My Flight Around the World

Updated: Apr 4


 

This is a record of my real-time journey around the world via Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. My pictures in this blog are best viewed on a big, bright screen!


My commentary, photographs and videos are shown below in reverse-chronological order. i.e. My latest and final entry is at the top! Scroll down to the bottom if you want to start at the beginning.


You can view the track of my whole journey to date in beautiful 3D on Google Earth by clicking here.


I hope you find it as fascinating and inspirational as I do. You can leave a comment at the bottom to let me know what you think!

 

March 23, 2022


Final entry in the captain's blog. Today I flew home to my starting point, after some 14 months, 50,000 miles and 288 hours of flight time. From the Birthplace of Aviation to home (I know Ohioans say that Dayton is the real birthplace since that's where the Wright brothers were born, but I'm going with Kitty Hawk)! Here are some sightseeing pics from my final leg. There was a heavy overcast layer at 2,000 feet as I buzzed Washington DC.

Circling the Washington Monument
Heading east over the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
The not-quite White House under the overcast, and Marine One ready on the lawn
Capitol Hill - home of political dysfunction
...but it's always sunny in Philadelphia!

My last touchdown, at my starting point - Old Bridge Airport, NJ (3N6). Not too elegant, but there was a crosswind, obstructions and I was tired!


The End!


 

March 22, 2022


The perfect last stop in a flight around the world! I re-entered US airspace for the last time today, crossing the Gulf of Mexico into Florida and landing at historic First Flight Airfield in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Better known as Kitty Hawk!

Fuel truck departing after filling my tanks at Havana 's Jose Marti Airport
Approaching Florida's Gulf Coast
Overflying the Kennedy Space Center

Applying reverse thrust and heavy braking, I still used up most of the runway at First Flight. The upper left area in this photo shows the sandy strip on which the Wright Brothers made their historic first flight. At the east (near) end of the strip is the shack where they lived. At the west (far) end you can see the memorial to the brothers.

This lengthy, low-level flight consumed a lot of fuel. Below you can see that my left and right tanks had only 8 gallons left in each. My TBM holds 290 gallons of fuel, with only 282 of it useable. My average in-flight burn rate is about 1 gallon per minute. That means I had 8 minutes of flying time left when I shut her down!

 

If you'd like to learn more about Kitty Hawk, including the details of a flight I made there in my Cessna 172 over 30 years ago, please click here. The link will take you to another of my Blog articles which also contains a lot of interesting photos as well as a pretty cool video!

 

March 21, 2022


Mexico City to Havana, Cuba today. It was a long haul so I climbed to 25,000 since my fuel burn rate is much better in the thinner atmosphere. Climbing out of Mexico City International, I passed over this interesting radial urban plan layout called Plaza Del Ejecutivo, adjacent to the airport:

As I flew east over the Gulf of Mexico, I passed over the Yucatan Peninsula, so I dropped down to 500 feet to grab a shot of Chichen Itza. Built by the Maya people about 1,200 years ago, this is another UNESCO World Heritage Site:

The Temple of Kukulcan on my right as my shadow passes over the Platform of Venus

From there, I flew over the Gulf again, landing at Jose Marti Airport in Havana. Next stop will be somewhere on the US east coast!

 

March 16, 2022


Only a short entry for today's flight. I flew as far south as I will for the remainder of my long journey, landing in Mexico City this evening. I had planned to circle Central and South America before heading home, but I'm getting tired. I took off this morning from Cabo San Lucas, crossed the Gulf of California, and landed in Mexico as the full moon was rising.

Ready to refuel at Cabo San Lucas
Entering base leg for landing at Mexico City International Airport
 

March 10, 2022


As you can see from the date, I spent some time in San Diego - because my daughter and her husband live there. It made me feel hungry for home after almost 14 months away. So today I decided that after Central America, I'm only going to make one stop in South America before turning toward the Caribbean and home.


For today, I departed San Diego in the afternoon, filing a flight plan to go straight down the whole length of the Baja Peninsula, to its end at Cabo San Lucas.

As I climb out, you can see the city of San Diego just beyond the airport.
BAJA: my flight plan in yellow and the dotted line showing my actual ATC-directed path
Approaching the southern tip of Baja and Cabo San Lucas at sunset
 

February 23, 2022


I did something different today for my flight down California's coastline. I flew along the whole way from San Francisco to San Diego at 1,000 feet! It was a clear, gorgeous day - what pilots call CAVU - Ceiling And Visibility Unrestricted. I flew inland many times exploring all the beautiful coastal towns from the air, even Los Angeles. But I always returned to follow the Pacific Coast Highway. I arrived at San Diego at sunset.

Climbing out of SFO midday
Panorama of a mountainous section of the amazing Pacific Coast Highway
Morro Bay Rock out my window. The inset is a picture I took from its other side a few years ago
The buildings of downtown San Diego under my left wing tip as I prepare to land at sunset
 

February 16, 2022


Today's flight from Vancouver to San Francisco was a beautiful one. After all the days of flying over desolate, frozen wastelands ever since leaving Japan, the lower latitudes gave way to lush green, habitated countryside.

Here I am holding at the runway threshold, ready to depart Vancouver

I veered inland for awhile to check out Seattle, Washington. It's a pretty waterfront city with the landmark Space Needle. I remember when they built the Needle for the 1962 World's Fair, and it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Amazing that over half a century later it is still so modern and elegant-looking.

I'm flying at 300 feet, passing by the 600 foot tall Seattle Space Needle

From Seattle I flew south to check out the Lewis and Clark Bridge which spans the Columbia River, connecting Washington and Oregon. When it was opened in 1930, it was the longest and highest cantilevered bridge in the country.

The Sun casts a cool shadow of the Lewis and Clark Bridge - and me - onto the Columbia River

Now it was time to climb, as I had to pass over the southern part of the Cascade Mountains and California's Northern Coastal Range on my way to San Francisco. The magnificent Mount Shasta was the only peak that penetrated the cloud deck as I passed by at FL180.

14,000 foot tall Mount Shasta reaches up to greet me

At 100 miles from San Francisco, I began my descent and followed the coastline south, finally turning left at the Golden Gate into San Francisco Bay just before sunset.

Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay
Circling Alcatraz, with the Bay Bridge and the city of San Francisco in the distance across the bay
Skimming over the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building at sunset
The Sutro Television Tower, now an icon of the city, towers 1,800 feet AGL
 

February 14, 2022


Today I flew down the mountainous coast of North America from Juneau, Alaska to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. With all the high peaks, I kept to a 17,000 foot flight level and had the benefit of a 55 knot direct tailwind throughout the flight. I was able to cover the 900 miles in less than 2 1/2 hours including some sightseeing over Vancouver before landing.

Climbing out of stormy, snow-covered Juneau, Alaska
My view the whole way south today
Over Central Vancouver and a pic I took of "The Drop" when I visited a few years ago
On final approach to Vancouver International
Parked at my assigned gate among all the "heavies"
 

February 8, 2022


Down the coast of Alaska from Anchorage to Juneau today. Mountainous country, but I didn't see any of it as I was in solid cloud cover flying IFR the whole way.

Climbing into the clouds over Anchorage just before dawn
A short break out between cloud layers on the way to Juneau
 

February 5, 2022


Another 1,000-mile flight today - over the Aleutian Island chain into mainland Alaska. Here are a couple of photos of my dawn departure from Adak taken just before, and just after take-off.


 

February 2, 2022


Home (sort of)! After a year of flying, I made my first landing on US soil. From Kamchatka, Russia, I made a 1,000-mile crossing over the Bering Sea to Adak, Alaska. This island in the Aleutian chain has a fascinating history. In WWII it was a US Army base from which we staged the captures of Kiska and Attu Islands from the Japanese. Our holding of this remote area was a strategic problem for the Japanese throughout the war.


Then in the Cold War it became a US Naval Air Base where our submarines could reprovision while monitoring the Soviets. The USS Growler SSG-577, at the Intrepid Museum in NYC, was one of those submarines. I like telling the story when I'm volunteering on the sub now.


The base was closed 25 years ago and is now an enormous airport for Alaska Airlines. At its height Adak had a population of 6,000. Now the US Air Base housing is home to only 171 residents. It's advertised to tourists as a Ghost Town!

I did a low pass over Adak's "Ghost Town" before landing (inset from a tourist brochure). Can you find my shadow?
I used only a small portion of this enormous runway to set down at the Adak Airport
 

January 30 - 31, 2022


It's been just over a year and over 40,000 files since I started my journey. The current segment was a lot of over-water flying. The first day I left Japan and made my first stop in Russia. The second day I crossed the Sea of Okhotsk to the Kamchatka Peninsula. My readers who played Risk growing up will remember Kamchatka as the place on the right edge of the board where you could wrap around to the left edge of the board into North America! So you can guess where my next stop will be.

In the game of Risk, Alaska on the left side of the board is connected to Kamchatka on the right

It was a long flight so I left Tokyo this morning before dawn in order to land in Russia in daylight.

Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge lit up in just one color as I passed over it tonight
Gaining altitude, I made one more pass by the Tokyo Tower

Heading north over Honshu Island, I took this picture of Sendai just as the sun began to light up the eastern horizon:

I crossed the Sea of Japan two more times: first over Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, and then to Russia's Sakhalin Island. Sakhalin was where the Soviets shot down a Korean Air passenger flight in 1983 killing all 269 people aboard.

Russian landfall - Sakhalin Island

The Korean Air Tragedy had an outcome that affected all our lives. The airliner had strayed slightly off its route into Soviet airspace before being shot down. As a result, the Reagan Administration decided to make our military's Global Position System (GPS) available for worldwide civilian use.


I spent the night on Sakhalin Island before crossing the Sea of Okhotsk to the Kamchatka Peninsula. Here is my view from the cockpit just before completion of my shut-down on the airport ramp in the town of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky!

Looking at some of the many volcanos on Kamchatka
 

January 28 - 29, 2022


From Hiroshima, I continued northeast up the island of Honshu. Honshu is the main island of the archipelago that is Japan. I stopped overnight at the port city of Osaka and took off in the morning bound for Tokyo. My flight path took me directly over the famous Mt. Fuji.

The iconic World Heritage site, Mt Fuji is the highest point in Japan at 12,389 feet

Next I passed over Yokohama, a port city on Tokyo Bay. It's tallest building, shown below, consists of a 22 story hotel on top of 48 floors of commercial and office space!

Circling Yokohama's Landmark Tower, the second tallest building in Japan

And finally I reached Tokyo, also on Tokyo Bay, just north of Yokohama. Tokyo is immense - the most populous metropolis in the world at 40 million residents!

Circling Tokyo Skytree - the tallest communication tower in the world
Central Tokyo and the Eiffel Tower-inspired (and 30 feet taller) Tokyo Tower
 

January 27, 2022


A short, sad hop from Nagasaki to Hiroshima - two heartbreaking cities in human history.

Approaching Hiroshima Ground Zero in my totally inappropriate livery
The same area in 1945: Aiming Point for B-29 Bombardier
 

January 16-17, 2022


From Okinawa it was time to head north and explore the home island of Japan. My destination would be the starting point for that exploration - Nagasaki. This was the site of the controversial second US atomic bombing at the end of WWII. I'd like to digress for one paragraph to talk about a terrible issue I have contemplated for most of my life.

 

Was it a war crime for the US to drop two atomic bombs on Japanese cities, ending the war at a cost of the death of over 150,000 Japanese civilians? Maybe. But consider some other numbers. The Japanese killed a staggering number of civilians in WWII: almost a million in the tiny Philippines alone; over 15 million civilians were slaughtered by Japanese troops in China. Each successive battle in our Pacific island-hopping campaign toward Japan resulted in higher US casualties: 10,000 to take Peleliu; followed by 27,000 to take Iwo Jima; and then finally the worst of all - 49,000 to take Okinawa. Everywhere the Japanese fought to the death despite knowing that the war was lost to them long ago. We estimated that US casualties to take Japan itself would be over a million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines plus many millions of Japanese. Does saving millions of lives justify killing 150,000 civilians?

 

I divided this over-water journey in half and made a fuel and rest stop on the tiny island of Suwanosejima, home to a population of 48 people!

Pre-dawn take-off from Suwanosejima Island, Japan

My destination - Nagasaki Airport - is a fascinating construction occupying the entirety of a small island in Omura Bay, just north of the city. If you're following my flight on Google Earth (see link above), this is what it looks like from above:

And here I am on the ILS approach to runway 32:

 

January 12, 2022


This segment includes the final entry of my WWII remembrances with today's destination of Okinawa - the site of the last and bloodiest battles in the Pacific in WWII. It was also the last place of the USS Intrepid's combat actions during the war.


The evening before my departure from Shanghai, I took a quick loop around the city at dusk and made this video. I sped up the action 4X to keep the video short:


From Shanghai, I flew southeast across the East China Sea, and back to 1945 once more. Okinawa is a heart-breaking place. The Japanese were all but defeated when our forces landed on the island. Their Navy was no more. Their air forces had a few planes left, but no more experienced pilots - only young men who would each fly just one time as Kamikazes. Yet they fought to the death on Okinawa anyway. And the death toll was staggering: 20,000 US troops, 77,000 Japanese soldiers and 30,000 Okinawans died.


First I flew over Wana Ridge - the site of ferocious fighting documented in a famous WWII photograph of US Marines taking the ridge.

Wana Ridge, Okinawa in April 1945 and today

Then I overflew the Maeda Escarpment. This is the site where Private Desmond Doss, a Conscientious Objector and US Army Medic, saved the lives of 75 wounded men in his Company. It's better known as Hacksaw Ridge.

Doss received the Medal of Honor. Even the Japanese memorialized him at the location

While the battle raged on Okinawa, the USS Intrepid's planes provided air support until April 16. On that day a Kamikaze made it through the antiaircraft fire and smashed through the great ship's wooden flight deck, sending it home for repairs.


I ended the day landing at Kadena Air Base - the largest US Air Base in Asia.

 

January 10, 2022


Today I crossed the East China Sea from Taipei, Taiwan into Shanghai, China. Taiwan seems to have a serious air pollution problem. Here's what the capital city of Taipei looked like at dawn this morning as I flew over the Chang Kai Shek Memorial:

From Taipei I headed north, crossing the sea into China. I was sandwiched between the water below and a heavy cloud layer above the whole way. As I neared Shanghai, I had to pass through one big storm cloud and I snapped these two shots: as I was about to enter, and then on the other side:


 

January 7, 2022


I flew from Manila to Taiwan - all IFR at night - so nothing to show you. Terrific airspeed and fuel consumption at FL330, where this TBM is really meant to fly!

 

January 4, 2022


On a short flight today I headed north, spanning most of the Philippines to its capital - Manila. This will be my jumping off point for Taiwan and then Japan!

Here I am over Manila on a long upwind ready for landing at Aquino International
 

December 13-28, 2021


This next, combined part of my journey through the South Pacific is a remembrance of the horrific, bloody battles fought there in WWII; the island-hopping campaigns of the US Marines, the massive sea and air battles, and the 30 million human beings who perished there during the war.


Special thanks to David Giacomini, Manager of Volunteers at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in NYC for providing the flight plan and much of the research in this section of my flight blog!


My flight path (right to left) during this two week portion

My first leg was Guadalcanal to Rabaul: the principal Japanese military and naval base of the war. I took a path that paralleled "Operation Vengeance." The US, having broken the Japanese secret code, had learned that Admiral Yamamoto, the man most responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor, would be flying from Rabaul to Bouganville. On the morning of April 18, 1943, as Yamamoto took off in a G4M "Betty" bomber, we launched 16 long-range P-38G Lightning fighters from the recently captured airfield on Guadalcanal. They successfully intercepted and shot down his plane. Yamamoto was killed as his stricken Betty went down in flames over the mountainous jungles of Bouganville. This was a significant morale boost for the Allies since the Japanese were still winning the war at this time.

Approaching Bouganville at the point where the interception occurred

Japanese (red), American (green) and my (yellow) flight paths

The next day it was north to Truk (now called Chuuk) in Micronesia. This was where the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) built a major naval base. On February 17, 1944, the USS Intrepid (CV-11) joined Task Group 58 as its planes attacked the IJN base in "Operation Hailstone." Truk is a huge atoll surrounding a lagoon filled with islands. Here are some carrier-based US Navy Helldivers in action that day:


This is a painting of Helldivers, maybe from Intrepid, bombing Japanese ships in the lagoon:


A large number of ships were sunk, and ground installations destroyed. Japan decided to abandon the base as indefensible. Unfortunately, the first night of the battle, Intrepid was torpedoed with the loss of 11 sailors. She made it back to Pearl Harbor and then on to California for repairs. She was back in action in 4 months. As a volunteer at the Intrepid Museum in NYC, she is special to me, and the next few thousand miles of my journey cover some of her history.


Because of the beauty of the islands and protected lagoon, as well as the huge number of sunken ships and planes there, today Chuuk has become a popular destination for ocean divers.

A WWII chart of military targets alongside a current diving chart identifying all the underwater wrecks

Looking southeast from the center of the lagoon as I near Weno Airport

On final approach to Weno (formerly Moen) Island Airport

Next, I took off from Truk bound for the Mariana Islands to the northwest. I had to change my aircraft livery for a short time due to a software conflict that arose recently. Here I am ready for a dawn take-off from Truk in my new livery:


First I overflew the island of Saipan where 4,000 US Marines gave their lives in 1944 to capture the island from 30,000 Japanese troops. Almost every Japanese soldier fought to the death and convinced the 2,000 Japanese civilians on the island to commit suicide. I overflew Suicide Cliff at the northern end of the island where hundreds of the island's residents hurled themselves to their deaths.

US Marines watch as civilians throw themselves off Suicide Cliff on Saipan
US Marines broadcast pleas to civilians not to jump from the cliffs
Flying over Suicide Cliffs at Marpi Point, now a memorial park

From here I turned to the south to overfly nearby Tinian Island. This is where we built a major airbase to begin the bombing of the Japan home islands with our new long-range B-29 Superfortresses. Here's what the airfield looked like right after its capture by US Marines in 1944:


This is what it looked like at the height of our bombing campaign in 1945:

B-29 Superfortresses take off from Tinian in 1945

And here's what it looks like today:


I kept heading southwest to my final destination for today's flight: Guam.

View from just behind the cockpit during my final descent and approach to Guam's airfield

The next day I took off from Guam and continued southwest to the site of another famous island-hopping battle - Peleliu. On my way there I overflew Ulithi, one of the largest atolls in the world consisting of 40 small islands surrounding an enormous lagoon which became the Allies' largest Naval Base in WWII. Just before the invasion of Okinawa, 722 ships were anchored there.

US Naval Base Ulithi within an atoll of the Caroline Islands during WWII

But of course the lagoon was deserted 76 years later as I flew over it today bound for Peleliu.


On September 15, 1944, the US 1st Marine Division landed at Peleliu to capture its airstrip. Two months later, with the loss of over 1,400 US Marines and soldiers plus 6,500 more wounded, the airstrip was ours. This proved fortunate for the USS Intrepid.


On November 25, 1944, Intrepid's worst day of the war, it was struck by two Kamikazes while 75 of its planes were in the air. Forty of those planes had to land at Tacloban in the Philippines (see the next segment of my flight), and from there on to our newly-captured airbase on Peleliu before reuniting with a repaired Intrepid at Ulithi.

Some of Intrepid's Air Group 18 aircraft parked at Peleliu on November 27, 1944

The field was deserted when I landed there at the end of today's flight:

Moments after my landing on Peleliu, Palau

From Peleliu I flew on to Leyte Island in the Philippines. This is where General Douglas MacArthur made his promised return on October 20, 1944. Here is the famous photo which captured the event:

MacArthur returns to the Philippines on October 20, 1944

And here I am over the spot where he came ashore. It's now MacArthur Leyte Landing Memorial Park. I'm just about to enter my final approach for landing at Tacloban, a few miles up the beach:

My left wing directly over the spot where MacArthur waded ashore

MacArthur Park under my left wing and Tacloban's runway straight ahead

Where was the USS Intrepid as MacArthur came ashore? Pretty close by, steaming from Ulithi toward the biggest sea battle in history: the Battle of Leyte Gulf, just 4 days away. Here's a picture of Intrepid taken during the coming battle:

 

December 9, 2021


Five months after Pearl Harbor was bombed the Japanese and American navies engaged in the world's first aircraft carrier battle - in the Coral Sea in May 1942. Today I crossed the Coral Sea to make my way to the place where, three months later, America started its first land offensive of WWII: Guadalcanal. By the time the fighting was over, 1,600 US Marines and soldiers were dead, with three times that number wounded. All 24,000 of the Japanese defenders fought to their deaths. The main objective of taking Guadalcanal was the airfield there. Here's what it looked like in 1942, shortly after its capture:

Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands 1942

That was my destination today at the end of a 1,000 mile journey over the Coral Sea. Here's a shot I took from my drone as I idled at the beginning of the runway that so many had fought and died for:

Henderson Field (now Honiara International Airport) today

I had visited the WWII memorial in Washington, DC a few years ago. Amid all the grey granite slabs I spotted a bright red carnation lying on one of the many battle names inscribed there, and I took this photo:

 

December 7 - 8, 2021


I crossed beautiful New Zealand from south to north in one day. In March 2020 I tried to do it by land with my daughter Emily, only to have the trip of a lifetime interrupted by the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. So this was a bittersweet return. I spent the night in Milford Sound and departed the next morning at dawn:

It was winter "down under" and the mountainous southern part of the South Island was covered with snow:

At the north end of the island I sought out Lochmara Bay, which Emily and I had paddled the length of on our last full day in New Zealand before they kicked us out.

We paddled from our Lodge to the town of Picton at the far end of the fjord at the top