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Thread: Flying in Costa Rica

  1. #1
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Flying in Costa Rica

    I forgot to post this one, from about 5 weeks ago...

    I was flying with a guy in a Porter (Pilatus PC-6). He lined up for a landing on this tiny little airstrip up near Chirripó. As he lined up for landing, I said, "That's no Moon... It's a Space Station!" He answered, "Ahhh! Star Wars! I get it!" He landed, and my next concern was "Are We Flying Out of This Place?" Apparently, the answer was "Yes." My Pilot calmly said, "Don't worry, Dude! It's a Downhill Takeoff!" Fortunately, that Swiss bastard lived up to its reputation and we made it out of there alive.

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    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Another one that I forgot to post...

    About 1 year ago, I finally got a ride in a seaplane... actually, an amphibian... up to Tortuguero. I have visited Tortuguero several times as a part of my job, and on several occasions, I have asked various people, "Doesn't anyone ever fly a seaplane in here?" The answer has always been "No." Talk about a Missed Opportunity, folks!

    So, on that day, 1 year ago, I hired a guy, via my business, to take me from San José to Tortuguero in an amphibian airplane. We took off from SYQ and landed in the waterway adjacent to the Manatus resort about 25 minutes later. A water landing, just like a grass-field landing, is one of the smoothest that you will ever experience. After that "shhhh..." water landing, we taxied up to the resort dock, and I asked, "What's for lunch, boys?" However, seaplane travel has still not caught on in Tortuguero. If I know Costa Rica, it probably never will, and that's just sad.

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    Rotary-wing transport is another HUGE missed opportunity in Costa Rica, but nobody wants it.

    I use it on a limited basis with my clients, but it's mostly considered to be a "Rich Guy" method of transportation. If enough people would show some genuine interest in it, the "economy of scale" would make it a viable and economical method of transportation. Not that it would ever be Super-Cheap, but a $70 one-way ticket from SJO to Jaco is definitely within the realm of possibility. How much was that Taxi to Jaco, again?

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    I think I posted this earlier...

    Long story short, a driver who I know very well was shocked when I told him that a ticket on Nature Air from SJO to Quepos was significantly cheaper than his rate to drive from San José to Quepos. And then I told him, "Yeah... and the flight takes only 20 minutes." This guy, who has been driving in Costa Rica for over 20 years, was Genuinely Surprised when I told him about this. How could he not know this? Quite simply, Ticos don't understand air travel. I mean... they Really Don't. It's an entirely foreign concept to them. If you board a Sansa or Nature Air flight, most likely, all of your fellow passengers will be other tourists. Ticos don't travel by air. As sad as it is to say, most Ticos don't understand air travel. They view airplanes as an oddity that serves no useful purpose. As far as actual air travel goes, that's for bringing tourists in from the USA, Canada, and Europe.

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    I chartered a flight from SYQ to Golfito about 1 year ago. Small single-engine airplane. We climbed up to about 9500 feet, and then set off for Golfito. It was an absolutely gorgeous, clear day. The pilot looked at me and said, "You SEE how tiny this country is?" I answered, "I know. You're preaching to the choir. I've tried to tell people, but they won't fuckin' listen..."

    Over San José, at 9500 feet, you can see the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the entire country of Costa Rica. It's a very small country. A relatively slow airplane can take you from the Nicaraguan border to the Panamanian border in about one hour. Most of the Sansa and Nature Air flights are what we call, in the industry, "Up and Downs." A flight between Quepos and San José is basically a departure, followed immediately by an arrival. There is very little time available for the pilots to relax. The pilots barely have time to climb over the mountains before they have to start descending for a landing. San Carlos (Arenal) and Tortuguero are about the same... Take Off and Land. Costa Rica is a Very Tiny Country. If you have access to a Helicopter, there are very few places in Costa Rica that you cannot be within 30 minutes.
    Last edited by Speedy1; 05-26-2016 at 04:39 AM.

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    Helicopter from SJO or SYQ is the Way to Go in Costa Rica. For our first-time clients, we usually give them the scenic route, but for our repeat clients, the usual spiel is "Just Get Us There, Stick." SJO to the pad at Los Sueños is about 15-18 minutes. Even the "No Nonsense" flight is a visual masterpiece. This truly is a beautiful country.

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    Some other things that I love about flying in Costa Rica...

    1) The little terminal buildings. The El Tanque airport has a kick-ass bar which can be a lot of fun, depending upon when you're there. The Quepos airport has a little bar and grill which is quite nice, too.

    2) The personalities of the pilots who fly for both Sansa and Nature Air... really nice people.

    3) The professionalism and attention of the Sansa and Nature Air pilots. These guys are on top of their game. It doesn't hurt that they are constantly being evaluated by officials from Avianca, who hire only the best pilots from both Sansa and Nature Air.

    4) The ease of checking in with the domestic airlines... Security is minimal and check-in is a breeze. Very much a "breath of fresh air", compared to flying in the USA. However, you can expect the domestic airlines to be Extremely Strict about the Weight and Size of your bags. This is actually a very important concern on smaller aircraft.

    5) The amazing view that you get flying at lower altitudes. It's absolutely breathtaking.

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    Both Sansa and Nature Air use the Cessna Caravan in their fleets. The Caravan has the highest "Dispatch Rate" of any airliner in the World, even though it is just a small, single-engine airplane. The Caravan is, in fact, certified as an airline aircraft, and does, indeed, have the highest dispatch rate of any airliner in the World. What that means is that the Caravan has the fewest flight-stopping or flight-delaying mechanical issues of any airliner. Only the Boeing 737 can compete with the Caravan's airline dispatch rate. In addition, the Caravan's PT-6 engine is the most reliable turboprop engine in the world. Also, the Caravan... since it only has one engine... complies with all U.S. FAA and International rules concerning single-engine aircraft, which are FAR more stringent than the rules which apply to multi-engine aircraft. Suffice it to say... the Caravan is probably the Safest aircraft on which you will ever fly.

    Sansa and Nature Air also operate the DeHavilland DHC-6 "Twin Otter", a twin-engine aircraft which also uses the PT-6 engine and is also extremely reliable. Nature Air has recently begun using the LET 410 UVP, a Czech aircraft equipped with Czech engines.

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    Anyone who flies into San José should be aware that all airliners flying into SJO require a Pilot-in-Command (Captain) who has a "Special Pilot-in-Command Qualification" for SJO. This is due to the special procedures which are used to fly in and out of SJO. Suffice it to say that SJO is not the world's most "accessible" airport, primarily due to the high terrain (mountains) surrounding the airport. SJO lies within a valley with only ONE practical exit. Flying into SJO in a typical airliner, operating at typical airliner speeds, requires very specific procedures and quick thinking on the part of the pilots. A pilot's loss of situational awareness can put an airplane into the side of a mountain in less than one minute.

    If you are a frequent visitor to Costa Rica, and have flown into SJO on several occasions, then you have most likely flown on an airliner which has flown the "Belen Visual" approach. This approach is used when the wind or other circumstances at SJO require the use of Runway 25 for landings. There is no instrument approach to Runway 25, due to the high terrain to the east of the airport. Instead, the pilot must approach the airport as if he intends to land on Runway 7, and then make a close-in visual maneuver at low altitude, "circling" to land on Runway 25. For a typical large airliner, this is a fairly intense and precise maneuver. That's why airline pilots get paid the "Big Bucks", so to speak.

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    I don't believe that anyone flies 757s into SJO anymore, but I always loved flying into SJO and similar airports on the Boeing 757. This "Sports Car" of the airline world has often been used by airlines which fly into airports like SJO, Tegucigalpa, Puerto Plata, etc.

    Pilots LOVE the 757... it's the most overpowered, maneuverable, baddest-ass hunk of aluminum that the Boeing factory ever spit out. It's not made anymore, in favor of more economical models, but I never met a 757 pilot who didn't love his airplane.

    Photo #2 is a typical image of a 757 on initial climb-out. Note the deck angle. I was in the jumpseat on a 757 takeoff once, with the right-seater flying. After rotation and takeoff, the Captain said, "Keep on pulling. That's it... Keep on pulling."

    boeing 757.jpg

    2-757-300-take-off.jpg
    Last edited by Speedy1; 05-26-2016 at 07:40 AM.

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