SEVENTH LEG: Puerto Rico to Piarco Airpt., Port-of-Spain. 700 mi. (statute) SE, via following islands: St. Thomas ( U.S.), St. Croix ( U.S.), St. Maarten (Dutch), St. Christopher ( U.K.), Antigua ( U.K.), Montserrat ( U.K.), Guadeloupe (French), Marie Galante (French), Dominica ( U.K.), Martinique (French), St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, Grenada and Tobago (all U.K.). Nearly all have airstrips and enthusiastic pilots around; many flying clubs; this is small-plane paradise. All are interesting, hospitable, moderately priced (maximum daily average for food and lodging in winter months: $10-$15), all have relaxed C&I. Piarco is large airline terminal; paved runway, tower VHF 118.1, all facilities, all octanes, weather bureau, tiedown $2. C&I procedure and fees begin to stiffen: getting close to mainland. Port-of-Spain popular, interesting tourist city, many good hotels, reasonable. Typical: Bergerac, Queen's Park, from $10; Normandie, from $5 (all Amer. plan). NOTE: Landing fees, C&I charges extremely variable throughout Caribbean, S. & C. America, depending on type plane, hour and temperament of officials on duty. Our stops averaged $7 each. Try to avoid landings and take-offs during off-duty hours, siestas and holidays; overtime charges can be awful. Siestas especially holy; during them many officials refuse to move at any price. No need to travel with local currency; U.S. money good along entire route. Carry plenty $1 and $5 bills. Before getting out of islands and into S. America, following are some comments on flying safety. WEATHER: In cold months, when most sensible birds and aviators fly south, weather is no problem in Caribbean areas. Other seasons, be legally qualified to fly instruments or be prepared for some delays and detours. SINGLE VS. TWIN ENGINES: Having done most of my over-water flying single-engine, I think such debate is largely academic. A "twin" was taken on this trip because Apache had roomiest, most comfortable cabin I could find to carry lively young passengers. That extra propeller spinning out there was psychologically soothing at times, I'll admit; nevertheless, odds against a modern, properly cared-for single-engine plane conking in any given 75-mi. stretch (average land-to-land distance in Caribbean) are better than 65,000 to one, roughly equivalent to being dealt five consecutive cards of same suit. Of course, results of either phenomenon could be called a straight flush, and with one engine or four you should navigate with care and have emergency gear. But most island flying down in the Caribbean is done single-engine by sober, conservative pilots who regard the greatest hazards as mental. NAVIGATION: Here is more realistic danger. On the rare occasions when only water is in sight, don't be overanxious if your landfall is few minutes late (it almost always is). It's pretty hard to miss a Caribbean island and almost impossible to miss some kind of landfall if you hold steady on course. The potential enemy is not a shark; it's the temptation to start hunting around in fretful curves.
EIGHTH LEG: Port-of-Spain to Maiquetia Airpt., Caracas. 375 mi. W. All Maiquetia-bound aircraft from E must fly not less than 3 mi. from coast, must have flight plan, must maintain radio listening watch. (CAA Internatl. Flight Info. Manual your constant companion henceforth.) Maiquetia has long paved runway, tower 118.1, 121.5, 121.9. All facilities, all octanes, weather bureau. NOTE: So far on this route no passports or visa required of U.S. citizens; from now on they will be needed throughout most of S. & C. America. Previously arranged landing clearances (see notes in Part I) also essential. Venezuelan C&I extremely tough. Caracas beautiful city; long taxi ride ($5), hotels start at $15 European plan and go way up.
NINTH LEG: to Princess Beatrix Airpt. (Dakota Airpt. on some charts), Aruba, Netherlands Antilles. 245 mi. NW. Paved runways, tower 118.1. All facilities, all octanes, tiedowns, C&I fast, informal. No passport, visa or landing clearance required. Manual says 24-hr. prior notice of landing time required from private planes; we were unable to comply and were not scolded. No charge for tiedown. Aruba neat, friendly, quiet island. We stayed at Basi Ruti Hotel; long taxi ride; fine beach. About $12 apiece for room and meals. SIDE FLIGHT: Willemstad, Curacao. Actually, most people would prefer to base here, not Aruba. Busier place, more things to do. Piscadera Bay Club has swimming beach, tennis, golf; $7 up for room and breakfast. Curacao and Aruba fine places in Caribbean to shop if wife is along and money and baggage space left. All sorts of duty-free goodies from Europe, from booze to silk. Lowest prices in world on Swiss watches, outside Switzerland, in case your navigation has been suffering.
TENTH LEG: to Crespo Airpt., Cartagena, Colombia. 420 mi. SW. Two runways, tower 118.1; most facilities, most fuels. Had to take 100-130 octane; told 91 octane usually available. Tiedowns, other charges seemed to be whatever traffic would bear; $6 in our case, plus $3 more to grease palm of C&I man, who then did not bother baggage. Informed by airpt. man that Colombian C&I normally tough; lax now because of snafu in govt. Airpt. is at edge of Cartagena: a handsome, interesting, old, walled city sticking out into a beautiful bay. Hotel del Caribe about $8 up, meals included. NOTE: 120 mi. E of Cartagena you pass Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, sticking up 18,947 feet like a sore thumb on the coast, with ferocious downdrafts to leeward. If wind is from S quadrant, sidle out to sea and pass with respect.
ELEVENTH LEG: to Tocumen Airpt., Panama City. 260 mi. SW direct over water or 330 mi. via coast. Some scattered villages along Colombian coast; utter desolation over isthmus. Stick to beach. Tocumen major terminal, paved runway, tower 118.1, 121.5, 126.18, all service facilities, all octanes, no tiedowns, no hangar space. C&I strict but friendly. Modern restaurant, bar at airpt., good food, meals about $2 each. Unable to comment on city; can report airpt. benches soft for sleeping and personnel hospitable. Understand town expensive and lively. Check current yellow fever inoculation rules for travel in C. America and U.S. re-entry.