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06-10 FEB 2022

November 1st 2021, Argentina and Chile opened for foreigners again. I gambled and moved all my vacation into the first quarter of 2022, hoping COVID wouldn’t develop another variant. Unfortunately, it did. Omicron hit the world around Christmas, following Delta and leading to a new spike in infection numbers, despite a significant part of the global population meanwhile vaccinated up to three times. But luckily the borders stayed open and my family could travel.

We spent some time in beautiful Buenos Aires, reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones:

Sunday, February 6th

I take the LAN Peru flight to Lima. The A320 departs from Jorge Newberry, the Buenos Aires city airport which I like much better than Ezeiza used by most foreign airlines. I get a window seat and follow the flight with my GPS. Initially the jungle of the Tigre delta, just north of Buenos Aires, then fields, for more than an hour, then we cross the Andes which are wide and high and offer spectacular views:

An hour before landing, we crossed the pacific coast, and I got my first glimpse of the route in northern Chile which I want to fly next week:.

Immigration is easy. I mean: You can’t board a plane these days without the proper vaccinations, a negative PCR-test and all the appropriate paperwork, so checking at the destination can be minimal.

My taxi driver expects me, but traffic is heavy. It is weekend, summer, the weather is nice and lots of people head south to the beaches, crowding the Panamericana. It takes us three hours to drive the 30 miles to San Bartolo.

I check in at the Kauhuhu hotel again, but - compared to last August - this time is very different. It is full, I got the last room available. In Peru, everybody is still obliged to wear masks outside, even two of them on top of each other, if it isn’t an FFP2, but the rules nevertheless seem to have relaxed a bit compared to August of last year. Or maybe people just got tired of the masks - like everywhere else in the world. San Bartolo, which I experienced as a sleepy village last time, was now packed with families waiting in line to be allowed to go to beach. The ocean is full of surfers. Looking up, skydivers jump out of a Cessna. Life everywhere.

Chino came and we discuss how to get N5581M out of Peru. That is the purpose of my visit here.

Monday, February 7th.

The hangar I rented in Lib Mandi still stands and the Cessna looked just fine. Alberth had taken good care of it. After an extended pre-flight check, we try the engine. The 90 horsepower Continental starts nicely, but doesn’t run long, the wing tank is empty. I must have left the fuel supply connected; 10 gallons of Avgas vanished through the carburetor during the 6 months in the hangar. Not sure why I didn’t switch the shutoff valve to off. Maybe on purpose, because someone told me that the carb shouldn’t stay dry in the salty air? Well, I would have never guessed, it vaporizes with a speed of more than a gallon per month. After switching to the other tank, I start the engine again, check the magnetos, but notice that the carb heat had no effect. Alberth shows me the problem, the air flap is not moving. Well, we need to fix that.

Even more important for a departure on Thursday is to request the permit from the Peruvian DGAC. I collect the 14 necessary documents, write (with Chino’s help) a nice email and send it.

Tuesday, February 8th.

Normally, there is no Avgas available in Peru for you south of Pisco, Chino reminds me. But with his help, one of the friendly aviators following my flight, promises to provide car gasoline along the way. This and many other things need to be organized. Alberth and I used most of the day to do preventive maintenance. We clean the engine, paint landing gears and wing struts, reinforce the wing tip fabric with some tape, clean and greas the wheels and polish some of the new corrosion away. Alberth also helps me to restock my First Aid kit with a lot of Peruvian products. Takes me some hours to translate everything and find out what to use when.

Wednesday, February 9th

Work in the hangar continues. More cleaning, more corrosion removal, more painting:

Alberth uses the paint sparsely, trying not to add to much weight to the structure. In the afternoon, tension rises: Will the DGAC send the permit today? Before office hours end, Chino calls them to find out. Apparently, my mail got lost somewhere and I am asked to resend it. I see my chances to fly Thursday dimmish. Later that day, DGAC criticizes that my medical is more than one year old and that I did not provide proof of recent experience (3 take offs and landings within 90 days). Both questionable requests. According to ICAO rules, a medical for a private pilot of my age is valid 24 months, not 12 months as for a commercial pilot. I hold a valid commercial pilot license and have a medical which is less than 12 months old, but it is from EASA and for operating my N-registered plane I use my FAA pilot license and medical. It reminds me to the issue I had with my medical nearly two years ago. Apparently, the national aviation rules in Peru are stricter than ICAO rules, but do they apply to me as a foreign pilot in this respect? Regarding the recent experience matter, I could solve this, by providing my logbook.

Thursday, February 10th.

The plane is ready, everything fixed and cleaned, loaded and fueled. Fueling in Lib Mandi was not easy either. There is Avgas available, but it is complicated to get it. Paperwork took much longer than the actual fueling. But I am very grateful that my friends here made it possible. The rules are strict and I meanwhile I understand why they have been implemented, but they are hard to follow and in some cases, they make no sense. I mean, if – for example – the government wants to fight drug trafficking by plane through following who purchases Avgas, this is a good cause. But what happens is, the drug dealers use car gasoline and the only ones who have problems are the honest people needing Avgas. By noon, the permit still has not arrived. I leave the aerodrome and visit Chino and his lovely wife, enjoying the terrific view of the close ocean and the good food of the house. Life can be nice, in San Bartolo, Peru.

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