You Did It – Welcome Home!
Congratulations to all our Adventurers!! You did it!! You all successfully accomplished a full circumnavigation of the World in your own airplanes. Very few pilots can say they have accomplished such a feat. What an adventure with amazing sites, breathtaking sceneries and a flying experience you will remember for the rest of your lives!
Also a special thanks to the “behind the scenes” team at Air Journey who worked diligently at all hours to make this trip one you will always remember!
Here is are some cool layouts of our routing:
Nearing the End – Rapid City, South Dakota
We only have a few more days before everyone heads off in their separate ways. Our end point is Oshkosh Airventure 2012, the world’s largest celebration of Aviation and we are all eager to arrive.
But before we land in Oshkosh, we have a scheduled stop in Rapid City, South Dakota to visit the patriotic Mount Rushmore. Being a short drive to neighboring Keystone, South Dakota, we all jumped into a rented car and made our way to this landmark. This impressive sculpture features the faces of former United States presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln all carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore. It was truly breathtaking and unbelievable to think that these were sculpted out of the side of a mountain.
After our visit of Mount Rushmore, we all loaded back in the car for our continued visit of the area. Near by, there is the memorial for Native American war leader Crazy Horse. Although still a work in progress, you can see the carving into the side of the mountain.
We all headed back to our hotel, the Fairfield Inn & Suites, which offers an indoor waterpark. Obviously the adults weren’t as excited as the kids, but Megan and Katy headed straight for the slides! They even have one slide that wraps through the restaurant so you can see your kids splash by!
Tomorrow we head to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The group is both sad and excited to be on the last leg of the Journey. Our arrival in Oshkosh means we did it! We accomplished an around the world flight in our own airplane!! Both Cessna and TBM are excited to greet their planes and have a busy schedule for our great adventurers!
Happy to be in the US of A! – Anchorage and Seattle
Arriving in Anchorage, the first thing on the agenda was to get our hands on some of the American delicacies we have been missing since our departure from the States in early May! On this trip, you begin to crave things you would never normally think twice about but being away from home for so long…you’re left wanting what you consider to be normal.
Our hotel, the Millennium Hotel, is located right next to the busiest seaplane base in Alaska with constant action from dawn until dusk. The views with the sun setting offered us great picture opportunities.
Our stay in Anchorage was short, if felt like we were back at the planes in no time ready to head south to the lower 48. The Armstrongs were heading to Kodiak to visit the US Coast Guard and encounter the famous Kodiak bears, but we will meet back up with them in Seattle. The rest of the group was supposed to head to Ketchikan but with weather buildups in the area, we opted to fly to Juneau, refuel and then continue on towards Seattle in the same day.
Arriving in Seattle, we were finally back in the lower 48! We parked the planes at Aeroflight and headed into town. The first stop on our agenda while in Seattle was a visit to the Museum of Flight…what a place! We all wandered around getting up close and personal with the displays. We even jumped in a couple of the planes. We had a great time!
After our visit to the Museum of Flight, we headed into downtown Seattle for a visit to the Space Needle. Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, it stands 605 feet high and 138 feet wide at its widest point. When it was completed it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, but with modern construction it has lost its title. Yet, this timeless landmark, still holds its ground as an impressive stop. The group ate dinner at the SkyCity restaurant, located at the top of the Space Needle. The restaurant offers its guests surround views of the city below without having to get out of your seat since the entire restaurant moves 360 degrees around! The food was good and our dessert was to die for! It came to the table smoking up a storm!! very impressive.
The following morning we set out for the Boeing Factory in Everett. Unfortunately they do not allow pictures so I have nothing to document the visit but it was truly impressive! The factory is where the 747, 767 and the 787 are manufactured. It takes over 6 million parts to build the 747!! For the 787, the plane is built in pieces all over the world, then all the pieces are sent to Everett where they are put together to build the completed plane…it only takes them 3 days to assemble a Boeing 787, THREE DAYS! Unbelievable.
We had one day left in Seattle, so we decided to discover Seattle by sea…we all boarded a small sail boat and hit the harbor for a view of the city from the water. It was a beautiful blue sky day so we got fabulous views of the coastline.
Tomorrow we continue our Journey home as we head towards Oshkosh, WI with a stop in Rapid City for the night…I can’t believe the Journey is almost over
In the Home Stretch – Russia
With the group split between two airports in Japan, at Okayama and Nagoya airports, we had formed the plan to all meet up again in Sakhalinsk, Russia, for fuel before heading onwards to Petropavlovsk, Russia to spend the night. We are in the home stretch of our Around the World Journey now with only a few stops left before everyone heads homebound. From our experience, these are some of the most challenging legs of the Journey with one of our longest legs of 922nm, meter calculations instead of feet for altitude, over 2400 total nautical miles to be flown in the span of 2 days and a total of an 8 hour time difference by the time we land in Anchorage, Alaska.
With questionable weather in Petropavlovsk calling for ceilings lower than 300 feet and about 1 mile visibility, we launched for Sakhalinsk knowing we would need to re-evaluate our next leg if weather didn’t ameliorate. Our flight took us north above Japan’s beautiful landscape, offering us a splendid view of Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan standing at 12,389 feet.
Once we left the coast of Japan, we arrived in Sakhalinsk in no time, its only about 20 miles north. Sakhalinsk reminded us that we weren’t in Kansas anymore, the runways are bumpy to say the least and splattered with tiny pebbles and rocks (their attempt at evening out the runway). The terminal reminds you that you are far from home. Everything dates back to the Soviet era. We were greeted with cooler temperatures than we have experienced in a long time…it was a welcome change!
Taking a closer look at the weather conditions in Petropavlovsk, we found out that they had only worsened. With no alternate airports within 800 nm from UHPP, and Sakhalinsk to Petropavlovsk being an 810nm leg, our choice was to spend the night in lovely Sakhalinsk. Surprisingly, we found a “nice” hotel for eastern Russia, the Mega Palace, that offered English speaking personnel and good internet!
The following morning, the group was ready to launch for the USA. Our hopes were to fly from Sakhalinsk to Petropavlovsk for fuel, continue on towards Anadyr (the longest leg of the Journey at 922nm) for more fuel and then finishing the day in Anchorage, Alaska…hello USA! It was going to be a long day but being so close to home, the group was all for it. We took off from Sakhalinsk and flew IMC to Petropavlovsk, on the entire Journey we flew in little IMC conditions.
When landing in Petropavlovsk, our decision from the day before was reaffirmed that we had made the right one, the airport is surrounded by mountains…not a good idea flying in there with minimums. We were hoping for a quick turnaround but in investigating the weather for our next legs, we made the executive decision to spend the night in Petropavlovsk. To say that this area is stuck in the past is an understatement. Everything looks like it hasn’t been touched in years. Our hotel, the Hotel Petropavlovsk, looks abandoned…the image they have on their website looks nothing like what is actually there but its the nicest place in the area!
The group decided to take a city tour and explore the area around Petropavlovsk. There wasn’t much to see but we did visit the harbor where a fleet of fishing boats were docked, we saw a puffin hanging out in the frigid harbor water and of course a stop to see the Lenin statue in downtown Petropavlovsk. That night, the group was craving a pizza dinner. With the help of google translate on our cell phones, we were able to type out our orders in Russian and have the front desk make the call. Thankfully, google translate was reliable and we were delivered something “similar” to what we had wanted.
The next morning we set out to the airport for our 1700nm flight to Anchorage, Alaska, with a fuel stop scheduled in Anadyr of course. We were delayed a couple hours due to an incident at the airport involving an aeroflot flight, most importantly no one got hurt but it was an unfortunate situation that resulted in some damage to the airplanes. Our expected landing time in Anchorage was going to be near Midnight now…luckily the sun never sets! With flying across the International Date Line, we will actually arrive in Anchorage a day before our departure in Russia…a funny thought.
We arrived in Anadyr in VFR conditions, although they were calling for marginal weather and were ready for a fast turn around to be on our way to the States. Unfortunately, one of the Mustangs couldn’t place their General Declaration form from Sakhalinsk and were threatened with detainment if it was not produced quickly. Luckily, the Journey Director called the handlers in Sakhalinsk, and a new copy was faxed over as quickly as possible.
We all loaded back in the planes and taxied for our departure…we were finally States Bound! It was Blue Skies and Tail Winds Always for our flight to the USA! Due to our slight delays throughout the day, our arrival into Anchorage was near 12:30am! Air Journey had organized for Customs to meet us after hours…we were finally back on USA ground!!
Sumo World Championship – A Must! – Nagoya, Japan
We could not leave Japan without seeing a Sumo match and to our luck, the Sumo Wrestling World Championship was in full force during our time there. Before the group split up to return to the different airports for the planes, we all rode the bullet train to Nagoya for an afternoon filled with a traditional Japanese pass time. Lori and Jerry opted to go direct to Okayama so we waved goodbye from the platform.
To say these men are large is an understatement…they are Huge! We all settled into our “box seats”, which are literally a box with with 4 cushions inside, popped open some beverages and sat back to watch the matches commence. We had a perfect view of the platform and the sumos as they competed for victory. We all placed bets on who we thought would win! The matches are fast, lasting at most one minute, but the process beforehand of them stretching, intimidating their opponent, and the rituals of respect took time but were very interesting. We had a fabulous time!
That evening, we enjoyed fine dining, great wine and reminisced about our great adventure as we overlooked beautiful views of Nagoya. Those who needed to return to Okayama boarded the bullet train for an hour and a half ride south back to Okayama.
We were now ready to launch on our long trek home…Russia in the morning!
Meeting with a Geisha – Kyoto, Japan
From Taiwan, the group continued on towards Nagoya, Japan, except for Nori-san and Hiro-san who were scheduled to fly to Okayama since this was their home airport. Home Sweet Home for Tanabe-san!
Nearing Typhoon season, we kept a close eye on the weather before deciding that the Mustangs would head to Okayama instead of our scheduled stop in Nagoya.! Still only an hour by bullet train to Kyoto, this was our best option if we wanted to fly to Japan on schedule.
A Taste of China – Taipei, Taiwan
Our plan was to fly the planes into mainland China for a 3 night stop in Shanghai. Unfortunately, the Chinese were not ready for us and did not grant us permission to fly the planes. This is the 3rd time they answer us optimistically but yet it always falls through at the last minute. Air Journey always has a plan B….Taipei, Taiwan. We left Hong Kong for the small island of Taiwan. Upon our arrival, we were well greeted by the Handlers who took good care of us. We had a bit of a drive for the Grand Formosa Regent, our hotel located in downtown Taipei. We settled into our rooms before heading to dinner at Robin
The Concrete Jungle – Hong Kong
We are entering the home stretch of our Journey. Only a few more stops before we are States-side again.
The TBM flew direct to Hong Kong while the Citation Mustangs departed Cebu for a fuel stop in Subic Bay, Philippines, before heading onwards to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a very busy airport that requires slot times for take-offs and landings. We were all scattered in our arrival times but all enjoyed the thrill and excitement of flying into Hong Kong International Airport. Many of us had to do a hold circling up to 5 times with the big guys (777, 747, airbus 380s). The whole landing was a highlight of the trip so far!
The airport was just as pictures depicted; it is a rectangular island made from the displacement of a hill with two parallel runways. Even though a large airport, busy with action, we taxied, quickly passed through customs, and jumped into our transfers to the Mandarin Oriental on Hong Kong Island, our accommodations during our stay in Hong Kong. It was a first class handling experience!
We checked into our corner suites with stunning views of Hong Kong Island
An American Celebration in Cebu, Philippines
After our monkeying around in Kota Kinabalu, the group set out for our discovery of Cebu, Philippines. A short 600nm flight, we had landed and were in the transfer to Abaca Boutique Hotel, our home for the next 3 nights, in no time. Luckily, the Journey Director stays behind to fuel the planes because this was one of the many stops where it came in handy…he ended up waiting over 3 hours for the fuel truck!
The Abaca Boutique Resort is located on Mactan Island and offers 9 spacious rooms overlooking the South China Sea. The group settled in quite easily. The service was impeccable! Edwin and Glenn took great care of us and made our stay truly special.
Having enjoyed a delicious dinner by Chef Wade, an Australian chef who has been cooking at the Resort for the past 3 years, some of the group opted to try their luck at gambling. We set out for the Waterfront Casino for a couple rounds of Baccarat….lets just say, it wasn’t our lucky night.
The following day was the 4th of July and we had to celebrate it in style. We headed out on a Philippines motorboat for a full day of snorkeling, swimming, sun and a BBQ lunch on the beach at Pandanon Island. The snorkeling was good but having all been spoiled with snorkeling in the Caribbean or the Maldives, we have high expectations.
We continued our USA celebration with a private poolside dinner under the full moon. We asked chef Wade to channel his inner-American and boy did he succeed! The group munched on every typical American 4th of July delicacy – bbq ribs, corn on the cob, fried chicken, deviled eggs, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, chopped salad, watermelon slices, mini burgers, the list goes on and on! We felt at home and we have the people at Abaca to thank!
The following day was a free day for everyone to relax or explore the island on their own. Nori-san, Hiro-san, Louis-Alain and Annie set out for the highlands for a round of golf. Although a couple rain showers passed through, the views were spectacular and they all played well. The rest of the group enjoyed their time by the pool. Some enjoyed pool-side massages, manicures, foot massages – it was divine! Once the others had returned from golf, a bunch of the group set out for a banana boat ride. We all had a great time!
Its a change of pace tomorrow as we set out for Hong Kong!
Monkeying Around in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia!
Having reached our furthest point south on the journey, we needed to start our way back north in order to continue our Journey back to the United States. Famous for its orangutans, Air Journey choose Kota Kinabalu, on the Malaysian side of Borneo, as our next destination.
A 900nm leg towards Kota Kinabalu, with expected headwinds, the group launched with 2 alternatives in case fuel ran low but after climbing high to avoid weather build-ups and winds, everyone landed direct and with plenty of fuel left over! Handling went smoothly and we were in the transfers to Shangri-La Rasa Ria, our home for the next 2 nights, in no time.
This beautiful hotel is set along the jungly coast of Borneo with many fun activities for the whole crew and many restaurants to choose from. The first night, the group split up between two restaurants – Naan, for flavours of India, and Kozan Teppan-yaki, for Japanese hibachi…both were delicious!!
The hotel boasts a Nature Reserve that was created by the hotel in collaboration with the State Wildlife Department of Sabah to facilitate rehabillation programs for endangered species of animals as well as those endemic to the area. This protected area has become well known for its rehabilitation efforts of orphaned orangutans so that one day they may run free in the wild. The group set out for the 10am feeding of 3 orphaned orangutans aged between 2 and 5 years old. Walking up towards a feeding platform, in the distance, we see the rustling of branches as 2 furry orange orangutans made their way to the small crowd of onlookers. It was as though they were putting on a show, posing for pictures and swinging on vines from tree to tree. They were adorable and so close to us!
While they were enjoying their chopped fruit, a group of wild monkeys made their way towards the feeding platform in hopes of getting in on the food. You would think the orangutans would be territorial over their food but it was between the wild monkeys that hissing noises rang wild! The orangutans were not bothered by their presence until they became greedy and tried to snatch the fruit out of the orangutans hands! It was fun to watch.
Some of the crew opted for the Canopy Walk in the Jungle. High above in the tree tops, we swung around on suspended walkways. There wasn’t much to see other than trees and leaves but it was still a good time and we got a beautiful view of Kota Kinabalu’s pristine beach below.
The hotel offered a ton of activities for all ages! We couldnt get Katy away from the waterslide, she must have gone down it at least 150 times! The Tanabes played 18 holes of golf, Doug, Dillon and Megan rented jetskies, Louis-Alain and Annie swam in the South China Sea…all in all it was a fun-filled day!
That evening the group enjoyed dinner at the Coast Restaurant, offering a choice of contemporary cuisine. yum yum yum. Then it was off to bed to be well rested for our flight to Cebu, Philippines in the morning.