Pluma Hidalgo and the paved road leading to it More Photos
We arrived at the Huatulco airport at 8:30 am. The airport opens at 7:00 am. The general aviation area is to the right of the main terminal as you enter the airport. I went to the Comandant's office to file my flight plan. I planned to cross the Sierra Madre and then cruise at 6500' on a direct path to Tampico, so I filed for 6500'. The Comandant accepted that but when he telephoned the tower with my plan, they were unhappy with the altitude since that was not sufficient to cross the mountains. I changed it to 13,500' and that was fine.
Next I went to Operaciones to pay the airport use fee. That was 134.52 pesos (equivalent to US$12.50), which I paid in cash and had to provide the exact change.
While we were taking care of this, there were Aerovega passengers gathering in the general aviation area preparing for their flight.
We proceed to our aircraft. This time we were directed through security. That is the first time we were required to go through security on this trip (and it turned out to be the only time). Our bags and other belongings went through the X-ray machine. I don't know what they were looking for. They didn't question anything and didn't seem to notice the knives my two lady-friends were carrying in their purses.
We proceeded to load our baggage onto the airplane and do the preflight check. We were approached by the now expected Spanish-speaking soldier and provided him the information he required. We were now traveling a bit heavier since we had purchased several hammocks and some other items. We managed to get it all stowed with enough room left over for the three of us. A small military plane, a single-engine Cessna, I think, took off just before we did. There are two of those based at the airport.
Another mountain village on the south slope of the Sierra Madre
It was a beautiful morning for flying with clear skies and a light tailwind. My transponder was not being polled by radar, indicating that there was not a radar system in service in the area.
The first task at hand was getting over the first ridge of the Sierra Madre. On our arrival, we had crossed at 13,300', just 26 NM north of the airport. On this flight, I deviated to the west where the terrain did not rise as rapidly. I wanted to photograph some locations in that area anyway, such as Pluma Hidalgo. We were able to take advantage of some ridge lift, the updraft created when the wind is blowing upslope, but the wind was not strong enough to provide a substantial advantage. We crossed the first major ridge at only 10,000' at 25 minutes into the flight by this route so we did not lose much time in the climb. At this point we resumed our direct route.
Shortly afterward, I contacted Oaxaca approach. I was instructed to report abeam the airport. We continued in a cruise climb. I reported abeam the airport and 6 miles east and was told to report 20 miles north and climb to 12,500'. We continued our climb and achieved 12,500' by the time we were 20 miles north. I reported our position and we were released from the frequency.
On the north side of the Sierra Madre, we were above an overcast, where the clouds were backed up against the mountains. This eventually thinned to scattered. We maintained 10,500' in order clear additional high terrain. We passed east of the Orizaba volcano landmark again 261 NM into the flight. Eventually we were able to descend to a 6500' cruise level. We looked for the whales again when we reached the Gulf, but they were nowhere to be found.
Clouds blanket the northern slopes of the Sierra Madre del Sur
My passengers headed for the restrooms after the long flight. I instructed the attendant to fill the tanks to the bottom of the fuel neck. I said Llena abajo la cuerpa, which probably isn't gramatically correct but he understood exactly what I wanted. After paying for the fuel, I went to the Comandant's office to fill out the close flight plan form and fill out a new flight plan for the Tampico to Brownsville flight.
The next flight will be Tampico to Brownsville.