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01 MAR 2022

A taxi picks me up at 8 AM. It cannot drive the usual way to Matanza - many streets are closed today because of planned demonstrations.

I wanted to fly two days ago, but thunderstorms made flying impossible on the first day and flooded Matanza on the second.

Three flights are planned for today. First to San Fernando, then to Colonia and finally to Nueva Helvecia. I sent flight plans for the first two flights to AIS in San Fernando and received several change requests. In the plan to San Fernando, they asked me to confirm that I do have an ADF an board. (“F” in field 10 of the ICAO flight plan.) In the plan to Colonia, I had to change the routing. (The exit point is MGI, not KUKEN.) I also had to send copies of my pilot license and my medical. I already knew that every AIS in Argentina checks these documents.

Furthermore, preparations for today included the Argentinian COVID exit declaration, the Uruguay COVID entry declaration, the Argentinian entry declaration, a PCR test in Aeroparque, preparing and sending the Argentinian national GenDec and preparing six copies of the international GenDec. About 5 hours of paperwork and testing.

Fantastic flying weather. I pull the 140 out of the hangar and pre-flight her. The bill for four days of parking is quickly paid and N5581M taxies to the punto de espera pista 35. Don’t find any special departure procedure for Matanza, so I mimicry the arrival procedure and leave with a right 270 and contact Ezeiza Tower. In English of course - Ezeiza is an international airport. They have no idea who I am, so they ask me to circle over Matanza.

After two full circles, they assign me a squawk and give me a clearance which would lead me into the restricted area over downtown Buenos Aires. Not good. The book says you should clarify strange clearances, but reality is often complicated. Nope, I am not going into the restricted area. Can you speak Spanish?, asks Ezeiza Tower and continues: Because Palomar can’t speak English. We switch to Spanish and after a few exchanges she is satisfied that I can make myself understandable, so she hands me over to Palomar. Woosh! An info about that helicopter passing under my left wing would have been nice. I thought, flying outside the VFR corridors and talking to the Towers would be the safest course of action, but I am not sure anymore. Only trust yourself.

Taxi to position 3A, says San Fernando Ground after landing. I was here before. In 2019, I flew together with Sebastian to San Fernando and Colonia, so I have a faded memory about the local procedures. Back then, I thought it is incredible complex and stupid, but meanwhile I have seen worse. Yes, it is ridiculous to walk with your set of GenDecs from office to office, collecting stamps. But the offices are located close to each other, and they have enough clients to stay in shape. I don’t feel like a curiosity. I mean, I am still different with my 140. Most of the pilots here fly twins, usually small jets. But a lot of them need customs, migraciones and so on. The friendly lady from customs wants to investigate my plane. Take everything out, she says. Luckily, I don’t carry much stuff this time. Just some packing material to protect the plane while it is parked. She stamps my GenDecs. And now, go back to security and let them stamp and afterwards, drop one copy in this letterbox over there, she helps me:

Whole procedure completed in less than an hour. A quick border crossing! Intercept and track outbound radial 020 Foxtrott Delta Oscar and report 5 DME, says Tower with the takeoff clearance. A typical VFR clearance in Argentina.

The urban area of Buenos Aires ends at the Tigre River. The other shore is mainly undeveloped wilderness with just a few sprangled houses, connected to civilization only by boat. A police helicopter passes below me. The Rio de la Plata between Buenos Aires and Colonia has a width of about 25 nautical miles. I wouldn’t want to cross it in a low flying single engine piston classic. But crossing isn’t allowed anyhow. The VFR exit point is Isla Martin Garcia. You basically follow the coast of the Tigre delta, until you are in Uruguay.

Flight time is 40 minutes. At the border, I contact Colonia Tower. Twenty minutes later, I am on the ground. Happy to be in Uruguay.

I go straight to the flight plan office. How long will the border crossing take? 1 hour? 2 hours? Why do you want to depart in one hour? Why not earlier? Asks AIS. What? First time I hear such a question. Usually they say something like: You cannot depart in one hour; you must file two hours prior departure.

Customs and migrations arrive in a taxi. The driver wants that I pay him, then he leaves. A second taxi driver will bring the two officers back. Another pilot pays. The officers look at my papers, stamp my passport and leave. No plane inspection. Whole process takes 5 minutes. I am allowed to fly to Nueva Helvecia. Tower gives me a squawk.

Last takeoff. The terminal looks small. Well, maybe it is. Colonia is a small international airport:

Uruguay is flat. No mountains. Highest obstacles between Colonia and Nueva Helvecia are some wind power generators.

I fly low. Just 1500 feet. It is a bit turbulent, and I am not in the mood to correct deviations right away. As a result, N5581M dances through the wind. I don't mind. Let it have some fun too. My classic has been proven to be a reliable plane. During the last 50 or so flights, everything worked just fine. No issues with the aircraft, since the failures of voltage regulator and altitude encoder over southern Mexico.

Contact Nueva Helvecia on 123,0 or 123,3, Colonia Tower says. 123,3 works. Friends from the club tell me, I should do a straight-in approach:

The grass runway has few markings and a hump right at the touch down zone. Not sure what belongs to the runway and where it is safe to land. I go for the hump. Later I learn that most land on the hump, because there may be turbulence in the lee of the hangar. A Mavic 2 drone films my landing. I like that.

My last 3-point. The grass is ok to taxi. Most grass runways in Germany are worse. Half the active club members welcome me. Even Heike is here. And two Germans look by. I feel the warmth of the aviation community, look into friendly faces. Someone hands me a cold beer. Later, we enjoy un Asado together. As usual, it starts with bread, cheese and sausage picados:

Carlos helps me to wrap the 140 a bit. Left wing tip, tail, prop, cowling. It is not a preservation / conservation as prescribed in the Continental SIL, but all I can do with the means at hand:

They drive me back to the ferry. It is nearly a one-hour drive, and they shouldn’t do this for me. How can I ever pay back the community? We stop at Heike’s place for a glass of champagne. We sit outside. She has a nice place. It is a lovely afternoon, mild temperatures, no bugs. The sun is slowly setting in the West. I like it here. Much better, then crowded Buenos Aires.

Slowly, my mind settles. I relax. The plane is safe. Trip over. Journey finished. Job done. It was an adventure of a lifetime. But now, I want to go home, back to my family. It is about time. Don't you think?

March 2nd, 2022

Next day, I let me fly to Germany:

Adventure of a lifetime

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