Pilot Journal
Sunday, May 1, 2005

Escorted Adventures


Taking full advantage of being a pilot in Central America


Escorted AdventuresBob and Jill Blettner flew from Wisconsin down to Key West, Fla., in their Cessna Centurion to meet Thierry Pouille for the first time. Jimmy and Diane Jones came from Georgia in their C-206. Don and Arlene Stoppe flew their Seneca from New Hampshire. Philippe Harsch arrived from Paris, and Marc Cotte from Johannesburg, South Africa. All came for a single reason: to join in a fast-growing activity in general aviation—escorted adventures with Thierry Pouille and his company, Air Journey." />

And even while his guests are enjoying themselves, Thierry is constantly working in the background. On this trip to Central America, he’s on the phone with an avgas supplier in Panama. Despite a written agreement guaranteeing a price and quantity of 100LL to be available to his group, the fuel delivery truck broke down somewhere along the way. The fuel promised to Thierry’s group hasn’t been delivered. In less than an hour and a flurry of sat-phone calls, Thierry has gently modified the group’s flight for the next day and solved the fuel issues at a different airport. “Watching Thierry work is a real eye-opener for me!” says Jimmy.

Escorted Adventures
Central America offers an endless variety of terrain, including steaming volcanoes.
The benefits of Thierry’s pre-departure homework show up all along the way. After a takeoff from Isla San José, Panama City ATC asked Thierry to switch to frequency 123.0.

“Roger. Panama Approach, this is Baron 63JL on 123.0,” says Thierry.

“Hola, Thierry. It’s me, Wendy!” greets a new controller. Wendy Almillategui, a supervisor at Panama’s Center for En Route and Approach Control, was letting Thierry know ATC was expecting his group and would give them a red-carpet welcome into their airspace. And by the way, would the Air Journey group like to meet her for lunch at a nice restaurant at the edge of the Panama Canal?

Along the way, Thierry also enlists an army of local guides to squeeze every bit of information and experience from each location. For example, when Antigua was designed in the late 1400s, the Moors had just introduced the game of chess. Thus, the original city had eight streets north and eight south, creating the 64 squares of a chess board. The most money ever charged for coming through the Panama Canal was $225,000 for a cruise ship. The smallest fee ever administered was 37 cents for a man who swam his way between the Caribbean and the Pacific. In a boat gliding down the Chagres River that meanders through a verdant rain forest, the group listens to their guide while returning the stares of white-throated capuchin monkeys.

“If you get a bug bite, take the tobacco from a cigarette and mix it with pure alcohol. Now dab this mixture on the bite, and everything will be fine,” informs the guide in nearly perfect English.

His remedy for a snakebite was less optimistic, however. “If you’re bitten, the best thing to do is find a comfortable shade tree, then…prepare to meet your maker.”




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