From Los Angeles to Sydney - solo pilot in a Cessna 172
Flying a Cessna 172 is an experience that most pilots have enjoyed when they first learned to fly.Flying a Cessna 172 across the Pacific Ocean is a challenge that most would think impossible
It took 75 hours to complete the flight from Santa Maria to Sydney. Originally the flight was planned in three legs: Santa Maria to Hilo, Hilo to Pago Pago and Pago Pago to Sydney. Due to unfavourable weather the last leg was flown in three stages via Fiji and New Caledonia.
A garmin equiped, G1000 Cessna 172SP - N5224A. The plane had 170 gallon auxilliary fuel tanks installed, replacing the copilot and passenger seats, and providing an endurance in excess of 30 hours. A wide band high frequency radio was installed to provide long distance communication. I tested the plane prior to the ocean flight on a multileg flight from Grand Rapids, over Lake Michigan and the Rockies to Los Angeles, California at altitudes up to 17,000ft - engine parameters, oil consumption and aircraft and human performance were monitored.
I am Oliver (Ovidiu) Florica a 46 year old Sydney surgeon. I conducted this solo flight after a thorough preparation. All aspects of the flight were studied and covered. The main focus of the preparation was to equip myself with a sophisticated, lightweight survival gear which was meticulously packed in a specially designed Nomex/Neoprene/Gore-Tex flight suit - this included multiple tracking device, GPS, VHF radio, radar detectable life jacket, life raft, emergency parachute, first aid kit, water and food rations, emergency egression oxygen (Heads 3), an entire range of survival accessories necessary for any emergency situation. In the event of ditching I would only have to concentrate on egressing the plane as all the equipment was fitted in the flying suit.
On Tuesday 25 October 2011 I departed Santa Maria for Hilo, second longest leg - 2043nm in 20hours. The departure was late in the afternoon and after a long, pitchblack night but otherwise smooth weather conditions the plane arrived next morning in Hawaii.
After a good night sleep on Thursday 27 October I left Hilo at lunch for Pago Pago, covering 2273nm in almost 25 hours. Most of the flight during this leg was in rough conditions, at night, in IMC and through cloud, rain and turbulence.
The leg from Pago Pago to Fiji was the shortest but most challenging due to dramatic flying through severe tropical storms
The wind was favourable for most of the trip and especially during the crucial long leg flights.
The worst failure I had was my new headset that developed an oscillating high pitched sound in my right ear five hours into my long flight from Hilo to Pago Pago. This left me without a headset for the remaining fifty hour flight. Without the ANR the headset is so noisy that you are better off without the headset altogether. Fortunately the HF radio was working through a small pair of earphones but without the proper headset it became difficult to monitor 121.5 and 123.45 or listen to music.