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Wednesday, September 11, 2013: Day 18 - Horn Island-Cebu, Philippines
091113 Sunrise preflight on Horn IslandWe awoke to a beautiful morning at the Grand Hotel on Thursday Island. At 0610 we walked over to the dock in order to catch the ferry that would take us back to the Horn Island airport and N50ET. Cynthia from Australian Customs came to the dock and gave us our clearance paperwork to depart Australia. The 20-minute ferry ride to Horn Island was fantastic as we watched the sunrise along the way. After a short bus ride to the airport and a daily inspection on N50ET (photo left: sunrise inspection) we were ready to go. Michael from Horn Island Airport Authority (who had very kindly run us to the ferry yesterday) came bounding across the Tarmac to wish us well. I am sad to be leaving Australia because we have received such wonderful hospitality everywhere, but I will not miss the user fees.

After we were airborne from Horn Island, it was just 30 minutes and we were crossing the FIR boundary (Flight Information Region--specific region of airspace where flight information and alerting services 091113 20000 ft mountains across Papuaare provided) and back into Indonesian air space heading for Biak for a quick fuel stop. We are at 24,000 feet and the temp is ISA +20; our fuel burn is 66 gallons per hour, the true air speed is 283 knots, and the winds are light and variable. As we passed over the rugged terrain of Papua New Guinea at 25,000 feet, it was scary to see that the mountain peaks were only a few thousand feet below us (photo right). As we approach Biak, the weather is marginal with isolated thunderstorms, which we find ourselves in for a few minutes. We flew the full ILS approach into Biak and broke out at around 1,500 feet to a clear runway.

Mike once again organized the fueling while I dealt with customs and immigration through the handler. The handler came back and said that we did not clear customs when we departed Indonesia last week, but no problem--with $130.00 we would be cleared. I thought that was a bargain. A few minutes later the handler came back with my $130.00 and explained that it was not a problem, and all was okay. We were now clear to go, and we were in and out of Biak in just 45 minutes.

091113 Crossing the Equator northboundNow we are on our way to Cebu; we climbed on top of the weather, and it was not very long before we were in clear skies again, with the ICTZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone--area encircling the earth near the equator where the northeast and southeast tradewinds meet) is now behind us. We crossed the equator at 0111 Zulu time or 9:11 PM eastern US time (photo left), and now that we are back in the northern hemisphere home seems closer. The flight is smooth, and the weather is reasonably kind to us, but unfortunately we are now back on HF radio for the long overwater stretch. I am very pleased that I installed a good HF radio, because it makes all the difference. Manila Center and Mactan Approach were so easy to work with--I asked for track shortening, and that was no problem. We were radar vectored on to the VOR/DME Runway 22 approach which was all visual.

Cebu is a very large international airport. Customs came out to meet us on the ramp and stamped our passports while Mike did the fueling. Once everything was completed at the airport, we just drove out the side gate without even entering the terminal building. Our driver took us straight to the hotel for our evening's rest by the ocean.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: Day 17 - Bundaberg-Horn Island, Australia
This morning we departed Bundaberg for Horn Island; Baseops filed us at long range cruise for a flight time of 4:42 enroute based on strong headwinds. At 24,000 feet we are pushing a 45 knot headwind, and we are now passing by Rockhampton, 091013 Flying over the Great Barrier Reefwhich is the hometown of my cousin, Rod Laver, a former professional tennis player. [Rod holds the record for the most single titles won in the history of tennis with 200 career titles.] As we fly just off the coast of Northern Queensland, you can see for miles the beautiful islands of the Great Barrier Reef (photo right). Many boats are stationed at each reef obviously with divers from all over the world observing the marine life.

091013 Our ride from Horn Island to Thursday IslandWe are now 2 hours into the flight and the headwinds are finally starting to taper off, making our fuel reserve look better all the time. Finally, with just 1 hour remaining the headwinds have reduced to 25 knots.  Due to the reduction in weight from less fuel on board, I am now able to reduce the fuel burn to 64 gallons per hour, and we are still getting 280 knots true air speed. We will now be able to land at Horn Island with 75 gallons remaining, and we will also be 30 minutes ahead of my flight planned estimate at long range cruise--not bad for a 1050 nm leg pushing an average of 35 knots of headwind! This is only the second time since I left Aiken that I have transferred to the outer tanks. Group Photo

It has been 40 years since I landed in Horn Island when at that time I was a young pilot with only around 100 hours total flight time, flying to New Guinea with some mates. Horn Island sits between the northern most tip of Australia and Papua New Guinea and is an airport of entry with customs and immigration. After buying the most expensive fuel I have ever bought, we took the 20 minute ferry ride to Thursday Island (photo above left) to our hotel. (Photo above right:  Mike receives greetings from the second graders at Aiken Elementary School who are closely following his adventures.)

Monday, September 9, 2013: Day 16 - Bundaberg, Australia
Today we spent the day in Bundaberg, Australia.  We started the day with a visit to the Jabiru aircraft factory. Jabiru designed and builds a fantastic small, single-engine aircraft here in Bundaberg. This month marks their 25th anniversary of building the aircraft 090913 Jabiru J-230 with 25th Anniversary lettering(photo right: Jabiru with 25th anniversary emblem), and they have sold around 2,000 worldwide. Mike and I are so grateful for their hospitality today and value their passion for the Jabiru aircraft they build.
090913 Mike says goodbye to David McKenzie-leftNext we visited with Ian Bent, the owner of Camit. Ian is the manufacturer of the engine for the Jabiru, and with his CNC machinery, he built most of the components for the engine. Ian is a true professional and is dedicated to the product he manufactures. Mike and I were most impressed with Ian and his product.
(photo left: Mike bids farewell to his friend, David McKenzie.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013: Day 15 - Latrobe Valley-Bundaberg, Australia
Mike Laver crosses midfield for an overhead departure from Latrobe ValleyG'Day from Australia. After 2 days rest--allowing time to catch up on maps and approach plates, as well as a Federal Election with a change of government--we are ready to depart Latrobe Valley Airport. The people at Latrobe Valley were most hospitable in every way. There is no doubt that they envy the freedom that we currently have in General Aviation in the United States. Lets all hope we retain that freedom. As we depart Latrobe Valley (photo left) and climb to 24,000 feet, I realize how the state of Victoria has shrunk now that I am flying an MU-2. After just 30 minutes we are crossing the border of New South Wales and heading for Queensland state, which is just 1 hour and 45 minutes away. The leg to Bundaberg is 919 nautical miles and 3:04 enroute.

In Bunderberg I am catching up with David McKenzie who is a friend of mine from school. David is a Veterinarian and he lives in the remote area of Queensland. He is also a pilot, and he uses his Cessna to fly to his customers in association with his job. Mike Collins will be visiting the Jabiru Aircraft company in Bunderberg. The Jabiru is in the Light Sport Aircraft category--the aircraft and its engines are both built in Bundaberg. I 090813 Turning base for Bundaberg over Burnett Riverwas involved with Jabiru for many years as the North and South American distributor.

We are now abeam Sydney at 25,000 feet with a 20 knot tailwind. Baseops had flight planned us at 300 knots TAS, but because jet fuel in Australia is about $8.00 per gallon, I have pulled the power back to save fuel and money; 66 gallons per hour is giving us 290 knots TAS and we will still be in Bundy on time.

We arrived at Bundy (photo right) on time and with the great weather, we made a visual approach onto runway 14. We are very fortunate that Sue from Jabiru has kindly loaned us a car so it was very easy to be on our way to the hotel for the night.