After two days of enjoying scenic Port Vila, I headed to the airport the next morning at 5:30am. The very capable airport manager arranged customs, fee payment, and fueling surprisingly quickly. Around me, the pilots and ground crew were laughing nervously as I started up the engine and obtained my clearance. I gave a thumbs up to my new friends as I taxied between the tightly spaced aircraft to the run-up area. The airport was quickly coming to life and I was fortunate to be one of the first aircraft granted permission to take-off. I back-taxied and zoom climbed away from the airport. At 9000 ft and 50 miles off the coast of Vanuatu, I diverted south in a giant arc to avoid another volcanic plume which had drifted south-east from Vanuatu.
While planning for this trip, I was warned of the $3000 landing/parking fees at Nadi, Fiji, so I bypassed the island and continued east between cloud layers towards American Samoa. I was disappointed to not see the many tropical Fijian islands below me. I crossed over Bligh Water, made famous when cannibalistic local Fijian tribes chased Captain Bligh through this passage in 1789.
Fuel consumption notes. Approaching overcast Viti Levu, Fiji.
The sun drops quickly down toward the horizon near the equator. Explanation. On approach to Pago Pago, I requested ATC to switch on the airport landing lights. To my horror, my landing/taxi lighting illuminated hundreds of frogs crawling over the 10,000 ft runway. I worried about a frog prop strike and reduced braking. It was a miracle I did not run over any as they panicked and hopped out of the way of my rapidly slowing aircraft.
Welcome to American Samoa.
Isolated Pago Pago, American Samoa in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Precipitation on Rainmaker mountain in the background exceeds 200 inches (5 m) a year and contributes to a large frog population. I suspect French Polynesia has the same problem...
The 10,000 ft sea level runway at NSTU, Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Photo credit: Pinterest
Upon landing at Pago Pago, I was informed my reserved AVGAS was not available. I needed to scramble to find an alternative fuel source unless I wanted to remain in surprisingly expensive American Samoa for months awaiting fuel shipped from overseas. The only other fuel supplier in American Samoa sold me 110 gallons of questionable AVGAS for $31/gallon. I was in a predicament, felt ripped-off, and my budget was completely blown.
Due to the uncooperative nature of the primary fueler, we were not allowed to use their pump located at the airport. With the extraordinary assistance of Prichard Airport Services , 110 gallons of AVGAS was slowly siphoned in to the aircraft tanks using a fork lift, Baja fuel filter, and 1" vinyl tube bought that afternoon at Ace Hardware. The three hour messy ordeal required re-priming fuel multiple times without the use of a manual fuel transfer pump. I opted to not to use auto fuel as it had not been tested with my engine and fuel delivery system. One can only take such setbacks in stride and consider them part of the adventure.
Photo credit: Prichard Airport Services