Sunday, February 22, 2009

La Ceiba to San Jose, Costa Rica Jan 11

The fuel stop in La Ceiba forced a vertical climb to 10,000' in order to clear the mountains, and go on course. Then it was on up to 11,000', my assigned altitude from the center controller (Toncontin). It would have been expiditios to do a slow climb from Roatan, and be at cruising altitude before getting to La Ceiba. C'est la vie.

This section of the flight was over dense clouds, but there were large holes over the valleys, displaying plenty of emergency fields to land in. Once again I was comfortable, flying so high and having many options in case of engine problems.

You can see that Honduras is very mountainous, but landing areas abound (for an aircraft that weighs 700lbs, lands at 40kts, and only needs 400 feet).

Back over a fairly solid cloud deck.
Another great feature of the Lambada is the ability to descend at slow speed with the spoilers out, giving a steep descent angle. We can descend through small holes that a faster aircraft is not able to negotiate.

There were 3 airfields shown on the map in this area. Many of the fields have the notation "Not Useable" which pertains to the drug war and the bulldozing of airstrips by the government in a failed attempt to halt drug trafficing. All it halted was the elimination of general aviation.

The large city of Tegucigalpa.

You can see the yellow highlighted route. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Pacific Ocean! This is my second coast to coast flight in a Lambada.

Soon after entering Nicaraguan airspace, the smoking volcano named San Cristobal loomed off my starboard wing 10 miles off the designated airway. I called Managua Center and requested permission to take a closer look and take some pictures, and he said "sure". (Well, that's not the exact wording). So I descended to 8,000' to take a good look.

This has to be the most awesome volcano I have ever flown over.

Nicaragua is full of volcanos.

Crossing Lago de Managua

And then across Lago de Nicaragua

I love taking these sparkling wing photos.

After crossing into Costa Rica, the landscape changed abruptly from brown and mountainous to green rolling hills with lower, more rounded mountains.

Approaching San Jose, Costa Rica.
La Ceiba to San Jose took 4.5hrs to cross 450nm of the most varied, awesome terrain I have ever crossed in one flight. The whole trip was one to treasure always, and I am grateful to new owner David Stewart for letting me bring his Lambada to him. He is sure to have many adventures in his beautiful country in the Lambada.
The entire trip from Melbourne to San Jose took 13.7hrs and covered 1387nm. The Lambada burned a total of 52 gallons of 93octane unleaded automotive fuel (mogas) and 100LL.
An around the world flight looks more possible all the time. After all, it is only 20 of these flights strung together!

Roatan to La Ceiba, Honduras on Jan 11

The next morning, Jay and I left at dawn for a short dinghy ride in light rain. Thankfully, the only rain of the trip. It was a small cell, and the weather outlook was good. I took a taxi to the airport, and went through another hour of paperwork. Even though Roatan is an international airport, there was no fuel! So that necessitated a short hop to the mainland to La Ceiba, 43nm away, for fuel. I didn't want to fly 500nm without a good plan to land for fuel, and didn't want to pay more landing fees and go through hours of paperwork.

Leaving Roatan, we buzzed Jupiter's Smile, in the middle of the photo. Note the brown colored reef just off the stern.

Arriving in La Ceiba brought out the usual onlookers. They had fuel here.

Honduras is a very mountainous country, and this shot is taken looking directly on the courseline yet to follow.

Circling in lift, climbing up to departure height of 10,000' before crossing the mountains.

There are mountains hiding in those clouds!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Jupiter's Smile

Cruising friends Barb and Jay Matheson on their 37' Island Packet, Jupiter's Smile, needed a new battery charger before they could leave Roatan, and head south. Since Roatan was sort of on the way, I offered to bring it down to them, which they readily accepted. Then other friends wanted parts too, and we just managed to get it all into the Lambada. So after landing and clearing into Honduras, we took a taxi to their boat. Jay and I snorkled for an hour on a fantastic reef right off the back of their boat. We didn't even need the dinghy.

Barb (left) and friend relax in the cockpit of Jupiter's Smile.
Jay (foreground) and Bryan look over the new boat parts.

Perfect anchorage at West End, Roatan

After snorkeling and beers, we headed to "town" for dinner. It was a perfect moonlit night, and we could see the bottom 10' under the dinghy. We stopped at Bryan's boat for afterdinner drinks, then back to Jupiter's Smile. I slept like soundly on the gently rocking boat.

Cozumel to Roatan, Honduras

Leaving Cozumel
Flying down the Mexican and Belize coastlines, I didn't need to be so high in order to glide to land should the engine act up. Once again we were blessed with light winds, producing a good groundspeed. As usual, the flight followed an airway, with center control all the way. So the 21.9nm distance to waypoint is to the next airway intersection.

This is an airstrip off of Northern Cay, off the coast of Belize. I couldn't land here (unless it was an emergency) even though it looked inviting, because it wasn't on the flight plan and it isn't an international airport with customs to clear me into the country. But man, what an awesome place this would be to sail to! Shortly after crossing this island, center gave me permission to fly direct to Roatan. That shaved off a few miles, but it also put me directly into the wind, and the ground speed dropped to 95kts.

Approaching the northern coast of Roatan.

Flying over the southern coast of Roatan.
I had my marine radio out, and called my friend Jay on his boat Jupiter's Smile. I wanted to buzz him on the way in. But he had been following the flight on the Sky Tracker, and knew where I was. He and Barb and friends were at the airport waiting for me.
Leg distance: 290nm Flight time: 3hrs

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rest stop in Cozumel

This is the courtyard of the motel.
It would have been possible to make the next leg as well, except for the time it took to do the paperwork (almost as long as the flight) which was built into the plan. So after a short taxi ride to the motel, it was time to take in the town.

Some rather large boats dock here.

OK, here I am. Proof that I was actually on this flight, and not making it up like they did with the moon landings.

Scuba diving sculpture

Fellow divers heading out. The man in the street only wanted $20 (after a bit of bargaining) to fill his last seat in the boat. I had just finished a large meal of enchiladas, so a weight belt wasn't needed. The diving was just ok, but to be in Cozumel after a great flight, and looking forward to the next day, I certainly wasn't complaining.

Key West to Cozumel

January 8. Leaving Key West, with the Tortugas off my right wing. We had a 15kt tailwind, so delayed climbing high into less favorable winds. There were plenty of boats around, and the plane was running smooth. The countries I would be landing in or flying over were given their 72 hour notice, with explicit flight plans. Miami Center told me I could take the shortcut right over the western tip of Cuba.

But an hour later I was handed off to Havana Center, and she told me to turn to a heading of 270 degrees and stay on that course for the next 100 miles. So much for the shortcut. I have heard that some people drop leaflets which drift over the country. One such plane was shot down. So I obeyed Havana Center.

10,500', 96kts indicated, with a ground speed of 114kts. Life is good! We are approaching the intersection 55nm ahead which Havana Center told me to fly to in order to avoid the "inner" Cuban airspace. The outer Cuban airspace goes half way to Houston, and apparently does not pose a problem. Boats were frequent, and I had a 406mhz EPIRB (the boater version of an ELT), life jacket, marine radio, and a 30 to 1 glide ratio. The distance from the west tip of Cuba to Cancun is 100 miles. At the half way point, I would be at the furthest distance from land, or 50 miles. I transited that stretch at 12,500', and therefore could glide 60 miles. So I was very comfortable making this journey.

Closing in on Cancun, the clouds started to tower, but as you can see, it was no problem to steer around them.

Crossing the coast into Cozumel (MMCZ). 3.5 hrs, 382nm. Cleared customs, immigration, El Commandante del Aeropuerto, flight service to close the flight plan, fuel (cash only), immigration (he forgot to stamp one document), flight service again for some unknown reason, and then I was free to leave the airport. Got a motel room a block from the water, and then lucked into a cheap seat in a snorkle boat, and snorkled for 2 hours. What a great way to loosen up! Even got to go face to face with a rather large moray eel. All in all, a day to remember.