Brisbane to Pago Pago 2167nm
15th July 1998 we departed our local airport at Caloundra (after friends cleared kangaroos off the runway) at 0400 local time bound for Brisbane to clear customs and refuel. We were airborne 0530 and set course over the Tower who recorded the time of departure used for the record attempt. The aircraft was very sensitive in pitch which was the result of being near the rear limit of the centre of gravity. We decided from that sector onwards that all jepp charts, clothes etc must be on top of the bladder tank or in front with the raft. Climb speed of 170 knots at this high weight gave us 800 fpm climb to an initial FL210. As we climbed, the air pressure reduced which caused the bladder tank to expand and push the front seat back rests forward. Not comfortable, so Alex took the refueling cap off to relieve the pressure. As we were running off the ferry tank (mistake), the pressure reduction caused the engine to almost stop. A quick selection of a wing tank rectified this problem that was not repeated for the rest of the circumnavigation!
The HF radio did not work for this sector so we sent position reports via fax to Fiji, called Noumea and Fiji on VHF as we passed and also used Airline Aircraft to relay for us.
The weather was excellent and initially we had a tailwind but this dropped as we flew in to the tropics where we encountered headwinds. The best ground speed was at top of climb which was 330 knots. We climbed to FL250 to improve TAS but the ground speed reduced to 260 knots. We were able to do a visual approach in to Pago Pago (was used as an alternate for the Space Shuttle) and the Tower verified our time overhead. Our record (ratified much later) for the sector was 280.87 knots. After clearing customs, we returned to the aircraft to refuel (USD$3.50 per gallon) and fix the HF radio as it was mandatory in US Oceanic Airspace. Fortunately there was a poor connection to the Aerial Tuner Box and the HF tested fine on the ground.
We had planned two nights at Pago but the accommodation proved to be close to an all night Party so we made a decision (partly based on the weather forecast) to depart for Hilo early the next day!