'Liberty Girl' from Darwin to Seoul
Maurice Kirk flew his 1943 Piper Cub into Yang Yang airport near Seoul on May 17, 2005, completing a 3,634nm trek from Darwin over the course of three and a half weeks. At left: clipping from a Korean newspaper. Evidently Maurice's white shirt is at the laundry!
The Cub left Darwin on the north coast of Australia on April 25 for a 392nm flight across the open ocean to the island nation of East Timor. (Distances in nautical miles on a Great Circle course. The Cub generally flies a bit farther, of course.) Maurice had good weather for his departure but made landfall under a 3,000-foot ceiling, obliging him to thread his way between 10,000-foot mountains. "Eventually, after the usual 180's at the top of blind, dead-end valleys on full power steep turns, I espy Dili through the mist and an airstrip." Alas, the fuel jockey filled the Cub's various fuel tanks with jet fuel instead of gasoline! Maurice also discovered that he had no clearance to enter Indonesia, his next stop. "I am now surrounded by riot police with shields of almost equal height!"
After a day's rest—presumably devoted to cleaning the fuel tanks—Maurice made another of his astonishing over-water flights, this one 675nm to Balikapapan on the island of Borneo, in Indonesia. Click here for his report on that flight. The military authorities were very unhappy with him, and he was subjected to a lengthy interrogation by "a motley entourage of variously uniformed and tee-shirt-clad gentlemen." Next day, however, he was allowed to fly on, 404nm to Labuan—still on the island of Borneo, but across the border in the more hospital nation of Malaysia. From Borneo, Maurice had hoped to fly northwest to Saigon, South Vietnam, but more problems with clearances obliged him to take the northeast route through the chain of the Philippine islands. He changed bases once—61 nm to Kota Kinabalu—and on May 6 made the 279nm jump to Puerto Princesa in the Philippines. Next day it was 314nm to the capital of Manila, then 221nm to Laoag on the northernmost island of the archipelago.
On May 11, he made the ocean crossing to Taiwan, landing after a mere 263nm at Kaohsiung. (You may recall that after the December 8, 1941, attack by the Japanese on Manila, the U.S. Far Eastern Air Force proved unable to mount a retaliatory strike on what the Japanese called Formosa.) On the 13th, he moved 157nm to the capital, Taipei.
Looking at my atlas, I figured he couldn't possibly make the crossing to South Korea, but he did: 575nm to the southern island of Jeju. This was another 11-hour flight, and it must have entailed some outrageous stunts, sufficient for Maurice to post this enigmatic comment on his website: "It is inapropriate to publish details of this little 'jolly' just at this time." Next day, however, it was 293nm to Yangyang, 30 miles from the DMZ that separates South and North Korea. Here Maurice received the somewhat dispiriting news that the North Koreans claim the right to shoot down any aircraft approaching their coast, and that before he could head north for China, he'd have to fly east toward Japan for 200nm—a rather serious burden for a Piper Cub! "Must talk to the boss there and see if I can pay a courtesy call, having come all this way?"
So at the end of May, Liberty Girl is on the ground at Yangyang, and Maurice in China trying to line up permission to enter the country. Stay tuned!