Flying from Guatemala to Nicaragua…
I got lucky this week…I had to fly for work to Managua, Nicaragua. So I started planning my route, checking what it would take to fly there, asked around about tips: when to fly (early morning?), route, what weather I may encounter on route, what should be my alternate, handling in Managua, etc. So after checking weather on wunderground and looking at my flightplan on Flitestar, I decided that I would go!
Route: MGGT G 436 CAT A 317 MNMG, Altitude 11,000 feet time in route 2.3 hours estimated (more on that later).
Paperwork: I decided that I would hire a handler. I had worked in the past with VIP Dispatch and used them again. Total cost to get all the permits in place about 600 QZ (+/- US$ 80).
Don’t forget oxygen. You will be flying high and although not required… you don’t want to have a headache when you have to fly an approach.
So I took off at 6 AM, IFR of course. Palen departure and then up to 11k. No mayor issue. I encountered some IFR on the route close to El Salvador but otherwise no problem. But winds of course never help and the 2.3 hour flight turned into 2.8. So plan for fuel!
Arrival in Managua: I was given the ILS 10 by Sandino Approach. Not a problem… However, the Jepp database in my GTN 750 does not list an ILS 10 approach. It lists many others but not the 10…So I had to go into the papercharts (you still print them, don’t you) and make sure that I did everything right. You don’t want to arrive in Managua for the first time and be yelled at.
I landed on a nicely painted smooth runway and was told to taxi to Rampa 1. Luckily there was already somebody waiting for me. I arrived and they welcomed me and…silence. What do you do? I asked the nice gentleman if there was somebody who could help me with the paperwork. They said of course: Pepe will help you! And Pepe (not his real name) showed up 5 minutes later. Not a problem. The only issue was: Capitan do you have a “chaleco de seguridad” (safety jacket) like the ones the motorbikes have to wear in Guatemala. I said no… Oh.., so you have to wait for the bus to drive you 50 meters to the terminal and pay US$ 20. Ok… Now I have a chaleco in my plane that says “Flightcrew” I feel important like a A380 or 787 captain.
Payments: overall I paid around US$ 200 for landing fees and informal handling payments (Use of airspace alone is US$ 100). Pepe takes Master and Visa no AMEX, please.
Then I asked about AVGAS. Pepe said I can do this for you. No problem (I had paid my handling fees already). So he arranged for a 5, yes 5 person crew to escort me to the old aeroclub de Managua where the only certified AVGAS pump was. I had to take the bus (remember the chaleco) to start the plane move the plane to the pump. US$ 12.50 per gallon!!! I pumped 15 gallons.
Flight back next day: No problem with paperwork, Pepe had solved and prepared everything for my 5 AM departure, I just had to wait for the BUS! No chaleco, remember…. And the bus driver just arrived at 5:30 AM.
I took off at 6 AM sharp, and here I was on my way at 12k back home, but weather was not nice… I saw activity on my stormscope and I asked Sandino approach for help. They told me that they no weather radar, but that nobody had complained until now (of course it was only 6 AM…). So I used my stormscope and eyes to fly around some nice buildups. Build-ups that were becoming huge Boomers once I arrived in El Salvador. The controllers in El Salvador were great they helped me deviate around the heavy stuff, although they were very busy with Avianca, Copa and others…
I made a video of the flight for everybody to enjoy…
So my flight turned into a 3 hours marathon. I arrived at 9 AM in La Aurora after my ILS 02 approach. VIP dispatch was waiting for me at the international ramp and after 5 min I was on my way back to the hangar.
May be the most important lesson (after the chaleco): Make sure you have enough fuel to lower your anxiety.
Be careful up there.