The Flight Plan
In the office of Despacho SENEAM, I explain to the official the local flight I want to make and she fills out a flight plan form. She lists the route as "25 nautical miles east - Hierve el Agua". The form has 4 copies which have to be stamped by various other offices and then returned to Despacho SENEAM. I then go to the Operaciones office where I pay the airport fee ($136 pesos, equivalent to US$11.34), get my flight plan stamped and then go back inside the building and upstairs to the office of Verificadores Aeronauticos Oficina Tecnica. This is a new office that I have not heard of at other airports in Mexico. The official here looks at my flight plan and announces that foreigners are not permitted to make local flights. This is unexpected since I have made local flights from each of the previous 3 Mexican destinations I have visited (Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, and Manzanillo). I am referred to the office of the Comandante across the hall. After some discussion it is determined that I can make the flight but the words "Hierve el Agua" must be removed from the flight plan form. This is done by starting over with a new form. I return to the office of Despacho SENEAM to restart the process. This means going through security again. Next time I come to the Oaxaca airport I won't wear a belt.
At the office of Despacho SENEAM, the official is on the telephone with the man upstairs when I arrive. She seems a bit pertubed by the conversation but is cordial to me and obliges with a new flight plan identical to the first but with the words "Hierve el Agua" omitted. I take this to Operaciones for a stamp and then back inside the terminal and up to the office of Verificadores Aeronauticos Oficina Tecnica for another stamp and then across the hall to the office of the Comandante for another stamp. I return downstairs, collect my passengers, and we all proceed through security (the third time for me).
Now secure in the knowledge that I will not blow up my own airplane or threaten myself with a knife, we proceed out to the ramp. I return to the office of Despacho SENEAM to finalize my flight plan. The official keeps the remaining copy and instructs me to pick it up when I return. We are cleared to make the flight.
We are cleared to take off on Runway 01 with a right turnout. We are given a radio frequency to monitor while away from the airport. The route takes us over the archaeological sites of Dainzu, Yagul, and Mitla. We climb over a mountain range and descend into a valley where Hierve el Agua is located. The air is bumpier that I had expected, a contributing factor being the delay we experienced at the airport. Flying through the mountains is best done early in the morning. After a couple of passes by Hierve el Agua, we climb out of the valley and return along the same route. On the return, we see a helicopter pass by a low altitude. There seems to be a lot of helicopter traffic at Oaxaca but not much else.
Back at the airport, I tie down the plane and visit the Operations office to request fuel and the office of Despacho SENEAM to close my flight plan and pick up the flight plan form. It takes 30 liters to fill the plane at a cost of $513.34 pesos, equivalent to US$42.78.
Next is Oaxaca to Tampico