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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.