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COPA Mayan Adventure, Gautemala

by on Mar.30, 2019, under Flying

This year COPA Central America Adventure Trip focused on exploring Mayan history and culture and included visits to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the first in Tikal, Guatemala. We again had Caribbean Sky Tours (CST), organize and escort our trip. We had a full complement of COPA aircraft this year including an SF50 Cirrus Jet along with Cirrus SR20 and 22’s. Groups departed the U.S., one from Brownsville, Texas the other Key West, Florida. Joyce and I flew with the five planes flying the 650 miles across the Gulf of Mexico landing in Guatemala, near the village of Flores. The Key West group met for dinner at a COPA favorite restaurant, Louie’s Backyard for a great dinner under the stars. The next morning, Sunday, March tenth,  we flew to the north of Cuba, then over Cozumel, down to down to Belize City then west to Flores. We are met by CST handlers whisked through customs and immigration into vans and off to our hotel.   Our hotel is the fabulous Las Lagunas resort with rooms over the water and the central building overlooking an infinity pool and the lake. We start our visit with a cool cerveza, relax then meet with our total group for our inaugural cocktails and dinner.

The next morning we enjoy a great breakfast prepared to order with a stunning view of Quexil lagoon. We meet our guide then depart for the one hour trip to Tikal National Park a magnificent archeological site. This was the center of the Mayan civilization. There are 4000 structures identified, most remain covered by the jungle. We will visit the center and most important structures. Our guide reminds us that the Mayans built these structures without metal tools or any animals to assist them. We explore the ruins with our guides in a trek through the jungle ending with an outdoor lunch of local dishes.

In the afternoon there are lots of options including the spa, a museum at the hotel, the pool or the hot tub in your room overlooking the lake (our choice). We meet for cocktails and another great dinner.

The next day there are a number of options including exploring the lake and visiting monkey island. Being interested in nature photography I had a great time photographing monkeys. After the boat tour, the majority travel into the village of Flores which is on an island on the nearby lake Peten Itza which is accessible by a causeway. This is our second visit so we just enjoy the museum, resort pool and our hot tub after a great lunch at the hotel.

That evening after our flight briefing by Rick Gardner, our leader from CST we have cocktails and yet another great dinner at Las Lagunas. In the morning we are off to Campeche, Mexico. With all of our aircraft together its a pretty impressive flight line, with the SF50 right up front.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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COPA Mayan Adventure, Mexico

by on Mar.30, 2019, under Flying

Wednesday morning we bid farewell to Los Lagunas, after another great breakfast overlooking Quexil lagoon. Our handlers have us through departure quickly, flight plans in hand for our first leg to Cozumel where we will clear Mexican customs. Its a beautiful flight along the coast on the route we were supposed to take coming in. We see the inlets where fresh water from underground rivers mixes with salt water that was used by pirates as a hiding place during the Spanish period. Cozumel turn around is uneventful and we are on to Campeche, where no ATIS, gusty quartering winds, plus low-level wind shear make for an interesting landing. We are quickly off to the Hacienda Puerta Campeche which is inside the old walled city and very quaint. We meet for dinner after settling in and cocktails in the hotel bar.

Thursday after breakfast we meet our guide Felix who starts his description at the city land gate across the street from our hotel. We then take the one hour trip to the Edzna Mayan archeological site which dates back to 600 BC and was a center for ceremony and trading for the area. Unlike Tikal, this site was built in an arid region and did not have to be excavated from the jungle so it is better preserved. We make a brief stop to taste local cornbread made in a charcoal oven, very tasty. The Edzna ruins are very impressive and Felix educates us about all aspects of Mayan history. After the ruins, we stop for lunch at the Hacienda Uayamon an estate dating back to 1700. After we return we have time to explore Campeche on our own or relax at our hotel, before dinner on our own. In our case, we dined at an excellent local restaurant, Marganzo, serving traditional regional cuisine and Mayan dishes.

Friday after breakfast we do a walking tour of Campeche, walking through the local market, not necessarily your supermarket at home. We also visit churches, the square, and both history and archeological museums. We have lunch at a local street restaurant and then relax, pack, before the briefing for our flight back and our final dinner together. –

This was a great group of COPA pilots and partners from all over the united states including Oregon, California, Texas, Washington DC, South Carolina, and Florida. We had a great time, saw some amazing things and beautiful places. The first group departed for Brownsville, Texas and beyond and the second to Key West back across the Gulf of Mexico. In our case, after clearing customs, we overnighted in Fort Lauderdale to celebrate our older daughters birthday before returning home on Sunday. Really an outstanding trip thanks to COPA, Caribbean Sky Tours, a great group of COPA people plus the excellent warm hospitality of Las Lagunas in Guatemala and Hacienda Puerta Campeche in Mexico.

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Jordan Revealed

by on Jan.26, 2019, under Happenings


January 13, 2019


We flew from Cairo to the Jordanian capital of Amman which was an extension of the Wendy Pangburn’s (PI) YPO Egypt trip. Twenty-eight of the original group plus a couple who joined us made our group thirty in total experiencing the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. We were met by our two excellent Jordanian guides, Zak Salameh and Majdi Saleem. Amman is a clean, more modern city with more orderly traffic than Cairo with one-sixth the population. Our first stop was the Citadel which is at the center of the city on one of the hills upon which Amman was built. The Citadel is important because it has a history of being occupied by many great civilizations. There is evidence from pottery excavated of use during the Neolithic period (12000 years ago). Monuments show the historical names of Amman including Philidelphia. The prominent structures include the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church and the Domed Umayyad Palace.





January 13, 2019


We then traveled by bus to our hotel the Kempinski Ishtar Resort on the shore of the Dead Sea. The hotel complex is amazing and we enjoyed a little downtime although the windy cool conditions precluded a float on the famed Dead Sea. We worked out in the hotel gym which shocked our bodies back to reality before of course more cocktails and dinner.



January 14, 2019


After breakfast, we boarded our bus with the first stop being the site on the Jordan river where according to the bible Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The Al-Maghats ruins are located on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River that includes ruins of churches, baptism ponds, as well as pilgrim and hermit dwellings. Thirty yards across the river is Israel and a baptism location which was in use at the time of our visit. There is also a new church on the site for worshipers on the Jordan side of the river.



We then traveled to Mount Nebo the highest point in this part of the ancient kingdom of Moab. In the Bible, Mount Nebo is the mountain where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land. This is also the place where Moses died and was buried. The Franciscans have excavated the site and in 1993 completed the Memorial Church of Moses. They have incorporated mosaics from the ancient basilica that occupied the site. There is a cave stone used to close cave dwellings from biblical times on display on the approach to the church.



From Mount Nebo we continued the short distance to the City of Madaba, known as the “mosaice city”. The city is on the site of a very ancient settlement. In 1881 settlers discovered mosaics buried beneath the rubble. The most famous is the unique partial map of the Holy Land in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. We visited the church prior to having a fun lunch at a Jordanian restaurant.



After lunch, we traveled to the ancient city of Petra and checked into our unique hotel which was originally built by the Bedouins. The next morning we got an unauthorized 5:00 AM wake up call with the call to prayer from the nearby mosque.


 



January 15, 2019


After breakfast, we visited one of the new Seven Wonders of the world. Petra is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock faces by the Nabataeans, who settled there more than 2000 years ago. The Nabataeans, prospered taking advantage of the location at an important junction for the silk, spice and key commodities trade routes that linked China, India, and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Rome. The entrance to the city is through the “Siq” a narrow gorge, which is flanked on either side by soaring cliffs. The Siq has tombs and temples carved on the cliff sides as well as an amphitheater and advanced water control and distribution system. With sea trade supplanting overland transport Petra faded, but it was rediscovered in 1812 and has become Jordan’s number one tourist attraction. The film “The Last Crusade” with Indiana Jones that was filmed in Petra didn’t hurt tourism, but the place exceeds its hype. Petra is truly a wonderful wonder.



Faces of Petra



 


January 16, 2019


After breakfast, we left Petra and headed south towards Aqaba, a city on the Jordan/Saudi Arabia border location of the world-famous Wadi Rum. It is an amazing desert landscape made up of monolithic rock formations that rise up from the desert floor to heights of 5740 feet. It was made famous by being the place where Prince Faisal Bin Hussein and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia ) headquartered during the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. This where the movie Lawrence of Arabia was filmed as well as the recent film “The Martian”. We explored by four-wheel vehicle and saw the narrow gauge train like the one that Lawrence targeted and viewed the unique landscape. We had tea in a Bedouin tent and lunch cooked in the traditional Bedouin style under the sand.



After lunch, which got a little gritty when a sand storm started, we began our drive back to Amman. The sand storm intensified, then turns into a thunderstorm, then a hail storm and finally as we entered Amman a snow storm. We checked into the Four Seasons and showered the sand out of our hair, had dinner and then after a little weather based uncertainty took four-wheel vehicles to the airport to catch our one AM flight back to the United States through Paris. What an incredible adventure!


 

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Egypt Revealed

by on Jan.22, 2019, under Happenings


We traveled to Eygpt as part of a trip sponsored by the YPO group and organized by Wendy Pangburn principle of Pangburn International (PI). The people on the trip and the PI team were absolutely great, with outstanding guides (Egyptologist), lecturers and information resources. This was not just a fabulous sightseeing experience it was an in-depth educational opportunity. We arrived a day early, and checked into the famous Mena House Hotel. The next day (normal arrival day) we had a bonus excursion to the village of Saqqara. There we saw the oldest stone structures in Egypt, the Step Pyramids 2700 BC, the tomb of Pharaoh Zoser, the Saqqara temple complex and a local rug weaving school. That evening at the opening reception and dinner the keynote speaker was Dr. Zahi Hawass, former Egyptian minister of Antiquities and world-renowned archaeologist.


January 6, 2019



January 7, 2019


The next day we visited the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and got a preview tour of the new Grand Egyptian Museum. We started at the largest pyramid the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu built between 2560 and 2580 BC. It is 481 feet high and the base is 756 feet square. It is constructed of 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite. There are three other smaller pyramids in the complex, tombs of son and grandson of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure as well as pharaoh’s wives.



We then visited the Khufu ship which is an intact full-size vessel (143 feet long 19.6 feet wide) from ancient Egypt that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid. The ship now is preserved in the Giza Solar boat museum.



Next Stop the Sphinx



The new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) under construction will be 5,000,2000 square feet, housing 125,000 artifacts. We did a preview tour of the construction and some of the exhibits under development.



Finally we toured the current Egyptian Museum



The first day ended with dinner Nile riverside with Professor Salima Ikram and students from American University in Cairo. Quite a first day.


January 8, 2019


We checked out of our hotel and go by bus through the chaotic Cairo traffic to the airport. On our way, we pass by miles of blighted buildings, evidence of a weak economy and/or failed government programs. We boarded our chartered Jet for the short flight to Luxor (Thebes in ancient times) on the Nile. We boarded our home for the next few days, the Sanctuary Nile Adventurer. After lunch, we explored the Temple complex of Karnak. The complex covers over 200 acres and was in constant expansion and use for over 2000 years. It is considered one of the most sacred sites in Egypt. We visited the main restored area, that is connected by the avenue of the Sphinx. Other parts of the avenue are being excavated that connects to a secondary complex that we visited as the sun sets. The complex is across the Nile from the Tombs of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens.



January 9, 2019


We crossed the Nile in local boats for our visit to the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. Specifically, we will visit King Tuts and Rameses VI Tomb as well as Queen Nefertari’s Tomb. We passed by Queen Nefertari’s Temple and the Colossi of Memnon. Whereas the Pharaohs in the north built pyramids to house their tombs in the south, they dug the burial chambers into the sandstone mountains. There are 62 tombs identified in the Valley of the Kings, numbered in the sequence of discovery. For more information about the Tombs go to http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/ The most famous is number 62 King Tuts, which contained a trove of artifacts, primarily because it was overlooked by tomb robbers. King Tut was historically a minor king since he lived only to age 19. In the afternoon we cruised south on the Nile to the next stop which is the city of Esna.



January 10, 2019


On our cruise to Esna, we got a good view of the Nile river valley, two things that strike you is how narrow the fertile area is adjacent the river and that every village has a mosque with a minaret usually broadcasting. In Esna, we focused on the Greco-Roman Temple of Khnum. The Temple was completed around 250 AD and features 24 beautifully decorated pillars and the walls covered with reliefs. On the western exterior façade, we saw reliefs showing the god Horus (god of Victory) as well as Khnum (god of creation). The surrounding site is being dug out and there are markets catering to tourists around the excavated temple site.






In the evening its dress like an Egyptian night, and after cocktails and dinner our boat crew introduces us to Egyptian dancing. FUN!!



January 11, 2019


Overnight we cruised to the city of Kom Ombo and in the morning visited the Temple with the same name. This Temple is for the worship of two gods, Sobek: the crocodile god, and Horus the falcon god. This is a classic temple design of the Greco Roman period but made up of two parallel temples. The design starts with huge entrance structures, opening into pillared courtyards, leading to the ceremonial chamber at the back of the complex.




We then had lunch as we sail to Aswan our last stop. After lunch, we go by bus to the Philae Temple, which was rescued from underwater. After a cofferdam was built it was dismantled (40,000 pieces) and moved then reassembled on nearby Agilkia island. We then experienced a sail on the traditional Egyptian sailing boat called a felucca. After the sail we had tea at the famous Cataract Hotel at sunset before returning to the Nile Adventurer. That evening we heard from Ambassador Karim Haggag regarding Egypt’s perspective of the U.S.






January 12, 2019


We left our floating hotel and boarded our chartered Jet to Abu Simbel, the site of the Abu Simbel Temples. The Temples were built by Ramses II one of the longest reining Pharaohs in 13 century BC. The walls depict the pharaoh in his various exploits and next door is the temple dedicated to his favorite wife, Nefertari. The temples were originally carved out of the mountainside. The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968, to an artificial mountain high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir to save it from submersion in Lake Nasser, once the dam was complete.




We re-boarded our jet and flew to Cairo for our last night in Egypt. On the way in from the airport we had a special treat, a private tour of Abdeen Palace. The palace was built in 1863 by order of King Ismail. It was the scene of the bloodless Coup staged by the military that ousted the last Egyptian king Farouq I in 1952. The refurbished 500 room palace has been visited by heads of state and is not open to the public. Our group was the first, non-government group to receive a tour.



After the tour, we had our last dinner in Egypt at the U.S. Embassy. The next day some returned home or continued elsewhere on their own and we join the part of the group that continues on to Jordan.

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Thanksgiving 2018

by on Nov.23, 2018, under Family

Spring Island from the Cottage

The family started gathering at the Chechessee cottage on the Monday before Thanksgiving with Jennifer, Mike, and Alexandra arriving from Florida. Tuesday Caitlin and Kinsey arrived with Gil and Joyce and Heidi, Gary and Brenn completed the gathering Thanksgiving morning. Thanksgiving day was typical with lots of activities, starting with some working out at Spring Island, games, cooking, eating, additional games, football watching, more eating, more games, talking, relaxing, more eating, more cooking, giving Thanks and then feasting. It was a great Thanksgiving day surrounded by several days of family fun.

Black Friday activities started with exercise for everybody with some heading to the gym and others entering the 5K at Spring Island. Once that was done we resumed the eating, games, football watching Missouri won big, and there was some shopping. Gary left to coach his football team, who are in the playoffs. All but Gary went to the Oyster Roast at Spring Island for dinner.

 

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2018 October Flying trip

by on Oct.27, 2018, under Flying

We had planned a flying trip in August but Joyce had an accident that sidelined us, so we made up for lost time with a trip to the Greenbrier in West Virginia and then on to Williamsburg, Virginia. Hurricane Micheal blocked our return to Hilton Head so we made an unplanned trip to Dayton for two days before returning home. It all worked out just fine. We started by joining our flying friends at the 2018 Greenbrier COPA fly-in. This was organized by Rhonda and Mike Thomlinson of the COPA NE Region and was well attended. Joyce and I toured the cold war bunker on Thursday, October 4th, there was an opening cocktail and dinner party, lots of things to do, including a cave tour, plus the great amenities of the resort. We took advantage of the gym to counter the ample calories being consumed and just enjoyed the camaraderie with other COPA pilots. The weather was beautiful and a good time was had by all.

 

On Sunday we flew on to Williamburg, Virginia and stayed at the fabulous Williamsburg Inn. The colonial town of Williamsburg has been restored to its original condition and people in period costume tell the story of life in those times. It is extremely well done and you experience that time in history, on location in the tavern, tinsmiths shop, shoemaker, barber, silversmith shop and all the places of daily life.  We then viewed other parts of the town including the armory, where a cannon was fired, and the local fife and drum unit march at sunset. We also visited the Colonial Governors mansion and the then Colonial Capital of Virginia. Overall it was interesting, educational two days with a lot of walking.

On Wednesday morning we decided that the weather in South Carolina due to then tropical storm Micheal wasn’t going to be fun so we flew to Dayton, Ohio to visit friends and hang out while the weather past. On Friday we flew back to Hilton Head with a good tail wind and beautiful weather. It was a fun week and due to our magic Cirrus carpet, we did it in comfort and style.

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Florence/Tuscany 2018

by on Jun.13, 2018, under Happenings

Since we decided to got to the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Associations European Migration in Rome we added a week in Tuscany. We arrived in Florance on Friday after a long flight with two stops, so the rest of the day was relaxing and do a little sightseeing then dinner at the hotel.  We stayed at a fantastic small boutique hotel right on the Piazza S. Maria Novella, and a short walk to the incredible Piazza Duomo (Religious Center). We had visited Florence before so we didn’t have to see the must-see tourist sights, so the plan was to soak in more of the culture and of course, partake of the great Tuscan food and wine. On Saturday we started the process with a “Culinary Tour of Florence”. Our delightful guide Barbra introduced us to everything from local truffle sandwiches, to finally Gelato, with lots of interesting things in between including tripe and local wines, olive oil, pastry, cheese, and on and on. We passed a steak restaurant where the minimum thickness is four fingers (three and a half inches) and rare is the only choice.  We continued our tour through the Medici seat of government and viewed the famous statues in the Piazza Signoria then over the famous Ponte Vecchio, once a meat market known for its smell and finally on to our gelato.  One interesting site is the Medici Justice statue, no blindfold, and a sword. The plaque essentially says “I’m Cosmos Medici and justice is in my eyes and I have the sword to carry it out”. We spent the afternoon walking off the morning calories doing more sightseeing including the Medici chapel/museum. The evening we dined at Il Cibreo a very special Florentine restaurant.

Our next day adventure started with a “Florentine Cooking Class” with our chef/teacher Laura of www.cookinginflorence.com. This turned out to be great fun and we learned and prepared brochette, Pici pasta, chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella, and Terra Ma Sue. Then we added a little Tuscan wine, music by Boclli and we ate the whole thing for lunch. Delicious, educational and great fun.

A little more walking off the calories, then a tour “off the beaten path” by golf cart. Our guide, who was a delightful character, entertained us with little-known historical facts and hidden treasures of Florence.  One piece of Medici gossip was the fact that one married a Hapsburg daughter and they made sure everyone knew by decorating the city hall with Viennese scenes. We finished the golf cart tour high above Florence with a breathtaking view of the city, from S. Miniato al Monte. We then boarded a boat on the Arno for a sunset cruise. We finished the day with dinner at the 100-year-old family run restaurant, Bucas Mario, featuring traditional Florentine recipes.

The next day our driver guide Simon picked us up at the hotel and drove us into Tuscany. We first toured the lovely medieval hill-town of San Gimignano. We explored this walled town with perfectly preserved towers and building with a wonderful view of the countryside. We then drive to a winery for a relaxed lunch and wine tasting, (and buying) experience. After lunch, we meet our local guide in the beautiful city of Siena who takes us on a walking tour of this fabled medieval city, including the remarkable shell-shaped Piazza del Campo-home of the famous Palio horse race and Unique Gothic-Romanesque Duomo. Finally, we drive out into the countryside to our hotel/castle, Castello di Casole, where we will stay while in Tuscany. Our hotel turns out to be a real gem on a hill overlooking the beautiful countryside of Tuscany.

On Tuesday Simon picked us up at the hotel for a day of learning about Chianti wine. We Began with an excursion to Panzano, then a visit to a historic abbey cellar. We then had another light Tuscan lunch accompanied by Italian wines.

Wednesday our great driver/guide picked us up again and we were off to the town of Montalcino. Montalcino is important in that it is the capital of the legendary Brunello wine region. We explore the winding streets and medieval walls and fortress with a great view of the Tuscan hills. Brunello is made from Chianti grapes, but they produce a very different wine in this region. We then visit a local winery for a tour, tasting, and lunch. We add some Brunello to our cellar to accompany the Chianti we purchased earlier. After lunch we decide to visit one last village in Tuscany, Pienza, finishing our Tuscany exploration with a celebratory Gelato before heading back to our hotel for our last night dinner of real pizza and Tuscan wine.

Tuscany was wonderful, Culture, Food and Wine and wonderful places and people. Tomorrow we drive to Rome to meet flying friends and visit a great city. It will be hard to beat the unique ambiance and character of Tuscany. If it’s not obvious by now, we love Italy, Italian food, and Italian wine.

 

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Rome

by on Jun.13, 2018, under Happenings

On Thursday, we were driven from Castello di Casole to Rome. It’s a beautiful drive and we arrived in time for lunch. Our hotel was the Marriott Park near the International Airport since the majority of those attending the European Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association “Migration” planned to fly in. I said planned because only five of the planes ended up having parking spots in Rome and the rest of the planes were spread all over Italy. Turns out we could have stayed downtown which would have been much more convenient. It was a fun three days, starting with a group dinner at the hotel, then the next day was a bus tour of Rome, lunch, then an afternoon to explore the city on foot. We took this opportunity to visit one of our favorite places the Piazza Navona, for a cool beverage and watching the daily spectacle. Friday evening was the Gala Dinner, then Saturday there were excellent seminars in the morning and after lunch an optional walking tour of the city and dinner. It was great to see old friends and make new ones while visiting one of the great cities of the world.

Sunday we flew back to the United States in what turned out to be a very long day due to flight delays. We finally got home and started the mandatory diet after a great ten days of food, wine, and culture, plus spending time with flying friends. It was a great experience.

 

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COPA Bahamas 2018

by on Apr.30, 2018, under Flying

The COPA annual Bahamas fly-in again was a great success. This year we returned to Harbor Island, April 26 through 29, and enjoyed the pink sand beaches, sun, and Bahamian charm. The weather was good and flying was  great fun. THANKS to Joe McMonigle and Jim and Nancy Knollenberg for organizing another great event.  This was one of the largest COPA Bahamas trips with 80 participants and 35 planes. They include the opening reception, the gala dinner and cocktails on one of our members boats, the ramp as well as before COPA dinner picture. There was lots of sun bathing, socializing, touring, shopping, dining and generally having fun. Sorry with so many participants and so much going on we could only get images from part of the activities, sorry if we missed you.

The First Day:

The COPA Dinner:

Cocktails on the Impulse:

 

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Central America Panama Adventure Starts

by on Mar.19, 2018, under Flying

This trip actually started on our first Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) trip to Central America, several years before. We were very close to Panama, but the logistics, schedule and cost prevented us from even doing a flight from Costa Rica over the Canal. Caribbean Sky Tours (CST) had organized the first unaccompanied trip, which was great. When I heard they did a Panama trip in 2017 I contacted them and then met with the principles at Air Venture in Oshkosh in the summer of that year. We organized the trip, using what we learned from the first trip and added representatives (the principles) accompanying us.

About CST, they are a 15 year old company managed by Rick and Pia Gardner, founders, who specialize in organizing and managing flights to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Central and South America. Their primary business is planning, organizing and supporting corporate flights in this region, but they also do trips for groups. They are the premier quality supplier, who have the infrastructure to plan and support flights in this difficult part of the world. Such things as over flight permits, customs and immigration requirements, local aviation regulations, facilities, routes and on and on, are what they know. CST collected a huge amount of data and documents from us to make sure that we were good for any foreign aviation or immigration requirement. They have a network of agents and an in house computer supported group of flight coördinators who not only plan, but also track every flight. As an example when our 12 planes where coming back to the U.S., CST was also managing 18 other flights in the region. The local knowledge CST has, plus the organizations infrastructure makes under taking a trip like ours not only possible but by Latin American standards hassle free.

So with CST’s help we announced our Adventure on the COPA web site and it sold out in less than 15 minuets, with a long wait list. COPA doesn’t like to disappoint members, so we asked CST, could you do a second trip, they came back and said yes, so again we sold the second trip out in 15 minuets. So we had two trips, at maximum capacity, which is governed by how many planes we can get though customs, refueled and achieve out destination in a flying day, which turns out to be 12 with a reasonable margin of safety. In the months leading up to the trip the participants received a number of emails with planning information. Several months before the trip the flight plans and routing were sent and a month before the trip we had a teleconference call to go over the material and answer questions, so if you read the material and did normal conscientious trip planning there would be no need for changes after the trip began. We were in good hands and should be prepared.

So now with all of this, planning and preparation now its time to fly to our U.S. jumping off airport, in our case Brownsville, Texas. A look at the forecast and on the day of our planned departure, morning fog forecast at Hilton Head, and also the day before. The decision fly Monday the 20th of February a day early. At least we could get half way if we left late, which is what happened, so we spend the night in Hammond, LA, just north of New Orleans. This is an adventure trip so we start with an adventure. As usual Hammond, turns out to be an interesting place and we have a fun evening made possible by a great FBO, Pierce Aviation. Next morning we fly on for the second four hour plus flying day to Brownsville TX. Head winds the whole way west and 30 knot gusts upon doing the instrument approach into our destination airport. Yes, it is going to be an adventure trip.

That evening we meet Rick Gardner of CST and organize our first meeting at the hotel. We have our first briefing of the group and then go to local restaurants for dinner. The inevitable bounding of fellow pilots and adventurers starts. Tomorrow we are off on our adventure.

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