a Beech Baron to Brazil
December 10, 2009
A couple of years ago I got a call from a gentleman in
Brazil, inquiring about a Cessna 210 that I was advertising.
Roberto Martins lived near Sao Paulo and was a farmer who worked
a 21,000 acre farm, raising cattle and soy beans, and he was
also a pilot that needed an airplane to cover the vast distances
of his country with it's scattered population centers.
the next few weeks we had several conversations by phone about
the 210, and finally a deal was struck for him to purchase the
airplane and begin the process of getting the ship ready to
export to Brazil.
While first time aircraft buyers are
usually surprised at the simplicity of the paperwork involved in
purchasing an airplane in the US, a Bill of Sale signed by the
previous owner along with an Application for Registration and
five bucks. The whole thing sent to the FAA in Ok City and the
deal is done. It is quite another thing to export or import an
aircraft. Each country has its own rules and standards and only
experience in doing it makes it routine. Neither Roberto nor I
had sent an airplane to Brazil and we both struggled with the
certification. Mistakes were made and corrected and the whole
ordeal took longer and cost more than it should have, but
finally it was finished. Roberto's pilot came and collected the
airplane and made the long flight to it's new home, and that, I
thought, was that.
The total unpredictability of life
has always fascinated me, sometimes horrified me, but never
bored me. This time it pleasantly surprised me when I recently
received another call from Roberto. He said I had done such a
good job for him on the 210 that he wanted me to find him a
Baron. It didn't feel to me like I had done a good job on the
210, but I'd done my best and maybe that is what he was thinking
about. I appreciated the second chance.
began looking for the Baron that would best fit his budget and
his mission and at the same time be the best value for the
dollars spent. The quest took several months, but finally I
located the airplane that both Roberto and I thought might be
the one. It was a 2004 model with only 375 careful hours on it
since it rolled out the factory doors and it was owned be a
national equipment company that had spared no expense to
maintain it. It was based in Phoenix and Roberto and I agreed to
meet there and examine it.
In the meantime I arranged
a prebuy inspection and the airplane got kudos from the shop
that looked at it. It apparently really was the airplane the
specifications and the pictures said it was.
and I met at the company's hangar in Phoenix in October, a first
meeting for us after many phone conversations, and he proved to
be just as I'd imagined him; a courtly gentleman of my years,
very much at home in the world. The hangar was the real
surprise, as it tturned out to be an aeronautical Taj Mahal and
was worth the trip to see, even if the airplane had been a dud.
Millions had been spent to make it a showplace and the Baron,
far from a dud, sat gleaming on its polished floor, looking as
nearly new as a five year old airplane can.
flight proved the airplane to be every bit as good as it was
represented and without flaw that would demand that haggling to
be done. Very satisfied, we placed a deposit and made
arrangements with the owners to pay for it and have me pick it
up the following week. At the airport as we were saying goodbye,
Roberto asked if I would deliver the airplane to him and be his
guest at his farm in Brazil. Thinking quickly I said
And a few weeks later, after applying and waiting for a Visa, I
find myself southbound. And here is the story of that flight.
Thursday, December 11
dawns gray and windy. A strong front has pushed through West
Virginia overnight, bringing ferocious winds that still roar in
the bare trees on the hill above the farm house. Russell brings
me to the airport in his pickup and I ready the Baron and load
my baggage. The weather briefer gave me little hope for a fast
first leg of this trip and my destination of Fort Lauderdale
lies some five and a half hours away, a distance that I could
make in three and a half if the winds were behind instead of in
front of me.
The Barons engines start easily
despite the brisk temperatures and the long taxi to the runways
departure end warms and readies them for the run up. I go
through the departure check list as the wind tries to whip the
control yoke from my hands, then Im ready, and I line up
on the runway and advance the throttles. I accelerate and lift
off quickly into a troubled sky and Im quickly immersed in
the murk. The trip has begun.
Direct from Philippi to
Ft Lauderdale takes you quite far out to sea and as my flight
left land behind in the Charleston, SC area, I decided to ask
for lower than my eight thousand in an effort to reduce the
relentless headwind. I asked for and received six thousand and
no sooner was I there and my ground speed had started to
increase, than I was given a turn to the west and even more into
the wind. This in order to avoid an active military area, and my
speed fell 20 knots from my speed at the higher altitude. Rats.
Passing the Florida line the afternoon thunderstorms
made their appearance and I was kept busy with the radar and
with wending my way between the cells. Ft. Lauderdale was in the
clear however, and I made the visual approach and landed.
The island of Nassau is piled with a
meringue of brilliant and blossoming clouds, the kind you know
are filled with rain and turbulence and other nasty things that
pilots try to avoid, and the controllers incessant chatter with
the areas aircraft confirmed that they have a thunderstorm
in progress. My flight path takes me directly over the island,
and my radar shows a growing protoplasm of flashing red and
yellow where my flight would go. I request a deviation for
weather from center and am granted a deviate as necessary
from the harried controller.
Now past the weather I
watch from my perch at eleven thousand feet the islands of North
Eleuthera, then Eleuthera slide by my left wing. Next Cat Island
appears and the water surrounding it starts to take on the
travel poster hue of aqua that one associates with the Bahamas.
Now the ride is smooth at eleven, with small, scattered cumulus
clouds far below and blue sky above and ahead.
always found flying at altitude to be dehydrating, especially in
the southern climes and Im well prepared today. I have a
gallon jug of water for intake and a pilots relief tube
for outgo and life, at this moment, is good. Resting on the
floor is the yellow inflatable vest that Ill slip on if
things go very wrong, and in the back is a similarly colored
four man raft.
Passing the tiny islet of Rum Cay my
ground speed is holding at 180 knots, indicating that the wind
is directly on my right wing, neither helping nor hindering my
progress. I have the Baron set for long range cruise, using just
24 gallons of fuel per hour as opposed to the 32 Id be
using at normal cruise, and at this setting my endurance is
almost seven and a half hours. My expected time to San Juan is
just over five hours, giving the comfortable reserve that I
This Baron is well set up. The gages showing the
engines vital signs are mirror images of each other and
the throttle, propeller and mixture levers line up exactly. Its
a pleasure to fly this almost new airplane and it takes me back
to the five years that I flew for Cessna Aircraft. Twins were my
responsibility and I flew them all and they all were all new.
None had more than 50 hours and most were test flight time only
airplanes, which means I got them with five hours or so on the
clock. I much prefer an airplane with a few hundred hours of
time, one that has been sorted out and tweaked by a knowing
mechanic, as this Baron has been. As it is with humans and
animals, the birth process is traumatic for airplanes too, and
they are not at their best immediately afterward.
almost four hours into the flight I pass the island of Grand
Turk, where I stopped for fuel in 1996, enroute to Puerto Rico
with Bodacious to do a month of airshows for a political party.
At about this point my ground speed drops almost 20 knots as I
fly into the influence of the Trade Winds and my estimated time
enroute grows to 5:50, but I still should land with a very good
Now at 5:15 hours into the flight I am 90
miles out from the airport of Isla Grande, where I based in 1996
and which is my destination today. The airport lies in a bay
only a stones throw from where the cruise ships dock.
passed between several building cumulus that pulsed red on the
radar, but other than minor deviations I havent been
bothered by the weather. Im close enough now to pick up
the ATIS and it gives the weather: Winds 090 at 17, Visibility
10 miles, light rain, ceiling 3,000 scattered, 5,000 scattered.
Ill take it!
Im 10 miles out now and I can see where the bay
comes curving around to form the beautiful harbor with the white
splash of down town San Juan in back of it. The airplane sinks
as I curve around to line up with runway 9 and I go through the
pre landing checklist, then double check gear down. Finally, the
Barons tires touch wet tarmac, and I am back in Puerto
Rico once more. Memories of an earlier time come rolling back
and things seem comfortable and familiar. I fuel the Baron and
arrange for its overnight lodging in the Millionaire
Hangar, then I have a cup of coffee and wait for my friend
Maria, who will pick me up.
to Part Two