After all of his travels, our friend Adam Broome is not that much more than halfway around the world. He has flown his Beechcraft Bonanza through Canada, across to Greenland and Iceland and Scotland, south to London, across the English Channel to Austria, south to Dubrovnik, on to Crete, across the Mediterranean to Egypt, around the Sinai to Jordan, across Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates, across the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea to India, across India, around the Bay of Bengal, over Bangladesh and Myanmar to Thailand, south through the Gulf of Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, through the Malacca Straight and across the Java Sea to Bali, and across the Timor Sea to Australia. And yet, thousands of miles remain between him and home. After touring Australia with his wife, Lissa, Adam will make his final crossing, island hopping across the Pacific Ocean to California. Fittingly, but unfortunately, he will make this last lonely voyage across one of the world’s great oceans alone. Any number of his friends have asked to ride with him, but he needs the fuel more than he needs any of us. I weigh maybe 175 pounds fully dressed and fit for flight, but that equates to nearly 30 gallons of avgas, which, carefully managed, is a bit more than two hours of flight time, which, on the long legs required to cross the Pacific, could be a critical fuel reserve. He will have, as always, the support of Eddie Gould and GASE, assisting him with flight plans, permits, advice and information. But he will be flying alone, sometimes relying on his HF radio to maintain communication, sometimes perhaps relying only on his satellite phone, sometimes relying on the occasional relay from a commercial airliner far above, and sometimes, perhaps, as alone as one can be in a small airplane over thousands of miles of featureless, open ocean.
At approximately 0430PM on Saturday 9 July EDT, tomorrow as I write, Adam will take off, weather permitting, from Cairns, Australia, on its eastern shore to embark on the first leg of his crossing, a flight of approximately seven hours to New Caledonia. From there he will proceed, one flight at a time over the next week or so, to Pago Pago, American Samoa, to Christmas Island, Kiribati, to Honolulu, Hawaii, and finally to San Jose, California. This last will be his longest leg, more than two thousand nautical miles. I wish I could be with him, but I will be following his progress and I invite all of us who care about him and who admire this adventure and want to share it with him, to follow it here. We have two maps dedicated to the progress of N5831R. We can follow his progress in near-real-time through his DeLorme tracking system map here at thisaviationlife.com. We have another map on which we have plotted Adam’s proposed route around the world and we have superimposed on it his actual path so far, from his home base at Raleigh, North Carolina, across the Atlantic, down through Europe and across the Middle East and Southeast Asia to Australia and we will update it as he makes his way across the Pacific. This is his Proposed Route and Actual Route around the world. Both of these maps are found under the Journeys tab on our home page.
We will endeavor to provide some insight into his planning and the challenges facing Adam as he crosses the Pacific, so please join us as we follow him. And please understand this disclaimer …. Adam is making decisions many times each day about his plans, sometimes no doubt even in flight he will be weighing alternatives. What you read here is no more than my speculation about what he is planning, what he is thinking, and what choices he must make. Like you, I am watching and wondering. So consider what you read here to be no more than a commentary, much like a sportscaster might call a baseball game, inferring from what he sees on the field the thoughts and motives of the players.
Look at the Proposed Route map and you will note two stops in New Caledonia. Adam will land first at NWWW, Noumea La Tontouta, to clear customs. Only an hour or so is planned for that obligation, after which he will fly a few miles south to NWWM, Noumea Magenta, where GASE has a relationship with a local flying club to assist with logistics and fueling. NWWM is closer to the city and the beaches, so Adam will spend a couple of days in Noumea and will hope to depart from NWWM, obviating the need to return to NWWW to be cleared out of New Caledonia. This is where GASE may be able to arrange for a departure from NWWM. Without an exit stamp from New Caledonia, a landing at Pago Pago might be problematic. In Bankstown, outside Sidney, Adam was able to meet with Ray Clamback, a renowned oceanic ferry pilot who has made this crossing numerous times and was willing to share his knowledge and experience with Adam. Ray advised against making the first stop at Vanuatu, an early possibility in the planning state, and instead using New Caledonia. Ray told Adam that the reposition to NWWM and a departure from NWWM was usually possible to arrange when clearing customs at NWWW and that has become the plan of choice. The choice between Vanuatu and New Caledonia illustrates many of the issues that must be factored when planning a flight such as this.
Another, more serious complication, might be a heavily loaded departure from NWWM with enough fuel to make Pago Pago. If the winds favor runway 17 and a departure to the south over the open ocean, a fuel load adequate for a direct flight to Pago Pago, American Samoa, will probably be possible — but if the winds favor runway 35 and require a departure to the north, the obstacles and terrain auger for a better climb rate and a lighter fuel load and a range inadequate for the flight to Pago Pago. (The Standard Instrument Departure for a runway 35 departure require in some cases requires a climb angle of 7.9%, which would be a struggle with a heavy fuel load.) For this reason, Adam is planning for a “technical stop,” a quick refueling, in Fiji at Nadi, NFFN. We have depicted that stop on the Proposed Map, but if Adam is able to depart NWWM to the south with an adequate fuel load he can simply overfly NFFN and continue on to Pago Pago. Fortunately, Fiji is on almost a direct course between New Caledonia and American Samoa, so he can assess his progress and his ground speed and the weather and the time and fuel remaining as he flies and decide whether or not to make the tech stop at NFFN Fiji. We will observe after his landing at NWWW and short hop to NWWM to see whether he has to return to NWWW to depart and whether he is able to depart to the south out of NWWM if that proves to be his jumping off point. These are the dilemmas with which he must grapple on every leg.
Sunday, 10 July EDT
Adam arrived in New Caledonia approximately midnight EDT on Saturday after a flight over the ocean of approximately 1220 nautical miles and has repositioned to NWWM in the capitol city of Noumea. He cleared customs at the international airport and repositioned to NWWM where he can obtain avgas, the piston-engine fuel that powers N5831R. The quest for avgas has been a constant challenge as Adam flies his Bonanza around the world. In so many of the countries general aviation in small piston-powered airplanes barely exists and hence it is much easier to find the jet fuel that powers business jets and airliners. The presence of absence of avgas at a given airport has been a determining factor in the choice of airports throughout the journey.
New Caledonia is a French territory renowned among scuba divers for its huge lagoon and spectacular diving opportunities. On 12 July, Adam will launch once again, this time eastward to Pago Pago in American Samoa.
Monday 1025PM EDT 11 July 2016
Adam, our intrepid Pacific voyager, has flown into yesterday. Or into today, depending on where you are and where you are coming from. (Yes, we ended that sentence with a preposition … I give you the old joke about the lady walking through Harvard Square.) I have flown for some thirty years and I thought I understood Zulu time, AKA UTC time, AKA GMT. On my flight eastward with Adam, it took me only about three time zones to completely lose the flic as controllers say. And now, watching Adam fly eastward across the Pacific to California, the arithmetic, and the logic, grows increasingly confusing.
Just a few minutes ago, N5831R landed in Pago Pago, American Samoa. And a few minutes prior to his landing, he crossed the international date line, where today becomes yesterday, where we start reliving yesterday. He departed on the 12th of July and landed moments ago on the 11th of July. He departed New Caledonia at a local time that was GMT +11 and landed in Pago Pago across the International Date Line in a time zone that is GMT -11. The crazy thing is that the Date Line meanders around, zigzagging around Pacific Islands like a gerrymandered legislative district to in some cases keep islands grouped together in the same time zone and in other cases to separate them into different days. Note that Samoa is on the west side of the Date Line and hence in today while American Samoa, including Pago Pago, is on the east side of the Date Line and hence back into yesterday.
So, Adam left New Caledonia’s Magenta airport on the morning of the 12th of July and landed, after flying for approximately seven hours, about 0430PM on the 11th of July. Why do we care? I don’t know, but the concept of time is fascinating and crucial to so many of the things we do. (My favorite definition of time: “It’s what keeps everything from happening all at once.”)
Navigation, particularly air navigation, but probably all navigation as we know it other than perhaps what we call pilotage, is a function of time. The ability to determine longitude (See “The Clock that Changed the World“) made it possible for the first time to determine latitude and longitude and therefore exact position on the open sea. Carry that forward through radio range, VOR, LORAN, and GNSS radio navigation and at every stage greater precision was made possible by a more refined measurement of time.
And the question of GMT or UTC time was, paradoxically, made necessary by the speed at which the industrial world made it possible to travel. When the railroad was built, it became necessary to have some standard of time that remained constant over distance. Hence standardized time, time zones, and, ultimately GMT.
And yet, the concept of starting a day over simply because we cross a Date Line is a conundrum. And here we have our friend Adam, who is now on the ground at NSTU Pago Pago a day before he began. He will take a couple of days in Pago Pago to reflect on this curiosity and to look ahead to the next leg of his flight, which will take him to Christmas Island, Kiribati.
His arrival should have been uncomplicated. An uncontrolled airport, a U.S. territory where no EAPIS is required. A two-day layover to rest and recuperate and plan the last three legs back to the continental U.S. and his flight across America, what we will call his victory lap.
15 July 1215 AM EDT
After a brief layover in Pago Pago, Adam flew the leg to Christmas Island, Kiribati, and, after lodging and refueling in Kiribati, is, as we speak, crossing over Hilo, Hawaii, enroute to the big island, Oahu, where he will land at PHJR, Kalaeloa, just west of Honolulu International. His inflight texts suggest a frustrating day, with delays acquiring fuel in Kiribati, where today, the 15th was a holiday and his departure day, the 14th, was apparently a day of reduced activity and little urgency. Lack of reliable internet service, through which flight plans get filed, weather information is obtained, and lodging and handling arrangements are made, and poor cell phone service, which in this day, all around the world, is a lifeline, make the planning out of Christmas Island and the actual logistics of departure tedious. But now, Adam is crossing over the Hawaiian islands and will soon be descending into PHJR. He has passed Hilo and is making the turn NW toward Oahu, still at his cruising altitude of approximately 17 thousand feet, which means he is breathing supplemental oxygen. He should be commencing a descent before too long. Through in-flight texts, he tells us that his departure from Christmas Island was delayed by the difficulty of acquiring fuel, that the Warning Areas south of Honolulu are all “hot” today, which means that military activity is populating those areas and best to avoid them, and so he has been rerouted over Hilo to approach Oahu from the SE rather than directly from the south through those Warning Areas. That reroute had to be heard and understood over the HF radio, which is less clear, with more static and less fidelity than the usual aircraft VHF frequencies. “Oh, and try to copy a reroute clearance over HF static with four lat/long points. Got it after four tries!” he relates. A VIP TFR (Very Important Person Temporary Flight Restriction) has been issued for Honolulu International (PHNL) but fortunately, Adam is planning to land at Kalaeloa (PHJR) only about 10 nautical miles to the west.
In the last few minutes, at 1258AM EDT, Adam is commencing his descent, currently at about 10 thousand feet. He is now out of the oxygen levels and planning his approach into PHJR, where the current weather is benign. The current report reads like this, in the quaint coding that is a vestige of the teletype era: PHJR 150353Z VRB05KT 10SM CLR 31/21 A2997 RM A02 SLP 155 T03060206. That translates to the identifier of the airport, the time in Zulu (aka GMT or UTC time), the surface winds variable at 5 knots (quite benign, even trivial), visibility 10 statue miles (why vis is still figured in statute rather than nautical miles is a curiosity), sky is clear (no clouds), temperature 31C and dewpoint 21C (not conducive to fog), altimeter setting 2997 inches of mercury, and the remarks which are not that pertinent for our purposes — ask your flight instructor. All in all, a beautiful late afternoon on Oahu. Wish I was there.
Adam has landed runway 4R at Kalaeloa and is on the ramp as of 0129AM EDT, 0729 PM local time in Honolulu, probably about ten minutes after sunset. Must have been a beautiful sunset. His track courses straight down the centerline. Nice landing, Captain Adam.