A Big Trip In A Small Airplane. An Intercontinental Flight In A Four Seat Airplane
An Intercontinental Flight in a Four Seat Airplane
This is Steve writing.
We kind of dropped off the radar for some folks. Others have seen us personally. These pictures show what we have been up to over the past couple months. Where have we been and what have we been doing the past couple months? The next couple of updates will answer those questions.
I flew the turbocharged Cessna 182 (T182) from Santa Cruz Bolivia to Miami Florida. The T182 needed to go to the US for the engine and propeller to be overhauled, and for an inspection for an export certificate of airworthiness. The export certificate of airworthiness is needed to change the plane from a US registered airplane to a Bolivian Registered airplane. When the plane is Bolivian registered, it will have less restrictions on where it can fly in Bolivia.
Finishing the annual inspection was one of the major preparations for the flight to the US and it took two weeks to accomplish. The flight spanned 11 days, with 11 stops along the way, with a total of 32 hours in the air. Above is a screen shot of the route of flight.
The major defects preventing the plane from flying intercontinentally was two leaking exhaust valves. So I had to remove two cylinders for repair. This does not sound like much, but the airplane was located at the airport in the city, meaning we had to take all tools and parts there on public transportation in order to work on the plane. It slowed down the work.
While I was in the city working on the plane, Helen was alone with a newborn and a two year old back at home, packing up our stuff to move. It was tiring. You can see my motorcycle in the truck. That meant that I had to go on public transportation into the city to work on the T182. That added two hours to the commute, round trip. I had to carry tools and parts by hand about half a mile to catch the closest "bus". It was tiring.
After the T182 was fixed and flying, I did and annual inspection of the Mooney while waiting for permission from the Bolivian aviation authority to exit Bolivian airspace. During this time Timothy and James came down with colds and were not sleeping well, so we were not sleeping well. It was tiring.
Here we are about to get in the airplane to take off. At this point Helen and I now had the cold that the boys had. We got in the plane and took off. We flew for a few minutes and I noticed that with all the radios and lights on, the alternator was not charging the battery. So we turned around and landed and I fixed the problem by tightening the alternator belt. By the time I fixed the problem it was too late to leave that day. A cold front passed through and brought rainy cold weather while I was working on the plane. It was tiring working on the plane sick and in the cold.
The next day we were able to fly to Guayaramerin Bolivia with stop along the way to pick up a Bolivian missionary named Dorca who was traveling to Guyana. The airport in Guayaramerin had been hit by a storm. Above you can see the damage to the airport infrastructure. The terminal buildings had the roofs ripped off them and walls were falling down. After the storm had passed I had called the control tower and they told me that the airport was still open. So we had permission from the Bolivian aviation authority to leave Bolivian airspace from Guayaramerin only.
However, when we landed in Guayaramerin, the local news was there filming. I filed a flight plan and we went to immigration in the town to stamp out of Bolivia (immigration is at the port on the river border with Brazil). When we went back to the airport they told me that the airport was closed to international flights and that it was only open to emergency flights. The reason why they let us land there was because we often do emergency flights. They told me that I should move the airplane to another airport in a nearby town so that the airplane would not get stuck at the closed airport. So I immediate flew the plane to the airport in the nearby town of Riberalta Bolivia, 40 miles to the west.
To make a long story short we had to get Brazilian visas in order to sort out the immigration predicament we were in. We went to the Brazilian consulate in Guayaramerin and started to tell our very unusual story, but they told us that they had seen our story on news on the TV the night before. They began to expedite our application to get the visa that day, helped us through many of the steps, and even drove us in the Brazilian consulate vehicle to lunch. We were exhausted and God new that we needed some help.
We had to wait for a new permission to exit Bolivian airspace, now from the international airport in Cobija Bolivia. When the day arrived to leave Riberalta for Cobija, a cold front had passed through the night before bringing cold rainy weather with low clouds. When we arrived at the airport in Riberalta in the morning, the Bolivian Air Force security guards told me that they had been standing guard at the gate since three in the morning with only tropical gear on and blanket wrapped around them. They said they were freezing. The weather in Cobija was below minimum for an instrument approach there.
We had to wait until noon for bad weather to clear out. The warmest place to wait was for the five of us to climb in the plane. Above you can see us in the plane. I would turn on the radio every hour and ask the control tower how the weather was in Cobija. We spent five hours waiting in the plane on the airport platform. We would spend the next four days in the airplane.
By the time we made it to Cobija it was late in the afternoon. We decided to spend the night in Cobija. The leg from Cobija Bolivia to Manaus Brazil was the longest leg that I have ever flown a Cessna 182, a little over 750 nautical miles in 7.5 hours, single pilot, with no autopilot in the plane. I had to fly slow in order to have a fuel reserve upon landing in Manaus. The pilots reading this can do the math to find the average ground speed over the flight, and we had a tail wind all the way too because of the cold front from the south. If we had not had a tail wind, I think I would have had to make technical stop for fuel early in the flight.
The cold front had arrived in Manaus and the weather there was bad, but the weather was forecast to improve by the next morning. The instrument landing system in Manaus was out, so if I had not waited in Cobija, it would have meant flying a non precision instrument approach in the middle of the night in bad weather. We slept snug that night in a hotel in Cobija instead.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, that is another way to say it was a good flight.
Above on the left: At the marina on the Amazon river in Manaus. Above on the right: Arriving at the airplane to depart Manaus.
Above: Approach to landing on the island of Grenada.
Above: Flying over the Bahamas on the last leg to Miami. The were thunderstorms covering the Bahamas the day before and the day after we flew through the Bahamas.
God gave us the stamina and patience to complete this trip. We want to thank everyone who supports us through prayer and financially. Thank you for helping us do this.
The Wilson Family,
Steven, Helen, Timothy, James.
We are volunteer missionaries entirely funded by donations. 100% of your donations go directly to us and our project in Bolivia. If you'd like to be a part, we accept tax-deductible donations through Gospel Ministries International, Inc.