A Journal, with Pictures

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 facade, 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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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 coor­di­na­tors 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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Brownsville, TX to Veracruz, Mexico

by on Mar.19, 2018, under Flying

Our first day of fly­ing on the COPA Cen­tral Amer­i­ca Pana­ma Adven­ture start­ed with 6:30 break­fast at our hotel in Brownsville, then to the air­port for a 8:30 depar­ture for the three and a half hour flight. Part of our group (Flori­da res­i­dence) were com­ing from Key West Flori­da and would meet us in Ver­acruz so we had eight planes in our squadron. We left on time with the tur­bo charged planes going first so they could wait for the rest of us at our des­ti­na­tion but not have to wor­ry about sep­a­ra­tion. The flight was easy down the coast with scat­tered clouds, and we got intro­duced to Mex­i­can, real­ly Cen­tral Amer­i­can ATC. Radar is spot­ty so we were required to report our posi­tion peri­od­i­cal­ly rel­a­tive to a way point. We made a VOR approach into Ver­acruz and got intro­duced to Mex­i­can cus­toms. CST had their agents there to help us and we got through fair­ly quick­ly by Latin Amer­i­can stan­dards. We were off to the Hotel Empo­rio Ver­acruz which is on the water. After check in we did a walk­ing tour on our own of the very scenic old city. A cold cerveza  on the square, a look at the old fort which has a rich his­to­ry and then it was time to meet for the brief­ing for tomor­rows flight to Guatemala City before cock­tails and din­ner at the hotel. Ver­acruz is a very pret­ty, scenic sea coast resort city and a good choice for our first stop.

Our first brief­ing by CST with the whole group took place in Ver­acruz. What was clear was we had no excus­es of not being pre­pared. Pia Hilbert Gard­ner, gave a us a “Pas­sen­ger Itin­er­ary” the gave us every detail you would want to know and just in case you could­n’t read she went over the next days activ­i­ties and sched­ule. Rick Gard­ner, then briefed us on the upcom­ing flight, what to expect and do in cus­toms, in the air, on the ground as well as the fore­cast­ed weath­er. He pro­vid­ed a pilots guide with every pos­si­ble detail includ­ed and then cov­ered the next days depar­ture, flight and land­ing. We were in good hands, so we could relax and enjoy our jour­ney. We had a jol­ly din­ner and start­ed the process of mak­ing new friends.

Tomor­row we fly to Guatemala City, we are off to a good start with a con­ge­nial group.

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Veracruz Mexico to Antigua, Guatemala

by on Mar.19, 2018, under Flying

After our short stay in Ver­acruz we fly the three and a half hour flight to the Guatemala City air­port. This is a very inter­est­ing flight from a num­ber of points of view. First we have planned our route so that we don’t need oxy­gen, and over the most hos­pitable ter­rain, some elect to change to a short cut route which is fine, but then a MOA goes hot and ATC tries to route every­one over the high­er ter­rain. One hour lat­er, while sit­ting on the taxiway,  we get this fixed and the rest of the planes leave. Last minute changes in these coun­tries proves to be a bad idea. The flight itself is over very inter­est­ing ter­rain and we fly along the east coast turn west and tra­verse the low point of the moun­tain spine of Cen­tral Amer­i­ca to the west coast, past Tapachu­la where we will vis­it lat­er and final­ly we turn in-land to Guatemala City. We are fly­ing between vol­canic moun­tains, one of which is active. As we turn toward the moun­tains we are in the clouds, and Guatemala approach has it hands full with reg­u­lar com­mer­cial traf­fic and a swarm of 12 Cir­rus. Lots of vec­tor­ing and then an ILS approach to the air­port that is 4950 above sea lev­el, with ter­rain all around. Because of the ter­rain and traf­fic, approach keeps us high until the last min­uet then its dive for the run­way, best land­ing I made on the whole trip 140 knots over the fence (yikes). We then taxi to cus­toms, where we are met by about 25 Guatemala and US drug agents in train­ing. After cus­toms, we taxi to park away from the ter­mi­nal, where there are a num­ber of con­fis­cat­ed drug planes, with more parked on the oth­er side of the air­port, includ­ing a Gulf­stream, Embraer and oth­er expen­sive big iron. We then leave Guatemala City for Antigua, which turns out to be an absolute­ly charm­ing colo­nial cap­i­tal city about an hour and a half dri­ve into the high­lands. We arrive at Hotel Camino Real, which is very nice and its time for a Cerveza, shower,  then we recon­vene for a group dinner.

Our first full day in Antigua we do a walk­ing tour of the city, which is sur­round­ed by vol­canic moun­tains, one active. The city was the third cap­i­tal of the King­dom of Guatemala, that at that time includ­ed Belize, Guatemala, El Sal­vador, Nicaragua and Cos­ta Rica under Span­ish Con­quis­ta­dor rule. It is known for its well pre­served Baroque Span­ish archi­tec­ture and many church ruins and retains the cob­ble­stone streets.

We have lunch, in our case with our guide in a local restau­rant for native food, very dif­fer­ent but very good, of course with a local cerveza. We explore the city on our own for the rest of the day then recon­vene for cock­tails before a group pic­ture in front of the hotel, then off to a local restau­rant for dinner.

The sec­ond day we have the option to select one of sev­er­al tours. We select a tour of sur­round­ing vil­lages, that spe­cial­ize in dif­fer­ent crafts, oth­ers choose to climb to the top of one of the vol­cano’s, the one in the pho­to cov­ered by clouds. We view the city from a hill then we see locals doing laun­dry, a tex­tile weav­ing vil­lage, a jade pro­cess­ing fac­to­ry and a Macadamia nut farm before return­ing to Antigua.

Since its Sat­ur­day we then go to the farm­ers mar­ket on the edge of the city, where locals do their week­ly shop­ping. My only fear was get­ting lost in the mar­ket which was team­ing with buy­ers and sell­ers crowed in nar­row aisles around acres of stands. It was chaot­ic but fun. After the tour we wan­dered off to a local restau­rant for lunch and did some more tour­ing and shopping.

It was cock­tails and din­ner at the hotel after the brief­ing for the flight to Pana­ma very ear­ly the next morn­ing. Antigua proved to be a high­light of the trip and wor­thy of being des­ig­nat­ed a World Her­itage Sight.

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