We easily could have stayed in Palau much longer but it was time to move to the next island. There was absolutely no air traffic at 6:45 AM when we taxied out. With no control tower in Palau, one simply announces their intentions on an assigned radio frequency and flies off into the horizon. There was only a 500' taxi and we were airborne only 2 minutes later, even after the pre-takeoff check of engines and flight controls.
It is great to fly early in the morning. The wind is calm and the air is perfectly smooth. The aircraft does exactly what you want it to do. It seems as if everything is in slow motion except that the airspeed indicator shows you are moving more than 200 mph.
About 100 miles northeast of Palau is the island of Yap. We had never even heard of that island prior to this trip but it is nearly the size of Palau. From the air, it looked like a nice little island to visit someday. Thousands of residents there are certain to be experiencing the various joys and rigors of life. If one had time to stop and listen, each would have an interesting story to tell. We flew over the island at 11,000' and, unfortunately, did not hear any of the stories.
One story we did hear while on Palau, however, was the reason Mobil no longer handles Avgas in the South Pacific. Last year, there was a major line of typhoons which upset the process of shipping and seriously disrupted fuel delivery for 3 months. At that time, the company stocked Avgas at its locations on all of the islands and users simply purchased it as needed as we do for our cars. Rather than allow each location to exhaust its fuel supply over time, which would have been fair to the individual users, the company pulled all of its supply back to Guam to keep aircraft flying at its primary location. That put all of the small air services out of business for nearly 3 months. They were forced to import fuel in bulk quantities from the Philippines to control their destiny.
When Mobil's fuel supply was back on line, they found very few of their previous customers. With a short shelf life for Avgas, it was expensive to waste and even more costly to dispose of. Therefore, they recently made the decision to no longer carry it and sold out their existing stock. Consequently, guys like us who are flying around the world must now find an air taxi or other user to sell them a few drums. And that is not easy! There was only one possible source in Palau and he had only 8 drums to last for the next 2 to 3 weeks. Fortunately, he had pity on these poor dudes and sold us one drum of 52 gallons, enough when combined with our existing reserve, to get us to the next island. On Guam, however, we are very thankful that John Walker of Hansen's Helicopters sold us 7 drums at a very reasonable price. That will get us to the next 2 islands. Then, there will be one last purchase to get us to Honolulu. From Hawaii on, there will be a normal supply.
When we arrived at the Guam Airport, Ground Control directed us to park at Jetway #8. We explained that we were only a Beechcraft Baron with 2 crew and a jetway may be a little over the top. However, they countered that the position was temporary until after clearing customs and immigration. We then took the opportunity to snap a few photos. 3199J may never get that close to a jetway again.
A jetway for the Baron
All of the islands of Micronesia are strikingly beautiful and Guam is no exception. In fact, its natural beauty even surpasses that of Palau. It has mountains, a jungle and tall cliffs that jut from the Pacific and reach 200' or more. Its downside, unfortunately, is that it is highly developed. There is a considerable amount of traffic in the streets and ribbons of highrise hotels line the beaches in several areas. The Hilton alone has 680 rooms. Although the population is less than 200,000, there may be an additional 100,000 or more tourists visiting at times.
Of all possible times to visit Guam, we were very privileged to visit on Liberation Day. It was a major day of celebration. 60 years ago on July 21, 1944, the American armed forces liberated Guam from the Imperial Japanese occupation in World War II and the people of Guam still very much appreciate it today. They love Americans here. In fact, there is a movement to become the 51st state. We think it would be a better state than some we already have. However, it is ironic that the multitude of tourists mentioned in the previous paragraph come from Japan.