Monday, October 8, 2012

AOPA Journey (Part 2)

I took a day off from flying to visit the Mayan ruins in Uxmal.  It was blazing hot; But still very much worth it.

I did manage to get quite a few cool pictures during me short stay, such as the one below:

The next morning, I tried to get an early start.  But I didn't realize the intensity of the departure process.

I arrived at the airport ~ 8:30 AM with my eAPIS already filed and all my paperwork in order.

But preparation alone is not enough to get a clearance out of Mexico.  You need a healthy dose of patience!

First, I was escorted to the flight planning office, which was in the base of the control tower.  I filled out the hand written Spanish flight plan form as best I could. Then I had to patiently wait as the head planner reviewed my flight plan to determine IF it was acceptable.  After getting his blessing, I went back to the FBO to settle my bill.

I was very excited that the whole process only took ~ 25 mins and I thought I was ready to go.  But things are not that simple in Mexico!  

Apparently, you are not allowed to leave until the commandante approves.  So   I waited ~ 45 mins while the commandante scrutinized my paperwork again! Ironically, it was the same commandante that examined the exact same paperwork when I arrived!?!

Eventually, ~ 9:45, the commandante came and approved my departure and I was finally ready for departure.  

The departure was routine. Other than one Aeromexico flight in front of me, there was no other traffic on the ground or in the air.

I flew a fairly direct route over the water.  Sadly, the radar/ radio coverage in the part of the gulf was even worse than the first leg.  Merida tower and later Merida center both gave me lost coms instructions, which I followed to the letter.  Aside from lack of ATC, this flight turned out to be quite a challenging leg.

After 2 hours over water, I encountered some light icing.  

Fortunately, the TKS handled it rather easily.  After escaping the icing, things continued to get more challenging.  

I reestablished radar contact with Houston center ~ 180 miles offshore southeast of Brownsville.  There  was some nasty weather between me ad Brownsville, which forced me to detour north almost as far as Chorpus Christi to get around it.  Then Valley Approach told me to expect the Localizer backcourse approach into runway 31L!  

Yikes!  .. I hadn't seen one these approaches since my instrument training years ago and even then I never actually flew one!

So I briefed the chart repeatedly  and turned on the video camera.  I was hoping it could help me determine if I did it correctly later on the ground and also thought it would make a good Youtube video.

With R9, it turned out to be easy... But I won't know for sure if I did everything right until I review the video.

After landing, I taxied directly to customs, which was downright simple!  Officer Gomez, checked my dox planeside and had me done in just a few minutes.  Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed.

To avoid a hot start,  I asked the FBO to send the fuel truck into the secure customs ramp and they happily complied.  After a top off and some lunch, it was off to El Paso.  

During this leg, I played with the Cloud Ahoy app and really liked it!  I shared my flight on their server at the following link Cloud Ahoy Flight Recap.  This app lets you see a 3-D recap of your flight (either from the outside or from the cockpit) using a clever google earth plugin and actual flight data. 

When I landed in El Paso, I got an amazing parking spot in front of an Embraer 190:


That was enough flying for one day and I was wiped out by the time I got to the hotel.
Here is where I am in the journey now:

Almost there! (Less than 600 miles to go)!!

Cheers,
== T.J.==

3 comments:

  1. Glad you made it back to the States. It's a shame the Mexican authorities make it so ridiculous to come and go. I hope they things change for the better there someday. Until then, I will not be spending ANY time or money there. I am honestly glad that you did go and got another check mark on the bucket list! What altitude and weather conditions did you get the icing?

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  2. @Geoff: I am glad I tried it for the experience... But the Bahamas, which is your specialty is way easier and perhaps even better scenery. BTW, I appreciate flying in the US even more after each international trip!!

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  3. The sad thing is I'd REALLY like to fly to Mexico. I'd love to see the ruins. I'd love to dive in Cozumel. I just can't get past the Cartel problems and the bureaucratic ridiculousness. I have some good Merchant Marine stories from sailing into Cabo San Lucas once. Oh well.

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