2. Iwojima to Minamidaito - 19 May 2004

 
On the ground at Iwojima: dawn  

This will be one of a very few flights in the Lear this tour. I use it here only because the distance was long (455 nm) and the route absolutely featureless: just water.

Iwojima, also known as Sulpher Island, is one of the Volcano Islands, near the Bonin Islands. Didn't see the cone at the southern tip of the island. I took off at dawn in the rain, clomb to FL300, and set the autopilot heading for 280 deg.

On the ground at Iwojima: dawn  
   

About 200 nm out from Iwojima, I lost the airport's DME signal and travelled for what must have been 50 nm on the compass heading. About 200 nm out from Minamidaito, I picked up the VOR and adjusted my course to stay on what was now a J-way.

  On the ground at Iwojima: dawn
   

At 90 nm out, I began my descent; as I neared Minamidaito, I saw its neighbor island to the north, Kitadaito. This too has an airfield. Some turbulence as I descended through 12,000 ft, but the landing itself was very clean, using VOR and PAPI to line up with the runway and glidepath.

On the ground at Iwojima: dawn  
   

Came in a touch fast, but managed to stop short of the runway's far end with reverse thrust. In FS9, the island is flat, though there appears to be a pretty bay to the west. In reality, however, Minamidaito is an atoll: that is, to say, it is a geological doughnut that was formed around a volcano by coral reefs. Over time, the surface of the volcano was worn down by the waves, leaving behind a ring of coral which, because it is a living organism, continues to grow upwards. In the center of the reef, where there used to be a volcano, now there is only a lagoon or, in the case of Minamidaito, just a swamp.

Japan is in an interesting position because it stands at the intersection of not two but three plates: the Eurasian and Pacific plates come together in the northern part of the country, and the Pacific and Philippine plates come together in the south:

Because it is situated at the intersection of three plates, Japan is connected with three different island chains. To the northeast, there are the Kuril Islands, which used to belong to Japan but which are now claimed by Russia; further still, there are the Aleutian Islands, which link Asia with North America and mark the northern border of the Pacific plate. South of Tokyo, there is a second island chain, the Bonin and Volcano Islands. These islands mark the intersection of the Philippine plate and the Pacific plate. Our starting point, Iwojima, is one of these islands. The third chain of islands is the Ryukyu Islands, which is really a series of volcanoes that was created by the intersection of the Philippine plate with the Eurasian plate. The largest and most famous of these islands is Okinawa, but we will start, in the next leg of our journey, with the southernmost island in the Ryukyu chain, Yonaguni.