2000+ nautical miles to go!
Night flight at 12,500 ft over the eastern Pacific Ocean. I took advantage of the stronger tail winds at higher altitudes but endured temperatures well below freezing. The walls of my cockpit are only 0.040" thick aluminum sheet with no thermal insulation. I am loosing the battle to stay warm and reminiscent of my passage over the Greenland ice cap. No twinkling stars or lights from aircraft above or ships below can be seen. It is a sensory deprived experience. Every 30 minutes or so the blood red moon occasionally is visible through stratified clouds. My hope of seeing the familiar lights of San Francisco are dashed as the fog bank extends hundreds of miles off the coast of California. San Francisco radio, my reassuring communications link across the Pacific, is now booming in to my headset as I approach the North American continent. ETA: 3:30 am, California time.
The longest over water route in the world is the stretch between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. If you run in to trouble, there are no alternate landing locations unless you return to Hawaii or fortuitously land on an aircraft carrier. The flight planning, weather conditions, and readiness of the aircraft and pilot need to be perfect.
I chose to wait, prepare the aircraft, and monitor the forecasts closely for an ideal weather window. According to Air Services Hawaii (ASH), it is common for ferry pilots to wait up to a month before attempting this route. Thursday (August 30) looked like the best day to attempt the flight and the weather forecast predicted 70% tail winds at 10,000 ft. On Saturday, hurricane Miriam would sweep in from the northeast, disrupting the favorable winds at altitude and block my path towards the California.
Thursday morning, after the required agriculture inspection was completed, ASH helped me to load 127 gallons of fuel in to the 5 tanks on board the aircraft. There was barely any room for me to fit inside the cockpit as I was surrounded by fuel tanks. Visibility was blocked to the right of the aircraft as the bulging tanks touched the top of the canopy. I had confidence that it could fly at this gross weight.
PHTO, RWY 8 was chosen as it has a 9800 x 150 ft runway.
On take-off, the airplane accelerated extremely slowly and used 6000 ft of runway (normally 500 ft) before the plane lifted and cleared ground effect. I fought headwinds for 1000 nm and carefully monitored my fuel supply. At the half-way point, the fickle winds changed direction and favorably pushed me towards the fog shrouded California coast. Darkness descended around 9 pm over the Pacific. I flew on for the next 6.5 hours until landing at 3:30 am in Concord, California. The 17 hour journey from Hilo to Oakland/Concord was very exhausting, especially since I had only a few hours of sleep the previous night. Later on I learned that other pilots, tracking my progress across the Pacific that night, did not get much sleep either. Thanks for your support!
Thanks for the "Welcome Home" banner Pete W!
I was hoping for an easy flight from Hawaii to California. Unfortunately, the eastern Pacific was riddled with tropical depressions heading directly for Hawaii. The winds aloft forecast for the Hawaii/California passage did not look favorable for the next three weeks.
"May" located in Hilo - Hurricane Number 1 would approach in a few days. The islanders were preparing for the worst.
Due to concerns of potential damage to the plane from hurricane Hector and Lane at Hilo, I relocated "May" to the island of Maui. Thanks to the Van's Airforce community (Ed, Scott, Eric, and Brad) I was able to secure a hanger at Kahului Airport (PHOG). I decided to fly home commercially, rest and prepare for the final leg of the trip. When I return to Hawaii around August 21, I will complete work on the aircraft, fly back to Hilo, and wait for the right moment to fly the 2000+nm to California.
August 21 - I learned that Hurricane Hector dumped nearly 52 inches (132 cm) of rain on Hilo. To provide a perspective, the distance from the ground to the propeller spinner is about 52 inches. Hilo was littered with debris from the recent flooding. It was the right decision to relocate the plane to Maui.
Moments after arrival at Hilo, BIg Island, Hawaii. Air Services Hawaii welcomes me with a lei and a Kona Longboard beer. Mahalo Tommy B!
RV-9A ready to fly non-stop to California.
I flew with "Blue Hawaiian" helicopters on a volcano tour over the Big Island. It felt great to relax and let someone else be the captain.
Banyan Drive, known as the "Hilo Walk of Fame", is lined with trees planted by celebrities and adventurers, including pilot Amelia Earhart.
Historic photos of aviation in Hawaii.
Sunday afternoon entertainment in Hilo.
Lava destroyed homes in the Vacationland, Hawaii area. I heard from local sources that none of these homes were insured and FEMA provided no post disaster assistance. Many people are still living out of their cars, months after their homes were destroyed.
Dramatic Hilo coastline.
Crossing the windy strait between the Big Island and Maui. I repositioned "May" to a hanger in Maui due to hurricane Lane and Hector approaching Hilo.
A summary of the 2018 Hawaii hurricane season