Only 2000 miles to go.
I have always loved being a pilot. To me there is nothing better than being in control of a machine that goes hurdling through the air under your total control. Race car guys get excited about going 120 mph; I go faster than that on takeoff. I have been very fortunate to fly many different types of aircraft to some pretty amazing destinations. The feeling of cruising alone in the cockpit on top of a flat overcast of clouds on a full moon night, flying through the Aurora Borealis, experiencing St. Elmo’s Fire, crossing the equator, flying so high in a corporate jet that you can see stars in the middle of the day, or like today – just watching the turquois water of the Bahamas slide beneath your wings – is in a word, surreal. Being a pilot is one of the most incredible journeys known to man as far as I’m concerned. People frequently tell me how they’ve always wanted to learn to fly but it was either too expensive or they didn’t have time for it. I always tell them, there is no other thing that you can learn to do that will give you more pleasure and self-satisfaction than becoming a pilot. It doesn’t have to be a career move, it can just be a hobby that gets you up and away from the chaos of land-based craziness. A good friend, which I sold an airplane to many years ago, had a day job as a movie star. After a day on the set he would climb in his airplane and just fly. No phones, no emails, no texts. Just him and his machine, and the expanse of the world beneath him. If you have ever dreamed of learning to fly, there is no better time than now. As the Nike ad says; Just Do it!
Today is the last day of our demo tour and we will be flying all the way back to Waco with stops at Great Exuma, Ft. Lauderdale, Gulfport MS and on into Waco. Two thousand miles to go. Mike is feeling much better this morning and he seems to be back to his old self. We get a taxi and head to the Aviacion de General terminal, which of course, the taxi driver has no idea where it is. We have to explain by pointing as he doesn’t speak English.
Once again our handler, Javier, is waiting for us.
“Cap, you are on time today! Your flight plan is ready and you are fueled. How is Mr. Mike? He okay? No more ambulance okay, Cap?”
The beautiful, Maria, behind the counter smiles broadly as we come into the FBO.
“Hola Señor Allmon, como es el Señor Mike?”
He’s fine Maria. Gracias.
“Agua frio e café Señor Allmon?”
Yes, some water would be good Maria, no coffee though. Gracias.
“Adios, Señor Allmon. You come back again, okay?”
Maria, you speak English!
“Si, poquito. A leetle.”
Flight plan in hand, we climb aboard N961TP and begin the trek home. The morning air is damp but cool as we climb out of Punta Cana heading north to Exuma. Adios Punta Cana. I will definitely be back some day.
As I level off at our cruising altitude of 12,000 feet, I think back over the week and I am excited about the opportunities that we have for sales in Brazil. We took a huge financial gamble coming to Brazil, but it paid off. We not only sold our demo airplane but we sold at least one engine and probably 6-10 more. The experience of the trip was also a bucket list item that I will always remember. I recall watching the GPS go to all latitude zeros when we crossed the equator, as well as seeing the Amazon jungle and the mighty Amazon River again. The fish that we ate from the river had ribs as big as pork ribs so you know the fish were huge. The hospitality and politeness of our Brazilian hosts was truly a lesson for this American to learn.
After a quick turnaround for fuel in Exuma, Ft. Lauderdale comes into view from 40 miles off shore. I can make out the high-rise apartment buildings and hotels along the coast. It’s good to talk to controllers with an American accent. Chris is flying this leg and he lands at Ft. Lauderdale Executive airport with his usual smoothness. We park at Customs and haul our bags in for inspection. The Customs agent glances at our bags, scans our passports, looks us over a few times and says “welcome home gentlemen.” Not even a cursory peek at our airplane. We load back up and taxi over to Banyan Aviation for fuel and food before we head on to Gulfport.
Since this is Saturday the firing and military ranges south of Eglin and Tyndal Air Force bases are “cold” so we are cleared direct across the gulf from Lakeland to Gulfport. We land and refuel at Gulfport, and two and a half hours later Waco appears in the windshield. We touch down at 10:30 pm at Waco Regional Airport after 16 hours of travel time since we left the hotel in Punta Cana.
It’s been a long and exciting week but we are glad to be home.
I want to thank my team in Waco who helped with the planning and execution of this amazing trip. Cristina Uptmore and Linda Hill made sure we had all of our marketing materials and gift bags ready and loaded while ensuring we had catering set up, agendas organized, immunizations, Visas, passports and my book of permits, reservations and all the other documentation needed for such a journey. Edwin Black, Bobby Patton and Hudson Rodriguez in Brazil, who made sure we invited as many owners as we could to our presentations. Special thanks to my maintenance guys who worked overtime to insure that the airplane was in top mechanical condition to fly over hundreds of miles of ocean and, especially, Brad Waters, who worked late at night painting the cowl to give us the professional image that we are known for. Thanks to Lisa Sifuentes at our marketing and advertising firm, BDN, in Mesa, AZ, who helped with the website blogs, mass mailers, email blasts and magazine reporters who covered the event in Manaus. Thanks to Universal Weather who handled all of our stops, paperwork, flight plan filing, handling and fueling. Wilson and Abrao who provided translating services and helped coordinate everything in Manaus.
And finally, thanks to my flight crew; Co-Captain Chris Dunkin and Flight Maintenance Chief Mike Moore. These gentlemen embody the very essence of professionalism and skill. Without them the trip would have never happened.
President & CEO