Solomon Islands to Port Vila, Vanuatu. Hard IFR departure, rain, and overcast skies for the entire flight. Starburst fruit chews and bottled water sustained me until touch down at Port Vila.
The flight off the west coast of Vanuatu required a diversion around the Ambae volcanic plume. The grey-brown colored plume was visible at my flight level and extended well off the coast line. I did not take chances with ash clogging the air filter and engine.
My destination, Port Vila airport (NVVV), has a single runway and a very compact terminal area. Because of the limited parking area, flight schedules are tightly controlled and ground staff constantly choreograph aircraft movement. Many operators based at Port Vila fly to Tanna Island for overnight volcano tours. At the end of each day, the terminal area is packed with planes both on the pavement and grass overflow areas. May was tucked way in a corner, adjacent to the operations office and out of harm's way.
The ground staff and pilots at Port Vila were the most enthusiastic I experienced on my trip. May received considerable attention and photos, and I was asked many questions regarding the trip and modifications to the RV-9A for long-range flying. The last known experimental aircraft to land in Vanuatu (Luganville, Espiritu Santo) was B-KOO, Hank Cheng's RV-8, on his around the world trip in 2016.
Photo credit: Red – Vanuatu
Beautiful Port Vila harbor, Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is located along the "Ring of Fire". During both the approach and departure from this island nation, I had to avoid volcanic plumes, which pose a flight safety hazard, especially for night flights. ... The ash contaminates fuel and water systems, can jam gears, and make engines flame-out.
Lava bombs and Lighting
Mt. Yasur on the island of Tanna is one of the most accessible volcanoes in the world.