Security. That’s what you get when you make a rendezvous at a naval base so secret that it’s listed on the maps as “former”, and isn’t even on Google Streetview. But we were having none of that, as JG had wandered off to the local marina just so that the handover could be done in public. Later I would learn that this was a cunning ruse, because the baton JG gave me was a decoy, and the real one was still in Steph’s possession, and going by a completely different route. But that’s news for later.
The marina bar of course, was as busy as ever. I can never get used to these sailors putting pictures of the sea where the sky should be! Weirdos!
The walk back to the plane was less than a kilometre, and since there’s only one road, it was hard even for me to get lost! The locals in the bar had mentioned the fierce storms that are common in the area, and I knew immediately that once in the air I’d have to re-file for a higher altitude. A much higher altitude. Otherwise they’d be looking for bits of baton floating in the Caribbean!
One thing that you quickly learn flying in this region is that the wheels of officialdom get easily gummed up, and need a lot of grease to keep them turning. The back of my plane holds a lot of boxes of grease. the green kind: Franklins and Jacksons. I’ve got several borders to cross, and at least one fuel stop. And that’s going to take some grease if I’m to arrive on time.
We’re on what might become known as the “Franklin Five” departure. I pity the soul who next uses that airstrip, since part of the departure fee involved a bottle of Islay single malt to each of the controllers (and considering that it comes from The Hangar’s North Of The Border department, god alone know what’s actually in it).
Our initial clearance only takes us to 6000ft, keeping is down in the yuck.
Finally they clear us up to our cruise altitude. Hopefully we can get on top, otherwise we’ll be doing a lot of cloud surfing!
Passing Flight Level 210 for 240. Yes, 240! I can do that in a Cessna 340, cos it’s pressurised and turbocharged! Eat your heart out 310! Nur nur ne nur nur!
Even up here we might need to dodge a few storms. We’re soon going to lose sight of the coastline (not that we can see it much anyway).
Do you ever take thousands of screenshots trying to capture the lightning? Me too! Finally I got one!
Coasting back in, we’re going to follow the Costa Rica / Nicaragua border as far as Lake Nicaragua. We need to start descending for our fuel stop.
Fortunately there’s been no sign of other traffic on the radar. Either other pilots are not stupid, or the bribes to ATC have paid off.
Lake Nicaragua, and it looks like the weather’s giving us a break too.
Our fuel stop is at Managua, on the shores of Lake Managua (which is just beyond this one…)
Let’s play Spot The Airport
There it is!
They really should rename it Ben Franklin Regional! Still, the tanks are full, and We Were Never Here. These are not the planes you are looking for.
This country has some nasty looking pimples!
Crossing the Gulf of Fonseca. Nicaragua below us, Honduras on our right, and El Salvador in front.
Hopefully we won’t need it, but I’ve got a guy at the FBO in Guatemala City can put us up for a bit, should we need it. We’ve got to cross the Sierra de las Minas, and for that we’ll need semi-decent weather, or at least a break in the storms.
Always have a plan B.
Our flight plan was Colon to Managua International. Of course we didn’t land there, but there should be a paper trail that sends Putinfeld round in circles. This second part of the flight is strictly below the radar, Barry Seal style, which is why we can’t just climb above the weather.
These mountains are only 10,00 ft or so, and the weather has been clearing for the past half hour. Looks like we’l be over with no trouble!
Mountain ranges are often barriers to weather, and this one is no exception. We cross into the Yucatan Peninsula, and clear blue skies!
Nothing but blue skies . . .
But it ain't half flat!
Ah, there’s a cloud ahead! Bet that’s our destination.
Can’t see a thing, so we must have arrived at . . .
. . . Chicken Pizza. What? Wait? It’s been stolen! This is a despicable act worthy of Gru himself!
There appears to be a small pond where the pyramid used to be. Is this the work of Putinfeld? I’m not going to hang around to find out!
They abandoned the nearby airstrip, and chucked dense jungle all over the runway. So I've gad to land at the nearby International (for want of a better word). It's a bit of a slum, but at least they have a PAPI!
Still, I’m down safe. Now, JG said he’s coming north via HM Tugboat, so that means we’ve got a couple of days, or possibly even a week. So maybe I should spread a few company Jacksons around and see if I can’t find out what happened to the chicken pizza . . .
Chicken Pizza before Putinfeld (presumably) Gru'd it . . .
This is GA Parking!!
JG, I'll be in the Bar el Pick when you get here. Or possibly the Las Mestizas. Either way, look for the fat gringo...