Arriving in Manaus we were scheduled to land at the main international airport, however our customer event was being held at a small, aero club airport called Flores. Situated only about 6 miles southeast of the main airport, the Flores runway is only about 2,700’ long, has no control tower and no instrument approach. It’s a country-type airport that just happens to be in the middle of a city of two million people. No jets and no big airplanes here. My kind of airport.
As I neared the threshold of the runway, I couldn’t help but notice the large group of people off to the left side of the runway watching our arrival. Taxiing up to the hangar there were at least 20 people gathered. I thought – there must be some dignitary coming in – so we pulled up to the ground marshaller and shut down. As the crowd gathered around our airplane, I realized WE were the dignitary and me in my sweaty T-shirt and wrinkled walking shorts!
Still, very cool.
The next night we were treated to a typical Manaus dinner at an open air restaurant within sight of the Amazon River. After a 45 minute careening jaunt through the barrios of Manaus we finally found the restaurant. Why does everyone in Brazil drive like raving lunatics? This restaurant had no walls and only a few small fans to cool you from the sweltering humidity. The only food they served was fish from the Amazon River and I am still amazed at the size of the fish steaks that they plopped down in front of me. I didn’t actually order anything, the fish just kept appearing on my plate. The fish bones were as big as beef spare ribs and the food just kept coming. It was the most amazing fish I have ever had but finally I had to say no more. I was stuffed.
The next two days have been a whirlwind of presentations, demo flights and a lot of handshaking. The funny thing was that I am always asked where we are from, and when I say Waco, TX, I always get the same response no matter what language; “Oh we know Wacko.” Will we ever live the Branch Davidian debacle down? I try to downplay the few negatives about Waco and talk about the positives. I feel that I am an emissary of Waco and need to set the world straight and even though I am rarely successful at it, I figure what the heck, it’s a great town and I am proud of it!
Unfortunately few people here speak English and my Portuguese is even worse. So we spend a lot of time with interpreters and helping each other with common words like Obrigado (thank you), Bon Jia (good day, good morning) and Bona noche (good evening). We had over 30 people in our first presentation of the day and about 18 in our second. On our second day we had another 12-14 in the first session and 6 in the second. In the end I accepted an offer for our demonstrator airplane so although we will fly it back to Waco tomorrow, it will ultimately live in Manaus. Brazil. I also confirmed several million dollars in sales within the year, so all in all we have accomplished what we came here to do, which is good news for a lot of Blackhawk employees.
Tomorrow we begin our trek home. We are taking a slightly different return route though. From the Jungles of the Amazon, we go to Boa Vista, then to Martinique, where we will spend our last night in the Caribbean. Quite a contrast but I am sure Martinique will be another bucket list destination to mark off – even though we will be there less than 12 hours.