Pilot Journal
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fly The Bahamas

What you’ll need to know as a first-timer to the out islands

fly the bahamasFor many pilots, it’s a rite of passage; for others, it’s their daily work. Some are fearful at the thought of so much water below, and their first flight over an ocean becomes an adrenaline-fueled leap of faith.
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Bahamas Habitat: Doing Good…And Enjoying Paradise

Since 2006, a nonprofit organization run by several U.S.-based pilots has been organizing a most unusual fly out to Governor’s Harbour in Eleuthera. Known as Bahamas Habitat, it’s the brainchild of John Armstrong of Premier Aircraft Sales (www.flypas.com) and Steve Merritt of the NC Division of Aviation (www.ncdot.org/Transit/ aviation). The four-day trip consists of one day spent flying to the island, one day of service, one day exploring paradise and the last day spent leaving the island.

The experience has proven to be a great way for fledgling over-water pilots to learn the ropes under the tutelage of more experienced aviators; it’s comforting to have an “old salt” in the right seat. This is a trouble-free first over-water trip for the new pilots, a number of whom have elected to return on their own.

The organization does all of the planning, and the pilots gather at either Fort Lauderdale or Fort Pierce for a review of paperwork and the judicious loading of the tools and supplies they’ll need for their work on distressed homes in Governor’s Harbour. They make good use of the useful load of each airplane for the flight. By allocating the cargo amongst the passengers to avoid excessive duties upon arrival, the group has been able to ferry much-needed supplies and equipment to Camp Symonette, the church-based facility where pilots and passengers stay during the trip.

On the evening of their arrival at the camp, pilots’ work assignments are handed out after a group dinner, and the following day is spent replacing roofs, pouring foundations or painting the homes of people in need. The result isn’t simply that good works are done, but that the people see private pilots in a completely new and positive way.

Day two is just for fun, and a payback for the sore muscles earned on day one. It’s a day to explore the incredible beaches and tiny “downtown” of Governor’s Harbour or make the short flight to North Eleuthera to visit Harbour Island. It’s a testament to the success of Bahamas Habitat that a number of participants return every time the fly out is scheduled, and that lasting friendships have been created, born of shared travel, shared hard work and shared fun.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection:
EElectronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS):
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism:

Bahamas & Carribean Pilot’s Guidebook:
Planning & Access To Forms
(for AOPA members):


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