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!