Batanes has three major islands: Batanes (the main island), Sabtang and Itbayat. A couple of airlines have daily flights to the capital Basco. Unlike the rest of the Philippines, the Batanes islands, because of its location, has 4 seasons similar to other northern climes ie Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. The only thing it doesnt have is snow! This means that for most of the year, its a little colder and, on average, windier than the rest of the country. For FPV flyers it just means more patience (and luck!) is needed for most of the months. The locals say the winds are calmer from mid-March until May.
Ok here’s the lowdown:
1) Safety – Batanes only has 17,000 people spread across several islands. Even in the capital of Basco, rush-hour means seeing a couple of vans going around (mainly shuttling tourists). The areas I’ve flown in are largely uninhabited and I was told the airport does not accept air traffic from 3pm onwards. The runway also has a “one-way in, one-way out” — the words of our pilot — policy landing from the west-end and taking off in a west-ward direction regardless of wind direction. Good info to know if one is flying several hundred meters (or km!) up.
2) Wind – hills and small valleys, can make for an exciting landing.. I soon learned that landing on small roads on ridges on a windy day is a big no-no. Thats because after hitting the side of a hill, wind speed accelerates as it escapes on top. It gets worse in the intersection of two hills which forms a funnel-like valley. The best option is to land on the side of the hill with no wind. Which means, higher throttle on the approach — as you will lose the head wind since the hill where you will be landing will now acts as a barrier — and then pitch up at the last minute, so you’re basically landing uphill.
Here’s what I took away from this visit: Hills = Gusts. Sea Headwind < Land Headwind.
3) Interference – Virtually none.
4) FPV Locations – the best bet location (for safety, wind and scenery) for long range FPV is the “Songsong Iraya” coastal road. It’s located in the north-west part of Basco and its the road leading to the garbage disposal facility. No villages, just some cows and lots of open space to crash in =)
For a little bit of challenge (wind!, some tourists but the best scenery) go to the “Marlboro Country”, this is on the east side of the island (yes facing the Pacific) and the scenery is breathtaking.. you’ll be able to take videos of the farm lands, a defunct (but well kept) light house, the ocean and the surf! Hill-side landing is the key to an intact plane here.
I saw at least 7 spots thats excellent for FPV in Batanes and Sabtang Islands.. but only flew in 4 of them. I’ll post the vids of them soon. In the meantime, here’s the vid of the 2.5km flight from “Songsong” road: