An approximate summary of our trip:
25 fuel stops
58.9 hours flying
940 gallons of Avgas
100 knot average ground speed
Turks and Caicos
Saint Maarteen (Netherlands)
Trinidad and Tobago
Sunday, October 25, 2009
The last day of flying was a good one. We had mostly clear skies all the way down. The new owner was at his ranch with his family so we made a stop there to show them the new helicopter and take some of his family up for a quick spin. Afterwards we were off to Curitiba which would be the last leg of a very long flight. It was a great way to finish because we saw some amazing waterfalls on the way. After 2 hours of flying, we landed at the new hangar and our journey was complete.
Today's flights took us deeper into Brazil. Most of the land was used for farming. The elevation gradually increased until we were flying in some small mountains. All in all, a great day of flying.
We were more than eager to get up and get moving out of French Guiana. Our first leg was three hours to Macapa, Brazil. Here we met up with a Brazilian pilot (Pedro) who would be flying with us the rest of the way. He helped us get through all of the import documentation, customs and immigration. The import process was well organized and after a quick lunch, we were back in the air. We made one more fuel stop before we stopped in a small Brazilian town for the night. We had a good meal and a good sleep which is much needed on a trip like this. The sad part of this day of flying was seeing all of the forest being burned down. I was more than happy to have some open fields to land in in an emergency but still sad to see whole sections of forest burning the size of several states.
After another early morning wakeup (almost getting use to them) we headed out on the 30 mile ride back to the airport. I am fairly certain that riding in the taxi is much more dangerous than the actual flying over the jungle we are doing. Our first flight of the day took us to Suriname where we got held up for a while. We actually had to fly to one airport to pay fees before we could fly to the one that actually had Avgas. From there we jumped on over to French Guiana. We wanted to cover more ground today but we lost time in Suriname, we lost an hour because we were now in a different time zone and the next leg was 3 hours long. Putting all those things together meant we would still be flying after the sun went down and there was no way we were going to do that over the Amazon. This entire day we flew over jungle. I probably subconsciously checked the engine instruments 5,000 times to make sure we weren't having any issues that would force a landing attempt. Overall it was a pretty long day and we were hoping for a good hotel to sleep at. The airport seemed nice and we had had good luck with the French but the town in French Guiana was awful. The only good hotels were full so after about an hour of walking around, we found a place to stay. It was about 105 degrees in the room but it was shelter I guess.Places like this look like long runways after 5 hrs of nothing but solid jungle
Friday, October 23, 2009
Saint Vincent was amazing. Everyone was friendly and there was great swimming, food and drinks. From Saint Vincent we flew to Trinidad and Tabogo where we had to dodge some rain to get in and then pay ridiculous landing fees on the ground. It took 2.5 hrs just to pay the fees before we had to start up, hover taxi to the other side of the airport and shut down for fuel. All in all they got us for around $600 for 30 gallons or so of fuel. Then off to Guyana. This was our longest stretch over water. It was a bit dicey trying to avoid a storm and Venezuelan airspace at the same time. Finally after a good two hours, we spotted land :) What a relief to be done flying over the ocean...or so I thought. From then on, all the way into the airport it was solid jungle! And by that I mean trees 200 feet high so thick we never saw the ground. After a while I started missing the Atlantic. The good thing was that on the way in we talked to some other R-44 pilots and we met up with them in Guyana. They knew where to stay so we went with them and got a good hotel and dinner.
Hotel in St. Vincent
Bay where we stayed and went swimming