Aku-Aku Eclipse

Easter Island

July 11th, 2010

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2010-07-13 19:48 UTC Click images for reduced size.

For a small island with a population of less than 5,000 people, Easter Island boasts an astonishingly well-endowed airport: Mataveri International Airport, with an asphalt runway 3,318 metres in length which almost bisects the island and can accommodate the very largest aircraft in service today. You can thank NASA for this—when Space Shuttle flights to polar orbit were planned to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, it was realised that in the case of a main engine failure during ascent too late to return to the launch site, the only possible abort destination would be Easter Island. NASA paid to extend the runway to Space Shuttle abort site specifications and installed the advanced navigation systems used by the Shuttle. After the Challenger accident, plans for polar orbit launches of the Shuttle were abandoned, but the airport remains, and is a valuable asset for Easter Island tourism.

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2010-07-14 15:41 UTC

Santiago Airport—you aren't in Safetyland! Look at that guy on the ladder at the left.

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2010-07-14 17:57 UTC

When you fly out of Santiago, the first thing you notice is that the plane is headed west. You're inclined to knock on the cockpit door and remind the fellows that we're supposed to be going to Madrid, but not wanting to be Tasered, you remain in your seat to see how things sort out. Well, what's happening is that since Santiago is in a basin right next to the Andes, they need to fly out over the Coast Range and the ocean to gain enough altitude to make it over the mountains. Here are some views of the Andes after we turned back East and overflew them.

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2010-07-14 17:57 UTC

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2010-07-14 17:57 UTC

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2010-07-14 17:58 UTC

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2010-07-14 17:58 UTC

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2010-07-14 17:59 UTC

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2010-07-14 18:00 UTC

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2010-07-14 18:42 UTC

Here are a dam and lake somewhere in South America—I know not where.

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2010-07-15 05:26 UTC

And, hours later, we fly into the dawn, heading for Madrid.

by John Walker
July 20th, 2010
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This document is in the public domain.