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Villa Gesell

26 FEB 2023

Buenos Aires is noisy. In the summer, it is hot and humid too. After a week in the big city, Astrid and I wanted to escape. We were lucky, to have an aircraft, waiting to fly us to the beaches.

I looked for an aerodromo close to a beach, not more than 2 hours away in still air. Up to now, we haven’t found nice beaches bordering the Rio de la Plata, so we skipped La Plata and looked further south. Unfortunately, there are two huge, restricted areas, R13 and R38, limiting flying access to the nearest Atlantic beaches, so we looked further south and found Villa Gesell (SAZV), 170 nautical miles air distance from Matanza (SADZ). Two public airfields along the way are Chascomus (MUS) and Dolores (SAZD).

With two persons and some luggage on board we left the fuel canisters empty to avoid overloading our little Cessna. But that meant, that we need to assure that we can refuel at or close to our destination, so I called the airport of Villa Gesell. They told me that I should contact the Aeroclub, but I couldn’t find its number.

Without assured fuel supply at our planned destination, we took off in Matanza at 8:50 local time. It was a lovely morning. Perfect flying weather, smooth air. Astrid felt uncomfortable flying low above the big city and I shared her feelings. Matanza is located within the control zone of Ezeiza international airport. The appropriate way to leave it is via one of the visual corridors and they are restricted to 1000 ft. So, you fly low above the city, following a train track, cutting straight through the city. Visual corridor 3 leads into visual corridor 6. Where the two corridors meet, a thin tower seems to go up to 1000 feet. The map showing the visual corridors does not show this or other obstacles. Looking out is always a good idea.

Finally, close to the village of Brandsen, we left Ezeiza’s control zone and where able to climb. Cruising in 2000 ft was lovely, not too cold, not too hot. Astrid received her first flying lesson, maintaining the altitude and trimming the aircraft as required. Kept her busy.

As advised by Windy, we experienced a 10-knot headwind, so we decided to stop in Dolores (SAZD). What was the frequency of this uncontrolled airfield? They are not depicted on the charts. We tried 123,5, same as Matanza. From the distance, we spotted a glider on tow on our altitude and dived below it. We stated our position and intention, asked for the wind and runway in use, but were unable to understand the reply, if any was given. I spotted the windsock, decided to use runway 23, called initial, basica y final and landed on the neatly cut grass runway.

As always, we received a warm welcome. Estefan, one of the instructors of the local aeroclub, filled our tanks with 100 LL and even called ahead to the next aeroclub, to assure us a nice reception in Villa Gesell. We planned to continue quickly, but exchanging stories, shaking hands and taking pictures takes time.

The land below us is flat, many options for emergency landings. Different colors indicate different types of vegetation and degrees of humidity. “Light green is best”, we later learned from an experienced “pampa” pilot.

The coastline appeared.

Villa Gesell has a published control zone, but today the tower was closed, a club member with a portable radio told arriving aircraft the wind.

We landed on the paved runaway and stopped just in front of the club’s house. Tommy, the President, welcomed us. We wanted to leave right away for the beach, but they advised us that there is an enduro event and all car traffic is jammed, making beech access at the time impossible. We stayed in the club, joined their asado, met interesting people like Jorge Malatini, an acrobat pilot flying for Redbull.

We exchanged stories, took pictures, feeling ashamed about all the kindness we received, while having difficulties in giving the community something meaningful in return.

A Piper Malibu M350 arrived. The Aeroclub fulfilled the role of an FBO. While snacks were offered to the elegant ladies leaving the pressurized cabin, the twin turbocharged piston engine aircraft was quickly refueled. The M350 flies 3x faster and 6x farer than our 140 and a used one costs 10x as much, a very different way to travel for a different class of people. We decided to stay for a night. Graciel booked us a nice hotel close to the beach and gave us a ride to Villa Gesell downtown. Yes, the aerodrome is close to the beach, but it would still have been a hike of more than one hour.

We knew nothing about Villa Gesell, the city named after its German Carlos Idaho Gesell.

Wikipedia gave us the basics. Later Graciel provided us a book, written by Carlos daughter Rosemarie. Starting in the 1930s, Carlos planted trees on the sand dunes. 90 years later, Astrid and I walked through a small forest, enchanted by its beauty.

We enjoyed a few hours on the beach, until the setting sun made the wind chilly and we retreated to one of the restaurants next to the wooden red beach sidewalk.

27 FEB 2023

We began the day with another walk along the beach, this time towards the south, to a wooden pier, where fisherman tried their luck in the Atlantic. We looked at the buildings facing the beach. Different from what we saw in Punta del Este (Uruguay), the hotels were mostly low, made for a few dozen and not thousands of guests. We wondered how it would feel to live here. Graciel drove us back to the Aeroclub where Astrid and I preflighted the 140. Time to fly home.

Once airborne, we followed the coastline a bit, overflew the beautiful sand dunes just north of Villa Gesell.

The wind has turned around, headwind again, slowing the 140 down to a meager 60 knots, 2 ½ hours back to Matanza. But 30 minutes before reaching Ezeiza’s control zone, we decided to stretch our legs in Chascomus (MUS). I called initially on 123.5, but someone told me that Chascomus uses 123.2. I am probably not the only one who calls on the wrong frequency, because they wrote the correct frequency in large letters on the apron.

When I stated my intention to overfly the airfield someone argued lengthy against it. My Spanish didn’t allow me to understand it, but instinctively I changed my plan and flew around the airfield to enter the left downwind of runway 04.

On the ground we saw the parajumpers. Yes, they jumped on a Monday. It was a good idea not to overfly the field.

Every airfield is different but wherever we land, the Argentine pilots and mechanics receive us with kindness and curiosity. What is a N-registered taildragger doing down here in Argentina?

We stretched and relaxed, used the bathroom, before continuing to Matanza.

It was hot, when we went down below 1000 feet, entering visual corridor no 6 and flying around the tower before entering corridor no 3. Matanza was deserted, the school is closed on Monday. But Maintenance was working and they helped us to push N5581M back into its hangar. An Uber brought us to our apartment in the city center.

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