So all the prep training and talking was over – it was time to go (fly from California to Hawaii). We had a good practice run when the HF radio failed but now I was itching to be gone.
I worried about myself before the first flight. Would I be a good enough to pilot to take off with a load, would I be scared overwater like Smithy (he nearly drowned as a young lad), would I be up to it. I laid those fears in a box and focussed on the first flight – just get on with it I said – now on the second I was feeling calm, ready and hungry to get on with it. This is for the RFDS don’t let the side down
We took off and climbed at 200ft min, gently raising gear and flaps speed to keep it above 100KTs, gentle turns steady and off we went, back over the field and into the sky.
The coast disappeared beneath us and we set off. The HF radio stuttered and my heart sank but then we heard the sounds of San Francisco and off we went.
We were expecting bad weather as a cold front came through and I was set for long hours of hand flying in cloud. I could feel Smithy smiling down having a laugh at the bloke following somewhat in his footsteps.
It was here I met Jim in his office, his element, his patch – he settled into his route fuel calcs on fuel calcs winds winds radio and we push on. The cold front came and went, the clouds rose, antennas iced so we came down but we felt solid as I kept us on course and plotted the position reports.
Half way comes – we are committed, we go on. Fuel calcs fuel calcs engine engine – all good. The plane speeds along – her life given by the fuel so preciously carried. I am so aware of everything but calm.
A strange calm descends on one out there, all work and business but there are moments when you look out and the clouds cast shadows on the ocean that stops you for a second and makes you pause.
I think of Ernie Gann and know he is looking down. I carry the story of the pilots in heart now I am living what they lived feeling some of what they felt. I have spent so long dreaming of this now, it is real and I savour it.
We push on. Fuel seeps away as we run pump on pump off position report checks.
Then suddenly out of the clouds I see a volcano it rises and smokes into the sky there is Hawaii that is what Smithy saw. I feel the elation. I see Hilo away in the distance and now like a traveller returning home I want to be there. I pause as I reflect on what they would have felt, the relief, the pride but like us knowing they still have so far to go.
We land through showers at Hilo it goes quiet and peace descends. We are here all is good.
The next leg is Hilo (Hawaii) to Kirabati (Christmas Island), 1o60 Nautical Miles / 1963 kms.
I pause and hope that what we have just done gives people a reason to see why we did this – to celebrate what Kingsford Smith did and honour the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
A view from the air over The Pacific on the first leg of the journey from Hollister, Califonia to Hilo (Hawaii) – 2055 Nautical Miles / 3805 kms.
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