Bucky and Speedy finished the work they had done in the Poptun area and made plans to fly to El Salvador to check on the well at the International Children’s Care orphanage there. We have been trying to help them for about two years and Bucky wanted to personally check on the repairs another volunteer, Steve Marstaller, had made on the old rig that was there.
They landed at Guatemala City, paid the landing fee, the ramp fee and the departure fee and filed a flight plan and took off toward El Salvador. When they were about 20 miles from San Salvador airport, they called to ask permission to land. There was no response for a few minutes, and then they were told that permission was denied. They asked again while they circled some distance away from the airport and were denied again. They were told that if they landed without permission they would be fined US $10,000. The plane would probably be impounded until they paid the fee. They tried to explain and beg, but it was to no avail. Permission was denied. They had no choice but to fly back toward Guatemala City.
When they got back in Guatemala airspace they again sought permission to fly to Topachula where aircraft transit customs office was located. Permission was denied. They were told they had to land at Guatemala City and close the flight plan they had opened. There would be additional fees for the landing and fees to park and another departure fee.
As they got closer to the city, Speedy could see the cloud cover was very heavy. He called on the radio and begged to be allowed to go on to Topachula. He told them they were in the soup and could not continue with the visual flight rules. Permission was denied again. To aid them, the control tower said they could continue with visual flight and the control tower would give them vectors (verbal directions) to make the approach.
This was not a very good idea. Guatemala City airport is at about 4500 feet and there are 8000 foot mountains around it. A mistake would be deadly. Bucky had a portable GPS unit with terrain warnings and so they began to use it to make the approach. They were in the clouds and Speedy was on instruments. He told Bucky to keep looking out the window for the ground and to sing out when he had the ground in sight. He slowly descended to about 800 ft above ground and then Bucky yelled that he could see the ground. They circled for the final approach and landed, where they again faced the customs fees, inspections fees, landing fees and parking fees.
The next day they filed a plan, paid the fees and departed Guatemala City for the USA. Glad to be leaving the land of the fee, and going back to the home of the brave.
They certainly are the brave.
Come and join us next season and have an adventure yourself with us.