No Passport? No Problem?
Ramiro Gonzales, also known as “Speedy,” is one of our volunteers. Speedy was born in Guatemala, but has lived all his life in the US. He and his friend Bucky Mowry, are from the Columbus Ohio area. They have worked for us for at least 7 drilling seasons and have contributed trucks, equipment, and experience and energy to Water for Life.
I am not sure where Speedy got his name, but it is probably from his love for things that go fast, from auto racing when he was a young man to his current love for airplanes. This year they traveled in a new plane, a 260 Piper Comanche with speed modifications and loaded down with supplies and gifts for village folks. Bucky and Speedy. Bucky’s mom makes baby blankets all year and this year sent 60 of them for village mothers with babies. There was so much stuff to put into the plane that Speedy removed the rear seats to make room and save weight.
There is a lot of paperwork to do when you make an international flight in a small plane. Every document regarding the plane must be current and correct. The GPS system must be upgraded. The airworthiness certificate, repair records and ownership documents must be in order and available. The governments of foreign countries are very careful with small aircraft entering the country because of smuggling drugs and other contraband.
Speedy and Bucky took off from Ohio and headed south to Florida. Their point of departure for the flight across the Caribbean was Naples. And here they would make the last paperwork preparations and make sure the plane was ready. The flight across the Caribbean is 5 ½ hours to Flores Guatemala. The plane is equipped with extra fuel tanks that give total a capacity of 90 gallons.
Early in the morning they launched for the trip. It was uneventful, but there is some anxiety when you reach the point of no return. From there you cannot go back, you can only go on. But the engine keeps on with a steady roar and the only thing to do is monitor the progress on the GPS, watch the engine gauges, keep an eye on the fuel flow meters and fuel tanks, watch the altimeter and keep on going forward. It is a long way to land, but the airplane is fast, keeping up a steady 180 knots. Finally they cross the shoreline and head to Flores International Airport, where they will go through Guatemala Immigration and Customs.
After they landed and went into the office and started to do the paperwork to come on into the country, Speedy reached for his passport and it wasn’t in his pocket. In fact, it was home in his dresser drawer! In his focus on getting the airplane into the country, he had forgotten to make preparation for getting himself into the country.
For those of us who fly commercial planes, our passports are checked about 3 times to make sure we have them and that everything is in order before we leave the country, but in a small plane none of that is done. In fact, no one checked at all to see if Bucky and Speedy even had a passport when they left the USA.
He was an illegal. (at least for about 20 minutes.) The Guatemala authorities were very understanding however. They recognized Speedy from prior trips and then accepted his FAA pilots’ license. He was cleared into the country on a condition that he present his passport within 10 days. No Passport? No Problem.