In addition to its delicious culinary offerings, Lima, Perú is known for surfing and paragliding off the cliffs in Miraflores (a trendy and touristic neighborhood). Paragliding is very close to actually flying like a bird. Did you know paragliding was invented by a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Bétemps, in June of 1978? I recently learned this while reading on a commercial flight.
I had only flown in a paraglider one other time, and enjoyed it, so I had to try it again. Miraflores has a nice “Parapuerto” (paragliding port) where one can always find people flying and giving rides, especially in the early afternoons when the wind from the coast seems to pick up, hitting the buildings and creating “dynamic forces” that enable and favor operations. They take passengers up for approximately 10 minutes on a first come, first serve basis for about $75 (and includes a video of the entire flight). However, I was lucky enough to be able to do this on my birthday (since my flight back home was delayed by a day thanks to Tropical Storm Imelda) at a discounted price of about $57.
Source: Google Maps
Source: Google Earth
Paragliding is fairly simple. The ingredients are walking/running feet to gain speed during takeoff, a fabric (often nylon) wing which you unsheathe from its pack, and wind to fill your canopy with air and create lift. One can direct the glider by pulling on handles, one on either side above the shoulders. You want to turn left, you pull left… you want to turn right, you pull right… The more you pull, the steeper the rate of turn and the more likely you are of losing altitude as well. The canopy is also equipped with brakes. Pulling down on brake toggles causes the trailing edge to flare down, increasing the angle of attack and slowing the speed.
So, when we were ready to depart, my instructor inflated the canopy behind us. We checked it to ensure the lines were all connected and attached correctly and to see what the wind was doing. We then walked slightly back and then forward to gain momentum. No more than four fast steps forward (yes, with heels and all) and we were in the air…
It was fun to cruise up and down the city and coast and it was as comfortable as sitting on a couch. We stayed above the height of the cliffs during most of the flight and we got as high as the tallest building in the area, the JW Marriott hotel by the Larcomar shopping mall. After peaking my curiosity, my research revealed that an average paraglider gets a lift-to-draft ratio of 7:1, meaning, in still air, the forward horizontal speed through the air is 20 mph and the vertical descent speed is 3 mph. It is honestly so relaxing one could even have a quick conversation with the pedestrians nearby.
Above, with the paragliding port behind us
Much like we do with aircraft, we did a non-standard (right) traffic pattern and came in for a controlled and smooth landing. I’m convinced I should learn how to do this on my own… It should not take more than a month at the right location (coastal areas or mountainous areas are best) and with the right weather (wind and/or thermal) conditions.
If the wind is too calm (which it does happen often…), you can try flying in a powered Paratrike; however, they operate from an aerodrome south of Lima. It is unclear to me which one they operate out of but I would not be surprised if it is from San Bartolo.
Flying is freedom! Fly safe and fly often!
After a few work trips to Lima, I was asked to temporarily relocate there. You may already know from my other blogs that I do not like to stay still much on the weekends. I love to explore the outdoors and learn about different areas, cultures, foods, etc. I especially love to experience flight in different parts of the world. Being in Perú for a few months has given me the opportunity to not only fly around the area but also to practice some of my other hobbies. I wrote a separate article about flying over the incredible Nazca Lines (https://airtrails.weebly.com/peruacute/there-are-things-you-can-only-see-from-the-air-perus-nazca-lines) but, if you remember, I could not do it as a pilot but rather as a passenger due to flight restrictions. This was not going to stop me from finding ways to fly myself.
Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM or SPJC) hardly has any General Aviation (GA) activity (although we did see increased activity during the recent Pan American Games) but I was able to rent an airplane and fly with a local CFI from Aviatur (http://www.aviatur.pe/) at the Lib Mandy (or Mandi, I’ve seen it spelled both ways) Airport (SPLX) (https://skyvector.com/airport/SPLX/Lib-Mandy-Metropolitano-Airport). SPLX is a GA airport approximately 70 km (43 miles) south of Lima. The Airport has one other flight school: Master of the Sky (http://www.masterofthesky.com/). The hardest part was actually getting there… Although the distance may seem reasonable, the amount of traffic, lack of highways, and crazy driving skills of the locals made this an hour and a half drive each way. I was concerned rideshares or taxis would not pick up from the GA airport for my return trip but, thankfully, they did. However, neither driver had ever seen or heard of the Airport. That was not a surprise considering some people in the States also do not know about their local airports outside of the commercial ones.
The Airport lacks an Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) listing as far as I can tell (http://www.corpac.gob.pe/Main.asp?T=3759&S=&id=23&idA=9370) and the best information for it can be obtained directly from the flight schools or on ForeFlight (other apps may have it as well but FF is what I use and have access to). Lib Mandy itself, at 200 ft Mean Sea Level (MSL), is not in any particular type of airspace (not like we have in the States, anyway); however, it is in a restricted area (R-68) from the surface to 3,000 ft MSL and SPIM – Lima’s Flight Information Region (FIR), like an Air Route Traffic Control Center or ARTCC in the U.S., goes from the surface to 20,000 ft MSL.
SPLX has a single, paved runway (Runway 14/32, approximately 1,000 m or 3,300 ft long by 18 m or 59 ft wide) with no instrument approaches but a visual tower. Its facilities, especially the pavement, are not in the greatest of the conditions. It is mostly busy with flight training and has a smaller aerodrome (San Bartolo: not shown in sectionals but shown in Google Maps) just on the other side of the Pan-American Highway. This aerodrome is also quite busy with ultralights and Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).
I rented a well maintained (to my surprise, honestly) Cessna 150 for $150/hour wet, with the instructor. The CFI was a nice fella who flies an Airbus 320 for Viva Air, a low cost carrier, owned by Ryanair, that operates in parts of South America.
A local Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight to learn the procedures and check out the scenery was the objective. I knew crossing over LIM to fly north of it was not an option and flying east is a challenge because of the rising terrain and high mountain peaks (the powerful Andes), but I had assumed such local flight would include a flight over Lima. I was wrong. There are lots of restrictions in the area (such as SPLP – Las Palmas, a military airport) prohibiting VFR flying without a previously established flight plan. So, we just flew south SPLX for a while, checking out the little towns, beaches, agriculture, hillsides, etc. Even though we were outside of all airspace, we had to coordinate and remain in contact with Lima Approach the entire time. It was disappointing and a bit surprising considering I have flown in much busier airspace in South America (such as Sao Paulo https://airtrails.weebly.com/brazil/bem-vindos-ao-brasil) without these restrictions. Again, I learned yet another lesson and the next flight will be a cross country with a filed flight plan. It also served as another reminder of how good we have it in the U.S. Let’s keep it that way!
I never knew Lima’s surroundings were such a desert!
There are some hills around the Airport and we flew a straight in for Runway 32 after turning left around one of those hills.
Unfortunately, the biggest excitement came from an “advisory” another pilot awaiting departure after us gave us over the radio. He informed us that our nose gear was shaking badly during ground roll. He stated our nose gear could collapse. During the pre-flight, I had noticed the nose tire was getting up in age/use and I pointed it out to the CFI but we both agreed it was airworthy. I also noticed a shimmy during initial power up on takeoff, but I applied more back pressure on the yoke and it fixed it. It was not anything I had not already experienced in other planes before, but the CFI got a bit worried. I suggested asking the tower for a visual check before landing (although I can imagine it is hard to see a possible flat tire while still in the air) and performing a soft field landing and keeping the nose in the air as long as possible. Turned out… the plane was fine, and we landed and taxied back without a hiccup.
Fly safe and fly often!
Aircraft are great traveling machines but they are also fantastic platforms for sightseeing. I recently found the best place for aerial sightseeing - the Nazca (often spelled “Nasca”) Lines in Perú! If you don’t take to the skies, you could miss them! These geoglyphs can only be seen from above, partially because of their massive size.
75,000 Hectares of Desert Plains (of the Rio Grande de Nasca River Basin) that Look Like Nothing from the Ground
The town of Nazca is about 250 miles south of Lima, Perú’s capital. According to The History Channel (https://www.history.com/topics/south-america/nazca-lines), the Nazca Lines are a collection of giant geoglyphs (designs or motifs etched into the ground) created by the ancient Nazca culture (which began around 100 B.C. and flourished from A.D. 1 to 700). These lines (some of which are 30 miles long), geometric designs, and pictorial representations (some of which measure up to 1,200 feet) were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and are still a mystery to researchers despite having been studied for over 80 years.
First evidence of the lines goes back to 1547 when Spanish conquistador, historian, and chronicler Pedro Cieza de León saw “signs.” His reference was forgotten until much later when they were rediscovered by the first Peruvian aviators of commercial airlines.
Out of all the famous Nazca designs, only three of them can be seen from a manmade tower along the long Panamerican Highway (Carretera Panamericana). The rest can only be seen by air.
You may notice that the Lizard (approximately 144 x 528 ft for reference) is cut in half by the highway. The legend says the road was constructed before they knew those geoglyphs were there.
My intention was to rent a C172/182 (with a local CFI) from one of the flight schools in the Lima area where I was staying; however, after making contact with them, I quickly learned that 1) a number of their aircraft were unavailable as they were being used for training purposes and 2) the ability to fly over the Lines requires government approval prior to launching. Restricted area R-70 goes from the surface to 12,000 feet MSL and encompasses the Nazca Lines.
So, instead, they suggested going up with one of the outfitters giving air tours. Bummer! I was excited about flying myself (as I always do) and learning the local procedures but the goal here was seeing the Lines and going up with an air tour operator seemed like the only way to achieve it.
A google search identified a variety of options both in aircraft type and airport of origin. One can fly from Pisco, Ica, or Nazca itself. We ended up choosing “SPZA – Maria Reiche” as our launching airport for logistical reasons (other activities, schedules, availability, etc). The airport is named after Maria Reiche, a German archaeologist and translator, who studied the geoglyphs for many, many years. Her research concluded that the designs had an astronomical and calendrical purpose.
AeroNasca (https://www.aeronasca.com/sobrevuelo-nazca-classic/) took us on about a 40 minute flight in a C207. I was looking forward to taking the right seat but, fortunately or unfortunately, they fly with two pilots. The elevation of the area where the drawings are is about 1,900 ft and we flew at 2,500-3,000 ft MSL. The flight was "not for the faint of hearth." The tight 30-45 degree turns turned some stomachs.
The Nazca drawings/lines vary in size and detail. The route we took (shown below) included 13 drawings/lines; however, we spotted multiple others. Experts say there are upwards of 1,100 of them (between designs and lines) in the area. In fact, they’re still finding them.
Source: AeroNasca and Google Maps.
The whale is approximately 212 x 144 ft.
Lots of triangles, arrows, etc throughout the area
The astronaut is probably one of the smallest figures (about 125 x 54 ft) but it’s on the side of a mountain.
The monkey is 274 x 230 ft. The curiosity of this figure is that it shows the monkey with 9 fingers and with a tail in the form of a spiral.
The hummingbird is 335 x 161 ft with a wingspan of approximately 217 ft.
The condor is approximately 427 x 377 ft.
The spider is one of the most obvious ones even though it’s only 172 x 155 ft. It is on the edge of a trapezoid on the Earth’s surface.
The great egrett is one of the longest (907 x 181 ft).
The parrot is approximately 719 x 317 ft and can be easily seen from the air as the pictures show. Its head is formed by segments of circles that have a radius that varies between 4 and 8 inches.
I really think the parrot would fit well as a "World Expo/Fair mascot:" http://expomuseum.com/mascots/
What amazed me the most was the precision/symmetry of them, especially when you think of the era they were made in with no aerial vehicles, survey tools, technology, challenging terrain (flat with no shade), etc. I think that’s also where their mystery comes from and why some researchers believe aliens may have been involved. It’s fascinating to see how many different theories have been developed for “why” or “how” the designs were created. When you have some time, you should google Nazca Lines and read about them.
On the way back to SPZA, to top it off, we saw Native American ruins and the Aqueducts of Cantalloc.
Regardless of not being able to be PIC or even SIC, I loved the experience and highly recommend it to any of you planning a trip down to Perú. In addition to this flight, their food, Inca culture, and other area sites (Huacachina, Paracas, and Islas Balletas) amount to great reasons for scheduling a trip down under.
I challenge you to tell me about other places where “flying over” is a must to appreciate its beauty. Fly safe and fly often!