Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bahamas 101: Recipe For Paradise

Flying to the Bahamas is the stuff of dreams and is within the reach of nearly any pilot and aircraft

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We're skimming low over the Atlantic Ocean, some 80 miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale. Below us is a giant marble—brilliant glass with swirls of every shade of blue and green you can imagine, and flattened so it stretches as far as the eye can see. We're suspended above it with little sensation of movement. Without any land for reference, I notice the curious feeling that I have no idea whether we're at 5,000 feet or 50 feet. Sky merges with ocean, and only the altimeter confirms our location in space. The crystal clarity of the Caribbean water reveals sea life below its surface, while coral sand forms ripples in intricate patterns. It's paradise we seek, and I quickly realize we've found it.

The Bahamas is a group of about 700 islands that stretch into the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Nassau is the population center, the seat of government, a huge cruise-ship port and a busy airport of entry. Nassau lies on New Providence Island, near the Disney-meets-Vegas Atlantis resort. While Nassau has many charms, you don't really know The Bahamas if you only know Nassau. The true heart of this chain lies in the many smaller islands that comprise The Bahamas, and only general-aviation pilots hold the secret to unlocking their unique treasures.

Any article about flying The Bahamas should start with two simple truths: The task is absolutely within the capabilities of even the most basic pilot and single-engine airplane, and flying these islands will reward a pilot with some of the most memorable experiences and unbelievable scenery. It's almost as if the GA airplane were created singularly for this purpose.


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