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Mataveri Runway
Rapa Nui - Easter Island

Since in the years 1970 NASA proceeded to the enlarging of the aerodrome of Mataveri, thus creating an emergency landing strip for the space shuttles, the large transport aircrafts can from now on land on this airport, more isolated from the world. This enlarging caused to increase the tourist frequentation of the island, which represents the first source of revenue today. The number of tourists remains however very limited compared to other tourist island.

For reasons stated further below in this caption text, planes would approach and land exclusively from the northern end towards the southern end and lift off from the southern end towards the northern end. 

Also, this is the only runway whatsoever within about 4000km. This means that airplanes bound for the island have to carry sufficient fuel for twice that distance - in case that landing on the island proves impossible for any reason and the aircraft has to proceed to the nearest available airport. This would be Tahiti or the Chilean coast. Pitcairn, the nearest inhabited land to the west, has no airstrip, and the nearest airstrip to the west at [...] is too short for long-range commercial airplanes. 

The rest is Pacific Ocean. 

As you can nearly see, the runway is not only short (3318m today from originally less than 3000m), but also, you better make best use of its length, or you end up not at elevation 10m above sea level, but at 2000m below it. It is a steep drop beyond the shore. 

The Boeing 707 models operated by Lan Chile for the flight route from Santiago de Chile to Easter Island and then onwards to Papeete, Tahiti without fully refueling were custom-modified in order to extend their range so that they would be able to make the stretch. 

Easter Island has no proper jet refueling facility. When plans were made by the Chilean government to build one, worldwide protests in favor of the preservation of the natural state of the island eventually led to the plans being abandoned. 

So the 707s had a reduced passenger seating and cargo configuration and a supplemental full-height fuel tank installed in the aft section.so that they could land on Easter Island, lift off and continue on to Tahiti, where they would fully refuel for the first time after having left Santiago de Chile. 

The modified 707 was back then the only long-distance passenger aircraft which could take that trip. That machine is still in service and is now operated by the Chilean army for civilian supplies and government cargo flights to the island. 

A ship visited the island twice a year to bring regular supplies and fuel. 

Also take note that the runway, now 3318m long after being extended by NASA in 1984 in order to accomodate an emergency Space Shuttle landing, was shorter in the 1970s. Check Wikipedia and you will see that the earlier 707 models had a landing and takeoff run longer than the actual length of the runway at IPC. In order to make up for that, they made use of a special topological feature of the runway: 

The runway of Mataveri International Airport IPC is not horizontally level, but sloped by about five degrees. The 707s landing at IPC land uphill and take off downhill taking advantage of the gravitational acceleration and deceleration forces providing or reducing kinetic energy in order to make up for its insufficient length.  Starting pilots would take their 707s all the way to the southern end of the runway, turn the plane around almost on the spot, apply the brakes, turn their engines up to maximum emergency power, wait until the landing gear almost started to skid, and then let go off the brakes.

Similarly, landing pilots would slow down their planes close to minimum control speed, below the minimum specified approach and landing speed, and close to the lower tolerance limit for the aircraft, hit the runway within its first meters fairly hard and applied maximum possible braking and reverse thrust power to get the aircraft to stop before it ran out of runway. 

Copyright: Gregory panayotou
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 13240x6620
Uploaded: 30/03/2009
Updated: 09/06/2014
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Tags: easter island; rapa nui; runway; airport; nasa shuttle; 1984; isla de pascua
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More About Rapa Nui - Easter Island

Rapa Nui is the most remote inhabited island on earth. You may recognize this place by its common title "Easter Island". The island pokes out of the ocean with one hundred fifty square miles of area, but this is only the tip of a giant extinct volcano rising ten thousand feet from the ocean floor.Easter Island got its Christian name on Easter Sunday in 1722, the day that Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen landed there. He found the natives in a primitive society engaged in constant war with each other, resorting to cannibalism at times of no other food being available. He was followed in 1770 by a Spanish captain who claimed the island for Spain, in 1774 by Captain Cook of England and in 1786 by a French admiral. The general lack of water, wood and food left them equally uninterested in using Easter Island as a place to resupply their ships.The mysteries of Rapa Nui are these -- how did people get here in the first place, how did they MAKE these gigantic statues, and then how a civilization could have degraded from such a cultural and artistic peak, backwards to a state of poverty and starvation?The standard tale of the people on Easter Island is that overpopulation and poor resource management led them to their own extinction. It's commonly used as a warning to the entire globe, telling all humans not to make the same mistakes on a planetary scale.Another version of the story might include the European introduction of smallpox, venereal disease, slavery and oppressive government as a warning to the entire globe, telling all humans not to make the same mistakes on a planetary scale.In any case, take another look at these images and be happy you have such a nice home planet to live on.Text by Steve Smith.