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 shivering 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. 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 never flown the aircraft with this much fuel before on board and theoretically it could fly at this gross weight.
PHTO, RWY 8 was chosen as it has 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!
After landing, I taxied back to my rented hanger, crawled out of the plane, and kissed the ground. This was truly a trip of a lifetime that I will never forget.
Thanks for the "Welcome Home" banner Pete W!