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A Lone 737 Across A Vast Expanse Of Blue  
User currently offlineairpearl From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 952 posts, RR: 26
Posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 31701 times:


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Once - at a more idealistic age - I imagined spending the rest of my life fishing off a remote pacific atoll. After gathering anything and absorbing everything I could find about these strange-sounding locations - mere dots in a vast expanse of blue - the early explorers who embarked for the South Seas, and never returned home, became my heroes. Mutineers were then the freedom fighters I aspired to be, while the Gauguinesque rewards looked so sweet and delicious. Nothing else on earth could compare. My escape plan wouldn't involve a plane, but a pacific-bound yatch, on which I would serve as deckhand on the wild ocean in return for passage and board, and at the right island, I'd leave to start my life anew. Well, that was the plan anyway. Until reality so rudely intervened.


That's not the first fantasy I harbored, nor was it the last. Alas, childhood is full of amazing dreams, that are systematically culled in adulthood. (Okay, maybe that's not entirely true - I'd been living one of those dreams in my job... which later evolved into a M. Night Shyamalan movie, but that's another story, for another day). Anyway, coming back to the topic, my original plans may have been aborted, but the process did teach me a thing or two about vast Oceania sprinkled with thousands of islands that are far from homogeneous. To me, Polynesia was most exotic and what we best associate with the South Pacific - stretching from Hawaii down to Tahiti, and New Zealand at the western end. Melanesia was inherently mysterious for its inclusion of New Guinea. And Micronesia? Well, those are like pearls strewn across mid-pacific, and strung together by the world's most wonderful air route.

You know this book about the 1,000 places we must see and things we must do before we snuff it - well, an aviation nut edition, if it ever exists, must definitely include flying on Air Micronesia's pacific island-hopper among the top of the list. Not only is this the ultimate milk-run, the stops include the world's most remote atolls, with the size of some islands barely the width of a standard runway. Continuing almost uninterrupted since 1968, few regular scheduled flights today reward passengers with such a sense of adventure. The service provides a critical lifeline to these islands a few times a week, and gives us the unique opportunity to glimpse these pacific communities at a relatively reasonable cost. It's been on my "must-do" list forever - and it should be on yours too.

The UA - CO merger added a greater sense of urgency to my mission, and I knew this would be my last opportunity to catch the flight in its original-ish version. Having obviously missed the island hopper's early B727 period, I'm catching it just after the end of its Air Mike era: the FAA had only recently approved the merging of Continental's operations with that of Continental Micronesia, resulting in the end of the CS code, and demise of the "Micronesia" name on these flights. And on completion of the UA - CO merger, this will just be another regular United flight. Even if the multi-stop route stays intact, it'll somehow not quite be the same anymore I feel. For now though, suspend reality for a while. Fix yourself a large drink, sit back comfortably - for it's a long flight ahead - and join me as we cross the wide expanse of Air Mike's pacific on a lonely 737.

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a sojourn through paradise

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Between christmas 2010 and new year's day of 2011, I embarked on an 8-day round-the-world journey that started and ended in Kuala Lumpur. There's a largely forgotten trip report series - although I realize some of you do remember it - that last broke off at Waikiki beach. This is the much delayed continuation to that journey. (There's no need to read the earlier segments of the RTW but if you must, they can be found in the links at the end of this report).

Anyway, it's in Honolulu that we start this episode. I've had a nice but short break here - especially after a couple of particularly long flying days. I even manage a refreshing dip in the pacific. The President of the United States is apparently also in town, but we somehow missed each other on Waikiki. What are the odds of that? I may not be fully recharged, but it's already time to move on. I continue the tradition of picking another daytime onward flight - not that there's much of a choice with the island hopper - which means my morning call on departure day is insanely early, as usual. My 4.30 a.m. taxi, pre-ordered by the hotel, turns out to be an ostentatious chauffer-driven stretch limo that could have been booked by the president himself and that's rather disconcerting, especially when traveling alone - I'm glad the streets of Honolulu are deserted at this hour.

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My limo drops me off at Lobby 7, the semi open-air check-in zone Continental shares with American at Honolulu International Airport. United is further along the same concourse. The CO desks are already busy processing their only early morning flight: CO 957 - and until recently also CS 957 - has been the flight number allocated to the westbound island hopper to Guam ever since I fantasized flying on it, many years ago. Sadly, this flight has since been renumbered as the integration process with UA reaches its tail end. (But the service continues to operate three times a week, leaving Honolulu on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The return flight departs Guam on the same days, but bear in mind that the Wednesday flights in both directions have one less stop enroute.)

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In the economy class line are about two dozen passengers - among them a fair number of Pacific islanders, carrying lots of baggage and large plastic storage trunks, are probably headed home. The Y line looks reasonably managable, but my TG card entitles me the use of the EliteAccess desk, where there's a queue of one. This queue-beating Star Alliance perk - a legacy of two particularly productive flying years - will be the one I'll miss most when I lose it at the end of this year.

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My check-in agent at the premium desk is a mature gentleman of Japanese descent who, after swiping my passport, frowns at his computer terminal. He's deep in thought, as if trying to figure out the next move in an online chess game. Something must be amiss. I ask what. "It seems you need a transit visa for Majuro," he says distractedly; his eyes still fixed on the screen. I reply that I didn't think I needed one. (To be honest I hadn't even checked). "Neither do I, but on here, it says you do," he says and walks off to ask somebody. This is serious: based purely on this info, CO could deny my boarding this flight for not having a visa for the 51-minute stop at the Marshall Islands capital. And just like that, my dream of flying on the island hopper will come crashing down. This is definitely not good, and I have reason to worry.

I would have been a lot more worried had it not been for my check-in agent, whose demeanor and expression tell me he's not convinced by the info on the screen, and who seems intent on doing something about it. At this point, a less experienced agent could be insisting on enforcing the 'rules' - so boy, am I thankful that's what doesn't happen. I'm sure my agent's vast experience plays a big part in this, for it's not long before he comes back saying the problem is "fixed". I'm not quite sure how - but it apparently is. The only question he asks is a strange one: do I have an address in Guam he can input for the system? But I'm not stopping in Guam, I say. "I know, but you wouldn't happen to have an address there, would you?" How about the airport? I say. The man smiles, keys I've-no-idea-what into the computer, and out churn two boarding passes - one for the island hopper to Guam and another for the onward flight to Manila. What a relief!

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My boarding pass is stamped "Gold Lane" - which I only much later learn entitles me to use an express line for TSA checks - but this early in the morning, the general queues for security aren't long anyway so getting airside doesn't take long. From the FIDS screens, it does look like CO 957 is the first departure of the day from the main terminal. Look at the sheer number of flights to Japan - I count 11 departures to Narita alone between 8.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. - it's quite amazing. And it makes me wish my own flight was leaving a couple of hours later - the spotting at HNL's great open-air terminal would have been awesome.

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For the moment however, the airport tarmac is dark and largely empty, and so I turn indoors for entertainment. Another Star Alliance status perk is the use of a premium lounge - I am told at check-in it's still too early for CO's Presidents Club, but I may drop in on United's Red Carpet Club. At HNL, it's located above the usual UA gates at the Diamond Head Concourse, which look deserted at this time. The entrance to the lounge is interesting for its extra-prominent sign banning trolleys and outside food - must be a more serious problem than it appears.

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I am welcomed into the lounge as its only customer, and asked if my flight had been delayed from yesterday. "I didn't realize the flights to Guam were so early," says one of the agents manning reception. My response that I'm taking the group's scheduled multi-stop service appears to be a revelation to the old United: "Ah-hah!" says the agent, sounding a little unconvinced that such a flight even exists. Once inside, I'm spoilt for choice on a place to settle down - the slightly faded, tropicalized decor looks almost identical to the hotel I just checked out from. I suspect this is very much the Honolulu look.

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The facilities include a business center, a couple of conference rooms, a bar counter with booze for sale, and some basic offerings for breakfast. By the time I get my caffeine fix, the first UA passengers on the early morning California flights have already joined me in the lounge. The January 2011 copy of Hemispheres magazine - the last edition to feature the old United logo - is liberated, to be safely treasured. It's time to go.

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Retracing my steps back almost to where I started from airside, I find the island hopper parked at gate 13 - seems to be its regular gate from the other trip reports I'd read - being readied for a long day ahead. Operating Continental flight 957 today is a B738 that's been rostered for Continental Micronesia's Guam-based network for a big part of its 11 years.

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There's a short queue to enter holding gate 13 where a passport and boarding pass check is in progress. When it's my turn, the gate agent asks if I'm traveling to Manila, then turns to her colleague and says: "this is the same case as the other woman." I fear this is the start of something unpleasant, and think it's the Marshall islands transit visa issue rearing its ugly head again. I am asked to stand aside to let other passengers through while they "handle" my case, which is another bad sign.  Another gate agent then utters those dreaded words: "if you can't process it, we'll have to put him on the direct." She's obviously refering to CO's nonstop flight to Guam later this afternoon - and I'm about to plead: No... please no! I really need to get on this flight!

Of course, as I'm not being addressed directly, I hold my composure for now. The agent is still checking up something on her screen - maybe only for a minute or two, but it feels like forever. Meanwhile, I hear an announcement asking all remaining passengers to board. Great - and I'm stuck here. I don't know if it's divine intervention (don't you need to believe in God for that?) but a supervisor - or maybe an angel - suddenly descends on the mess to ask what's happening. She takes a quick look at my Malaysian passport and asks if I have a valid U.S. visa - which I show her immediately - in that case, "it's okay," she tells my gate agent. I am given the green light to proceed. You can't imagine how quickly I rush down the jetway to board my flight, lest someone changes their mind. That was one hell of a scare.

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continues below...

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65 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineairpearl From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 952 posts, RR: 26
Reply 1, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 32086 times:

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http://www.gcmap.com/map?P=hnl-maj-kwa-ksa-pni-tkk-gum-mnl&MS=bm&MR=540&MX=720x360&PM=b:ringb7:magenta%2b%22%25T%22:yellow
Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.


Honolulu to Majuro 3,669 km
Continental Airlines flight CO 957 Boeing 737-824 N14240
Dept: 0648 Arrv: 0940 (next day, 24 minutes early)
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I am welcomed on board. I haven't been so thrilled to be on a 737 for a long time. It could just be that great sense of relief for being allowed to board, but the greeting seemed extra nice at the plane door. I am directed past the four rows of business class seats, in standard short-haul configuration, into the main economy cabin. My seat is way down the single aisle at row 32, close to the back.

Seat selection is crucial on this flight, and I had chosen a window seat at starboard - likely the better side for views if pictures I'd seen on the net are any indication - and sufficiently aft to be clear of the wings. Hope I made the right decision. On the way to my seat, I overhear a conversation that seems to confirm cost-cutting is making flights tangibly crappier for all concerned: a flight attendant apologizes to a passenger that blankets are no longer carried. "Oh, it'll be very uncomfortable," the passenger wails. "It's so cold... and I'll not be able to sleep." The flight attendant is sympathetic, but can't do anything. At least on my last DL flight, they did still have blankets.

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I settle in. Loads are fair - roughly 60%-ish I estimate, with the cabin more sparsely populated at the back - and I get an empty seat next to me. I'd been quite lucky so far this RTW journey having been rewarded with more than just my paid-for seat on every Y class flight since KUL: the extra space makes quite a difference. At the very least, it makes this trip reporting business that much easier. The seats are dressed in a bluish fabric that's been the standard at CO for as long as I can remember, while the drop-down screens are appropriately presenting a slide show of islands and coral reefs. This is interrupted for a safety video, featuring CEO Jeff Smisek welcoming us aboard the new United: "you'll see a number of changes in the months ahead..," he says. No kidding.

The doors are closed, and we push back seven minutes ahead of schedule. Flight time for the first - and longest - sector of this island hopper to Majuro is 4 hours and 22 minutes. In fact, the distance flown on this portion is almost equivalent to Hawaii to the U.S. west coast. Our taxi is a long one too - we cross 8L-26R and head for active 8R, located offshore, for our departure. Take-off is a powerful and rather noisy one    and almost immediately, we bank sharply right to head south-west in the direction of the Marshall Islands.

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This is 8R-26L, the "reef runway" from which we had just departed. Built on a coral reef, the 12,000 ft runway stands out prominently in Mamala Bay. It's overcast with dark grey low cloud indicating a rainy day ahead for Honolulu - hopefully the weather is much better further west into the pacific.

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The climb out is a little bumpy, while the sun starts to make an appearance - first as a strip of red on the horizon, then much brighter as we break above the blanket of cloud, and the fasten seat belt comes off. The flight settles into a routine: landing cards for the Marshall Islands are distributed to those needing them, headsets are sold for $3 each, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas is played on the screens. Feels a little like we're moving back in time. (That can't be further from the truth - for we'll soon be advancing 24 hours the instant we cross an imaginary line on the ocean.)

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My seat pocket holds two inflight magazines. The December - and penultimate - edition of the Continental magazine and the autumn 2010 (and probably last?) edition of the airline's Japanese language "Continental Airlines pacific" magazine that's very Guam hub-focussed. I really like how the vastness of the Pacific ocean is centered in this map - with the island hopper route and place names like Kwajalein and Chuuk taking center stage - while large metropolis such as New York City are relegated to the periphery. So cool.

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Meal trolleys are rolled out next - we're nearly an hour out of Honolulu. As HNL-MAJ is the only decently lengthy sector, I'm guessing it'll be the only sector with a real meal service on the way to Guam. All the hops after Majuro aren't scheduled for longer than 90 minutes and probably wouldn't support a hot meal. Continental's breakfast consisting of a cheese omelette, fruit, muffin, OJ and coffee is a Neutral on my lenient marking chart, but the friendly cabin crew get much higher marks.

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It's while passing trays to and from the aisle that I get chatting to the passenger sat at my row. May, a very pretty nurse from the Philippines but working in southern California, says she noticed my photo-taking: "But why are you taking notes? Are they for your photography class? What types of photos do you take?" It sounds a bit like an interrogation. My aviation-related reply unfortunately doesn't interest her. May says she's just started taking up photography: "I do portraits." Hoping we'd have something in common, I ask May if she's on this flight for the unique photographic opportunities along the way. "Ugh, not really... this is cheaper than the nonstop flight," she says.

I learn that my seat mate is actually traveling from LAX to MNL, and her entire journey will take in excess of 30 hours (!) - and involve 7 transit stops en route. (That's 3 more stops than Pan Am's China Clipper between San Francisco and Manila in the 1930s, by the way). Getting on the island hopper may be a dream come true for me, but I suspect it can't be more different for May. She doesn't say it in so many words, but the facial expression is a dead giveaway: this milk-run is a torturous nightmare.

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It's two hours or so into the uneventful flight, and I estimate we're close to the decommissioned military airfield at Johnston Atoll, which was a regular stop in the early days of Air Mike's island hopper. What a pity it isn't any longer. Still, Johnston's role as one of the final resting places for lovely chemicals like Agent Orange - that later leaked into the water and soil - detracts somewhat from the image of the perfect pacific paradise I had in my idealistic years. Ignorance is indeed bliss. I try keeping a lookout for the island (that apparently looks like an aircraft carrier from the air), but thick cloud obscures any view. The crew make a water round at this time, and Salt starts playing on the drop-down screens as our second movie.

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About an hour out of Majuro, the flight attendants do another beverage trolley run. Outside, clouds become more sparse and wispy, while the dark blue of the pacific starts becoming visible. We've probably also crossed the international date line at this stage, which means we've unceremoniously advanced one day. At longitude 171º 16' E, Majuro is one of the first places on earth to see a new day and is almost directly north of Auckland at 174º 47' E - the Marshall Islands share the same standard time zone as New Zealand.

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The flight deck had been quieter than I would have liked during this flight - in fact, there's been silence from the guys at the helm the entire way until about 0915 local when a pilot comes on the blower to say in a short broadcast that we're at the top of descent, and have less than half an hour to go for Majuro. We're running some 25 minutes early. The weather's good and temperature at sea level is a balmy 81ºF, and we're scheduled to be on the ground for 45 minutes. Sounds good so far.

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My first view of Majuro is of a couple of islands that form the northern fringes of the bowl-shaped Majuro lagoon. Some of the islets and atolls are so small and low-lying they're almost invisible - obscured by coral reef and an ocean that comes in amazing shades of blue and bright aquamarine.

Our descent takes us south into the body of the largish lagoon and pretty soon, a thin strip of land is spotted in the distance. This is the 'base' of the shallow bowl that is Majuro, with the near side of this strip facing the lagoon and far side dropping sharply into the deep pacific. The airport is located close to the middle of the bowl's base. It's quite amazing to think that there's enough space somewhere along this narrow piece of land to fit an airport.

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A road runs through it: Majuro is primarily a long finger of narrow islands connected by causeways and linked together by a 60 km-long trunk road that is clearly visible as we fly over the island. This is the view towards the western end of the atoll - the road ends at a settlement called Laura, apparently named after Hollywood actress Lauren Becall. (At the eastern end is a place known as Rita - after actress Rita Hayworth - so the road effectively runs from Rita to Laura). I wonder what it must feel like to live in a place like this where the toughest daily decision could be whether to go fishing on the lagoon- or ocean-side today. On many a day, I wished this was the type of stress I faced.  

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This rough map of Majuro - from a book I'll talk more about later - shows clearly the atoll's ribbon-like shape. From Honolulu, we would have come in from the north-east, and probably flown over the pass into the lagoon and then headed directly south beyond the lagoon before turning back towards the airport. The main populated area indicated as a 'town' above is Darrit-Uliga-Delap (often abbreviated as D-U-D) at the eastern end of the atoll, and there's possibly a view of it on descent from the other side of the plane. Still, the glare of the morning sun on that side means general window views from the right side are probably much better. The view below is of the "land" close to the end of the runway. As you can see, there's barely enough for the road here.

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We make a left turn to align with runway 07 - flaps are way down on final approach into Amata Kabua International. The 7,897 ft runway is not long, but it's just comfortable enough for our equipment. As the first Micronesian airport (or last, depending on the direction you're heading) of any size from HNL, Majuro's runway length is considerably more generous than the airports due west from here until Guam. It's thrilling to swoop down on this narrow strip of soil almost at sea level, with only some coral rock piling just offshore standing between land and a strong pacific wave. The touchdown seems almost 'normal' but we brake quite hard and reverse thrust is suitably noisy, before we come to a shuddering near-halt. Among the many things I'm planning to tick off my list today, my first landing on an atoll must be the coolest.

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It's fair weather today, but I can't imagine how it'll feel like being here in a storm or typhoon, that's not uncommon this end of the pacific. The threat of a post-earthquake tsunami, like the disastrous one this year in Japan, can't have been very nice either. Where do you run for safety in a place surrounded by water, and where the highest point is a mere 3 meters above sea level?   

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We taxi a short way to the parking apron located at the eastern end of the runway. Cabin announcements say transit passengers "have the option to disembark" if they wish: there's no way I'd miss this opportunity, of course! My enthusiasm isn't shared by my seat mate May, who peers through the windows at the sunny tarmac with a certain distaste: "ooh, it looks too hot!" My words of encouragement that disembarking could yield photo opportunities doesn't seem to be enough to move May, particularly after she finds out transit passengers need to take all their hand baggage with them. "Really?" She sighs, and is still undecided when I get off the plane.

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It is warm, but also rather breezy outside. Exit is through the forward door only where a baggage cart is parked at the bottom of the stairs for transits to store carry-ons they don't want to lug to the terminal. Leaving bags unattended on the tarmac? Wow. There's such a casual feel to everything that you almost forget this is an international flight operated by a U.S. carrier. Flying has become such an uptight experience in America - where potential bombers are expected to be deterred by glum-looking passengers who don't joke about security - that it's a culture shock to see people actually enjoy themselves again. The passengers on this flight take their time walking across the tarmac; quite a few pose for photos en route and many are genuinely excited to be somewhere unique. And the excitement is infectious: my spirits are lifted there are others (who may not necessarily be plane nuts) who have chosen to fly CO 957 just because it is the island hopper. Just wonderful.

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This is the first time I get to properly capture the nice looking plane that brought us here in its entirety. Particularly for this flight, I'm glad she still bears the 'Continental' name - but I fear not for very much longer at the rate the fleet is being repainted this year. Some of the crew also get off to stretch their legs here. And it's not only the tourists who're capturing cheesy poses in front of Majuro signboards - our pilots are doing the same thing!

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There's only one directional, color-coded sign at this airport. Arriving passengers are sent right to the open air baggage claim area. The arrival of a forklift truck signals the delivery of bags from the plane. I quite like this improvised approach: with only one flight to cater for on most days, investment in specialized apron equipment would probably have been a little decadent.

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Transit passengers are directed left to the 'departures terminal' which is about the size of a large classroom - and I smile to myself thinking that it's only a few days ago on this RTW that I was at Doha Airport which has a similar system of seperate terminals for arrivals and departures in place, but obviously at a slightly different scale. And like at DOH, upgrading works are in progress here too. But three months to install air-conditioning? Crikey.

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For the moment, the inside of the departure lounge is cooled by a couple of stand-up fans running on full steam. The ceiling is a lot taller than it looks from the outside, which means it isn't as hot and stuffy as I had feared - it reminds me of some missionary church in the tropics for some reason. A sign at the corner says this a wifi hotspot, while some satellite news channel playing on the wall-mounted TV sounds almost surreal. The place is basic but serves its purpose.

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The only F&B outlet is 'The Hangar', a snack bar that sells everything from chewing gum to Chivas Regal. The small counter doubles as the airport's newsagent and book shop that sells exactly two books, and the local paper. These are truly irresistable buys, and I swipe 'em all up: where else in the world can you pore over The Marshall Islands Journal, not to mention the most unlikely book you'll find in an airport shop of a U.S.-dependent territory. If this is where Marshallese sense of humor goes to be a little warped, then I absolutely love it.

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So what concerns the average Marshall islander? Based on the Journal reports, it's the same things we in the rest of the world are concerned about: corruption in government, high oil prices... and juicy conspiracies - like that surrounding a U.S. embassy staff member in Majuro who's been bitten by a dog. "This is the second incident in as many weeks in which neighborhood dogs have ambushed embassy staff," the paper reports on page 3, suggesting a sort of local canine revolt against Uncle Sam. "The State Department in Washington has to be notified... a letter would be sent to the Majuro Atoll Local Government..." It looks like the Marshall Islands isn't immune to sensational reporting either.

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I don't get too far into the paper before the flight is called for boarding. After the casual arrival, there's a surprising formality to the departure announcements, with business class and Star Alliance status passengers accorded priority while economy is boarded by seat row numbers. Those seated at the aft are asked to board using the rear stairs. We troop back onto the sunny tarmac towards the refreshed 737. In the distance, a runway inspection is underway ahead of our departure.

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Cloud cover seems to have increased in the short time we'd been on the ground, which is pretty typical of tropical zones where clear skies can very quickly turn into a thunderstorm. I also spot May - who obviously finally decided to disembark during the transit - but another guy is walking with her. They look like they know each other already, but why are they sat seperately, and not talk to each other on board? This is almost intriguing enough to be a story in The Marshall Islands Journal...  

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Majuro to Kwajalein 431 km
Continental Airlines flight CO 957 Boeing 737-824 N14240
Dept: 1035 Arrv: 1125 (25 minutes early)
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We are welcomed back aboard. The 'security sweep' while we've been away is thorough: anything that doesn't belong in the seat pocket is removed, and that includes the paperback I'd left in mine. I find the book propped up at the back galley awaiting its rightful owner. A Pattern of Islands, a fascinating and very funny account of atoll life in the Gilbert and Ellice islands (now Kiribati and Tuvalu) almost a century ago, was a great find at a second-hand bookshop. Re-reading it while flying in their vicinity somehow make the fascinating stories come 'alive'.

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'Baggage' is still being loaded when I get back to my seat. An announcement is soon made to welcome joining passengers (just a couple or so replace the dozen who left us at MAJ), and the seat next to me remains empty. Jeff Smisek makes an encore appearance on the drop-down screens, the doors are closed, and we're off, about 20 minutes early, on the short hop to Kwajalein.

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The picture above is of the entire Majuro airport buiding complex - rather quaint, no? I think it looks more like a sprawling beach house than an international airport. As there's no taxiway, we backtrack all the way to the end of runway 07 for departure. The open ocean is on the right side as we start our powerful take-off run. Time to our next stop is 41 minutes.

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The clouds outside are ominous and indicate an impending thunderstorm for Majuro in the afternoon, or maybe even sooner. The enticing translucent blue of the sea earlier has given way to something a lot darker and less inviting. It's incredible how fast the weather changes around here.

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Our climb is to the northwest out of the lagoon. The northern bits of Majuro Atoll are made up of an idyllic chain of islets that look like emeralds strung together in a coral necklace. It's really quite gorgeous.

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This desert island below is known as Calalin (that's sometimes spelt Calalen or Calalien or Calalan) - this is a guess of mine based purely on its shape and possible location. The chain of islands making up the atoll is broken right here to form the Calalin channel, Majuro's only sizable deep water pass into the lagoon. We overfly the pass and with that, Majuro slips away behind us. (If you have better knowledge of these islands and my guess is incorrect, please correct me!)

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When the seat belt signs come off, the crew first come round with landing cards for Kwajalein and that's followed by a second round of forms for those stopping in the Federated States of Micronesia, or FSM, which we'll be transiting at after Kwajalein. Packaged fruit juices are our only refreshment on this 'domestic' sector - for Kwajalein is also part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Well, kinda. Sovereignty issues are grey in these parts.

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This flight sector is a short one. "Please keep photographic equipment out of sight to avoid them being confiscated by ground staff," the cabin crew warn over the p.a. as we start our descent across oceans with the deepest blues I have ever seen. I didn't realize these colors could exist in nature: they look so unreal, they could be surreal. I safely store my large camera, but can't resist keeping my compact handy to discreetly capture some of these views.

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I am successful with a few shots before a vigilant flight attendant spots the offender. "Sorry, no more pictures please," he says, sounding more concerned than rude. "Do you have a backpack so you can keep your camera there, out of sight - I don't want security to take it away."

The serious tones set the scene for our next airport: "Kwajalein is a military installation. Only passengers destined for Kwajalein are allowed to deplane. Transit passengers will be required to be seated. The washrooms will be closed while we're on the ground, which will be about 35 minutes," goes the sober pre-landing spiel. I guess we're back in the realm of the 'no security jokes' world.

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The fact is our next stop is the dead-serious home of USAKA, or the United States Army Kwajalein Atoll, that controls one of world's largest lagoons that it periodically blasts by sending intercontinental ballistic missiles into. The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site (how anyone can say this with a straight face I'll never know) is where it all happens - the night skies are sometimes lit with streaks of glowing fireballs as 're-entry test vehicles' fired from 4,000 miles away crash into the lagoon. The sight is a real "treat" to local islanders apparently - after all, who wouldn't want to be the direct target of some ballistic missile every so often?   

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From a distance, I spot Kwajalein as a crescent-moon shaped island with the airport stretching almost right down the length of it. We swoop down to make a hardish landing on the 6,600 ft runway and brake hard to stop - it's rather thrilling. Another warning about this being a military installation comes on, but the view outside (of two golfers on a manicured course by the runway) makes it feel more country club than army base. There's no sign of military activity that I can see, so perhaps the no-photos rule is really intended for minimizing exposure of the fact expatriate 'Kwaj' islanders live so much more comfortably than the natives?

More than a dozen passengers get off here and army personnel climb aboard to do the 'security sweep', for which hand baggage needs to be cleared from the overhead lockers. All ground equipment are in military green, as is our refueling truck. Almost half an hour after we arrive, new joiners - about 15 in total - board and the doors are closed 20 minutes ahead of schedule. When we start moving again - and thru' passengers are watching their third safety video of the day - I feel it's safe enough to take my small camera out to capture a shot of the airport terminal:

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Kwajalein to Kosrae 645 km
Continental Airlines flight CO 957 Boeing 737-824 N14240
Dept: 1218 Arrv: 1226 (19 minutes early)
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We backtrack the runway we landed on for another powerful take-off. The view on the right side on take-off is of the base's palm-fringed, ocean-view golf course. It's about 55 minutes to the island of Kosrae, our next destination in the Federated States of Micronesia. A new country to tick off my list.   

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Our climb out of Kwajalein brings into view an interesting settlement on the next island along. This place seems rather attractive at first glance, and there appear to be some low buildings here. It seems like the perfect place to house a luxury resort, but this island most certainly isn't one. Look more closely and you'll see the tiny boxes are actually dwellings in a very crowded, treeless shanty town. Amazingly, more than 10,000 Marshall islanders call this home: some estimates put the number as high as 15,000, making this one of the most densely populated areas in the world. With the unenviable title of 'slum of the pacific', Ebeye island is, in fact, an unmitigated disaster.

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A 2010 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report found Ebeye to be in dire straits. As an example, the island's sanitary sewer treatment plant had been out of order for 5 years, "raw sewage is released directly to the ocean"; water supply is extremely limited, "currently water is being distributed twice a week for durations of 45 minutes"; trash is "deposited into an unsecure open dump" while solid waste "poses a health concern". Indeed, it's another day in paradise.

I now wonder if my digging deeper about Ebeye after I get home was such a good idea. The politics and history of the island are murky - but they aren't widely reported, probably because disenfranchised people in a place without oil, or valuable resources, or economic power aren't considered 'news' anymore. The remoteness of these atolls means the rest of the world will neither know nor care about the displaced islanders who live in squallor as refugees in their own country. Their homes, having been blown up in some nuclear experiment, were located on islands that are now unfit for human habitation. And the world - we - are apparently safer because of it.

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Today, we fly over Ebeye with these refugees invisible to the naked eye and from a distance, we may even remark on how beautiful the place looks amidst an ocean of turquiose and deepest blue. Yet again, ignorance is bliss. And sadly, I think the world - 'drop a few coins into that envelope in the seat pocket and feel a bit better about yourself' - rather likes to keep it that way. (If you want to delve further into the subject, click this link for a recent interview with a researcher into the tragic effects of nuclear testing on the Marshall islands. The reality is sobering.)

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Anyway, let's get back to the flight... which is leaving behind Kwajalein atoll, and we're soon over some of the other islands in the Marshall islands' Ralik chain. The atolls involved in the atomic tests like Bikini, Enewetak and Rongelap are to the northwest of here, but we're heading away to the southwest.

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Aboard, trolleys are rolled out for the second food offering of this flight: it's time for lunch and our midday meal consists of a ham and cheese roll, fruit and a Hershey's bar - unexciting but adequate, and I wasn't expecting much different anyway. More surprising is the crew, who remain chirpy and in very good spirits. As this is their third sector on a long day out, they can hardly be blamed for being a little 'off' about now. But the two male flight attendants are as courteous and friendly as ever, while the sole female crew member in Y is positively jovial. It's a very professional showing by all.

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The flight deck comes back on the blower. We're cruising at 40,000 ft but starting our descent shortly, says a pilot; it's 25ºC in Kosrae and rain showers are forecast for our early arrival. Outside, a thick blanket of cloud obscures any further views of the pacific, while on board, May tells me more about her job as a nurse in L.A., and gripes about doctors working the late shifts. She's looking forward to her holiday back home and is "so glad" that her return flight in a few weeks' time will be on the nonstop Guam-Honolulu flight rather than the island hopper.

I'd also started on my strange new book The short, happy life of the Socialist Republic of the Marshall Islands - it's dedicated to Saddam Hussein - that tells the story of an invasion of the Marshall Islands by a Soviet submarine commander. It's fiction, of course, that borders on satire. But the invasion that starts at Majuro's airport, timed just after the departure of a Honolulu-bound Air Mike 727, seems entirely plausible now that I understand a little of the geography of the island. And having learnt a little of Uncle Sam's contribution to the islands' turbulent recent history, I can also fully understand why some might harbor fantasies of a proletariat revolution.

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Our descent takes us bumpily through a thick layer of cloud and then another, before a dark, sinister-looking ocean becomes visible under us. The poor weather must surely be adding complications to an already challenging landing approach. The Kosrae runway at 5,750 ft is the shortest on the island hopper route, which is probably why the flaps are lowered even before any land at all is visible. Go-arounds are not uncommon here, even in fair weather, and there have been occasion when unfavorable conditions have forced pilots to by-pass the scheduled Kosrae stop altogether. Today's unfriendly weather may give our pilots cause to do the same.

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When Kosrae eventually comes into view, it's of a green and verdant island ringed by coral reef. The interior of the island is rugged, mountainous and heavily forested, but it's also largely blanketed in thick cloud. Still, it's reassuring that visibility isn't horrendous and we're continuing to make a steady descent towards the island's airport that looks - from aerial pictures I'd seen - like an aircraft carrier moored just off the northwest coast. Sadly, no views of the airfield on today's approach.

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Ironically, the weather deteriorates the nearer we get to the airport. The gray rain-bearing clouds get increasingly closer to us and as we touch down with a bump on runway 5, visibility has turned awful, and we're in the thick of a torrential tropical downpour with rain belting down by the bucket-load. Our arrival is announced by a loud roar of reverse thrust which I'm sure will have been carried deep into the island's interior as we screech to a shuddering halt just short of the far end of the runway. There's little room for error here - roll forward any farther and we'd be rolling in pacific surf. Under these trying circumstances, the pilots have done amazingly well today.

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Rather appropriately, we are welcomed to Kosrae by the airport's yellow rescue and fire truck that's readied for action at the edge of the runway - just in case. We track back along the runway towards the small terminal building. An announcement on board informs passengers seated in rows 17 to 37 that they are required to disembark with all their carry-ons for the security sweep here. Those seated elsewhere have the option to disembark, or stay on board for the brief transit. It's still raining and CO brollies are handed out at the bottom of the stairs to keep us dry for the short walk to the terminal.

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One short note about rain in these parts. The equatorial variety isn't at all like that in temperate zones. The downpour is frequently short and sharp, and the rain is more often lukewarm than cold - it refreshes the humid air and washes away the heat. Getting caught and being totally drenched in a heavy tropical downpour is something you need to experience at least once in your life - I thoroughly recommend it. Having said that, it's probably not a good idea to get drenched when you don't have a change of clothes, and still have another four flight sectors ahead of you.   ... so I don't reject that offer of a brolly.

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The business of turning-around this B738 in the rain in less than 35 minutes goes into full swing as we are directed to the terminal on the starboard side. The walk gives me the opportunity to catch some different angles of N14240 en route - being at ground level is simply fantastic. By the way, until fairly recently, the nose of this particular bird used to carry the words: "Operated by Continental Micronesia Inc." but they've obviously disappeared together with the airline.

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Whatever she's called now or in the future, there's no escaping the fact this lone 737 on a brief stopover is the critical airlink to the world for this remote pacific island nation. Kosrae International Airport currently handles a grand total of four scheduled passenger jet departures and arrivals (all CO) per week - on the remaining three days of the week, there are no movements. This makes any airport infrastructure - even the most modest terminal building - look a bit extravagant.

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Welcome to rainy Kosrae, the easternmost of the four states making up the FSM. The nut-shaped island in silhoutte is of a "sleeping lady" whose "breasts" are two of the many mountain peaks that make up the rugged and wild interior. Mt. Finkol at 629 meters is the tallest of the mountains there. Kosrae's total land area is roughly double that of Manhattan, making it the second largest island in the FSM, but population is sparse at about 6,000 people.

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It's nice to see the old Continental Micronesia signs haven't yet been replaced. Like at Majuro, there are separate buildings for arrival and transit passengers - only it's more basic here. The tough wooden benches and stone floor in the 2-room transit/departures waiting area exacerbates the sense of remoteness, and uniqueness, of this place. Kosrae International Airport looks like a great place to start going off the beaten track - makes me wish I had more than the half-hour transit...

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At Kosrae, you can safely stow away what you know about the complexities of international air travel in the 21st century. For here, an improvised version applies: the two CO check-in desks (one of which for Business class) are located inside the international departure lounge. A sign indicates "Security Inspection" but there isn't one. And the closest thing to a FIDS or information desk is the notice board protected under a thatched roof.

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It's only 10 minutes before we're called to board again. Like at Majuro, there's a bit more formality to the procedure than I'd expected, with Business Class, Star Alliance and Onepass status passengers accorded priority boarding. The rest of us troop out in a group about a minute later to find the tarmac wet, but the air fresh and cool. There's a bit of a lull in the downpour which makes our stroll a rather pleasant one. Continental 957 to Pohnpei looks all set to go.

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continues below...

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User currently offlineairpearl From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 952 posts, RR: 26
Reply 2, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 32036 times:


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Kosrae to Pohnpei 556 km
Continental Airlines flight CO 957 Boeing 737-824 N14240
Dept: 1302 Arrv: 1402 (18 minutes early)
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I don't recall seeing any joiners from Kosrae, but all of us are still subjected to another safety video after boarding - my fourth for the day. Flight time to the next Micronesian state along is 45 minutes. As we start moving again, a fresh wave of showers arrives at Kosrae airport. And like during our landing earlier, it is the pitter-patter of driving rain that accompanies us on our take-off run away from this mysterious little island.

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Once airborne, service begins with the distribution of FSM immigration cards followed by drinks and pretzels. I am already three-quarters through the thin volume of "Comrade" Joe Murphy's book that unfortunately doesn't quite live up to its sensational title. I originally thought Joe Murphy was a pen name. But a google search later reveals that Mr Murphy appears all over the place in the Marshall Islands: as the general manager of The Marshall Islands Journal and in some of the strangest references in the official minutes of the country's Chamber of Commerce (believe me, that's one wierd committee). There is a posthumous tribute to him in a forum in 2009 but last year, he emerges as the man who was found alive after missing for two months at sea. He appears to be both liked and disliked, dead and alive; contradictions abound. Like this fantasy red book that's written as if it were an accurate record of history, the things about Joe Murphy that my research throws up look factual, but are they really? I am none the wiser.

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Better stick to more tangible things like seat pitch and obligatory knee shots. Which is pretty standard all round with legroom just adequate enough on this CO 738, although the free seat next to me makes quite a difference to the perception of 'roominess' and general enjoyment of this flight. It's mainly cloudy skies on the flight to Pohnpei although every once in a while, there's a break in the cloud to reveal some impressive seascapes. On the public address, we're told by a pilot that like at Kosrae, it may be a little wet too at our next port of call.

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As we come in lower to land at FSM's largest island, I wish it had been a lot drier and sunnier. The coral reefs just offshore and verdant rainforest blanketing the mountainous interior of this volcanic island would have looked really resplendent in good light. Having said that, Pohnpei is also one of the wettest places on earth, so I would imagine this weather shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. I don't see any beaches - at the shoreline are what look like rich mangrove forests.

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Our descent brings us alongside one of Pohnpei's most well-known landmarks. What you're seeing here is the island of Sokehs just offshore on which is located the 200-meter high Paipalap or Sokehs Rock that is apparently climbable for the best views in Pohnpei; perfect for a fit and determined (and also very patient) planespotter who owns a massive telephoto lens.

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Getting closer to the airport, there's instant evidence of human activity in the form of excavators, trucks and the clearing of land as well all the equipment that make a seaside town into a commercial port - and that comes as a bit of a shock to the system. Having seen only pristine islands all day until now (except for Ebeye but that was from a distance), the view of 'development' as we know it, and that almost everyone in the world advocates as the way forward, can be so confronting and quite ugly.

We make quite a smooth landing on runway 09 that runs for about 6,000 feet, almost the entire length of the offshore islet of Takatik on which the airport is located. Here we are making an about-turn at the end of the runway, heading back for the terminal.

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We come to a halt at the spacious tarmac; CO 957 is still running many minutes early but the lead over the timetable is slowly narrowing. An announcement from the crew asks transit passengers seated at the A-B-C side of the plane to disembark for the obligatory security sweep. (Those not wishing to get off can stay on board for the transit but must shift across to the D-E-F side together with all their belongings.) Outside, the ground is wet and the sky is overcast, but there's no rain and the air in a light breeze is lovely and fresh as we make our way to what seems like the largest airport terminal since Honolulu. Welcome to the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia or as they say in Pohnpeian kaselehlie!

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There are more passengers getting off the flight here than at any airport before this, which reflects the relative importance of this island at the center of Micronesia. The town of Palikir not far from the airport is the seat of government for the FSM, but the main, and much older, town on the island is called Kolonia, appropriately named for a place that had previously been occupied by Spaniards, Germans, Japanese and Americans in turn. There's evidence of some ongoing renovation work at the airport: a Japanese government-funded program is paying for an extension to the runway, among other things, after an Asia Pacific Airlines cargo B727 overran the runway and ended up in the lagoon in 2008. This next airport sign continues to be popular with collectors and I can now recognize all the usual suspects congregating here for a photo opportunity.

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The waiting room is all plastic chairs, aluminum glass frames and air-conditioning - it feels as exciting as the airports I am used to in third world countries like my own that like to pretend that they are developed. Okay, maybe I'm just a bit harsh here, but being confronted with disposable plastic culture again so suddenly isn't very pleasant. I'm already missing the more rustic places we'd just come from and I fear that as we get nearer to Guam and Asia, 'civilization' will encroach further still. There's an airport shop selling souvenirs, drinks and snacks like cup noodles but nothing to interest me - it's not like at Majuro. The crew also take a break here, dropping by for a couple of local hot dogs.

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Among the more interesting diversions during this short transit is a peep into the 'VIP Lounge' that houses a couple of sets of rattan furniture but no VIPs this afternoon. (If this is truly a lounge for VIPs, then I like the transparency of it all.) Our flight is soon called - with boarding priorities observed - and we are soon making our way across the wet tarmac, protected under CO brollies as a fresh wave of rain arrives on Pohnpei. Despite the weather, the job of turning around this 738 in a short time continues unabated.

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There are more passengers joining the flight here than at any previous stopover point. Luckily the seat next to me remains unoccupied. But maybe that's not strictly true - I find May slumped across all three seats when I return. "Where are we?" she asks, looking groggy and bleary-eyed. "Is Guam the next stop?" May looks dejected when I tell her No. She gets back upright reluctantly - and who can blame her, poor thing. Although the adrenalin-pumping excitement of seeing a new airport every hour is keeping me wide awake and bushy tailed, this journey that's about to start its fifth sector must be such a tedious ordeal for May, who has no interest in it at all except for the hope she'll get home at the end of it. I can imagine these types of journeys must seem especially long.

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Pohnpei to Chuuk 705 km
Continental Airlines flight CO 957 Boeing 737-824 N14240
Dept: 1446 Arrv: 1500 (11 minutes early)
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It's raining as we start moving again and another video rerun featuring Jeff Smisek - who increasingly looks like he could play a convincing Count Dracula - entertains us all on the overhead screens. Flight time to the next FSM state of Chuuk (or Truk as it was known before) is about one hour. A fire truck accompanies us to runway 09 as a precautionary measure and take-off is suitably powerful into some quite overcast skies. And so quickly, it's farewell to Pohnpei.

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It's amazing how localized the weather can be in these parts. We're still just off Pohnpei when things seem to change from the grey rain-heavy clouds looking towards the east (above), to the blue cloudless skies as we turn westward (below) to the next Micronesian state. I wouldn't have imagined these two photos of the same island would be taken on the same day, let alone just two minutes apart. Incredible eh?

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It is also here off a rainy Pohnpei that the coral reefs are the most impressive on this entire journey. The view from the air starboard side is simply breathtaking (I imagine it's pretty similar port side) - I just wish we had more of it. Looking at the intoxicating mixture and shades of colors and textures, I'm reminded of the time I first took notice of the island of Pohnpei many years ago - when I picked up neurologist Oliver Sacks' fascinating book The island of the colorblind. Sacks had visited Pingelap, an atoll not too far from here, where one in 12 people are born totally colorblind and thus can only see all of this in monochrome. It's a great book by the way and I also find out recently there's a documentary film based on it which is also worth watching.

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When the seat belt signs come off, service starts with the distribution of immigration forms, something that's been practised consistently since Honolulu. On this sector, the crew do two rounds - first the FSM forms for Chuuk-bound passengers and then the I-94s for Guam. It feels strange to be filling in a U.S. immigration arrival form when I'm flying in from Hawaii. Also as the United States of America doesn't understand sterile transit zones the way most of the world does, I will need to get a fresh U.S. entry stamp in Guam (having already left the country earlier without realizing it) before immediately leaving the country (again) for my onward flight. I just love red tape.

As you can see, the weather outside appears to be improving as we head west and that's a good sign. It's still early afternoon here as we gain an hour flying to our next destination. The catering on board is another offering of pretzels and soft drink like on the previous sector. For a change, I present you below the disposable remnants of my snack instead - you can sense I'm running out of ideas can't you? (Or is it me sensing you thinking... when the hell does this TR end, especially when he's run out of things to say?)

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Thankfully, the prospect of another new island state slips into view outside the window. Chuuk, our last stop before Guam, is next up. I think the approach is the most interesting of all the places we'd been to so far. We skirt the periphery of the huge sapphire-blue Chuuk Lagoon that is encircled by a barrier reef. Dotted within the lagoon are gems of emerald-green volcanic islands that were previously peaks of a submerged mountain range. There's a subliminal quality to this view that at times looks like a painted canvas and even the light is unique, the presence of the right amount of cloud adds a certain mystery and intrigue.

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My clicking away at the window isn't missed by the passenger sat behind me. She's young and Chuukese - I think that's how you call someone from Chuuk - on her way home from HNL and summons up the courage to speak to me for the first time since Hawaii. She asks if I'm getting off at the next stop. When I tell her I'm not, she's disappointed. "But why? You have to visit Chuuk... it's a must-see!" She then extols the virtues of her island home and summarizes in five minutes the things I would have missed, from the most beautiful islands on earth to its friendliest people, not to mention the world's best diving sites. I promise my new-found tour guide I'd make it a point to stop the next time I come round these parts. (When that will happen is quite another question.)

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The international airport at Chuuk is located on the green island of Weno that's pretty much as central as you can get in the lagoon. Flaps are way down for landing at another short 6,000-ft runway and I'm sure our pilots must be glad that this is the last of the challenging ones for today. But at least the weather isn't a complicating factor here. We make an uneventful landing on runway 04 but still we are chased down by two fire and rescue trucks, just in case.

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The airfield is situated right at the northern end of the island with the sea flanking one side of the runway. It's no coincidence the main airport is located here: Weno is also the capital and most populous island in Chuuk, which also happens to be the most populous of the four FSM states - nearly half of all FSM citizens are Chuukese. So this is really one of the most important stops for the island hopper.

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I quite like Chuuk's international airport for its welcoming facade and low-rise simplicity. With an open garden out front, it feels like you're about to visit someone's home. There's no need for fancy architecture or expensive materials - this is the ideal public building for a small island state. The same unfortunately cannot be said for the five-storey eyesore at the periphery of the airport that's become an unintended landmark for every visitor to Chuuk. I mistook it for an abandoned building at first but only later realized that R.S. Plaza is a hotel - perhaps the only consolation is that guests must have superb views of the airport tarmac.

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Just at the edge of the tarmac, and before the terminal proper, is the spacious grassy area that's rather pleasant to spend time in. Quite a number of the transit passengers linger here, enjoying the sea breeze, afternoon sunshine and the carefree feel of being on a remote island far removed from the realities of flying in the 21st century. Imagine an airport with no barriers or doors or boarding passes or security checks or guards between you and this plane - a fantasy? No, it's the reality in Chuuk.

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Those of us outside are allowed to enjoy the fresh air and unobstructed views for a while before a ground agent with more worldly experience than the rest decides that this just wouldn't do and we need to be herded into the air-conditioned waiting lounge. She's far too polite so it's not easy but it happens eventually after much persuasion and prodding. Ironically, immediately after everyone is ushered indoors, an announcement is made for the boarding of our flight. Perhaps that's the real reason why we are herded indoors in the first place. How else could CO practise priority boarding for business class and frequent flyers if there isn't even a departure gate?

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There's nothing particularly notable about the interior of the simple terminal except for a large wall-mounted poster of the dive map of Chuuk Lagoon with some pretty impressive detail. Few dive sites around the world can match this one with its ghost fleet of more than 70 sunken hulks and 270 planes lying in the shallow waters in and around the lagoon. Chuuk was a major central pacific naval base for the Japanese in World War II and over two days in Feb 1944, sustained aerial bombing in Operation Hailstone reduced some 180,000 tons of shipping and hundreds of planes to the base of what eventually became one of the world's largest artificial coral reefs.

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Judging from the many new faces among those waiting in the lounge, it does seem like we're getting many more joiners from Chuuk. There's a sprinkling of Japanese tourists waiting to board while a singing troupe or church choir, with men in flowery blue shirts and ladies wearing matching dresses and frangipani necklaces, is adding interesting variety to our little party. We're boarding again but I'm also a little sad to be saying farewell to Chuuk - it means my island hopper trip is coming to an end. 

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Against the backdrop of the landmark R.S. Plaza hotel, we troop back to our trusted 738 for the very last sector. I'm glad we're ending on such a nice afternoon and savor every step of the short walk. The unsung heroes of the day are undoubtedly the pair of reliable CFM56-7B power plants that have been working tirelessly since Honolulu on this challenging over-water route. The engines may look unremarkable except for being designed intentionally-deformed but their performance is no small feat: we travel today the equivalent in distance to the great circle route between London and Delhi, and take longer to complete it than the usual nonstop Singapore-London flight. I never had any doubts about our safety but I did have reservations about how I could survive such a long flight on a PTV-less narrowbody. I needn't have worried: this experience was simply - excuse the cliché again - amazing. And I would do it again.

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Service has been a plus factor too. The crew who welcomed us in pre-dawn Honolulu, all those hours and an international dateline ago, greet us again at Chuuk with the same high level of enthusiasm. They have been on their feet for some 13 hours now and are about to start their sixth consecutive sector but you wouldn't know it looking at them. I am truly impressed with this set of Guam-based CO crew. The cabin fills up on this leg - I estimate a 90% load - but I'm lucky yet again with the seat next to me staying unoccupied. There also seems to be more baggage and cargo loaded here than anywhere else along our route.

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Chuuk to Guam 1,019 km
Continental Airlines flight CO 957 Boeing 737-824 N14240
Dept: 1539 Arrv: 1712 (8 minutes early)


This sector to Guam is the second longest for the island hopper but it's still just another 'hop' really being roughly the equivalent in distance to a flight between Paris and Madrid, or Shanghai and Beijing. Another safety video - number six for me - is played. Flight time is 1 hour 23 minutes. The air is fragrant with the scent of the frangipani worn by the colorful choir members as we head out on our short taxi down to the start of runway 04 at the edge of the lagoon. By the way, the original runway and airport had been built in 1942 when it was still a Japanese naval base.

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Our take-off run from Chuuk is especially powerful. Having already experienced a succession of pretty impressive climbouts from short runways all day, this one from Chuuk beats 'em all, perhaps not too surprising considering the high passenger and cargo loads on this sector. Below are views of the northeastern coast of Weno island as we depart in a easterly direction.

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It's looks like great flying weather from here. The coral reef marks the edge of Chuuk lagoon and we're soon turning around to head northwest in the direction of Guam. I had been hoping to catch sight of one of many wrecks (most of them are in shallow water and some stick right out of it, according to the dive map) but didn't manage to spot any. I think we're in the wrong part of the lagoon - most of the major wrecks are found south of Weno.

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The service routine starts for the last time on CO 957 today. Immigration forms for the United States are distributed and then the trolleys are rolled out for the third food offering since Honolulu. On this mid-afternoon sector we get a pastrami and cheese roll, a packet of coconut taffy Hawaiian cookies, some raisins as well as a choice of soft drink. I choose ginger ale - as a tribute to one Bavaria-based trip reporter, among the most prolific writers on this forum, whose favorite drink this is when flying U.S. carriers. Prost Planehunter!

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The rest of the flight is uneventful as we overfly the Mariana Trench, the world's deepest oceans. I continue reading A Pattern of Islands which amuses me greatly - it's easy to forget that Arthur Grimble had set sail for the Gilbert and Ellice islands nearly 100 years ago in 1914. The fact that the book remains enjoyable and strangely relevant speaks volumes for Grimble's easy writing style, his perceptive nature and insatiable appetite for local knowledge and culture - at a time when sensitivity to native culture was neither fashionable nor required of servants of the greatest empire on earth. Grimble eventually became the resident commissioner of the islands - although I doubt if all colonial officers were quite like him.

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My seatmate May had borrowed all of my books to flip through during the flight but I don't think she thought much of my taste in literature, especially the red socialist one which she returned to me in about a minute. Yup, six sectors on and I can safely say we really don't have much in common. It's strange how on long flights like this, one ponders the possibility, however remote, of a relationship with an attractive stranger. How cool would it be to be able to say that you met your partner for life on the legendary Micronesia island hopper? Perhaps I'd been hopelessly fantasizing about something that was never meant to be. And did I read too much into the fact that May said she was "cold" at her aisle seat and asked if she could move closer to me? Maybe she just really was feeling chilly. The situation is made trickier when May's other male friend, who is obviously more smitten with her than she is with him, moves down to sit across the aisle from her. He sits there awkwardly, in silence, and occasionally glances across at May and is probably wondering what she's doing next to me. This is one triangle I have no wish to be a part - and am finally glad this flight is coming to an end.

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My first sight of Guam is of its southeastern coast. Having only stopped at small islands all day, seeing a coastline that stretches for some distance is a new experience. On a map, America's westernmost possession is shaped a bit like a slug sitting out in the open ocean with its slightly bulbous northern and southern heads joined together with a slim waist. Our flight over its southern end reveals a green and verdant land with what appears to be interesting undulating terrain. The route takes us close to Fena reservoir, the island's largest body of fresh water, and then Mount Lamlam which at 406m above sea level is its tallest peak. They are both located in the area you see below which is part of the U.S. military base known as the Naval Ordnance Annex that, like big chunks of the island, is out of bounds to civilians. And for many years hidden under earth-covered bunkers, this area housed the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the western pacific.

.

.

.

We fly clear across the island and make a right turn above the Philippine Sea, off Guam's southwestern coast. Jutting out ahead is Apra harbor where the U.S. navy's Naval Base Guam is located. But we're headed inland for the civilian Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (named after Guam's first representative in the U.S. congress) that's located at the center of the island. Guam's much larger airport - the Andersen Air Force Base - is in the north of the island and houses an active fleet of B-52s. The interior is a lot more hilly than I had expected and makes for a scenic approach on a fine afternoon to 06R, where we eventually make a smooth landing.

.

.

.

We're still early on arrival in Guam but our 24-minute headstart at Majuro had been whittled down to just 8 minutes at the final destination. Still, that's pretty impressive time-keeping for a service that had clocked-in nearly 14 and a half hours from end-to-end and made five stops along the way. From a distance, Guam's low-rise international airport with its integral control tower looks old fashioned, in a nice sort of way. A JAL 763 from Narita had landed just ahead of us while this CO 764 is just heading out on one of the last of the airline's multiple daily frequencies to Tokyo.

.

.

.

We dock in at gate 10. Disembarkation is delayed awhile due to a medical situation - which we weren't made aware of until landing - that was serious enough to necessitate the boarding of our flight of a couple of paramedics to escort the ill passenger off. Arriving at Guam comes with mixed emotions for me - on the one hand, it's nice to be able to tick off a new airport and territory but on the other hand, this marks the end of my journey on the Micronesian island-hopper. If I'm lucky enough to do this again, the service will be known as United and come with a UA code. Here's one last parting shot of this well-featured blended winglet. Thank you and farewell Continental Micronesia.

.

.

.

There are the usual long immigration queues into the United States. But as I have three hours to kill between flights, time is not a real concern. I am stamped into Guam and then, as an international transit passenger, directed immediately to departures again via a quiet security check. There's no need to retrieve luggage here. It seems I have caught GUM at a quiet time generally - there's a neat looking duty-free shopping area airside geared to Japanese and Korean customers but at this hour, avid shoppers among them are few and far between.

.

.

.

No wonder some of the airport shopkeepers are starting to lower their shutters. There aren't very many evening departures at all - based on the FIDS screen, my flight to Manila scheduled for 8.15 p.m. is the last one of the day. The serious shoppers probably wouldn't be returning for another seven hours or so. The plane that brought me from HNL gets a two and a half hour rest before heading out on its next mission, a short hop to Koror in Palau. Quite a number of flights seem to be leaving early.

.

.

.

Perhaps jetlag is finally catching up with me, but I walk past the entrance to Continental's Presidents Club a number of times without noticing the inconspicuous signs and wooden door. But I wouldn't have missed much had I not found it. Ringing the doorbell, I am let in on account of my Star Alliance status to find a basic lounge, with very limited food and drink offerings, and that can be described as mediocre at best, even by U.S. airline standards. There's a view of the tarmac but the light is already fading. I stay for all of 10 minutes before deciding the airport's public areas are a lot more interesting.

.

.

.

My onward flight to Manila is shown as departing on time but the absence of a plane at the gate less than an hour before departure suggests that this is one flight that probably wouldn't. This daily service to the Philippine capital is also usually operated by a B738, but around the Christmas holidays some flights, like tonight's, have been upgauged to a B764 - and a new type to add to my list! What a serendipitous experience this is turning out to be. The MNL-bound widebody comes in late from Honolulu as CO 001 - had things not worked out earlier, I could well have been the flight and probably been fuming all the way across the pacific.

.

.

It's been a healthy load on the inbound from Honolulu and it does look like quite a number of those passengers will be continuing onto Manila on the same plane. The small waiting area at gate 9 overflows as the ground crew hurriedly try to get our jet - one of four 764s based in Guam, though probably not for long - turned around in less than an hour. Boarding starts after scheduled departure time and I finally take advantage of my Star Alliance priority benefit to get down the jetway ahead of the crowd, for it looks like another chock-full flight to Manila. I've lost sight of May too and wonder a little how she's getting on with her friend.

.

.

Guam to Manila 2,570 km
Continental Airlines flight CO 933 Boeing 767-424ER N76064
Dept: 2045 Arrv: 2220 (40 minutes late)


The welcome is cordial at door 2L and I make my way down the long coach cabins to the tail of the plane. My seat is at the last row by the window. Unlike the island hopper, there's a blanket at every seat that also features basic PTVs with non-AVOD. I capture a couple of cabin shots before general boarding begins (as it turns out these are my last pictures of the day) and as I couldn't catch our plane's registration at the gate, I ask a nearby flight attendant if she knows. "Goodness, I've never been asked that before," she says, flagging down a passing ground engineer with the same question. "It's nose number 064," comes the engineer's immediate response. Although he can't remember the registration, it's easy enough to work out that it is N76064. The latest pictures of this particular aircraft already has her sporting 'United' titles.

.

.

.

By the time everyone is boarded, there's not one empty seat in the house: we push back about half an hour late. My neighbor is the sort of traveling companion any a.netter would enjoy sharing a three-hour flight with - he is friendly, chatty and has got many years of experience as an aircraft maintenance engineer with various airlines (most recently UA in SFO), and currently works for a contractor servicing Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters in Guam. Or at least it would have been really fantastic if not for the fact that I'm seriously feeling the strains of having stayed awake all the way since Hawaii. I remember bits of our conversation through dinner (a decent Thai chicken curry) that meanders from one topic to another before I fall asleep half-way through our chat - which must have seemed rather rude. When I awaken, we're already on finals into Ninoy Aquino International Airport. CO 933 arrives at the gate in Manila at 10.20 p.m., about 40 minutes behind schedule. Twenty-one and a half hours after I leave Honolulu, this phase of the journey comes to an end. And I'm looking forward to the prospect of a comfortable bed.

.

.

.
Last Words

There is no doubt that taking the Air Mike island hopper was a dream come true. It will remain an unforgettable experience for me and that's also why I'd chosen to write this report. I have probably written a lot more than you want to read and for that, I do apologize. Which is also why I don't intend to add very much more except to say that this island hopper is worth every cent you spend on it. You must do it!

Thanks for reading.

.
If you're interested, the previous three reports in this round-the-world series are:

Part One for Kuala Lumpur-Dubai includes FY AT7 (SZB-MES), SJ 734 (MES-CGK), and GA 332 (CGK-DXB)
Part Two for Dubai-London includes QR 332 (DXB-DOH) and QR 346 (DOH-LHR)
Part Three for London-Honolulu includes KL 738 (LHR-AMS), KL M11 (AMS-SFO), and DL 753 (SFO-HNL)
.

And others in chronological order from the latest:

Setting The Celestial Bar: Korean Air's First A380 (by airpearl Aug 7 2011 in Trip Reports)
The Jewel Amiss In Crown On Royal Jordanian (by airpearl Sep 26 2010 in Trip Reports)
Flat & Low: Premium Class On AirAsia X (by airpearl Sep 1 2010 in Trip Reports)
Flying Mugabe's Private Jet: Air Zimbabwe KUL-PEK (by airpearl Jul 25 2010 in Trip Reports)
On Asiana Business: Chicken Soup For The Seoul (by airpearl Jun 20 2010 in Trip Reports)
Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong (by airpearl May 7 2010 in Trip Reports)
Propping Down To Singapore On A Firefly (by airpearl Mar 28 2010 in Trip Reports)
Upping The Game: On Etihad In J & New F (by airpearl Feb 9 2010 in Trip Reports)
The AF A380 Gets TSAed: To JFK On Boxing Day (by Airpearl Dec 30 2009 in Trip Reports)
Software Surprises On Emirates: BKK-DXB Vv On A380 (by Airpearl Dec 20 2009 in Trip Reports)
Gulf Air First KUL-BAH-KUL On Jet’s B77W (by Airpearl Oct 31 2009 in Trip Reports)
Going Askew Aboard Cathay’s 747: A Short Hop In J (by Airpearl Aug 22 2009 in Trip Reports)
Korean Y Experience - Older A330 & Brand New B77W (by Airpearl Jul 25 2009 in Trip Reports)
The Fiesta Route To Manila: In Economy On MH & PR (by Airpearl May 24 2009 in Trip Reports)
Gulf Air (And Proxy) London Roundtrip In F & J (by Airpearl Jan 6 2009 in Trip Reports)
Flying On Borrowed Time: Thai A340-500 (by Airpearl Dec 7 2008 in Trip Reports)
Singapore Airlines Business Class To Melbourne (by Airpearl Nov 8 2008 in Trip Reports)
The Qantas A380 Inaugural (by Airpearl Oct 20 2008 in Trip Reports)
Trijets Rule OK: Biman Bangladesh DC10-30 (by Airpearl Jun 25 2008 in Trip Reports)
Ups & Downs: CX First Class Across The Pacific (by Airpearl Jun 4 2008 in Trip Reports)
Battle Of The Kebayas: Malaysia Vs. Singapore (by Airpearl May 17 2008 in Trip Reports)
From Song Thaew To 747: Domestic On Thai Airways (by Airpearl Apr 24 2008 in Trip Reports)
Short Hop, Big Suite: Cathay’s New F On 747 (by Airpearl Apr 9 2008 in Trip Reports)
How The Other Half Lives: F Class On ANA & Thai (by Airpearl Apr 3 2008 in Trip Reports)
An Indian Indulgence With Jet And Kingfisher (by Airpearl Mar 20 2008 in Trip Reports)
Inaugural AirAsia X And Routine A380 In A Weekend (by Airpearl Nov 13 2007 in Trip Reports)
Etihad To London In J And F (by Airpearl Oct 23 2007 in Trip Reports)
Cathay Pacific New J Class On A330-300 KUL-HKG (by Airpearl Oct 10 2007 in Trip Reports)


User currently offlineIAHFLYR From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 4790 posts, RR: 22
Reply 3, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 31517 times:

Incredible pictures and report......I've heard many stories of the island hopper but had never seen anything close to the photos you took.

Thanks for sharing, CO will always live long in my mind.



Any views shared are strictly my own and do not a represent those of any former employer.
User currently offlineSultanils From Belgium, joined Mar 2010, 1719 posts, RR: 30
Reply 4, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 31477 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Hi airpearl,

This is really amazing! Not much more I can say, just amazing....!
Thanks for putting this marvellous piece together, I think you had as much joy in writing it up as in flying it.

   Sultanils



In thrust we trust.
User currently offlineVanguard From Solomon Islands, joined Feb 2004, 106 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 31434 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Put this TR with the classics!

This is one of the 'must-do' routes in my opinion.

Thank you.


User currently offlineglobalflyer From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 928 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 31224 times:

This was a fantastic TR. Excellent pictures. I hope this milk run will stay with the new UA! Thanks for sharing!


Landing on every Continent almost on an annual basis!
User currently offlineCXB77L From Australia, joined Feb 2009, 2614 posts, RR: 5
Reply 7, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 31116 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
CHAT OPERATOR

Excellent. This is one of the best trip reports I've seen on a.net. Definitely makes me want to try this route once. Thanks for sharing, airpearl.


Boeing 777 fanboy
User currently offlineTCASAlert From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 31044 times:

Hi there

Thank you so much for sharing this trip report. I love your writing style, made for a very pleasurable read and the photos are brilliant.

I love some of these atolls, I wonder how long it would take to become bored on such a tiny strip of land hundreds of miles from anywhere.

Cheers
Noel


User currently offlinethegivenone From Austria, joined Jan 2008, 192 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 30830 times:

A truly incredible report. As others have said, it is an unquestionable candidate for the Airliners.net Hall of Fame.

I thank you also for your considerate and insightful comments into some of the historical, societal and economic background of the micro-states you "visited". I will definitely say that you taught me a lot about the region (beyond my simple knowledge of US missile testing) and for that I am grateful. I spent quite a bit of time reading more about the region after finishing your report.

It is also nice to see such passion for a region and I hope you get a chance to visit the islands for a more extended period of time in the future.

Thank you and keep up the amazing work!


User currently offlinef16arm From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 90 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 30730 times:

Most diffidently one for the "must read" section, I think we all   , yes ALL, have looked at the CO maps and followed that Air Mike route with our finger, and wondered what it would be like to take this trip, thanks.

Side note,    , how easy is it to non-rev on this? Does the W&B for this trip kick off non-revs?



One weekend a month and two (cough, cough 45, 90, 120 days) weeks a year supports my habbit
User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 11, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 30695 times:

Wow, now that's what you call a Trip Report!! Fantastic...just...fantastic!!

Thanks a lot.

Andy.



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineThe777Man From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 6571 posts, RR: 55
Reply 12, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 30472 times:

Hi Airpearl !

Amazing report!!!!!! Absolute classic with amazing pictures and fantastic narrative! I hope to do the same trip some time, you have convinced me to that with this report. A classic!

Looking forward to the last part of your RTW trip!

The777Man



Need a Boeing 777 Firing Order....Further to fly....CI, MU, LX and LH 777s
User currently offlineAA94 From United States of America, joined Aug 2011, 600 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 30357 times:

Wow, what an excellent trip report and quite the intriguing trip! If nothing else, it looks like a flight on the island hopper is necessary just to take pictures in order make my friends jealous, if nothing else.

Keep up the great reports, really enjoy reading them!

-AA94



Choose a challenge over competence / Eleanor Roosevelt
User currently offlineaflyingkiwi From New Zealand, joined Nov 2010, 515 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 30235 times:

Hi Airpearl,

Absolutely fantastic report with a myriad of superb pictures of these tiny Pacific atolls. I really hope I can catch this flight one day as long as UA doesn't cut it...

BTW are you going to write a report about the MNL-KUL leg?

Regards,
aflyingkiwi


User currently offlineairpearl From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 952 posts, RR: 26
Reply 15, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 29970 times:

IAHFLYR, Sultanils, Vanguard, Globalflyer, CXB77L, Noel, thegiveone, f16arm, BAViscount, The777Man, AA94, alfyingkiwi,

Hi all,

Thanks for all the very nice words! You have been too kind. This is surely one of the world's most incredible routes and hope it's been a decent read, if nothing else.  
Quoting thegivenone (Reply 9):
I will definitely say that you taught me a lot about the region (beyond my simple knowledge of US missile testing) and for that I am grateful. I spent quite a bit of time reading more about the region after finishing your report.

I'm so glad you did! Especially in a region which tends to get forgotten or is lumped together into some sort of an 'island paradise' in people's minds, the reality is often quite a revelation, if not outright shocking. For me, the trip helped to put some of the pieces of the jigsaw together of a picture that sometimes isn't quite as pretty as what it seems on the surface.

Quoting aflyingkiwi (Reply 14):
BTW are you going to write a report about the MNL-KUL leg?

Already you're asking for the next leg? So much pressure! Hahaha. Yes, I think I ought to finish the series, eventually - but that's going to be a short one.

Thanks again all for dropping by.

Cheers
airpearl


User currently offline9V-SPJ From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 752 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 29917 times:

Amazing report and beautiful photos! Makes me want to do this trip now!~

9V-SPJ


User currently offline767747 From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 1939 posts, RR: 24
Reply 17, posted (3 years 2 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 29813 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Fantastic report, airpearl!

What a day of flying! Incredible photos and descriptions along the way. What a unique trip! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
It's while passing trays to and from the aisle that I get chatting to the passenger sat at my row. May, a very pretty nurse from the Philippines but working in southern California, says she noticed my photo-taking: "But why are you taking notes? Are they for your photography class? What types of photos do you take?" It sounds a bit like an interrogation.

Always something us airline photographers are not fans of ... being grilled with questions!  
Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Continental's breakfast consisting of a cheese omelette, fruit, muffin, OJ and coffee is a Neutral on my lenient marking chart, but the friendly cabin crew get much higher marks.

Not bad for a flight of this length. Good job, Continental!

Matthew


User currently offlineakhmad From Netherlands, joined Sep 2005, 2476 posts, RR: 53
Reply 18, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 29388 times:

My friend Airpearl, flying across the mid-pacific pearls! How appropriate!   

But seriously, this happens to be the best ever covered Pacific island-hopping milk run! Thank you for taking us along your way across the blue ocean and sharing so many joyful, exciting, yet memorable moments.

It feels like I was there with you. So please bear my lengthy comment.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
My 4.30 a.m. taxi, pre-ordered by the hotel, turns out to be an ostentatious chauffer-driven stretch limo that could have been booked by the president himself

Could it have been a courtesy of the president for not catching up with you?   


Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
my check-in agent, whose demeanor and expression tell me he's not convinced by the info on the screen, and who seems intent on doing something about it
Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
The man smiles, keys I've-no-idea-what into the computer, and out churn two boarding passes - one for the island hopper to Guam and another for the onward flight to Manila. What a relief!

What a charming man. I would suggest United to appoint him as an instructor of hospitality course within the company.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
a bar counter with booze for sale

Quite disappointing that booze is not available for free.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
the last edition to feature the old United logo - is liberated, to be safely treasured

Way to go!   


Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
She takes a quick look at my Malaysian passport and asks if I have a valid U.S. visa - which I show her immediately -

I thought Malaysia was among the countries with visa waiver program.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
As you can see, there's barely enough for the road here.

The scenery is breathtaking!  Wow!


Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
For the moment, the inside of the departure lounge is cooled by a couple of stand-up fans running on full steam

The lounge has its charms somehow.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
They look like they know each other already, but why are they sat seperately, and not talk to each other on board? This is almost intriguing enough to be a story in The Marshall Islands Journal...

Did you post it to Marshall Island Journal?   


Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
"Please keep photographic equipment out of sight to avoid them being confiscated by ground staff," the cabin crew warn over the p.a
Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
"Sorry, no more pictures please," he says, sounding more concerned than rude. "Do you have a backpack so you can keep your camera there, out of sight - I don't want security to take it away."

Sara of Vueling should take notice of this and refrain from simply shouting, “SIR! IT IS NOT ALLOWED TO TAKE PICTURE ON BOARD!”

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
army personnel climb aboard to do the 'security sweep', for which hand baggage needs to be cleared from the overhead lockers

Did army personnel demand you to reveal the content of your hand baggage?

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
More surprising is the crew, who remain chirpy and in very good spirits.

Kudos to the crew!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
The nut-shaped island in silhoutte is of a "sleeping lady" whose "breasts" are two of the many mountain peaks that make up the rugged and wild interior.

Are these really your own words? 


Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
A sign indicates "Security Inspection" but there isn't one

  


Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
but all of us are still subjected to another safety video after boarding - my fourth for the day.

Can you imagine the old days without safety video?

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
What you're seeing here is the island of Sokehs just offshore on which is located the 200-meter high Paipalap or Sokehs Rock that is apparently climbable for the best views in Pohnpei

It reminds me of Sugar Loaf in Sao Paulo.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
An announcement from the crew asks transit passengers seated at the A-B-C side of the plane to disembark for the obligatory security sweep. (Those not wishing to get off can stay on board for the transit but must shift across to the D-E-F side together with all their belongings.)

Interesting procedure.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
I wouldn't have imagined these two photos of the same island would be taken on the same day, let alone just two minutes apart. Incredible eh?

I believe you.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
When I tell her I'm not, she's disappointed. "But why? You have to visit Chuuk... it's a must-see!"
Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
(When that will happen is quite another question.)

Airpearl, how could you possibly refuse?

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
Imagine an airport with no barriers or doors or boarding passes or security checks or guards between you and this plane - a fantasy? No, it's the reality in Chuuk.

So, when will you come back to Chuuk? 


Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
The air is fragrant with the scent of the frangipani worn by the colorful choir members as we head out on our short taxi down to the start of runway 04 at the edge of the lagoon

I wish being immersed by the scent of frangipani during every take off.


Thanks again for sharing. A really enjoyable morning read on the single ever-to-be sunniest day of this year’s summer in Holland.

Best wishes,
Suryo



Friends forever
User currently offlineba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8546 posts, RR: 54
Reply 19, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 29345 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Hi Airpearl,

That was one amazing trip, some of the pictures are stunning, this was a real eye opener to this route, thanks for sharing it.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
This queue-beating Star Alliance perk - a legacy of two particularly productive flying years - will be the one I'll miss most when I lose it at the end of this year.

- Ah yes, we get used to the perks, always a bummer when you loose them.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
the slightly faded, tropicalized decor looks almost identical to the hotel I just checked out from. I suspect this is very much the Honolulu look.

- Looks pretty dated there, from memory the AA lounge is a bit more up to date.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
: "if you can't process it, we'll have to put him on the direct." She's obviously refering to CO's nonstop flight to Guam later this afternoon - and I'm about to plead: No... please no! I really need to get on this flight!

- OMG, that would have been a nightmare!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
I learn that my seat mate is actually traveling from LAX to MNL, and her entire journey will take in excess of 30 hours (!) - and involve 7 transit stops en route. (That's 3 more stops than Pan Am's China Clipper between San Francisco and Manila in the 1930s, by the way). Getting on the island hopper may be a dream come true for me, but I suspect it can't be more different for May. She doesn't say it in so many words, but the facial expression is a dead giveaway: this milk-run is a torturous nightmare

- Jeez, how much cheaper was this than the non-stop? -It must be a reasonable sum for May to put herself through this torture, which is what most 'normal' people would see it as.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
A road runs through it: Majuro is primarily a long finger of narrow islands connected by causeways and linked together by a 60 km-long trunk road that is clearly visible as we fly over the island.

- Great pic!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
A sign at the corner says this a wifi hotspot

- The last thing I expected to see!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
A 2010 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report found Ebeye to be in dire straits. As an example, the island's sanitary sewer treatment plant had been out of order for 5 years, "raw sewage is released directly to the ocean"; water supply is extremely limited, "currently water is being distributed twice a week for durations of 45 minutes"; trash is "deposited into an unsecure open dump" while solid waste "poses a health concern". Indeed, it's another day in paradise.

- Just shows paradise is sometimes not all it seems.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
(If you want to delve further into the subject, click this link for a recent interview with a researcher into the tragic effects of nuclear testing on the Marshall islands. The reality is sobering.)

- Thanks for the link, very sobering!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
An announcement on board informs passengers seated in rows 17 to 37 that they are required to disembark with all their carry-ons for the security sweep here.

- Seems rather random!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
the crew asks transit passengers seated at the A-B-C side of the plane to disembark for the obligatory security sweep. (Those not wishing to get off can stay on board for the transit but must shift across to the D-E-F side together with all their belongings.)

- More randomness, seems pointless.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
It feels strange to be filling in a U.S. immigration arrival form when I'm flying in from Hawaii. Also as the United States of America doesn't understand sterile transit zones the way most of the world does, I will need to get a fresh U.S. entry stamp in Guam (having already left the country earlier without realizing it) before immediately leaving the country (again) for my onward flight. I just love red tape.

- Now this is just stupid, as you say, red tape!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
I mistook it for an abandoned building at first but only later realized that R.S. Plaza is a hotel - perhaps the only consolation is that guests must have superb views of the airport tarmac.

- Great place for spotting, if a little shabby looking,shame the traffic is almost non existent.

Thanks again, great read.

Regards

Mark



111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6808 posts, RR: 77
Reply 20, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 29310 times:

Hi Airpearl,

truly fantastic report with many great pictures! I would love to fly on that exotic route one day, the product doesn't look too bad.

So will you continue to write reports?


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineJL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 6
Reply 21, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 29140 times:

Kwan,

This is probably the best of your TRs. As I already had the chance to say countless times before I'd buy a travel book from you in a heartbeat even if it was called "Excursions in Bradford, Luton and Chivasso" but this time the words were matched by an equally fabolous scenery, the sort of dream-like places that most of us would get married just to honeymoon to!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
The service provides a critical lifeline to these islands a few times a week, and gives us the unique opportunity to glimpse these pacific communities at a relatively reasonable cost. It's been on my "must-do" list forever - and it should be on yours too.

It is on mine now, if I'll ever be able to do so.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
The only question he asks is a strange one: do I have an address in Guam he can input for the system? But I'm not stopping in Guam, I say. "I know, but you wouldn't happen to have an address there, would you?" How about the airport? I say. The man smiles, keys I've-no-idea-what into the computer, and out churn two boarding passes - one for the island hopper to Guam and another for the onward flight to Manila. What a relief!

Cool guy! I loved his laid-back attitude in front of the idiocy of beaurocracy. Sometimes people seem to have lost in this increasingly strange Western world.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
I am welcomed on board. I haven't been so thrilled to be on a 737 for a long time.

Indeed, doesn't happen every day to be excited for a Y class flight on a 737!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
I overhear a conversation that seems to confirm cost-cutting is making flights tangibly crappier for all concerned: a flight attendant apologizes to a passenger that blankets are no longer carried. "Oh, it'll be very uncomfortable," the passenger wails. "It's so cold... and I'll not be able to sleep." The flight attendant is sympathetic, but can't do anything.

Gosh, that's an American habit that, I hope, will never cross the pond (even if I'm not betting too much money on it):

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
I learn that my seat mate is actually traveling from LAX to MNL, and her entire journey will take in excess of 30 hours (!) - and involve 7 transit stops en route.

Poor May, that sounds a little bit too much even for an airplane nutter.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
At the eastern end is a place known as Rita - after actress Rita Hayworth - so the road effectively runs from Rita to Laura
Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
The passengers on this flight take their time walking across the tarmac; quite a few pose for photos en route and many are genuinely excited to be somewhere unique. And the excitement is infectious: my spirits are lifted there are others (who may not necessarily be plane nuts) who have chosen to fly CO 957 just because it is the island hopper. Just wonderful.

In an ideal world, this paragraph should describe every flying experience anywhere, from landing on a Pacific atoll to a morning commute with Ryanair.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
So what concerns the average Marshall islander? Based on the Journal reports, it's the same things we in the rest of the world are concerned about: corruption in government, high oil prices... and juicy conspiracies - like that surrounding a U.S. embassy staff member in Majuro who's been bitten by a dog. "This is the second incident in as many weeks in which neighborhood dogs have ambushed embassy staff," the paper reports on page 3, suggesting a sort of local canine revolt against Uncle Sam. "The State Department in Washington has to be notified... a letter would be sent to the Majuro Atoll Local Government..." It looks like the Marshall Islands isn't immune to sensational reporting either.

This paragraph was laugh-out-lound funny, congrats! I love to read small local papers as well, they are a fantastic way of understanding how the indigenous are living. Some time ago I was in the Alps and saw one of those signs newsagents use to show on streets with the newspapers' main news and it read "30 search for missing cow". Perhaps not as fun as the dog-biten diplomat but yet it made me giggle.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Our climb out of Kwajalein brings into view an interesting settlement on the next island along. This place seems rather attractive at first glance, and there appear to be some low buildings here. It seems like the perfect place to house a luxury resort, but this island most certainly isn't one. Look more closely and you'll see the tiny boxes are actually dwellings in a very crowded, treeless shanty town. Amazingly, more than 10,000 Marshall islanders call this home: some estimates put the number as high as 15,000, making this one of the most densely populated areas in the world. With the unenviable title of 'slum of the pacific', Ebeye island is, in fact, an unmitigated disaster

Incredible, I hoped that at least this corner of the world was spared from such misery. Now, perhaps, I understand why so many US armed forces servicemen come from Marshall Island.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Today, we fly over Ebeye with these refugees invisible to the naked eye and from a distance, we may even remark on how beautiful the place looks amidst an ocean of turquiose and deepest blue. Yet again, ignorance is bliss. And sadly, I think the world - 'drop a few coins into that envelope in the seat pocket and feel a bit better about yourself' - rather likes to keep it that way. (If you want to delve further into the subject, click this link for a recent interview with a researcher into the tragic effects of nuclear testing on the Marshall islands. The reality is sobering.)

A sobering read indeed. Makes a good pair with Donovan Webster's Aftermath, especially with the chapter dedicated to Nevada's nuclear testing ground: the only victims of the American nuclear programme have been the very same US citizens it was thought to defend.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
Looking at the intoxicating mixture and shades of colors and textures, I'm reminded of the time I first took notice of the island of Pohnpei many years ago - when I picked up neurologist Oliver Sacks' fascinating book The island of the colorblind. Sacks had visited Pingelap, an atoll not too far from here, where one in 12 people are born totally colorblind and thus can only see all of this in monochrome.

That sounds like a quite cruel punishment for those souls. Being in such a place, with such colours and not being able to spot them.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
There's nothing particularly notable about the interior of the simple terminal except for a large wall-mounted poster of the dive map of Chuuk Lagoon with some pretty impressive detail. Few dive sites around the world can match this one with its ghost fleet of more than 70 sunken hulks and 270 planes lying in the shallow waters in and around the lagoon. Chuuk was a major central pacific naval base for the Japanese in World War II and over two days in Feb 1944, sustained aerial bombing in Operation Hailstone reduced some 180,000 tons of shipping and hundreds of planes to the base of what eventually became one of the world's largest artificial coral reefs.

Beautiful! I guess something about this place was on National Geographic some time a go, the pictures were stunning.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
How cool would it be to be able to say that you met your partner for life on the legendary Micronesia island hopper?

Haha, that'd make quite a good story to tell the nephews!

All in all, Airpearl, a fabolous read. Keep them coming!

Fabrizio


User currently offlineronerone From Jordan, joined Aug 2004, 1663 posts, RR: 53
Reply 22, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 29082 times:

Hi Airpearl,

Thank you for getting around to posting this fantastic piece   It is the highlight of your RTW, and i have been waiting for it for a long time!  

A captivating story with breathtaking pictures, that made for one of my favorite TR's for the year! Felt like i was right there with you!

Kudos to you for managing to stay awake for the entire flight! But with such beautiful atolls and islands so isolated from this world -yet so rich in history and mystery no matter how dark it may have been- it would be a mistake to sleep it off i suppose!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Between christmas 2010 and new year's day of 2011, I embarked on an 8-day round-the-world journey that started and ended in Kuala Lumpur. There's a largely forgotten trip report series - although I realize some of you do remember it - that last broke off at Waikiki beach. This is the much delayed continuation to that journey. (There's no need to read the earlier segments of the RTW but if you must, they can be found in the links at the end of this report).

Again, thanks for posting this  
Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
. I am asked to stand aside to let other passengers through while they "handle" my case, which is another bad sign. Another gate agent then utters those dreaded words: "if you can't process it, we'll have to put him on the direct." She's obviously refering to CO's nonstop flight to Guam later this afternoon - and I'm about to plead: No... please no! I really need to get on this flight!

I am glad it worked out well for you. Otherwise the entire RTW just wouldn't have really been.  
Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
There's a short queue to enter holding gate 13 where a passport and boarding pass check is in progress. When it's my turn, the gate agent asks if I'm traveling to Manila, then turns to her colleague and says: "this is the same case as the other woman." I fear this is the start of something unpleasant, and think it's the Marshall islands transit visa issue rearing its ugly head again. I am asked to stand aside to let other passengers through while they "handle" my case, which is another bad sign. Another gate agent then utters those dreaded words: "if you can't process it, we'll have to put him on the direct." She's obviously refering to CO's nonstop flight to Guam later this afternoon - and I'm about to plead: No... please no! I really need to get on this flight!

Of course, as I'm not being addressed directly, I hold my composure for now. The agent is still checking up something on her screen - maybe only for a minute or two, but it feels like forever. Meanwhile, I hear an announcement asking all remaining passengers to board. Great - and I'm stuck here. I don't know if it's divine intervention (don't you need to believe in God for that?) but a supervisor - or maybe an angel - suddenly descends on the mess to ask what's happening. She takes a quick look at my Malaysian passport and asks if I have a valid U.S. visa - which I show her immediately - in that case, "it's okay," she tells my gate agent. I am given the green light to proceed. You can't imagine how quickly I rush down the jetway to board my flight, lest someone changes their mind. That was one hell of a scare.

I wonder if that 'other woman' they were referring to was May?  
Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Continental's breakfast consisting of a cheese omelette, fruit, muffin, OJ and coffee is a Neutral on my lenient marking chart, but the friendly cabin crew get much higher marks.

Not so bad of an offer i must say!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Where do you run for safety in a place surrounded by water, and where the highest point is a mere 3 meters above sea level?

I have always wondered about that, especially with nothing but water around you; just the right ingredient to fuel power into a Typhoon or the like. Quite scary!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
with business class and Star Alliance status passengers accorded priority while economy is boarded by seat row numbers.

Out in the middle of no where, it may just be standard procedure, but finally one with status appears from no where and puts this procedure to use  
Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Today, we fly over Ebeye with these refugees invisible to the naked eye and from a distance, we may even remark on how beautiful the place looks amidst an ocean of turquiose and deepest blue. Yet again, ignorance is bliss. And sadly, I think the world - 'drop a few coins into that envelope in the seat pocket and feel a bit better about yourself' - rather likes to keep it that way. (If you want to delve further into the subject, click this link for a recent interview with a researcher into the tragic effects of nuclear testing on the Marshall islands. The reality is sobering.)

I watched this video with deep interest. I had known of the story before, but connecting the dots in your TR just made this trip all the more emotional to some extent! Truly unbelievable!


Many thanks for sharing this with us! What an AMAZING journey!
Hope we can see more soon my friend!  

Cheers,
Roni



A Stop Away From One-Stop, Is Non-Stop : Airbus A340-500
User currently offlineairbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4269 posts, RR: 51
Reply 23, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 28892 times:

Hi, dear Airpearl!

Wow, that is a truly amazing report, with outstanding picture quality.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
The service provides a critical lifeline to these islands a few times a week, and gives us the unique opportunity to glimpse these pacific communities at a relatively reasonable cost. It's been on my "must-do" list forever - and it should be on yours too.

Well, after reading this report I must admit now; it's also on my to-do list. But that will not be anytime soon.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Look at the sheer number of flights to Japan - I count 11 departures to Narita alone between 8.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. - it's quite amazing.

Including some charter-services judging from the flightnumbers. It's amazing indeed, especially all of these are with large aircrafts as well.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
The facilities include a business center, a couple of conference rooms, a bar counter with booze for sale, and some basic offerings for breakfast.

Booze for sale in the lounge? That's not really common isn't it?

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
My seat is way down the single aisle at row 32, close to the back.

32 rows on the 738 is really in the back, not last row? How many rows does CO/CS have on these birds?

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
a flight attendant apologizes to a passenger that blankets are no longer carried. "Oh, it'll be very uncomfortable," the passenger wails. "It's so cold... and I'll not be able to sleep."

That's not really nice on CO/CS. A blanket is even onboard with some lowcost operators in Europe, on short flights. But it's not very common that people ask for blankets here. I noticed that Asian people (maybe also around the Pacific in general) are using them more?

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
The climb out is a little bumpy, while the sun starts to make an appearance - first as a strip of red on the horizon, then much brighter as we break above the blanket of cloud,

Beautiful picture!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Some of the crew also get off to stretch their legs here. And it's not only the tourists who're capturing cheesy poses in front of Majuro signboards - our pilots are doing the same thing!

I guess the large amount of CO 737 crews is the reason that specific crews do not often get the chance to fly on this route either, making it special for them too.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Rather appropriately, we are welcomed to Kosrae by the airport's yellow rescue and fire truck that's readied for action at the edge of the runway - just in case.

Always a promising sign  
Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
I have probably written a lot more than you want to read and for that, I do apologize.

Really no need to apologize. It took me a while to read, but it was a pleasant way to spend some time, learn about your experience and about the stops enroute. Thanks for putting this story online!

Eric



"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
User currently offlineAvianca From Venezuela, joined Jan 2005, 5925 posts, RR: 40
Reply 24, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 28772 times:

what a great report!!! tried to search for HNL-GUAM routing regarding to check the price, but didnt found anything. any hint on the price?

Quoting airbuseric (Reply 23):
Booze for sale in the lounge? That's not really common isn't it?

welcome to the US carrier lounges.



Colombia es el Mundo Y el Mundo es Colombia
User currently offlineokapi From France, joined Jun 2006, 215 posts, RR: 0
Reply 25, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 28496 times:

Poetry, pure poetry. The last read before going to bed, hopefuly dreaming of some remote Pacific Islands where I could very well end up for retirement in 30 years from now...waiting for one of those few weekly flights to arrive and enjoy the event as if it was the last one.
Thanks for sharing.


User currently offlineatrude777 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 5692 posts, RR: 52
Reply 26, posted (3 years 2 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 28347 times:

Hey!

I read every thing word for word! Superb trip report! You covered everything, and I felt like I was right there along with you!

I loved all of your pictures, as much of a city person as I am, I love seeing pictures of random island and beaches, and got to see it right here.

I would love to do this trip! Maybe when I have the money!  

Thanks for writing this report, enjoyed it quite a bit!

Alex



Good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who go AFTER it!
User currently offlineEconojetter From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 430 posts, RR: 5
Reply 27, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 28254 times:

Hey Airpearl,

It's finally out! And what an engrossing read. A great combination of stunning photos, lively narrative style and valuable information (including the exposé on the beastly exploitation of the Marshall islands and the Marshallese.)

So the Marshall Islands may require a transit visa? Fortunately this did not mess up your itinerary.

I would definitely have enjoyed this milk run too. I have a thing for runways that seem a little too short and airports that resemble little bungalows. Good thing you managed to get on aircraft with Continental titles; just doesn't feel the same when the titling on the fuselage says "United", which will probably be the case when I get around to doing this.

And that 764 on GUM-MNL was definitely a major bonus in my eyes!


User currently offlinereifel From Germany, joined Feb 2005, 1361 posts, RR: 1
Reply 28, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 28218 times:

What a great read! Thank you so much for sharing this experience! It was really interesting to read all those side notes.

User currently offlineBlueJuice From United States of America, joined Jun 2010, 246 posts, RR: 0
Reply 29, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 28094 times:

I should have gone to bed over an hour ago but this amazing trip report needed to be finished. Sleep time for me.

User currently offlineManchesterMAN From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 1228 posts, RR: 1
Reply 30, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 28023 times:

Thanks for the great trip report. Brings back so many memories of my own CO957 experience 2 years ago, so much so I've just had to go and look through all my photos from that trip! You have some very familiar shots there as I was also sat on the F side. I had to laugh at the bit at the start about the agent telling you you needed a transit visa as it sounds like the same guy who told me I needed a visa for GUM. Maybe this guy enjoys injecting a little tension into flyers first thing in the morning!

I really enjoyed the extra insight you gave over and above the usual trip reports, made it a more enjoyable read than my own trip report. Hopefully I'll get to do it again one day. Your report makes me with that was sooner rather than later. Thanks again  



Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
User currently offlineadriaticflight From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2004, 516 posts, RR: 2
Reply 31, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 28012 times:

Excellent TR! Well done mate, a really good read.

User currently offlineairpearl From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 952 posts, RR: 26
Reply 32, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 27930 times:

Hello 9V-SPJ, Matthew, Suryo, Mark, PH, Fabrizio, Roni, Eric, Avianca, Okapi, Alex, Econojetter, Reifel, BlueJuice, ManchesterMAN and Adriaticflight,

Thank you all for your very kind words and comments. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this long report.   It took me longer than I had expected to put it all together but it was nice to relive it again when I did the writing many months later.

Quoting akhmad (Reply 18):
Could it have been a courtesy of the president for not catching up with you?

I was terribly disappointed of course  
Quoting akhmad (Reply 18):
I thought Malaysia was among the countries with visa waiver program.

No, it isn't. I think the only countries in Asia with a visa waiver for the U.S. are Japan, S.Korea, Singapore and Brunei. Although strangely, Malaysians are accorded a visa waiver for Guam.

Quoting akhmad (Reply 18):
Did you post it to Marshall Island Journal?

Hahaha... I am tempted to apply for a job there!

Quoting akhmad (Reply 18):
Did army personnel demand you to reveal the content of your hand baggage?

No, they just made sure that all the baggage on board were accounted for.

Quoting akhmad (Reply 18):
Are these really your own words?

Absolutely, Suryo...  
Quoting akhmad (Reply 18):
So, when will you come back to Chuuk?

Ahah, as soon as I can. I'd like to be able to spend one whole year traveling around the pacific!

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 19):
Ah yes, we get used to the perks, always a bummer when you loose them.

Alas Mark. It's especially missed because I usually travel Y these days and that's when the special perks at check-in, boarding and priority baggage are the most useful.

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 19):
OMG, that would have been a nightmare!

I would have been well and truly pissed - traveling so far round the world only to be denied boarding on this flight.

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 19):
Jeez, how much cheaper was this than the non-stop? -It must be a reasonable sum for May to put herself through this torture, which is what most 'normal' people would see it as.

When I was booking this routing to MNL, I had noticed the nonstop to GUM being available as an option for about $100 or so more. On other days, the island hopper is the one shown as being more expensive - I guess it just depends on the loads on the day and availability of the fare class.

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 19):
Seems rather random!

Maybe that's the point - you never know which part of the plane will undergo the 'security sweep' next. Whether or not it works, it does add variety to our journey!

Quoting JL418 (Reply 21):
It is on mine now, if I'll ever be able to do so.

Fabrizio, hopefully your new job could help you speedily in that direction. Good luck!

Quoting JL418 (Reply 21):
I'd buy a travel book from you in a heartbeat even if it was called "Excursions in Bradford, Luton and Chivasso"

Sounds like a cool title for a book. And if I do write it, it'll be dedicated to you and Saddam Hussein LOL

Quoting JL418 (Reply 21):
Some time ago I was in the Alps and saw one of those signs newsagents use to show on streets with the newspapers' main news and it read "30 search for missing cow". Perhaps not as fun as the dog-biten diplomat but yet it made me giggle.

Haha that's quite funny - because I so enjoy them, I always feel I'm totally missing out on these gems when visiting non-English speaking countries...

Quoting JL418 (Reply 21):
A sobering read indeed. Makes a good pair with Donovan Webster's Aftermath, especially with the chapter dedicated to Nevada's nuclear testing ground: the only victims of the American nuclear programme have been the very same US citizens it was thought to defend.

Yes, that's truly tragic too.

Quoting ronerone (Reply 22):
It is the highlight of your RTW, and i have been waiting for it for a long time!  

Hahaha... sorry for making you wait so long my friend! I hope you wouldn't follow my example and take 8 months to materialize... there are some sectors I am especially looking forward to

Quoting ronerone (Reply 22):
that made for one of my favorite TR's for the year!

Coming from you this is praise indeed. Thanks!

Quoting ronerone (Reply 22):
Kudos to you for managing to stay awake for the entire flight! But with such beautiful atolls and islands so isolated from this world -yet so rich in history and mystery no matter how dark it may have been- it would be a mistake to sleep it off i suppose!

Absolutely, I am certain you would have done the same too.

Quoting ronerone (Reply 22):
I wonder if that 'other woman' they were referring to was May?  

I thought it could be - but there were also a surprisingly large number of pax headed for MNL from our flight too.

Quoting ronerone (Reply 22):
I have always wondered about that, especially with nothing but water around you; just the right ingredient to fuel power into a Typhoon or the like. Quite scary!

When the tsunami struck Japan this year and there were fears of other tsunamis right across the pacific, my thoughts went immediately to the helpless inhabitants of these small islands and atolls. Thankfully nothing serious happened.

Quoting airbuseric (Reply 23):
Well, after reading this report I must admit now; it's also on my to-do list.

I'm glad Eric  
Quoting airbuseric (Reply 23):
32 rows on the 738 is really in the back, not last row? How many rows does CO/CS have on these birds?

I think CO has a number of configurations - in this one, row 32 is about 4 rows from the back. There are 4 J rows and the standard number of Y rows but there's a gap in the seat numbering around the exits for some reason.

Quoting airbuseric (Reply 23):
That's not really nice on CO/CS. A blanket is even onboard with some lowcost operators in Europe, on short flights. But it's not very common that people ask for blankets here. I noticed that Asian people (maybe also around the Pacific in general) are using them more?

Or maybe the set the air-conditioning at a lower temperature on flights around the tropical zones? When I boarded at HNL, I too could have made use of a blanket on the first leg which was quite cold - but on the subsequent hops it was clearly no longer necessary.

Quoting Avianca (Reply 24):
tried to search for HNL-GUAM routing regarding to check the price, but didnt found anything. any hint on the price?

I found that the fares HNL-GUM to be quite expensive - much cheaper if you try a routing like HNL-MNL and choose the multi-stop option for the HNL-GUM flight. Just checking the CO website now a MNL-HNL return mid-month Sept (both ways on the island hopper) costs $970 (hmmm, tempting) and oneway at $570. It's a bit more expensive ex-HNL.

Quoting Econojetter (Reply 27):
So the Marshall Islands may require a transit visa?

I'm still not certain about that - it could just a quirk in the CO computers? Anyway it remains a risk.

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Reply 30):
Brings back so many memories of my own CO957 experience 2 years ago, so much so I've just had to go and look through all my photos from that trip! You have some very familiar shots there as I was also sat on the F side.

Indeed. It is YOU I have to thank ManchesterMAN. It was your trip report that gave me the extra push to go on this journey. I must say that the standard was set very high by you! Thank you for your wonderful trip report which helped enormously with my trip planning as well as with this report.

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Reply 30):
I had to laugh at the bit at the start about the agent telling you you needed a transit visa as it sounds like the same guy who told me I needed a visa for GUM. Maybe this guy enjoys injecting a little tension into flyers first thing in the morning!

LOL... it must be so! Hope you get to take the island hopper again soon.

Thanks again all for your comments.

Cheers
airpearl


User currently offlineSloAir From Slovenia, joined Jul 2010, 339 posts, RR: 5
Reply 33, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 27475 times:

Wow, I'm speechless, honestly I cannot think about anything smart to write  An amazing trip report, from the start you got us into a relaxed pacific island mode and I felt like I was visiting all this extraordinary places myself. Well done!

Blaž



Visit Ljubljana
User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 15
Reply 34, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 27440 times:

Hi

Thanks for sharing us this exclusive trip report, we don't see many of this kind often.
Looks like CO took good care of you. It's nice you got to move during the stopovers as well.


Greetings
Marc



Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlineBraniff747SP From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 2986 posts, RR: 1
Reply 35, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 27372 times:

Very interesting... thanks for posting....


I hope one day to take the Island Hopper...



The 747 will always be the TRUE queen of the skies!
User currently offlineflymia From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 7175 posts, RR: 9
Reply 36, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 27316 times:

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
It's been on my "must-do" list forever - and it should be on yours too.

As it is on mine! I know I wont get to do it for at least a few years. Given that this flight does to go a Military base and is essential for these countries and islands I am confident UA will keep them around.

What a report!! Best one I have ever read on Anet!!!!  Great job! Thanks for sharing that with us!



"It was just four of us on the flight deck, trying to do our job" (Captain Al Haynes)
User currently offlinejetBlue777 From United States of America, joined Jul 2009, 1456 posts, RR: 1
Reply 37, posted (3 years 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 27258 times:

First of all, one of the best TRs I've ever read! And boy, I'm sure glad that you made it through the flight after all that hassle or this TR would be just about a nonstop flight from HNL to GUM! The views are spectacular and I would love to experience this flight someday. Hopefully.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
At least on my last DL flight, they did still have blankets.

Yep! That's my DL, even on domestic flights.. They always have some blankets ready for those chilly passengers!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
he extra space makes quite a difference.

  

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
"Ugh, not really... this is cheaper than the nonstop flight,"

LOL. Your typical Filipino/a! As a Filipino, most of my fellow people would not care if they had to connect in Somalia or Suriname, as long as they can save a few bucks..they'll go for it! 

My dad actually flew from MNL-GUM-HNL-IAH-EWR plus the 2hr commute from Newark to our home in New York, just to save 30 bucks! 
Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
I wonder what it must feel like to live in a place like this where the toughest daily decision could be whether to go fishing on the lagoon- or ocean-side today. On many a day, I wished this was the type of stress I faced.  

Ahhhh.... I wish.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
"ooh, it looks too hot!"

And I get to say again: YOUR TYPICAL FILIPINO!  Or in general, most Eastern Asians  

Filipino Rule # 1 : Always bring an umbrella, rain or shine

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
The passengers on this flight take their time walking across the tarmac; quite a few pose for photos en route and many are genuinely excited to be somewhere unique. And the excitement is infectious: my spirits are lifted there are others (who may not necessarily be plane nuts) who have chosen to fly CO 957 just because it is the island hopper. Just wonderful.

Great! I'd actually do the same thing, though my parents would probably have pictures with their cheesy poses (i.e. pointing at obvious signs) while I only need the view of the tarmac as a pic for TR purposes  
Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
And it's not only the tourists who're capturing cheesy poses in front of Majuro signboards - our pilots are doing the same thing!

LOL. Good to see them enjoying their trip

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
I safely store my large camera, but can't resist keeping my compact handy to discreetly capture some of these views.

Ah, how can you resist with a view like that? I got scolded by an ignorant first time flyer on a recent UA flight but that didn't stop me from taking pictures! (Well I could have took more pics but I wasn't really in the mood after she told me that I could not use my camera..note: the seat belt sign was already turned off)

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
. I can imagine these types of journeys must seem especially long.

But every a.netter's dream!   

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Imagine an airport with no barriers or doors or boarding passes or security checks or guards between you and this plane - a fantasy? No, it's the reality in Chuuk.

  

Once again, what a fantastic trip report. You took me with you on your journey and the pictures tell the story. I am also happy that you had friendly FAs, the product seem decent as well as the food. It's also neat that you got to be on the 764 to MNL!

JetBlue777



It's a cultural thing.
User currently offlineRyanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4755 posts, RR: 26
Reply 38, posted (3 years 2 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 27198 times:

Awesome trip report man...

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Well, that was the plan anyway. Until reality so rudely intervened.

Reality always intervenes.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
the spotting at HNL's great open-air terminal would have been awesome.

There's something I love about HNL which hasn't changed much since I last visited. The wailing jets and blasts of jet fuel in your face, unabated, unadulterated... and all that just from standing at the terminal concourse! I LOVE IT. And those rattan furniture, that supposed "Hawaii look" reminds me very much of Golden Girls.

And... cue music!

Thank you for being a friend...
Travel down the road and back again...
Your heart is true, you're a friend and a confidant....

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
"Oh, it'll be very uncomfortable," the passenger wails. "It's so cold... and I'll not be able to sleep."

What a whiner...

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
I ask May if she's on this flight for the unique photographic opportunities along the way. "Ugh, not really... this is cheaper than the nonstop flight," she says.

What an anti climax! Hahahaha...

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
The remoteness of these atolls means the rest of the world will neither know nor care about the displaced islanders who live in squallor as refugees in their own country. Their homes, having been blown up in some nuclear experiment, were located on islands that are now unfit for human habitation. And the world - we - are apparently safer because of it.

This is so sad. More collateral damage from colonisation.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
The nut-shaped island in silhoutte is of a "sleeping lady" whose "breasts" are two of the many mountain peaks that make up the rugged and wild interior.

What is it about this fascination with women's breasts?? I was journeying down the Pacific highway from Anaheim to San Diego one time and we passed by this two domed shaped power stations and the guide cheekily pointed out they belong to Dolly Parton. Not sure if I found that funny...

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
I mistook it for an abandoned building at first but only later realized that R.S. Plaza is a hotel - perhaps the only consolation is that guests must have superb views of the airport tarmac.

Gosh that looks like some vantage point for guerilla rebels to hide out at some South American jungle-surrounded village town being claimed by rivalling cartels.



Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
User currently offlineAA787 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 610 posts, RR: 12
Reply 39, posted (3 years 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 26974 times:

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
I wonder what it must feel like to live in a place like this where the toughest daily decision could be whether to go fishing on the lagoon- or ocean-side today. On many a day, I wished this was the type of stress I faced.

I lived for 3 months on Majuro before completing the rest of the Island Hopper (and even on to MNL like you). The Marshallese people are the nicest you will find anywhere. Living on Majuro is not as easy as it might seem, but for anyone who wants to experience something incredible, I would recommend it.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
This desert island below is known as Calalin (that's sometimes spelt Calalen or Calalien or Calalan) - this is a guess of mine based purely on its shape and possible location. The chain of islands making up the atoll is broken right here to form the Calalin channel, Majuro's only sizable deep water pass into the lagoon. We overfly the pass and with that, Majuro slips away behind us. (If you have better knowledge of these islands and my guess is incorrect, please correct me!)

That big island is Enoko a popular overnight "getaway" from the urban vibe of Majuro. Yes, people like to "escape" from what others already consider paradise.



ET In NYC
User currently offlineEWRkid1990 From United States of America, joined Mar 2009, 181 posts, RR: 0
Reply 40, posted (3 years 2 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 26916 times:

This quickly became the MOST interesting trip report I have read on this forum, great job! Just a quick question...where are the crews for this milk run, as well as all other 737 flying out of Guam based. Do they have a crew/pilot base ON Guam, or do pilots/fa's have to commute out from IAH or EWR? Same question goes for the 767-400 flying out there. I've always been curious and wonder if you could answer. Again, wonderful report with amazing pictures. I hope to be able to try this flight one day.

Cheers!
EWRkid1990


User currently offlineAA787 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 610 posts, RR: 12
Reply 41, posted (3 years 2 weeks 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 26768 times:

Quoting EWRkid1990 (Reply 40):
This quickly became the MOST interesting trip report I have read on this forum, great job! Just a quick question...where are the crews for this milk run, as well as all other 737 flying out of Guam based. Do they have a crew/pilot base ON Guam, or do pilots/fa's have to commute out from IAH or EWR? Same question goes for the 767-400 flying out there. I've always been curious and wonder if you could answer. Again, wonderful report with amazing pictures. I hope to be able to try this flight one day.

The crews on the Island Hopper are Guam based. They stay over in HNL before turning back to GUM. Many of them are from the islands that are visited. My flight had two Marshallese FAs and one from Chuuk.



ET In NYC
User currently offlinealexeu From Serbia, joined Oct 2007, 1817 posts, RR: 2
Reply 42, posted (3 years 2 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 26413 times:

Hi Airpearl,

Excellent trip report! I have a passion for remote islands so I enjoyed reading it...!

Is it possible to do the island hopper while visiting at least 2 of these destinations? For example, flying HNL-Majuro, then spending few nights in Majuro and flying to e.g. Chuuk and spending few nights there? It seems very expensive to spend 1000 bucks while not being able to travel around these beautiful islands!

Cheers,
Alex


User currently offlineEWRkid1990 From United States of America, joined Mar 2009, 181 posts, RR: 0
Reply 43, posted (3 years 2 weeks 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 26222 times:

Quoting AA787 (Reply 41):

The crews on the Island Hopper are Guam based. They stay over in HNL before turning back to GUM. Many of them are from the islands that are visited. My flight had two Marshallese FAs and one from Chuuk.

The pilots are obviously Continental employees, are the American citizens that commute to/live in Guam? Or are pilots based in EWR/IAH/CLE assigned this trip and have to make the commute. I've always had so many questions about CO's pacific network and the crews for them, so I apologize if these questions seem naive/ignorant, as I have very little idea about how crew scheduling works.


User currently offlineTWA757 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 179 posts, RR: 0
Reply 44, posted (3 years 2 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 25825 times:

What a great read! Thanks for this fantastic collection of prose and pictures and for sharing your adventure with us. Thank you, as well, for including some of the history of the places you visited.

User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 45, posted (3 years 2 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 25800 times:

This is sick   . Like many others here, I am lost for words. What an incredible experience you must have had. The photos are stunning. Their beauty combined with the unfamiliar and exotic names of the locations you visited made the whole thing feel like you were describing another planet. Thanks for sharing it with us.

WBodyroga



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
User currently offlineairkas1 From Netherlands, joined Dec 2003, 3994 posts, RR: 55
Reply 46, posted (3 years 2 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 25527 times:

Great trip report, your pictures bring across an awesome vibe and that combined with your writing style make your report a very enjoyable one! Well done!

User currently offlineThePalauan From Guam, joined Oct 2006, 264 posts, RR: 0
Reply 47, posted (3 years 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 25448 times:

Wonderful trip report! The Island Hopper is truly a different flight from the rest of the CO/CS/UA system. I took CO 956 on March 11 of this year when disaster struck Japan. On that flight, I was traveling as a non-rev passenger the whole way after being bumped off the non-stop (they blocked 15 seats due to en-route weather). The flight was 2.5 hours late due to a mechanical issue. I'm guessing somewhere between PNI and KSA is when the earthquake occurred but no one knew the situation until we landed in KWA. I was told to get off the plane there and in that boarding lounge, a shaky reception of CNN showed us the situation and the tsunami threat. For about an hour, all the passengers going to MAJ and all non-revs were held as word got out that the airport there had closed under the tsunami warning. As I started to wonder about staying the night at KWA and making the trek back to GUM the next day, they boarded only KWA-HNL passengers and then finally cleared only non-revs heading to HNL while all going to MAJ (non-rev or not) would stay the next few days. I missed my view of MAJ but thanks to your trip report, I can see what I wouldn't have even been able to make out at night.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Particularly for this flight, I'm glad she still bears the 'Continental' name

Aircraft 240 is still with Continental titles but will probably be sent to HKG in the next few weeks for the inevitable.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
On the way to my seat, I overhear a conversation that seems to confirm cost-cutting is making flights tangibly crappier for all concerned: a flight attendant apologizes to a passenger that blankets are no longer carried.

Another flight attendant told me it's because of a lack of suitable laundry facilities in the islands to clean the blankets as well as additional weight to carry on board.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
I'd also started on my strange new book The short, happy life of the Socialist Republic of the Marshall Islands -
Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
I originally thought Joe Murphy was a pen name.

The author, Joe Murphy, was the editor for the Guam paper Guam Daily News (today's Pacific Daily News) from its start (if I recall right) in the 70's until the early 90's. After he retired, he wrote weekly columns for the PDN and wrote papers about life in the Pacific. He passed away in 2009/2010, I believe, but his legacy in journalism is still remembered by many.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Flaps are way down for landing at another short 6,000-ft runway and I'm sure our pilots must be glad that this is the last of the challenging ones for today.

Coming in from GUM, this flight is even heavier and the braking is so intense, the ground staff need to bring in high-velocity fans to cool the main gear rapidly.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Service has been a plus factor too. The crew who welcomed us in pre-dawn Honolulu, all those hours and an international dateline ago, greet us again at Chuuk with the same high level of enthusiasm. They have been on their feet for some 13 hours now and are about to start their sixth consecutive sector but you wouldn't know it looking at them. I am truly impressed with this set of Guam-based CO crew. The cabin fills up on this leg - I estimate a 90% load - but I'm lucky yet again with the seat next to me staying unoccupied. There also seems to be more baggage and cargo loaded here than anywhere else along our route.

CO956/957 (or rather now it's 172/154) carry extra crew for the entire journey. One extra pilot, one extra flight attendant and one mechanic. All crews are GUM-based and for the pilots in particular, they're specially qualified for these routes. They usually go through check-rides on the GUM-TKK-PNI flight Sunday nights for their qualifiers (CO 958/959 but now it's 136/137). GUM-TKK and TKK-GUM are usually the heaviest sectors of the flight with GUM sending mail and freight and TKK sending out agricultural products and fish. PNI tends to be a heavier destination usually when the FSM government is about to convene for session.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Quite a number of flights seem to be leaving early.

Most of those early departures out of GUM are actually extra sections. Since it was close to New Year's we were particularly busy with tourists and for about a whole week, pretty much all 12 737s were flying back-and-forth with tourists enjoying the holidays.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
but around the Christmas holidays some flights, like tonight's, have been upgauged to a B764

Years ago, CS ran DC-10s on GUM-MNL but in recent years, it's only been during Christmas/New Year's. PR also upguages to a widebody during this season (A330 over the A320) and also does the same for Easter.

*On a side note: While working as a CSA on GUM, I tend to load this particular flight. You get to know the passengers by what they pack and check in. Having taken the actual flight also gave me perspective on how the crews down the line service the same plane and manage to turn it around in so little time. For the size of these 738s, you'd be truly amazed to know how much mail, freight, and other commodities we shove in to these birds. It almost never fails that there's some kind of backlog of even more goods that need to make it out. The Island Hopper is not just the most amazing plane ride you may ever take, but it's also a major artery for the people of both the FSM and RMI. I don't see this route going anywhere long after CO turns into UA.

Again, beautiful trip report, and thanks for visiting.  



You can take the boy out of the island, but not the island out of the boy!
User currently onlineMexicana757 From United States of America, joined Apr 2001, 3042 posts, RR: 28
Reply 48, posted (3 years 2 weeks ago) and read 25175 times:

One of the most unique and incredible trip report I have read. Thank you for sharing this adventure. Lots of great pictures and nice writing style. Really enjoyed reading your TR.

User currently offlinebeeweel15 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 1753 posts, RR: 0
Reply 49, posted (3 years 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 25074 times:

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Fix yourself a large drink, sit back comfortably - for it's a long flight ahead - and join me as we cross the wide expanse of Air Mike's pacific on a lonely 737.

Truly AMAZING Trip. !!!!!!


User currently offlineairpearl From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 952 posts, RR: 26
Reply 50, posted (3 years 1 week 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 25063 times:

Hi there Blaž, Marc, Braniff747SP, flymia, Jetblue777, Ryanair!!!, AA787, EWRkid1990, Alexeu, TWA757, Wbodyroga, arkas1, ThePalauan, Mexicana757, Beeweel15,

Thank you all so much for the very kind words. I do appreciate you guys stopping by and am really glad you enjoyed the report.  
Quoting jetBlue777 (Reply 37):
LOL. Your typical Filipino/a! As a Filipino, most of my fellow people would not care if they had to connect in Somalia or Suriname, as long as they can save a few bucks..they'll go for it!

My dad actually flew from MNL-GUM-HNL-IAH-EWR plus the 2hr commute from Newark to our home in New York, just to save 30 bucks! 

Hahaha... wow that's quite a routing to save a few bucks! But conversely, you would have been prepared to pay extra for more stops, right?  
Quoting jetBlue777 (Reply 37):
And I get to say again: YOUR TYPICAL FILIPINO!  Or in general, most Eastern Asians  
Filipino Rule # 1 : Always bring an umbrella, rain or shine

LOL you're right there. And the sun is always the greater evil - with rain, all you get is wet.

Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 38):
There's something I love about HNL which hasn't changed much since I last visited. The wailing jets and blasts of jet fuel in your face, unabated, unadulterated... and all that just from standing at the terminal concourse! I LOVE IT. And those rattan furniture, that supposed "Hawaii look" reminds me very much of Golden Girls.

And... cue music!

Thank you for being a friend...
Travel down the road and back again...
Your heart is true, you're a friend and a confidant....

Hahaha... I knew that looked familiar. Wow, that's an old sitcom - and now I can't get that tune out of my head.

Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 38):
Gosh that looks like some vantage point for guerilla rebels to hide out at some South American jungle-surrounded village town being claimed by rivalling cartels.

Yeah, definitely not the most appealing building to see on a pacific island. I was in Beirut in the months following Rafic Hariri's assasination and there's a building on the waterfront that bore the brunt of the car bomb that killed him. That came immediately to my mind when I saw this.

Quoting AA787 (Reply 39):
I lived for 3 months on Majuro before completing the rest of the Island Hopper (and even on to MNL like you). The Marshallese people are the nicest you will find anywhere. Living on Majuro is not as easy as it might seem, but for anyone who wants to experience something incredible, I would recommend it.

Wow, I envy you having done so. It must have a great learning experience. Having learnt a bit more about the Marshall islands during and following this island hopper trip, I'm certainly hoping I'd get a chance to stop at these places for longer than 35 minutes.

Quoting AA787 (Reply 39):
That big island is Enoko a popular overnight "getaway" from the urban vibe of Majuro. Yes, people like to "escape" from what others already consider paradise.

Thanks for this info! This must be a gorgeous place at sea level.

Quoting alexeu (Reply 42):
Is it possible to do the island hopper while visiting at least 2 of these destinations? For example, flying HNL-Majuro, then spending few nights in Majuro and flying to e.g. Chuuk and spending few nights there? It seems very expensive to spend 1000 bucks while not being able to travel around these beautiful islands!

The prices go up if you include stops. But a new Star Alliance airpass is probably the best way to go if you plan to stop. It's looking tempting even for me now...
http://www.staralliance.com/en/fares...regional-fares/micronesia-airpass/

Quoting ThePalauan (Reply 47):
I took CO 956 on March 11 of this year when disaster struck Japan. On that flight, I was traveling as a non-rev passenger the whole way after being bumped off the non-stop (they blocked 15 seats due to en-route weather). The flight was 2.5 hours late due to a mechanical issue. I'm guessing somewhere between PNI and KSA is when the earthquake occurred but no one knew the situation until we landed in KWA. I was told to get off the plane there and in that boarding lounge, a shaky reception of CNN showed us the situation and the tsunami threat. For about an hour, all the passengers going to MAJ and all non-revs were held as word got out that the airport there had closed under the tsunami warning. As I started to wonder about staying the night at KWA and making the trek back to GUM the next day, they boarded only KWA-HNL passengers and then finally cleared only non-revs heading to HNL while all going to MAJ (non-rev or not) would stay the next few days. I missed my view of MAJ but thanks to your trip report, I can see what I wouldn't have even been able to make out at night.

Thanks ThePalauan for all the really useful additional information you have provided for us. It certainly helped me better understand this unique CO route. Thanks also for sharing your trip here - it must have been quite a journey! I'm not surprised though that MAJ was closed following the Japan earthquake and tsunami. Hopefully you get to stop at MAJ next time. The takeoff from KWA for HNL must have been pretty powerful considering the short runway.

Quoting ThePalauan (Reply 47):
Aircraft 240 is still with Continental titles but will probably be sent to HKG in the next few weeks for the inevitable.

Alas. 
Quoting ThePalauan (Reply 47):
Another flight attendant told me it's because of a lack of suitable laundry facilities in the islands to clean the blankets as well as additional weight to carry on board.

That makes sense. Another mystery with the island hopper solved - thanks.

Quoting ThePalauan (Reply 47):
The author, Joe Murphy, was the editor for the Guam paper Guam Daily News (today's Pacific Daily News) from its start (if I recall right) in the 70's until the early 90's. After he retired, he wrote weekly columns for the PDN and wrote papers about life in the Pacific. He passed away in 2009/2010, I believe, but his legacy in journalism is still remembered by many.

Thanks for this. I did read a posthumous tribute to him and he seemed like a very interesting character indeed.

Quoting ThePalauan (Reply 47):
Coming in from GUM, this flight is even heavier and the braking is so intense, the ground staff need to bring in high-velocity fans to cool the main gear rapidly.

Wow, that must be quite a sight!

Quoting ThePalauan (Reply 47):
CO956/957 (or rather now it's 172/154) carry extra crew for the entire journey. One extra pilot, one extra flight attendant and one mechanic. All crews are GUM-based and for the pilots in particular, they're specially qualified for these routes.

Yes, I did notice the presence of the third pilot on our flight.

Quoting ThePalauan (Reply 47):
The Island Hopper is not just the most amazing plane ride you may ever take, but it's also a major artery for the people of both the FSM and RMI.

Very well put! I can't agree more. Thanks again for sharing.

Cheers
airpearl


User currently offlineflightsimboy From Canada, joined Sep 2005, 1273 posts, RR: 4
Reply 51, posted (3 years 1 week 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 24930 times:
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Having been on Airliners.net for a while now, you come to understand the writing styles of many of the contributors here, and I have to say and have probably said it before, your style is undoubtedly in a class of it's own!! Totally mesmerised with this report and you took me on a journey on a far away land, almost seemed like a dream where the scenes are in such depth, but they change quite quickly too!! I guess I just said it all.

User currently offlineNZ107 From New Zealand, joined Jul 2005, 6431 posts, RR: 38
Reply 52, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 23059 times:

Airpearl!

I thought I had commented on this awesome report of yours.. Read it enough times to make me feel as though I'd commented on it I must admit.. (and apologies for fishing it out of the archives!)

What a great way to.. err.. just about complete the RTW voyage!   You've really got me wanting to try this milk run out. It just looks like so much fun. And I have to admit that I'd be pretty scared about landing on an atoll the width of the runway! I can imagine sinking to what would seem like a watery end when looking out the window on some of those stopovers!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
"It seems you need a transit visa for Majuro,"
Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
She takes a quick look at my Malaysian passport and asks if I have a valid U.S. visa

Well you're in HNL, aren't you? How could you not have a valid US visa (unless it had expired.. which would be pretty bad in itself)? But either way, I suppose I'd want to know about this whole visa thing in Majuro before I do this milk run!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
My seat pocket holds two inflight magazines. The December - and penultimate - edition of the Continental magazine and the autumn 2010 (and probably last?) edition of the airline's Japanese language "Continental Airlines pacific" magazine that's very Guam hub-focussed.

Funny, they've already drawn in AKL-IAD!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Hoping we'd have something in common, I ask May if she's on this flight for the unique photographic opportunities along the way. "Ugh, not really... this is cheaper than the nonstop flight," she says.

Haha, everyone's got their reasons!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
But three months to install air-conditioning? Crikey.

Island time man! Work for 5 mins, rest for the rest of the day   Probably fast in their terms as well! haha.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
The only F&B outlet is 'The Hangar', a snack bar that sells everything from chewing gum to Chivas Regal.

Wow, call that a convenience store!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
This is almost intriguing enough to be a story in The Marshall Islands Journal...

LOL!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):

Our climb out of Kwajalein brings into view an interesting settlement on the next island along. This place seems rather attractive at first glance, and there appear to be some low buildings here. It seems like the perfect place to house a luxury resort, but this island most certainly isn't one. Look more closely and you'll see the tiny boxes are actually dwellings in a very crowded, treeless shanty town. Amazingly, more than 10,000 Marshall islanders call this home: some estimates put the number as high as 15,000, making this one of the most densely populated areas in the world. With the unenviable title of 'slum of the pacific', Ebeye island is, in fact, an unmitigated disaster.

Woah, that's insane.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
There's little room for error here - roll forward any farther and we'd be rolling in pacific surf. Under these trying circumstances, the pilots have done amazingly well today.

Something I'd be a little scared about myself.. Though not actually knowing the distance and the fact that the 738 does it all the time is somewhat relieving.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 2):
An announcement from the crew asks transit passengers seated at the A-B-C side of the plane to disembark for the obligatory security sweep. (Those not wishing to get off can stay on board for the transit but must shift across to the D-E-F side together with all their belongings.)

Most unusual! And these security sweeps are rather interesting seeing that the plane doesn't change between HNL and the rest of the islands.. And how/why can/would it?


Thanks again for this most enjoyable read and I shall endeavour to follow in those footsteps of yours even if it's a whole day of exhausting flying!


Cheers,
Nicholas



It's all about the destination AND the journey.
User currently offline777ord From United States of America, joined May 2010, 501 posts, RR: 1
Reply 53, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 22973 times:

wow! Simply stunning and VERY unique for us A.netter's and for those who have traveled it.

How did you feel once you finally got to MNL!?

I think this trumps my list of "got to non-rev" locations once I get a job with UA!!!


User currently offlineOak522 From United States of America, joined Apr 2010, 71 posts, RR: 0
Reply 54, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 22856 times:

This is easily the coolest thing I've read on this site. Does anybody know if it's possible to stay on some of the islands along the way (besides that vile looking RS Grand Hotel, oy)? I just priced out a business-class ticket and it was over $6,000 RT ex-HNL, but I suspect with some effort I could blow a bunch of miles--happily--and make this a major adventure. Absolutely fascinating.

User currently offlineryan h From Australia, joined Aug 2001, 1548 posts, RR: 1
Reply 55, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 22714 times:

Excellent report. Loved the photos.

Was starting to get sick of the usual Singapore etc reports, but this one made me stop and read it.

Closest I have to this I have done was an island hopping flight in a DHC 2 Beaver in Canada.
The Beaver Goes Island Hopping In The Gulf Islands (by ryan h Sep 11 2011 in Trip Reports)

Quoting jetBlue777 (Reply 37):
Ah, how can you resist with a view like that? I got scolded by an ignorant first time flyer on a recent UA flight but that didn't stop me from taking pictures! (Well I could have took more pics but I wasn't really in the mood after she told me that I could not use my camera..note: the seat belt sign was already turned off)

I would put it away if the crew asked me to, but another passenger?. No way.

[Edited 2011-12-09 03:59:22]


South Australian Spotter
User currently offlineEx_SQer From United States of America, joined Apr 2002, 1436 posts, RR: 5
Reply 56, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 22402 times:

Great report, airpearl.

I flew between HNL and PNI in 2003 courtesy of a client... a trip I won't easily forget. Unfortunately my camera shorted when I stepped onto the tarmac at MAJ, so my trip report had no pics. I think the sudden change in humidity killed my poor device!

Sadly, I think you missed three great food items at KSA, assuming they had been on sale - (1) green tangerines (absolutely the best I have ever had); (2) chilli-lime sauce (sold in used plastic water bottles!); and (3) some kind of shellfish preserved in brine. Eating the shellfish dipped in the chilli-lime sauce was heavenly! I also saw cooked mangrove crabs on sale at PNI - taste-wise, these monsters beat any of the crabs you find in Singapore and Malaysia, and you know that is no mean feat!

I also recommend reading J. Maarten Troost's Sex Lives of Cannibals, which details his sojourn in Kiribati.

And, finally, thank you for taking such a keen interest in the history of the Marshall Islands and the circumstances under which they live today. My partner and I took in a Marshallese foster son three years ago (he's actually descended from Bikini Atoll) and it has been quite an up and down ride. A lot of his issues can be attributed to the breakdown of family and societal norms/values that came about from the destruction of their land and their subsequent dependency on handouts. But, that is of course a story for another time and place.


User currently offlineA340600 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2003, 4105 posts, RR: 51
Reply 57, posted (2 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 22369 times:

Absolutely incredible and unique, thank you for sharing and giving us an insight into such a route,

340



Despite the name I am a Boeing man through and through!
User currently offlineabrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 5100 posts, RR: 55
Reply 58, posted (2 years 9 months 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 21452 times:

I have always dreamt of doing this entire milk run and so am grateful to live vicariously through you. I came close in 2007 (http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/118774/), but ended up just visiting Yap and Palau ... which is kinda funny because it is the two places your plane did not land at. I would actually recommend visiting both for tourism as they really are incredible places.

As others have mentioned, the best part of your report was the infusion of personal anecdotes, and your highlights of local history. Some of us at A.Net get lost in the aviation part instead of recognizing the larger society it all fits in. For that, thank you.

Keep flying,
A.



Live, and let live.
User currently offlinerobso2 From Switzerland, joined Jun 2010, 218 posts, RR: 0
Reply 59, posted (2 years 9 months 1 week 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 21330 times:

One of the best reports I have read. A fantastic journey that I too, hope to make one day. Thank you for sharing!


733/4/5/6/7/8/9, 319/20/21, 752, 744, 772, 332/3, 343/6, E70/90, AT43, AR85/1, D38, D10, M82
User currently offlineb737100 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 153 posts, RR: 0
Reply 60, posted (2 years 9 months 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 21038 times:

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading your trip report! This is a route I have always wanted to take since I saw a video of a Air-Mike 727-100 landing on a coral runway with huge clouds of ash bellowing behind it. It was a great read and all your references bought this TR to life. I'm very sorry that things did not work out for you with May  Thank-you so much for sharing, it was such a pleasure to read!

All the best! Will



Boeing 737 sunjet service
User currently offlineLGWflyer From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2011, 2348 posts, RR: 1
Reply 61, posted (2 years 9 months 1 week 7 hours ago) and read 20751 times:

Hey airpearl! All I have to say is just... wow! Absoloutly loved the TR, the pics were just so stunning! I wish one day to do the island hoping like yourself.

Thanks!!!  



3 words... I Love Aviation!!!
User currently offlineSFO From United States of America, joined Oct 1999, 88 posts, RR: 0
Reply 62, posted (2 years 9 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 20397 times:

Very educational, very well written and entertaining! First Trip Report I have read word for word.

[Edited 2011-12-20 15:25:43]

User currently offlineIrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 2191 posts, RR: 15
Reply 63, posted (2 years 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 15979 times:

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
She takes a quick look at my Malaysian passport and asks if I have a valid U.S. visa - which I show her immediately - in that case, "it's okay," she tells my gate agent. I am given the green light to proceed. You can't imagine how quickly I rush down the jetway to board my flight, lest someone changes their mind. That was one hell of a scare.

Yikes! I am flying this segment, although in the opposite direction, originating in MNL next month. Is this something I have to worry about?

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
learn that my seat mate is actually traveling from LAX to MNL, and her entire journey will take in excess of 30 hours (!) - and involve 7 transit stops en route. (That's 3 more stops than Pan Am's China Clipper between San Francisco and Manila in the 1930s, by the way).

Yeah, well I am ongoing from HNL to LAX, SFO, SEA then MSP and ORD. I am going to be VERY challenged  



next flights: jfk-icn, icn-hkg-bkk-cdg, cdg-phl-msp
User currently offlinebeeweel15 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 1753 posts, RR: 0
Reply 64, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 12431 times:

I have to take this trip. Saving up the money now.

User currently offlinexaapb From Mexico, joined Jan 2005, 438 posts, RR: 5
Reply 65, posted (1 year 6 months 1 week 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 11677 times:

I think this is the best TR I had ever read, great pictures and very well written! thanks for shareing!!

Greetings



Jorge Meneses
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