Cairns to Noumea, New Caledonia





Cairns to Noumea

I had some problems in Cairns. It is the monsoon season, and it really rains. I fueled the plane day prior to departure. There was a significant amount of water in the plane, and there was a very loud whine in the audio system, and the HF display had all the LED elements flickering. I wandered around the airfield on a Saturday, and found a pleasant and helpful hangar owner, who helped me pull the plane in out of the rain. I pulled the radios from the racks, dried everything I could reach, pulled up the carpets, and placed a fan in the door to dry it out. With my departure across the Pacific scheduled to begin the next day, I was just crushed. Unable to do any more, I went back to the hotel to file the flight plan, check weather, and be depressed. I also started calling ahead, begging hangar space in my next stops. One more check on the plane, worried about it sitting open overnight, didn’t help. The Cairns Port Authority said they would watch over it, so I had dinner (kangaroo, ostrich, crocodile, and lamb, trying to cheer up) and went to bed at 8 pm. I was awake at 1:30, worrying, and making some calls to the US to seek advice. I slept a little more, then awake at 4:30, to the airport. I put stuff back together, and find the audio whine gone, but the HF display still on the fritz. It is raining again, so staying won’t help. I need to get the plane out of the hangar, but it is upslope, and I am fueled and heavy. Pull as I might, nothing happens. I tie my rental car to the tow bar, and gently tow the plane past a couple of others, park the car back outside the gate and sprint back through before the automatic gate locks me out. I taxi over to customs for my departure clearance, and can’t find my passport, run around looking for it a while, customs drives me about, but I end up taxiing back to GA, about to look for the embassy number. Then I find the passport, cleverly hidden in my chart book. Back to customs across the field, take my briefcase out of the plane, into customs, and then through the security check with bag screening, to go back to my plane, same as Kenya, a procedure that makes no sense. If I didn’t want it found, I’d leave it in the plane with all my other property. They take my raft knife, then walk with me to the plane and give it back. The customs officers were very nice and patient with a guy who can’t hang on to his passport, and helpful also. They are just following the rules, which I understand.



Barrier Reef





Rainbow on climb out, very intense colors


I pick up my clearance, and taxi for departure on 15. Take off is fine with a turn out to avoid terrain, and I am climbing to 090 (110 unavailable due to low altimeter setting), seeing glimpses of islands, reefs and rainbows. Stormscope activity is mostly northeast of my course, but towering thunderstorms that I would not go through abound on the horizon.

I have my new Jeppesen Navdata cards I had shipped to Singapore, but one has had errors since Singapore, and finally gives up the ghost after an hour. Pulling it and replacing it doesn’t work anymore. I fish through my other cards in case I have another failure, and put an old card in the secondary radio, but now the two GPSs won’t communicate with database mismatch. I’ve never had a failed card, now of course is the best time for such an experience. I have the heat on and vents open, trying to further dry the HF before I try it, and my Sandel EHSI gives me a message it is 7 minutes from shutdown due to high temp. If it goes, no autopilot, so heat off, windows open   (no rain here) and brightness to minimum. I feel conspired against, then the test comes, Brisbane gives me an HF frequency to try. The radio comes on, the display is clear, and it works. Big sigh of relief here.



Towering storms



Another reef about 2 hours into the trip


I have seen some very interesting reef formations, quite far off shore. They indeed look like barriers, with rough waves breaking in front and multicolored blues behind in the shallows.


Another rainbow


I make a few phone calls to let Tontouta know I will be late, and to tell folks back home I am airborne with avionics working well enough.

The only good thing about problems is the time passing more quickly, lots to entertain me. No more reefs visible, feeling tired. Stress is dangerous as it costs sleep, energy and attention. But things are holding together, and pretty soon the trip is more than half over. A pleasant added attraction is hearing San Francisco on the HF, it makes me feel a little closer to home, last night I felt a million miles away. After New Cal, just one more stop to Hawaii, and then home. I also saw satellite weather that wasn’t too threatening, if only it will hold a few more days.




The stormscope is really lighting up over New Caledonia, but I only go through a few clouds onto the ILS for 11. Once below the clouds, the scenery is great, mountains to the left and hundreds of small islands to the right. It is quite windy on final, but further down the long runway, it’s smooth. I taxi to park, and the arrival experience is very nice. I get to secure the plane, I am walked through the procedures by someone who makes it easy, even get to stop in the middle to rent a car, as they will close soon. The fuel truck is waiting after customs, and we put in 450 liters ($641 USD). I take my bags in, file my flight plan with the office, then walk to my rental car, and head to the hotel. I have to fight driving on the left, the last three places I’ve been, it’s right drive cars, left traffic.

And it isn’t raining here- now.


View to the southwest on final NWWW


Short final at Tontouta


Aircraft tied down with sun setting behind


     Home          Segment          Route

Previous     Next


Last Updated: January 8, 2006