Pilots of the Caribbean; Week 1 | Flying Adventures

Pilot Bambi

Wooooooooow. That’s all I can say about my first flight in the Caribbean.

In 4 days on Saint Martin I got to do a whole lot of adventuring: from discovering a handful of new beaches, to snorkeling along the rocky coast of le petit plage, and of course, drinking my fair share of rum. But flying? I hadn’t gotten that lucky 😉 . On the day of my arrival I was told we had an issue with the 4th cylinder of the engine. Oil was leaking through a seal, out from under the cylinder head, and dripping right onto the left exhaust pipe. (which obviously created a nice big cloud of smoke!). Oh well, C’est la vie! (as you can see, i’m trying my best with the whole french thing 😉 )

Shit happens. And also: I’m in paradise! So a few days of waiting wouldn’t do me any harm.

Since we’re in the caribbean, things take a bit more time than what we’re used to in Europe. Parts need to be shipped, EASA maintenance staff need to be called up from other islands, etc. etc.

In the meantime I made use of this precious time and turned it into a tiny little holiday. I headed out to explore, together with the Toyota Rav 4 and my semi questionable driving skills. It was a good laugh finding my way around the island with all the tiny winding roads.

It’s so serene here. Maybe not perfect because of the scars left by hurricane Irma, but it’s still incredibly beautiful. I can’t help but think how insane it is that I’m on a tiny island in the west-indies, living in flip flops and swimwear, just patiently waiting by the poolside for my plane to be fixed. With an EASA CPL and a bit over 500 hours I get the chance to spend some precious months out here. Something I hope to recommend to anyone with the same unbounded love for new adventures and aviation.

When I got the news that the plane was fixed, I was ecstatic! 4 hours later I was at the plane at 1:30 pm SHARP, no time to waste!  Gabriel, the former pilot, gave me a thorough briefing of all the procedures out here on TFFG (Grand Case), and would use this flight as a quick demo to show me the ropes. We then  strapped into our parachutes hopped in glossy white Cessna 206.

Ah, the mighty Stationair! My favorite among the piston singles. This bad boy was running smooth as hell and we were ready to go. With one tandem passenger in the back (what a luxury experience for him!) We climbed out between the lush green hills. With a steady 1000ft/min climb rate we rolled over to the eastern coast and there it was; reporting point Tintamarre. It’s a tiny picturesque island, and her shoreline was dotted with the white sails of private yachts. What a view…

When we reached 2600 ft Gabriel changed frequency to Juliana International for the continued climb, and pointed out the surrounding islands. Anguilla, St. Kitts and St. Barths. My jaw dropped. Turquoise waters, deeply contrasting with the distant marshmallow clouds, and the beautiful contours of these caribbean islands: I could be here in the sky forever.

At 10,500ft Gabriel turned onto jump run and WOOP, there they go! Through my noise cancelling headset I heard the faintest scream of excitement disappear into the sky and then Gabriel flipped her on her side! A nice steep bank angle and an easy 135 knots, we were spiraling down over paradise. Around me all I saw was turning islands and 1000 shades of blue. It was magnificent.

Gabriel eased onto downwind and showed me the circuit procedures. The last turn to final we glided over the beautiful Grand Case beach, and with “3 whites” on the PAPI we were at the perfect approach to avoid the turbulence near the threshold.

What a flight. Today I fell even more in love with the island of St. Martin, and absolutely can’t wait for all the flights yet to come!

Life is taking me on a rollercoaster of adventures, and I’m just here enjoying the ride.

Seeya!

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