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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 paved runway.


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