In the last edition of , I reported on the third leg of my ferry flight between the USA and Brazil piloting a Thrush Switchback. This edition completes my journey.
At 5:30 am local time in Barbados, I was already at the airport, but I was only able to take off until around 6:00 am due to fuel supply logistics. In fact, if there’s anything I could confirm during that flight, it’s how things work differently when comparing some countries. In the United States, things go very well and people are usually very punctual. In places like Barbados, we need an extra dose of time and patience even to deal with simple things. On this Caribbean island, for example, the pilot is practically obliged to pay a person who provides services, such as calling for supplies, transmitting a flight plan, booking a hotel, etc. Luckily, one of the pilots I met in Puerto Rico gave me the contact of a “handling agent” (a person who does this type of service) and I managed well.
Readied plane, documentation and flight plan in order, I departed for the northern borders of South America! It was a perfect day, with a clear sky and the Thrush Switchback, as always, flying smooth and safely.
The VHF radio, while in contact with Centro Piarco, displayed a true symphony of accents. Of course, the preferred language is English, but many pilots and controllers communicate in French in this airspace. Even when we use the English language, it is common for them to greet us with a cordial “bonjour” (“good morning” in French) and then go on speaking in English. In fact, one of the things I love about aviation is this cultural interaction.
Later on, after contacting the Georgetown Center, I crossed the sky of Guyana with a very peaceful feeling. I could see some cumulus clouds already developing. But as it was still early, it was nothing that affected my flight. Level at 14,500 feet, I was able to enjoy the view, which no longer had the blue-green tinge of the Caribbean sea, but rather the dense green of the Amazon rainforest. An interesting phenomenon that I was able to observe: the clouds that formed, bordered the rivers, but did not develop over them. This made me think even more about how we should learn from the particularities of each micro climate. Everywhere I went, I could see this climatic diversity and some very interesting weather patterns. Flying on different continents is a class in meteorology.
As soon as I crossed the boundary into Brazilian airspace, I had that feeling of being at home. Now, in Portuguese, I called Amazon Center and asked for information about the weather in Manaus. As the amount of cumulonimbus was growing with a forecast for rain, I decided to land in Boa Vista, in the state of Roraima. On Brazilian soil, after exactly five hours of flight, I waited for the Federal Police inspection, then went straight to lunch. There is nothing to compare with a good dish of rice and beans, especially for those who were born in Brazil, but live abroad.
One of the characteristics that I like most in Thrush aircraft is its stability.
After a night of rest, the next day I took an early flight from Boa Vista to Sinope. It took seven hours and 18 minutes of flight time with many cloud formations causing detours. One lesson I learned in Sinope the wind changes quickly! I made the circuit for landing 03 because the windsock was indicating that was the best option. But on short final, I could clearly see the wind had changed and was now a tailwind. The Switchback did not disappoint me as it touched the soil of Mato Grosso flawlessly regardless of the wind. In fact, one of the characteristics that I like most in Thrush aircraft is its stability. This is evident both in flight and on the ground.
With one more leg of my journey accomplished, I went to the hotel to prepare for the “grand finale” that was planned for the next day. It took me a while to fall asleep, because my anxiety was great. Finally, I succumbed to fatigue and the next day I took off early to complete the last leg: Sinope to Anápolis. It took four hours and six minutes of flight. Another easy leg, but full of expectations!
I crossed midfield of the SWNS airport and landed on 25. In Anápolis, a true entourage was waiting for the aircraft and me. The entire Thrush team with whom I had spoken with for days was there to welcome the promising Switchback. It was exciting to be able to meet the faces behind the voices. All those people worked tirelessly so the aircraft and I could arrive safely.
I’ve been around the world a lot and I’ve had the opportunity to work with different people. I say with all my heart that Thrush’s teams, both in the USA and in Brazil, are some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
After meeting everyone, we did a brief photo and video session to record that historic moment for us all. Later, when the team had dispersed to take care of the paperwork, I was able to have a few moments alone with the aircraft. I touched the wings, stroked the chrome spinner and said quietly: “Thank you for being my companion on this adventure!”
There will always be something magical about flying. It is an act of surrender to flight. That Switchback represents some pilot’s dream, hope for the future and the livelihood of a family. I feel immensely proud to be a part of this.
I am grateful to everyone who trusted me. I truly hope the Switchback, so special to me and the Thrush team, will be the first of many tol operate both in spraying crops and firefighting! My journey was a great, personal accomplishment for me and one I will always treasure and never forget.