Positioning a plane for a new project is always an interesting adventure. Sometimes it is only a few hours of flying away, some other times you must fly halfway around the planet. This time we flew to South America. We crossed 6 countries in 8 legs. It was a first time for me leaving North America on my own wings.
It is very hard to explain what such a trip is all about. Myself, I stayed behind while Kevin was going on those trips a few years back and I did not fully understand the entire implication of flying a plane between countries. Here a small insight into our adventure!
So, what does it involve to fly from North America to South America in a small plane like ours? First, there is a lot of preparation to do in the weeks before departing. We also had help from many people around us; making different permits application and giving us the do’s and don’t, where to go or not from their previous experiences. Once we were ready to depart, no mater how good the planning was, we knew we would most likely need to re-adjust it as we went and we did change the plan 3 or 4 times on route; it was truly an adventure!
The route we chose depended on the equipment we had to bring with us (cargo for the next project); more equipment = less fuel = shorter flight, and vice versa. Once we figured that out we knew how far we could go with a safe fuel reserve and we chose the airports to stop at. In Canada and the United States, it is easy; there is lots of airports to choose from. When showing up in another country, it is required to use an airport with customs, but you also must think about the accommodations and sometimes security.
After our first day, we got literally stuck in the middle of the States, for a week, waiting on an ice storm to go by. We changed our route a few times to try to make it around the weather. Everyday we looked at the forecast around and tried to make something work, but in the end we just ended up waiting for a real good window. There is no need to place ourselves in an uncomfortable situation flying into bad weather.
After almost a week on the ground watching the weather going by we finally headed south for another jump. We were then able to escape winter and the weather improved considerably en-route. Each stop was a tease. Warm tropical temperature with beaches around, if we would have been only flying for ourselves we would have like to stay a extra day everywhere we stopped to enjoy discovering the surroundings; the different beaches or visiting the Panama Canal, it would have been so much fun. However, we enjoyed some good restaurants and a few strolls around the neighborhoods that surround our hotels, still very cool adventure.
Being on a mission, every morning we got up to a beautiful flying day, heading south a little further. We also met some wonderful people on our way. Patricia was the only English speaking women we met while in Ecuador. She spent some time chatting with us and we share bunch of aviation stories. She was so helpful and kind. She asked us to come back and meet with her again the next day before our departure to make sure everything was alright with the different officials and such. I will certainly cherish that amazing encounter for a long time and hopefully I will be back one day to say hi again.
Keep on going, we said Goodbye to our new friend and continued our trip southbound. We slowly left the tropical and lushy landscape for the desert. Everything turned from green to light brown with settlements of people only along rivers where farming is possible. It was very interesting to see the drastic change in colours over such a short distance. The world is amazingly balanced between extremes and people have been so adaptive to their environment. It is very impressive, I think; to find people living in the driest desert on the planet, in such harsh environment.
The next stop we ended up having to spend a day on the ground waiting for some permits. We were able to get some errands done, caught up on paperwork (there can be a lot!) and we escaped to visit a pre-Incan ruin site just outside the city. We almost didn’t make it to the site on time. We arrived 5 min before the closing time of the gate! It felt very good to spend a couple of hours being a tourist, not thinking about work and discovering an ancient world. The tour was in Spanish only, lucky for us, some words are very similar to French so we could pick up maybe 10% of the explanation! And another French couple in the group explained to us what they understood as they were more fluent in Spanish than us. We got to enjoy the amazing paintings and understood the living conditions of this disappeared society.
We finally made it to our final country and met some more amazing people. We spent a full day at the airport, waiting for government officials and the people working at the flight planning office help us a great deal during that day. With our few words of Spanish and their few words of English, we had a great time exchanging. In a few hours, our new friends shared part of their culture, struggles and help us getting an hotel in town for the night. The next day we arrived at our destination, with this amazing feeling of a mission accomplished!