Trevor and I have been longing to get back into aviation for a while now. Now that the kids are older we probably could find some time to stay current, but so far Puerto Rico has seemed aloof in the plane rental arena. Our nearest airport in Mayaguez is practically a ghost town. The tower is all boarded up (it’s now an uncontrolled airport, which means the pilots make their own calls on the radio frequency), and there is no gas for sale there.
Randomly on Facebook I saw an announcement for the first annual Festival Nacional de Aviacion! I was so excited! BUT – it was on the ONE weekend Trevor was away and it was in Humacao. On the east coast. The other side of the country. 2.5 hours of driving one way. I’m not opposed to long drives, but with a 3 and a 4 year old, you have to be mentally sturdy. And have a helluva reason to make the drive.
Admittedly, we are spoiled in the airshow department. Nearly every summer we drive a couple hours to the largest airshow in the USA. Of course I was not expecting that in Humacao, but I didn’t want to make the trek to see 5 airplanes, have no one to connect with and no food vendors. I tried calling the airport but the guy didn’t understand my spanish but did confirm that there was an airshow. Ok…progress.
Like most events, restaurants, and clubs in PR they had a Facebook page which offered more details. It advertised 60 airplanes, parachutes, radio controlled planes, food carts, and booths of information. Just in case it was a bust, I looked at my Puerto Rico pinterest board for other options in the area.
My neighbor had a wagon I could borrow – LIFESAVER! Snacks, books, activity books packed, airplane tshirts on, tank full of gas. Highway 2 to Ponce and 52 North is such a pretty drive. We got to the Humacao airport around 11am.
There were military people there herding people around. The first guy told me the parking lot was full. The second guy I spoke with told me to head right into the lot. Found a spot! Gracias a Dios for that wagon! It was a 5 minute walk to the show area. It was 95 degrees out.
Well, it was fun. Cute. I counted about 20 aircraft. Two hangers were open, there were about 6 food charts (with non-fried options!!) A couple booths of flight schools who were located in San Juan. They rent! score!
I met a pilot who owned a Piper Cub that he flew to Florida a lot. I totally wanted to show off my Oshkosh tshirt, but I quit pointing it out to people when I saw how sweaty it was. 95 degree, remember? A lot of helicopters and taxiing aircraft produced significant propwash and peppered the whole crowd with dry grass. That tasted good.
Putting on an airshow (ok, lets just call this a fly-in because it wasn’t really an airshow) requires a ton of work. From volunteers, to making sure idiots don’t walk into taxiing aircraft (remember that guy in Indian Jones? with the propeller? yeah? ew.) to having emergency plans, local authority on board, food, and sufficient toilet facilities. If you actually have stunt aerobatics going on, you need fire and rescue available, an air marshal in control, the airspace officially restricted with the FAA in the area for the time of the show, and special permission from the FAA to fly lower that normally allowed. While this event didn’t necessitate the extra planning I just mentioned, it did take a lot of work.
Two things I would improve on: people traffic flow. We were forced to walk under and around wings and propellers to get to the hanger area. Hard with a wagon. And two: mas banos por favor. There were 4 pot-o-potties for about 300 people. I’m sure toilet paper ran out real fast. And someday I would love to bring my future airplane here to display. Except I would rope it off. People were putting their paws all over every plane. I even saw a woman plop her kid right on top of the airplane engine cowling for a photo.
Overall, I was glad we went. Everythingthat could have
gone wrong went right. When I asked my kids if they had fun they kinda just shrugged their shoulders. I think my son was hoping for more gift shops and souvenirs. haha I hope they do this again next year. I’d go again! Hey – I even got a photo on a local Facebook page! haha
Looks like you guys had a good time. I’m excited to see that there is some sort of amateur aviation enthusiasts community down there. We’re moving in January and flight school is something that I’ve been interested in for a long time. I’m hoping that once we get settled, I’ll be able to make that happen.
what city are you moving to? Aguadilla had talk of lessons, or at least rental, and we’re trying to connect with a JetBlue pilot about lessons too. If you move to the San Juan area you’ll have an easy time finding lessons. look up HorizonAviationPR on facebook or Benitez aviation.
We live in San Juan and I dearly miss flying as well. I worked for a flight school in NY during high school and college. Did you connect with the outfit that offers ultralight lessons/rides in Arecibo? In Old San Juan there’s a Cessna Caravan on floats that offers rides – a bit pricey but looks like fun.
Thanks for reading my blog 🙂 I also worked at a flight school as a ‘line girl’. Oooo…that was cold work in winter. It was such an antique airport too. Those hanger doors would get frozen and I couldn’t budge them haha.
Ultralight lessons and rides huh? They didn’t have a booth at that little flyin in Humacao. I’ll have to look them up online. I know I shouldn’t be, but ultralights make me nervous!
Yep – me too. I started working the line then went to dispatch. Got to ferry airplanes between our two offices a lot. Good times!
My wife gets emails through Gustazos and every so often there’s deals for ultralight flights/lessons. I’m with you – not sure about them, but they sure look fun!!