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!