With Jean and Patrick now safe in Hawaii, here are some photos and a blurb of the flight across the Pacific from Los Angeles:
Weather is what we fly in, be it good or bad. We know the Sling can make the distance, so all we need is favourable weather. We were going to leave on Sunday or Monday. Watching the weather as you do for the days building up to crossing the pond, hurricanes just south of our track were moving north wich left us with two options: jump in and go as soon as possible, using the anti clockwise systems to tailwind us, or wait seven to ten days for them to pass and a favourable system to re-establish. So, of course, we decided to get airborne as soon as possible on Saturday.
Thanks to everyone at Torrance that came to see us on our way. We flew up to San Louis first as this would take 100 miles off of our leg to Hawaii. We fuelled up checked over everthing and started up to head west. On requesting taxi for a flight to Maui we could hear the contoller’s shock and disbelief. It turned out our flight plan hadn’t filed through the system to him yet. He was very helpful in getting us going on VFR Flight Following to Hawaii so long. Finally, we were on our way. This is when things get real. With 410 litres of fuel, a life raft, water, food, tools, luggage and whatever else accumulated for the trip, our fuel injected little Rotax pulled our Sleek Sexy Sling into the sky at about the same vertical speed that most Cessna pilots are accustomed to on unladen flights.
After a few minutes we were crossing the coastline and watched California dissapear behind us.
Watching land disappear into the horizon behind us is always a fun thought that I like to engage and savour when flying over an ocean. The moment suddenly happens when the horizon all around you is a flat line of ocean and everything becomes very, very real. Patrick was doing a great job setting us up on a slow economical climb of 100fpm, on coarse for Maui. This left me free to indulge on my thoughts. The smooth air we were climbing in was moving against us at about 11 knots. when we levelled off at 2 500 ft. our range halo showed just short of our distant destination. This is when you need to have faith in the weather predictions that you used to make the decision to leave when you did. Outstanding weather prediction and monitoring is one of the luxuries we are blessed with as modern day aviators. However, I have learnt to always respect mother nature to sometimes be unpredictable. We were expecting our headwind to slowly die off and around about halfway become a tail wind. We settled in to watch daylight slowly become night with a spectacular ocean sunset.
The night never became really dark because as the sun set in front of us the full moon appeared behind us bathing the clouds in a cool white glow. We are so incredibly lucky to experience these magnificent views out over the oceans of our water planet. All from our warm comfortable seats in our circumnavigating Sling.
I had hardly slept the night before leaving, so quite exhausted and with Patrick completely on top of his game, I made myself comfortable and drifted off into deep slumber.
When I woke the moon was high in the sky, headwind had dropped to about six knots and the range halo was just touching our destination. We were still at 2 500 ft and floating gracefully over a layer of broken cloud. We knew the hurricane to left of track would be affecting the weather up ahead, just how much would still need to be seen. Another modern day luxury we love and enjoy is our little IndigoSat satellite tracker that connects us via texting to our team of friends watching our progress and advising us on weather. Advice was coming through suggesting we may need to change track a little to the right to give us some “breathing space” around the system on left of track. The clouds were starting to build, so we slowly climbed to 4500ft. This had us just clipping through the moonlit tops of some of the little developed clouds. We could see bigger developments to our right, but also some to our left, so we elected to remain on track. Our predicted tailwind had also manifested making us very happy We had lost HF comms and we relayed position reports via friendly airliners. We started spending quite a lot of time in cloud with a little turbulence. Patrick was taking a well deserved nap. I was trying my best to stay awake and alert. During a break in the clouds I saw up ahead what looked like some serious vertical development. Patrick stirred a little and I used the opportunity to discuss climbing over or flying around it. I was having visions of flying into nasty nasties and getting our butts whipped. We had good range now and could afford to climb. We climbed to 6500ft and just cleared the clouds. We did a position report with a Hawaii air airliner including our altitude. A little while later they came back to us informing us that ATC said we were violating IF airspace above 5500 ft. We decended back to 4500ft for the rest of the trip with no further need to climb.
We eventually made contact with Honolulu about 150 miles from Maui. Having ample fuel to now to make it further to Honalulu, we requested a change in destination. They came back saying they could only accommodate us into Honolulu on an instrument approach, which involved climbing to 8000ft. With most of the fuel burnt off we could quite easily do the climb and comply. Like a real professional, Patrick set about preparing for the instrument aproach using his iPad chart. On the climb, I relaxed and once again had a little nap. When I opened my eyes, Patrick had us on a right base for 04 Right at Honolulu.
What a lovely sight that is after 21 hours of ocean. A perfect landing completed our first major leg together. Patrick is a first class pilot, with whom I am honoured to be crossing my favourite ocean with.
Thank you Patrick! And thank you to everyone following us, without you we would be VERY lonely.
Looking forward to the next one!