventful. We landed in Hilo on August 2nd because we crossed the International Date Line (IDL). We can say for sure that we felt at least one day younger. The following day we rented a car and went touring on the island, visiting the active volcano and the renowned State Park of Akaka falls. The following day we decided to prepare the airplane for the big pond crossing of 2020 miles. Our first attempt to fill the ferry bladder with 240 gallons resulted in only a 200 gallon capacity. Not enough for the flight. So we called Laszlo from Turtlepac in Australia (the bladder company) and we were told that the bladder could definitely hold up to 240 gallons. It turns out we didn't prepare the bladder exactly as was necesseary to accomodate full capacity. We rearranged the bladder by opening the rear door - BIG MISTAKE - see attached picture. This left us with no choice but to dump some fuel out, lift the bladder back inside, and start over. The local line service attendant got a fuel pump but couldn't get it working. Thus we decided we'll try it the next day since it was getting dark, and also we wanted the help of the local mechanic. Next day: Since the pump was used for jet fuel and because we couldn't get a new filter for it, we couldn't reuse the pumped fuel (90 gallons). Once pumped we were able to rearrange the bladder, allowing us to squeeze in 232 gallons. We also went to a marine shop and bought an outboard fuel tank of 12 gallons (so we could bleed air out) to compensate for the 8 gallons. Now we were ready for take off. We went to the NOAA station and met with Chris Clarke, a very knowledgeable weather person, and he promised us a weather briefing and wind charts for the next day, upon which we would make our trans-pacific flight.

08/06/2008 - 08/07/2008
Hilo, Hawaii / Oakland, California

We arrived at the NOAA station at 4:00 AM and, as promised by Chris, he had a package ready with the weather briefing (see pictures). Unfortunately we noticed some headwinds on the charts. However, if we waited for the next day, it would be worse so we decided to take off. At one hour before the point of no return, we only had one hour of reserve, which is not enough, but within an hour the wind had changed to our benefit and our reserve fuel increased to two and half hours. We continued our flight. We arrived in Oakland California at 10PM with fuel reserve for two and half more hours. The next day we took the Bart train to San Francisco, touring downtown and visiting the famous Pier 39. We had a very nice dinner overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Oakland, California / Rock Springs, Wyoming

We took off from Oakland with our intended destination of Laramie Wyoming. Two hours into the flight we noticed that there were thunderstorms between Rock Springs and Laramie. We decided not to take any chances and land in Rock Springs instead. Little known fact: they have the second largest US flag after the White House.

Rock Springs, Wyoming / Gary, Indiana (Chicago)

Coming Soon. View photos in the interim.

Gary, Indiana (Chicago) / Teterboro, New Jersey (Around the World)

Coming Soon. View photos in the interim.