a Beech Baron to Brazil
December 12, 2009
from Part One
From San Juan
to the island of St. Lucia is a relatively short flight of three
hours or so. I am late getting off at Isla Grande, due in no
small part I'll admit, to my presence at a Christmas party in
Old San Juan. There, the hospitality flowed freely, all of the
woman in attendance seemed to be named Maria, and I stayed much
too late to be flying the next morning.
weather on this leg was perfect, though I filed IFR in order to
be more securely in the system. After a routine flight I arrived
at the island in the mid to late afternoon and taxied to the
spot designated by the tower, after informing them that I needed
to see customs. Since it's usual to remain in the airplane until
customs arrives and bids you step down, I did so for about ten
minutes, but no official showed. I turned on the electrical
system and called the tower and was told I should walk around
the building and enter at the doorway there, for customs was
inside. I again shut down and followed their instructions. The
door was locked.
For the next 15 minutes I knocked on
the door until a guard appeared around the corner of the
building and asked what I wanted. I explained my quest for
customs and he explained that he didn't have a key or a clue how
I could get inside. Finally someone else came and they knew
someone with a key and a call was made. After another quarter
hour the door was opened and I was shown inside. I asked about
customs and was told that the lady had been sent for and I
should make myself comfortable, a comment I thought strange
since there were no chairs. Forty five minutes passed while I
paced to and fro and finally sat down on the floor. At last a
lady in an official appearing uniform strolled up and motioned
for me to follow her. We reined up in front of a door labeled
'Immigration'. It was locked.
A key was mentioned, but
its whereabouts remained a mystery. A search was mounted. A very
slow moving search, but search nonetheless. Forty Five more
minutes passed, then a guard appeared triumphantly waving the
fugitive key and I was ushered inside.
My papers were
scrutinized and I was asked for my manifest. I explained that I
had filed it on line but this was met with a disapproving frown
from the official, best summed up with; "Online? You can't
stamp no stinking document online".
Off to the
airline office I was sent to make out a decent manifest. A paper
manifest, which could be laid flat and stamped thoroughly.
in tow I trudged the 30 yards or so to the airline office. The
door was locked. My steady pounding was rewarded with a cracked
door through which I explained my dilemma. I needed a manifest,
could they make me one? I was courteously shown in and with much
arm waving and repetition I conveyed my needs and the document
was dutifully created. In triplicate of course; one for customs,
one for the tower and one I believe, for I the little boy who
lived down the lane. Thirty minutes later I was trudging back to
customs, towing my baggage and clutching my manifests. The door
was locked. More pounding. Ten minutes of this the door opened
and the lady from customs appeared, took my documents and
indicated that I follow her back to her office. Once there she
scrutinized the manifests, then with barely disguised enthusiasm
she drew her stamp and thumped them soundly.
Now I was
free to visit the tower. There I would give them their copy of
the manifest, file my flight plan and order gas. Baggage in tow
once more I rumbled across the rough ramp to the building that
had been pointed out to me. The door was locked.
This time a few minutes pounding did the trick. This
was good because my knuckles were getting sore. I handed the
manifest to the tower chief and filed the flight plan and then
asked about fuel. Did I want Jet A, he asked? No, I need 100 low
lead, I replied. Sorry, he said, we only have jet fuel.
thoughts at this moment are censored, but suffice to say they
were liberally laced with the feeling of futility. I'd just
spent three and a half hours finding out I should have stopped
somewhere else and now it's too late to go there.
I would just stay the night start fresh and go on to Trinidad in
the morning. That island was about three hours more away, but I
should be able to make it with adequate reserves.
to Part Three