In Pago Pago
When I landed in American Samoa a few days ago I was suffering from a cold and blocked ears, and decided to stay for a few days until I recovered. This has coincided with adverse winds for my next leg, so nothing lost.
I have made a few friends, notably with the refueller Nick, the airport safety officer Tei, Natalie from Air Polynesia, Don at the Met office, and Semi and wife Vicky who have helped me with advice for my onward travels.
I will update this entry when I am fully recovered or on my way to the next destination.
By 1st July I am feeling better, although not fully recovered. I have been staying at the Tradewinds hotel, which is comfortable and has good, free, internet service (no doubt as a result of its American connection). I have been making almost daily visits to the airport (less than 10 minutes by taxi), to keep myself updated on the weather situation and also to advise Customs of my delayed departure, as I had initially advised them that I would be leaving a couple of days after my arrival. They were very helpful and just asked me to let them know when I was going, and also provided me with a new “General Declaration” which I could use for my departure from there and arrival in Christmas Island.
The straight-line distance from Pago Pago to Christmas Island is 1258 nautical miles and although I had the range for this I wanted to have at least 2 hours flying contingency in case I had to divert around any bad weather. There was no possibility of a diversion to another airport once I was past the halfway stage, but the ability to keep flying for another 2 hours to wait out any bad weather would be useful. I had changed my strategy several times during the last few months with regard to this particular leg, finally deciding that it would be better to route via the island of Tongareva (or Penrhyn) – this would mean two legs of 811 and 658 nm instead of one leg of 1258 nm. But I was never happy with this decision, principally because Penrhyn has no supply of AVGAS fuel. I had been in touch with Air Rarotonga some time ago and discussed various possibilities with them. They had been very helpful and there had been the possibility of delivering (by ship) a barrel (200 litres) of AVGAS. The other possibility was to carry several jerry cans of AVGAS with me on departure from Pago Pago. Both of these options would then require me to self-fuel after landing at Penrhyn. I would also require permission from the Cook Islands authorities to land at Penrhyn but I had now obtained this. I left my decision too late to arrange for fuel to be shipped in so the jerry-can solution was now the only option. In Auckland I had obtained several fuel containers (with the help of Raynor at Skycare).
I was never really happy with the idea of carrying 80 or more litres of fuel inside the plane, and the actual advantage of doing this was reduced because of the longer overall distance involved. Therefore I had now decided that I ought to go for the one long hop, making sure that the calculations were correct and also choosing the right day. A 20 knot wind against me, and any bad weather, would soon put paid to any real contingency.
The winds were easing as the days progressed and, although I was still suffering from a cold, I felt that the 2nd July was the day to go. I had been in touch with friend Claude in Australia and he had suggested someone (a handling agent) who might be able to help with obtaining weather forecasts. This was Semi (or Isemi?). I was able to get in touch with him and, although the weather advice would probably be the same as I was currently receiving, he was very helpful in other ways and offered advice with regard to the flight to Christmas Island. He even collected me from the hotel and showed me around, showing me where to buy fuel cans if I should change my mind about my routeing. Finally he treated me to breakfast with himself, wife Vicky and his children, and wished me well for my onward journey.