The following was sent to us as an email from Chachi Fabrega.
We thought you would enjoy it, and hope that Chachi forgives us
for making it into an article. We asked Chachi simply "How
was the Bahamas fly-in?". Here is his response.
For the trip to Treasure Cay, since my wife was not going to be
able to go with me because she had gone to New York to visit our
daughter, I invited a very good friend of mine who is a pilot and
has been hunting and fishing with me for many years. I also invited
a nephew who is a pilot.
Chachi (left) with co-pilot Guillermo Palm about 200 miles from
home on return trip.
We started our trip on Tuesday the 30th at around 6:00 a.m. local
time. Our plan was to go to Miami and do some shopping for a couple
of days. We filed IFR to Grand Cayman (a fuel stop) at 10,000 feet,
about 640 nautical miles from Panama. Weather was unlimited all
the way, we made Cayman in 4:26 and when we arrived I don´t
know for what reason but there were about six people waiting for
the airplane. They searched that plane as if we were in the drug
business. Probably it was because Panama is so close to Colombia.
While they were searching I was more worried about the airworthiness
of the airplane and being delayed so long as to arrive past Customs
closing time at Kendall Tamiami airport. Eventually we were delayed
for about 2 hours in Grand Cayman.
Customs at Tamiami closes at 5:00 p.m. and we were going to be
very tight in our arrival so we decided to go to Key West to enter
the US. Flight time to Key West was 2:20 with an IFR flight plan
at 10,000 feet.
Cuba will not handle any international flight unless it is on an
IFR flight plan, and the weather was also clear all the way. Cuba
was no problem and I would like to add that I never had any problems
on previous flights over Cuba as long as you have the overflight
approval. I recommend you get this approval at least one week prior
to a trip on a private airplane, on that matter they are very professional.
We went through customs in Key West and from there we flew to Tamiami
VFR at 2,500 feet and that was a 50 minute flight. That night we
got in contact with Ernie Martin with whom we had been in touch
and we had a meeting on thursday morning for a cup of coffee. That
same day Larry and his wife were arriving in Miami to pick Ernie
up for the flight to Treasure Cay the next day.
Friday morning we met at Tamiami airport and we flew both airplanes
close by, but not in formation because Ernie said he was not familiar
with formation flying, though we were close enough to take pictures
of Larry´s Skymaster and some movies, which I will have to
find a way to send to him. The flight to Treasure Cay from Kendall
was 1:26 at 7,500 VFR as suggested by Ernie. Weather was CAVU. We
arrived in Treasure Cay at around 10:30 a.m. and after customs and
immigration we went to the hotel in a taxi. That afternoon we spent
swimming at one of the must beautiful beaches I have ever seen,
the color of the water I could not believe. Late that afternoon
we had dinner with the whole group where Bob Cook went over all
the details of the event (food was excellent).
Saturday we started the meeting al 8:00 a.m. and in my opinion
George (Gmas) was outstanding. As I have said before he is really
a very nice person and is very knowledgeable of the Skymaster plus
he gave us some very good hints on other important matters. I was
really impressed. At around 2:00 p.m. we started our trip back to
Miami and this time flight time was 1:14 at 6,500 VFR. That night
we opened an IFR flight plan to go from Tamiami to Grand Cayman
at 11,000 feet.
Sunday morning we departed at 6:10 a.m.local time and the flight
was uneventful to Grand Cayman. 2:52 flight time. This time we landed
at Grand Cayman, got fuel and opened a new flight plan to Panama
at 10,000 feet. On this leg we found some head winds and total flight
time to Panama was 4:50 arriving in Panama at our home base (Marcos
A.Gelabert airport) at 2:10 p.m. local time (Panama is one hour
less than Miami at this time of the year).
I would say that the trip was an excellent one and as I told my
mechanic on arrival after that many hours I had no reports on the
airplane. Fuel used was an average of 18.6 gallons per hour. We
met some very nice people over there. (If you fly a Skymaster you
have to be nice) and I do hope that next year we can meet again
in a place close enough for me to go. The only thing that I missed
was that my wife could not make it with me and I hope we are in
good health next year to go if there is going to be a meeting.
If any of the Skymaster owners ever wants to make a trip to my
country you are more than welcome and I will be happy to be your
guide. I have a lot of experience flying in the region from Mexico
to Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, the northern part
of Colombia (Cartagena, Barranquilla) and of course all of Panama.
I have also taken my Skymaster to San Andres (a small island in
the Caribbean) and to Aruba.
HP-669 is a C-337G Skymaster year 74 and I have owned it for 17
years. I have flown it for around 2,000 hours and this is the seventh
aircraft I have owned, all of the others were single engines. I
do lots of flying in Central America and if you ever makes plans
to fly in the area I will be more than pleased to help. It is very
safe to fly in the region and in Central America there is a Corporation
(Guatemala to Costa Rica) wish is called COCESNA wish is responsible
for the control of the air space and they do one hell of a good
job of complying with ICAO standards, the CEO of that corporation
is from Nicaragua and besides being an excellent professional is
also a good friend of mine. Panama has its own system but is also
in compliance with ICAO standards and flying in Panama is very much
like flying in the US. (The FAA use to manage the control center
until the Panama Canal treaties.) I was, for a period of five years,
the DG of Civil Aviation for Panama and I have friends all over
the Latin American countries.
Panama has just two seasons: the rainy season (April - November)
and the dry season (December - March) but even in the rainy season
we will always see the sun. I recommend flying in the morning and
that is not only in Panama but also in Central America. During the
dry season you can fly at any time of the day or night. Panama City
has two international airports, one for the airliners (Tocumen)
with two runways one 9.500 feet and the other 10,500 feet both paved,
and one for the general aviation airplanes wish operates under class
C (you have to have a altitude encoding transponder) 6,400 feet