Let’s see, where did we leave off? Oh, at Iguacu Falls, Brazil. But with Air Journey the goal is to explore, and so after three days we departed Iguacu for Rio de Janeiro. It was an early departure, in order to beat the worst daytime convection. Typically, Mike Williams and I would depart first in Williams’ CJ1+, followed by Joe Howley in his PC-12 or Ian Runge in his TBM 700. This way, the CJ could relay info about any huge buildups along the route to the rest of the airplanes.
Howley and Runge, who typically flew at FL250, 260, or 270, often found themselves on instruments, in the clag, and working their radars to wend they way through buildups. What a difference up at the CJ1+–at a majestic FL370 (or higher!)–cruising altitudes. We could look down on the undercast.
A typical sight over the Amazon region–if you’re at FL380! It’s easy to avoid the worst convection up there, but if you’re in a PC-12 or TBM you’ll need radar to pick your way around.
Rio, like most every destination we visited in Brazil, featured a 2,000-foot broken sky with good visibility for our arrivals, which were usually around noon. But by late afternoon, we had torrential rain in Rio. “It’s like Florida weather,” one pilot observed. In Rio, we did the tourist thing and had a great guided tour of the sights.
The famous Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado Mountain. And yep, it was IMC for a while. But it did nothing to dampen our spirits.
Aerial tram cars took us to Sugarloaf Mountain, where there were great views of Rio de Janeiro. That’s Copacabana beach on the far left, and if you squint hard enough you can see the Christ statue–now in VMC–on the peak at the far right.
Air Journey does it up right, from the flight planning to the hotel transfers to the hotels. We stayed at the Copacabana Palace in Rio, for example. Here’s the view of the hotel pool from the outdoor restaurant.
Leaving Rio, it was another early departure for the next stop, at the coastal city of Salvador de Bahia. On this leg, there were few buildups coming from the soggy undercast, and all three airplanes had uneventful trips. By this time, Howley, Williams, and Runge had gotten pretty proficient at working and interpreting their radars.
Mike Williams uses the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 as his primary FMS in his CJ1+, but installed a Garmin GTN 750 as a backup. Here, the moving map shows us enroute to Salvador de Bahia.
On approach to the Salvador de Bahia airport. No more ugly overcast here–just some high cirrus clouds and light winds.
The lodging at Salvador de Bahia was unconventional–literally. The Convento do Carmo was built in the 17th century as a convent, but now it’s been restored and converted into a landmark hotel in the oldest section of the city. Some say there are ghosts, but I never felt anything out of the ordinary. Well, except that floor that creaked for about a half-hour around 3:00 a.m.
The pool at Convento do Carmo occupies a central courtyard.
A guided tour took us to historic churches and other locales around the old city’s steep, cobblestoned roads.
Christine Howley contemplates a life of monastic silence at a Franciscan monastery.
From left to right, Ruthanne Ruzika, Christine Howley, and Sue Runge take a break from strolling Salvador de Bahia.
The next leg would be a long one, to Belem, Brazil, about 930 nm away and almost four hours of flying for Howley in his PC-12. Once again it was an early takeoff and the weather was uneventful. The Belem stop was for one night only, and positioned us for a final push to the last destination on the trip–Grenada. The original plan was to break up the Belem to Grenada journey with a fuel stop in Cayenne, French Guiana. But by this stage in the South American trip the group had grown somewhat tired of Brazilian airport bureaucracy, and was eager to press on. So it was non-stop from Belem to Grenada (TGPY), some 1,145 nm away. Howley, with six hours’ endurance, could make it easily. Williams’ CJ1+ promised we’d land with 600 pounds of fuel in reserve (about 90 gallons), but that was only if the winds aloft stuck to the forecast. Long story short: a direct-Grenada clearance let Williams land with just under 700 pounds of Jet A. Howley celebrated his arrival in Grenada with a sporty, “chop and drop” short-field landing into gusty headwinds on Grenada’s 8,967-foot-long runway 10.
Somewhere slightly northwest of Belem, we simply had to document our crossing the Equator. Williams and I waited and watched the Pro Line’s screen for the Big Moment. And missed it! But not by much. Here, you can see we’re a mere 21 minutes north. Notice the advisory to “check fuel at destination.” That alert went away somewhere off the coast of Surinam.
After a stay in Grenada, I returned to the U.S., having experienced another outstanding Air Journey adventure. But the rest of the group lingered at Grenada’s LaLuna resort before making their way home. Can’t say I blame them.
The beach at sunset at Grenada’s LaLuna resort.
This may the end of the story for now, but don’t forget to look for an upcoming feature story on this South American journey in the pages of AOPA Pilot–as well as video coverage in our digital editions and AOPA Live This Week.
Some have asked about flying in South America after reading some of my posts on the trip. I say, check with Air Journey. You don’t need to fly a full-blown escorted trip to take advantage of their expertise. Air Journey offers what they call a concierge service that’s tailored to the legs you want to fly–in South America or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
The Next Big Thing from Air Journey? Their around the world trip that begins in May. Take note, potential globe-trotters: A couple slots are still open for this one-of-a-kind odyssey. Don’t own a jet, or not rated in one? The company can even set you up with the training and the rating you’ll need to fly one or more legs of this trip in the left seat of a Cessna Mustang. Sound good?