Pilots Blog, Week 1: Paradise, Giants and an island called Christmas, Part I

Well, the last three legs of my trip haven’t all been dreams runs like the first leg was, I can assure you of that!

In this last week I have experienced one of the most difficult flights I have ever completed, but before we get to that, let’s pick up where we left off: Fiji.

Bula!

My time in Fiji was very enjoyable, having been to Fiji once before on a school trip it was excellent to be back in that wonderful country again. The locals are all very friendly and helpful, with a great sense of community, which I really love. My hotel was quite nice with a good restaurant below, and quite close to the airport: sleep, food and aeroplanes…what more could I want?!

I spent the day in between flights preparing for the flight to Pago Pago (American Samoa) by submitting my flight plan; organising customs to be present for my departure and ensuring Pago Pago was ready for my arrival. In between I also took the opportunity to have a quick chat to the class of aviation students who were nearby about the trip and my thoughts on goals and dreams.

The flight time to Pago Pago was set to be around 6 hours with variable light winds along the way, so with OK weather and an aeroplane full of fuel I headed off just after dawn the next morning.

It was a beautiful departure out over the paradise of Fiji (those of you with the live streaming subscription will have seen it and agree) and after getting out over the pond again it was a relatively uneventful flight bar a few communications troubles which are to be expected with the HF radio.

A few hours later, American Samoa loomed. It is quite a small island with high mountains and an amazing history. I thoroughly enjoyed my time both in the air and on the ground there. Once landed I was met by David Vaeafe, the Visitors Bureau Executive Director, and the airport security officer and was escorted inside to clear customs and immigration before coming back out to the aeroplane to tuck it in for the night. I organised with the refuellers that we would come and refuel the aeroplane the next day at 9am, and by then I was ready to head to my hotel to do a quick media conference followed by some solid sleep.

The Tradewinds hotel was my accommodation for the two nights I spent in Pago Pago and it was absolutely phenomenal!

A great room/facilities and also close to the airport, with a restaurant down stairs, we are 2/2 for accommodation! David was an absolute champion and I enjoyed spending time with him (he will be going on the list of ‘Lachie’s Legends’ at the end of this trip). I spent the second day with David and knocked over the jobs in the morning (refuelling etc) before going to explore the island, all I can say is WOW!

If you watched my video update from Pago Pago you would have seen the old cable car behind me. The cable was actually hit by a US Air Force P3 in 1980 and the cable car has been decommissioned since then. The US also used American Samoa as a base in WW2 as well as a landing destination for some of NASA’s Apollo missions. It is quite the place! After a late lunch I headed back to the hotel for some more media and a relaxing night.

Arriving at the airport again before dawn the next morning, I preflight checked the aeroplane before trying to contact Faleolo (pronounced Fal-ee-awh-loh in case you were wondering, Ryan). As they are based in Western Samoa, the mountains block the signal to them, so I ended up calling them on the telephone to get a clearance to enter their airspace. Once airborne I thought it would be a relatively easy flight, the take off was heavy as I was taking extra fuel into Christmas Island.

However it was by no means a simple flight.


PART II of Lachie’s epic flight to Kiribati & then on to Hawaii, where he is now, will be posted tomorrow night – stay tuned!


 

Pilots Blog, Leg 1: Sunshine Coast, AUS – Nadi, Fiji

The day began at 1am with that annoying sound of the alarm, except this time it wasn’t just to wake up and work on flight planning…It was to wake up and begin a flight around the world!

After crawling out of my nice warm bed and taking a shower, I had a light breakfast (I wanted to save room for all those great muesli bars I was going to enjoy on the way over) and packed the last essentials such as chargers, toiletries and any other last minute things.

Then it was time to say goodbye to my home for the next 8 weeks!

Jumping in the car just over an hour after my alarm went off, mum and I made the 15-minute trip to the airport where we were greeted by the rest of the team. We made our way through security and into the international terminal of Sunshine Coast Airport, and then I went onwards to my plane, the Spirit of the Sunshine Coast.

LSMART PLANE
Ready to roll, my Cirrus SR-22 all packed before my first leg!

It was only at this point did everything suddenly become real, there had been ceremonies, formalities, media and lots of preparation but only when I walked out onto the tarmac on my own did it really hit me that ‘Wow, we made it. I’m about to fly around the world!’

From 2:40am – 3:15am I had some time to myself to organise the aircraft and ensure the equipment was ready to go.

Some of our very dedicated supporters began arriving by 3.15am, braving the cold to do so. I enjoyed some last few moments with friends and family before clearing customs and jumping into the Spirit of the Sunshine Coast at 4am.

Minutes the powerful IO 550 engine of the Cirrus SR-22 roared into life, I entered the flight plan in the navigation systems and prepared for departure. When all my checks had been done, I taxied away from the terminal for the trip of a lifetime, moving out onto the dark runway (save for runway lights) that I had all to myself, no line to depart, no incoming traffic. Just me.

Hurtling down the runway is always an exhilarating feeling but today was extra special as Wings Around the World was now a reality, more than ever.

My plane thrived in the cold, dense air and carved its way through the sky up to 9000 feet where I levelled out and set it up for the cruise to Fiji.

As the east coast of Australia disappeared behind me, my next job was to hand off from the VHF (short range radio) system to the HF (long range radio) system. A bit off fiddling (a mix between a fine art and a lot of luck) was required to reach Brisbane over HF, however, communications were finally established and we were underway for the flight over the Pacific Ocean to Nadi, Fiji.

The approach to Fiji, with more to look at than you will ever get out the window of a commercial flight!
The approach to Fiji, with more to look at than you will ever get out the window of a commercial flight!

As I reached New Caledonia, after about 5 hours, I had a brief chat with the French/English speaking controllers before being transferred back to Nadi Radio. The HF radio system isn’t known for being extremely reliable and at a couple stages throughout the flight I actually had to relay messages to Nadi through some jets flying above me. The aviation community always looks out for each other and it’s a great thing to be part of.

Upon reaching Nadi I descended through a layer of cloud and popped out underneath to some breathtaking scenery of the outlying islands.

After successfully placing the cirrus onto the runway and taxiing in to my handler in Fiji, Sunflower Aviation, the conclusion to a successful first leg of the journey had arrived.

Overall, it was a great start to the trip and I can’t wait to see what adventures lie ahead in the coming weeks and kilometres. Stay tuned everyone!

LIVE TRACKING & PREMIUM ACCESS AVAILABLE

WATW Premium Access Package available NOW CLICK HERE to register your interest. 

Check out the LIVE TRACKER home BELOW:


Statement re status of LIVE TRACKER

During leg one of Lachlan’s journey we experienced technical difficulties with our live tracking data. This is being looked into prior to Lachlan’s departure for his second leg to Pago Pago, American Samoa. 

We have used this data successfully for Lachlan’s previous journey around Australia as well as for his trip to Norfolk Island. We expect it to be functioning correctly throughout his trip.

Thanks again to all those supporting this trip, we are at the beginning of something truly special!


 

Follow Lachie as he makes his way around the world!

While Lachie may be away for 7.5 weeks, you can keep track of his every move while he is away. We have two options, the first is to watch his LIVE flight tracking data or (and we think this is kind of cool), You can subscribe for a premium access package!

For just A$40.00 a WATW Premium Access package not only supports fund the last part of Lachie’s flight, it also GIVES YOU:

  • Private notes and blogs, extra to what the public will see
  • Access to private video footage
  • Access to LIVE STREAMING from the cockpit*

Imagine following Lachie around some of the world’s most astonishing locations, such as amazing Icelandic terrain, the White Cliffs of Dover, or even the stunning Cable Beach as he touches down back in Australia!

Not sure about cockpit footage from an aircraft? 2.2 million people can’t be wrong, check out THIS VIDEO

WATW Premium Access Package available NOW CLICK HERE to register your interest. 

*Subscribers understand and accept that Live Streaming of short duration video from a moving light aircraft has technical limitations of connectivity to local LTE networks (3G and 4G) around the world, which may preclude transmission of the feed. In any case, the LTE network will not be available for the majority of the journey. It is generally only available in sufficient strength over populated or significant locations. In addition, flying the aircraft takes precedence over controlling video feed, so it may be that Lachie has to concentrate on aviation, not video. In these cases, Live Streaming will not be activated. The LTE network speed does not permit high definition reproduction, and the video will be taken from a moving aircraft through the cockpit canopy, so video resolution cannot be as high as your television. By proceeding to subscribe to Premium Access, subscribers understand that the Live Streaming portion of the package may be intermittent. The other features of Premium Access, personal blogs, videos and reports from inside the support team will support subscription value. Live Streaming delivery operates on the Google+ and YouTube platforms, so works best when subscribers have a Google account. Subscribers using a Google email address with registration for both Google+ social media platform and YouTube will have access to all the aspects of Premium Access.

Rollercoaster of emotions for teenager as he leaves for world flight

Sunshine Coast teenager Lachlan Smart has spent the past two and a half years preparing to fly around the world, and today, that dream became a reality.

The 18-year-old departed from the Sunshine Coast Airport in the early hours of the morning to begin his journey. This trip will see him navigate his way across five continents, 20 countries and cover 24,000 nautical miles in a seven and a half week period, no easy feat for a young man from the modest suburb of Nambour.

Among the kaleidoscope of thoughts Smart has processed throughout the days leading up to his departure, a mixture of nervousness and excitement have surfaced. Unwavering in his confidence for today’s flight, Smart recognised his emotions as a natural occurrence in the leadup to his departure.

“The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I have been nervous, excited but moreover focused. I am blocking out the rest and am thinking clearly. I’m prepared,” Smart said prior to his flight.

“There have been a lot of early mornings and late nights. We had a great send off event on Sunday afternoon where I had the chance to farewell friends and family and everyone else who came along and say goodbye.

“Seeing everyone was a real confidence booster for me.”

The first leg of Smart’s trip saw him fly from the Sunshine Coast to Nadi, Fiji. Despite the small nation’s relatively close proximity to Australia, it presented a significant learning curve for Smart as he eases into life as an international ferry pilot over the 53 days scheduled for his trip.

WATCH: Sunshine Coast Council video of Lachie’s official farewell

To Norfolk Island and beyo…back. We came back.

My final test flight to Norfolk Island and back had it all. In fact, I don’t think that a more valuable trip could have occurred even if I could control weather and all the variables. Not only was some more great experience gained with regards to weather systems and flight management, but I was also given some great tips and tricks from the thousands of hours of ferry flying that my mentor Garry Mitchell has accumulated over the years.

Of course with any overseas trip it began by clearing customs, which presented our first obstacle.

Our departure to Norfolk was on Thursday the 30th June, and our arrival back into mainland Australia was on the 1st of July, and of course with my luck there was a regulation change on the 1st of July. Norfolk Island was becoming a part of Australia again. This meant that my flight to the island was an international flight and my return was a domestic flight, I was keeping a foot in each camp.

Amazing scenery on a Norfolk Island test flight for WATW
Check that out! Amazing flying en route to Norfolk Island

So after being signed out we made our way off and into the big blue yonder (I think that’s a saying).

As we approached the 80 nautical mile mark in our journey there, we were transferred from the VHF (normal aircraft radios) to the HF radio (long range) system and began our position reporting. While the HF takes a bit of getting used to, once you get the hang of the constant static sound and melody of E.T like sounds, it becomes surprisingly habitual. Not long after mastering the radios, it was time to use my new ferry fuel tanks for the first time and before I knew it my first fuel transfer was underway.

The flight to Norfolk was on a great day with a high pressure system above which gave some beautiful weather with a slight tailwind, and after what felt like quite a short time for the distance we travelled, we began our descent into the picturesque Norfolk Island.

Icing on the window of the WATW Cirrus SR-22
Ice! We expected it and dealt with it just as planned, all in a successful test flight.

The island itself is quite beautiful, and after clearing customs and tucking the plane into bed for the night we hired a car and went for a drive around the island (which didn’t take very long). A beer and some dinner finished the night before Garry and I headed to bed, feeling content after a great flight and all round good day.

Friday morning had us up early, well before the sun. The day before we had prepared ourselves and bought some bacon, onion and eggs, quickly turning from a pair of ferry pilots into slightly below average Masterchef contestants whipping up a storm of breakfast food. Following a quite successful meal we made our way to the airport where we checked out what weather lay ahead and confirmed the flight plan we had submitted the day before. With everything set to go, and clearing customs (not immigration this time), we started up the Cirrus and went through our pre-flight checks.

When ready for take off we roared down runway 29 and took off over the pristine blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The weather for the flight home wasn’t quite as perfect as on the way over with a cold front moving across our flight path overnight. We picked our way through some storms and eventually made our way to Coffs Harbour after a few altitude changes due to some icing (I’m expecting to give you some good detail about icing on my trip to Iceland!), which we had expected to encounter after consulting our weather forecast.

This journey was another great learning opportunity and to have the experience of Garry to draw upon was great. I guess you could say I was happy as Garry.

Garry Mitchell and Lachlan Smart flying to Norfolk Island on a WATW test flight
Garry and I during the flight