Windy day – E of Pacaya vs. Palin

Anyone who has learnt flying in Guatemala knows Caobanal. It is the number one training site for both planes and helicopters. Caobanal is almost exactly south from La Aurora, east of Escuintla right next to the Autosafari Chapin (After takeoff to the south and left turn you will be able to see giraffes in Guatemala). I have probably done 80% of my flight training in or around Palin, including my first solo and the private pilot check ride. If it weren’t for the vulcano Pacaya a straight flight would do. You somewhat have to go around Pacaya, either through the Canyon of Palin or via E(cho) of Pacaya and Santa Elena Barillas.


For Palin fly 6,500 or 8,500 Ft from La Aurora towards Escuintla and 7,500 or 9,500 back to La Aurora. Note that the visual approach from the south west requires you to be under 6,200 near Atitlan to ensure seperation from instrument traffic. With strong winds it can definately get shaky especially towards the exit near Escuintla. Make sure to be tightlybuckled up.

E(cho) of Pacaya

You will fly E of Pacaya from La Aurora towards Caobanal 7,500 or 9,500 and 6,500 or 8,500 back to La Aurora. This is definately the shorter route to Caobanal. The terrain is higher and therefore you will have less seperation. In my experience the winds can be pretty tough. They seem to pick up along the Cartera Salvador and can get pretty strong the entire ride from Santa Elena Barillas to Caobnal.

The Verdict
From my personal experience I will chose Palin over E of Pacaya on windy days. Palin provides more terrain seperation and therefore a higher margin. Also when flown high can provide a relatively smooth ride even on windy days. Whenever La Aurora reports 14 kts or above, I fly Palin despite the detour to Caobanal. At strong winds I will fly at 8,500 Ft. This has worked out fine for me. Remember to buckle up tighly and slow down to maneuvering speed when hitting rough air. A pilot friend never gets tired to remind me that the most important turn a pilot has to know is the 180 turn. You can always turn around if there is too much wind.

Hopefully you will find this useful and will share your feedback with the community!

3 Responses to Windy day – E of Pacaya vs. Palin

  1. Pingback: New Article – which way to Caobanal? Palin or E of Pacaya? | Guatemala Skies

  2. Oscar Avalle says:

    Really a great site! I would love to meet you in person (may be I already did, but I did not know that you were writing these blogs.).


  3. Juan J. Reyes says:

    Recientemente , recibiendo instrucción y saliendo por Palín, nos tocó rachas de 20kts y sinceramente con mis 5 hrs de instrucción acumuladas a ese día, me pareció una experiencia no muy agradable los vientos del cañón. Exactamente como sugerís, apretar el cinturón a donde más dá, hasta salir de ese tramo! Considero que es “apropiado” volar bajo esas condiciones, para entender que no siempre las condiciones de vuelo serán “placenteras”. Saludos Alex, estamos platicando.

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