The first few days of any trip tends to fly by, however, time really goes fast when you cross the International Date Line while flying on what seems to be endless flights across the Pacific (35+ hours of travel). The endless flights really get interesting when you realize you have been on planes so long that you have gone through several snack/meal services and you can’t stand the thought of another. How many airline meals can someone eat while sitting on a plane? At this point I would kill for the opportunity to get up and go for a run or get any form of exercise outside of the cycle of sitting and waiting for the next meal service. The rum and coke I had a few flights ago sounded like a great idea to help me sleep but my pounding head is now telling me it was the wrong selection! We have made this trip to Yap twice before therefore it seemed so easy yesterday (October 3) at 1 am when we left our home near Cameron, WI to start the drive to the Twin Cities to catch our first flight. We were tired to start the trip due to a hectic rush to try and get ready including a search to find some of our dive equipment including our skin suits. Although we moved into our house in June, we still have boxes piled in a number of locations since we have tried to keep the new house uncluttered from all the things we have collected for the last 20+ years. It’s actually refreshing to have a house with very little on the walls and no window coverings (we have no neighbors besides animals so why put up blinds). For those of you that don’t know, I finally got tired of working for a 7 billion dollar company in educational publishing along with the constant company mergers and acquisitions. I sought out and took a new job as the Director of Marketing with a great “private” family owned company called Rice Lake Weighing Systems in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. We bought a new house out in the country that has great views and lots of wildlife. Thus far this summer we have had about every major mammal species from Wisconsin behind our house including bear, coyotes, wolves, raccoons, fox, deer, turkey, skunk, etc. We love the change from the busy Twin Cities to our new location near Cameron, WI. I literally have one stop light and a few miles of open country roads to make it to my office each morning (what a change from the grid lock on 694 I drove for years). Okay, back to the Yap trip since that is why you’re likely reading this blog in the first place. As I started to say, the trip seemed so easy and organized when we started out of the garage but things started getting complicated before we could get on the first plane. First, Mark Noah (Director of History Flight) had problems with his flights today so he will not be able to make it to Yap until Tuesday with the side scanning sonar and other equipment. We talked to Mark via email and cell phone while driving to the airport and figured we’ll just have to work around the equipment arriving on Tuesday. The good news is that Mark is going to be able to stay until October 15 therefore we’ll have plenty of days to use the equipment to attempt to locate my uncle’s plane next week. Who knows, we might get lucky and locate the plane by diving before Mark arrives (unlikely but possible). We have a lot of crash sites to locate this year so we will just adjust our search schedule and start with some other sites in the water and on the land. For example, we have found three out of the four F6F-5 Hellcats that were shot down over Yap during the war. We have a lot of new information from the national archives (NARA) to help us find the final Hellcat. During past trips we did not know the location of the fourth Hellcat, however, my research since the last trip has provided the reports we needed to locate the plane. Once we have located the final Hellcat site we can provide proof who flew the planes and which crash sites are still MIA sites. We will be revisiting the three Hellcat sites we located over the last few years to continue to document the sites. Well, I’m in the air right now a few hundred miles from landing on Guam. It looks like we will make it to Yap on schedule within the next few hours. The long flights have been tiring but we are only a few hours away from reaching Yap and starting our third search trip.
Arrived on Guam:
We arrived on Guam and met up with Stan Gajda who will be joining us on Yap to search for planes. Stan has been searching for planes throughout Micronesia for years. His experience is going to be invaluable at the sites over the next two weeks. Mark Noah and his History Flight organization sponsored Stan to join us on Yap. Although I have been emailing Stan for years, this was the first opportunity I had to meet him in person. I’m looking forward to his help!
Arrived on Yap (Saturday 9 pm):
The flight from Guam was uneventful outside of my nap and the always scary landing on a small runway. (Yeah, we came in hot!) As a pilot I’m usually not worried about landings but whenever a commercial airline lands on a small runway with water on both sides in the dark I get nervous. We were met at the airport by old friends from the Manta Ray Hotel including Theo and Richard. We also ended up running into a number other Yapese at the airport that we met on previous trips. We joined up with some film makers who are staying at the same hotel and made into Colonia behind a funeral precession. After traveling 35+ hours we jumped in the pool at 10 pm and had a cold beer talking to Stan and others about the plans for tomorrow. We plan to dive the SE reef in the morning near my uncle’s plane’s location and then search for the missing Hellcat and TBM Avenger near the old airfield in the afternoon.
Please keep watching for updates throughout the week.
Pat & Cherie Ranfranz, Yap Island, Saturday, October 04, 2008
Posts: 682 | From: Cameron, Wisconsin | Registered: Dec 2004
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