Flying is magic. You quickly accelerate your plane to just below the freeway speed limit, lightly pull back on some plastic, and in a split second, your whole body feels the wheels separating from the earth beneath you. Your total focus is on that plane – its speed, direction, altitude, sounds – and the air around you. Everything else is left behind on the ground.
In August 2015, I realized a long-time goal to become a private pilot. I’m a beginner, so the learning curve is exciting – and there is much more to go with instrument, seaplane, and other ratings. Growing up, my family used to explore Alaska by lake and land via the Lake Buccaneer that my dad flew us around in. Not until a few years ago did I have the combination needed (money and time) to be able to finish up my training which had been going in fits and spurts over a few prior years.
A few days after I got my license, I flew my mom on a scenic tour of Seattle, and she is my only passenger to date. However after that summer, life got busy again, my weekends became much more precious when Jerry started his Cali commute, so I’ve only flown a few times since.
This trip I knew I needed to at least get one flight in to remind myself how much I love it and kickstart my flying again at home, so I made it one of my goals. After being unsuccessful in locating a small a plane in Bolivia (and writing it off completely in Columbia – there is something about a gringa woman flying a small plane in Columbia that screams bad movie, involving unknowingly smuggling drugs and jail). When I got to Santiago and saw the modern city, I had a feeling I would be more successful and turned to Google to help me out.
The first thing I found was an article on flightseeing vacations in Chile. It sounded fantastic. I visited Tour Aviation Chile’s website and made contact to see if they could arrange a short day tour. I soon heard from from Fabian, the CFI who quickly answered all my emails and flew with me. His English was top notch and he was a solid, experienced pilot. We planned to use a Cessna 150, which was an affordable $142 per hour with instructor, however it went into the shop the day before the flight. We ended up in a C172 that was in good condition. It was faster, which was good since it was also significantly more expensive to fly in.
The airport in Santiago was located in central downtown and incredibly busy with local flight traffic. He explained there had been one or two incidents and residents were always looking to get the airport shut down. Apparently there are 3,000 private pilots in Chile and I think all were flying on a beautiful sunny Saturday. Because of restrictions at the airport, I had to right-seat the flight. Our flight plan had us headed out to Valparaiso and surrounding area. Once we got far enough from Santiago to hit the wine region, the general haze cleared and we ultimately had some amazing views. We did a landing at Valparaiso and headed back. On the way back, we got clearance to overfly the international airport (like the Seattle transitions over SeaTac), and got a bird’s eye view of the many jumbo jets going in and out.
It was a great day. While it blew the budget, it was worth it to remember why I love flying, and hopefully give me the kick in the butt I need to get serious about flying again at home.
Now that I know there are tour companies that will completely arrange a tour across Chile via a small airplane with a CFI right-seating, I have a new mid-term (5-years) vacation goal – to fly across a foreign country.
Pilot friends – anyone want to join me?
Here are a few photos from the trip: