April 1, 1999
By Julie Summers Walker
Thinking of flying off on a new adventure? Ask AOPA Pilot Information Center specialist Dave Yinger about his favorite adventure flight and you'll see a wry grin and sparkle in his eyes: Fly south of the border, he'll tell you.
Baja California, other parts of Mexico, and countries in Central America remind pilots of the "wild and wooly" days before urban sprawl — when the West was wild and flight was young; the days of bush pilots, gauchos, and barnstormers in open-cockpit biplanes. The airports are small and — usually — friendly, the weather's hot and dry, and the views from your own GA airplane are one heck of a lot more exciting than from 30,000 feet in a commercial jet.
Yinger is a veteran of many flights into the areas of Baja, Mexico, and Central America. He's also a seven-year aviation technical specialist at AOPA. Yinger is often called upon to offer advice to members planning adventure flights south of the border as well as to other spots such as Canada and the Bahamas (Caribbean).
Member Bill Disser, AOPA 673822, a 20-year California private pilot and the owner of a Beech Model 36 Bonanza, has called the AOPA Pilot Information Center and spoken with one of the many technical specialists such as Yinger who offer international briefings. He has flown across Canada using international flight tips from AOPA, and last summer he used AOPA's Mexico International Portfolio information packet for a trip across Mexico to the Panama Canal. "There's a lot of paperwork and differences that need to be addressed before a trip like this," admitted Disser. "The information AOPA sent was a lot of help."
AOPA offers International Portfolios as planning tools to help with preflight preparation. The portfolios are written with novice pilots in mind, but they also offer useful information for veteran adventurers. The Mexico Portfolio, for example, includes:
Additionally, the packet includes AOPA's pilot report form and a postpaid envelope so that pilots who fly great adventures can share the experience with fellow members (call 800/872-2672; information is also available to download or view on the Web at www.aopa.org/members/pic/intl/).
"AOPA's portfolios show you how to go with the flow and have as hassle-free an experience as possible," said Yinger, who suggests that members planning a trip south should call the center or order from the Web site several weeks in advance of their trip. Once the portfolio is in hand, AOPA can help members decide on the charts they will need, offer advice on citizenship information, and provide survival gear requirements.
Other international packets available from AOPA include Canada, Caribbean ($8 each), and Canada/Alaska and Transatlantic ($11). The Mexico portfolio is $8.
"Remember, there are differences once you cross the border, differences in air traffic control systems and there is generally no radar coverage under 20,000 feet in Mexico; VFR flight is not allowed at night; and there are a lack of en route weather advisories in Central America. But respecting the differences and understanding them ahead of time can make for a memorable flight," added Yinger.
As an AOPA member, you have access to the best source available anywhere for information and answers for pilots. The AOPA Pilot Information Center gives you direct access to specialists in every area of aviation. Information is also available on the Web (www.aopa.org) . The AOPA Pilot Information Center, 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672), is available to members from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
AOPA Director of Publications and Managing Editor for AOPA Pilot and Flight Training, Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
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