One of the greatest appeals of flight simulation (or any simulation for that matter) is the ability to create or recreate experiences we may not otherwise indulge in. While a vast majority of these are fictional, Flight Sim presents us with an opportunity to simulate of the most exciting, and unusual flight routes that exist in the real world.
In this post, I’ll walk you through one of these truly unique routes I recently had the opportunity to fly in real life, and help you realistically simulate it from your virtual cockpit.
The Island Hopper: The “Long Way” to Guam
Part One, HNL (Honolulu, HI, US) to MAJ (Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands)
Despite its small size and remote location, the island of Guam is home to over 160,000 people, plus a sizable military presence. It’s a United States territory, making it’s residents US citizens. While probably not part of your average trip, United actually considers Guam’s AB Won Pat International airport a hub city and operates flights to a number of Asian destinations, as well as 777 service direct to Honolulu.
However, there’s a much longer (and more exciting) way to traverse between the two: United’s Island Hopper.
Operated 3x weekly in each direction, the Island Hopper is a 5 stop tour of the Western Pacific, all done in 14 short hours aboard a 737-800.
While a 737 may seem like a small craft for such a journey, it actually stretches the operational limits of some of the stops. At each airport, short field takeoff and landing procedures are followed, and fire trucks must follow the aircraft after landing to douse the brakes with water, ensuring they are cooled down enough for the next leg.
All of this lines up for an excellent opportunity to test your 737 piloting skills. In this series, I’ll guide you through the journey, and reveal the best tips and tricks for recreating the flight.
The island hopper begins its journey with an early morning departure out of HNL. If you’re taking the full route, you’ll be presented with a billfold of boarding passes at check-in and a smirk from the ground crew.
Compared to the rest of our journey, the takeoff and climb out from HNL is rather uneventful- with one exception. While all the other narrow body jets make their way east or toward other Hawaiian islands, we’ll be heading west. Very, very west.
The first leg from HNL to MAJ is roughly 5 hours- fairly lengthy, but not unusual for the 737. What is unusual is the portion of this flight spent over open ocean- from shortly after take off to literally feet before landing.
While the flight itself is a bit mundane, the fun really begins on approach to Majuro.
At over 7000 feet long, MAJ is actually the largest runway (excluding GUM) of the airports we’ll visit. However, it looks particularly massive when compared to the island around it. The Majuro atoll is a circular chain of small, thin land masses that are in parts less wide than the runway itself. As can be seen in the Google Satellite Image, the airport certainly sticks out.
All of this makes for a uniquely beautiful decent into Majuro’s International Airport.
Since the Marshall Islands are part of a compact of free association with the United States, they are given an FAA identifier as well as approach plates and other information. If you’d like to reference this for your flight, they are available for free from SkyVector. There’s no tower at MAJ, so we’ll be monitoring the CTAF frequency on the off chance someone’s in the area. But more than likely, we’ll have the airport to ourselves.
Once on the ground, all passengers have a chance to deplane and explore the small airport terminal at Majuro. It’s a brief 45 minute stop but gives the jet time to refuel and prepare for the next flight- Kwajalein Atoll. Know it’s your turn.
Let us know how your flights go and share pictures of your journey!
I’ll be back next week with a full report of that leg!
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