From Dalum to Mexico in classic Comanche aircraft | DrumhellerMail
Last updateTue, 23 Apr 2024 5pm

From Dalum to Mexico in classic Comanche aircraft


plane.jpg Many vacationers fly to Mexico during the winter, but not many get to travel in their own plane. 
    This is what Don and Carol Ostergard, of Dalum, did in January.
    Taking off from their farm airstrip near Drumheller, the couple spent over five weeks flying around Mexico and Central America, all the while in control of the commands of a 1959 Piper Comanche aircraft.
    This is not the Ostergard's  first journey however.  Having owned the aircraft for over 30 years, Don and Carol regularly fly down to Mexico for breaks,  as well as across Canada.
    What was special about this trip was meeting up with 18 other like-minded people flying aircrafts and sharing part of the journey with the group, something Don and Carol had wanted to do for a while but schedules hadn’t allowed.
    Don also highlights, “wherever we went, we found friendly, hospitable, generous and honest people who are trying to make a better life for themselves and for their families.  Regardless of social standing, there is a quiet dignity that shows through.  And that was the most important discovery  we made.”
    Preparing for the trip requires a fair amount of planning to ensure it goes smoothly; appropriate maps and charts need to be gathered, all the relevant paperwork such as insurance, proof of ownership and a temporary importation certificate for the aircraft,  needs to be in order, as well as checking the entry requirements, as some countries, will require advance notice of arrival.
    And of course, the aircraft has to be thoroughly checked to ensure it is mechanically sound to fly, not a major job for the Ostergards as Don explains, “we are fanatic about maintenance and it pays!” Having flown over 15 times to Mexico and also various trips within Canada, the plane has never let them down confirmed Don, which has earned it the nickname of “The Sturdy Bird.”

    Flying an aircraft for such a long journey may appear daunting, but Don explains, “Any journey is just a series of cross country flights that just happen to go across several international boundaries.” They usually fly for a maximum of three and half hours to refuel and have a break, although the aircraft can be in the air for up to six hours.
    Sharing the same passion is probably also a must, and this is certainly the case with Don and Carol, who, pilot in command Don describes as “the world’s best navigator.”
    Finally, it takes a bit of patience. Talking about their experiences crossing the many international borders, Don explains, “In certain third world countries, the bureaucracy becomes an art form!” 
    He also highlights they have never experienced any problems with corruption or bribery, adding, “we were met at most Mexican airports by some very polite soldiers who have sniffer dogs… they have all always been good, conscientious people wanting to do the best job they could, you don’t have to leave a trail of five dollar bills. They are doing their job and keeping us safe, it makes you feel comfortable about leaving the aircraft there.”
    Transportation once at their destination doesn’t seem to be a problem, as Carol told The Mail some hotels they stay at would send a vehicle to pick them up.
    Don and Carol spent 10 days travelling around Mexico on their own before meeting up with the group of pilots in southern Mexico, a little town called Palenque, before touring Central America with Baja Bush Pilot’s CenAm tour, visiting Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatamala, overflying Belize, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
    It was difficult for Don and Carol to tell which of the places and sites they saw was a favourite. 
    They certainly seemed to be very taken with their visit to the mountain village El Rosario, a sanctuary in the central state of Michoacán, where every year, millions of Monarch butterflies migrate to.   
    Their experience spending time in the rain forest in the jungles of Costa Rica and Guatemala was special too, seeing magnificient birds and monkeys jumping around over their head and listening to the jungle sounds.  Interestingly, mosquitoes were not a problem there, Don explaining they didn’t need to use their repellent and he was only bitten once!
    Another highlight was visiting the ruins of ancient Maya and Zapotec cities. “Near San Cristobal de las Casas, in the southern Mexican State of Chiapas, we were in villages where Mayan, not Spanish,  is still the primary language, which, after 500 years, puts a different slant on the expression “Spanish Conquest”.  We witnessed rituals in some of those village churches that would no doubt puzzle the Vatican as much as they did us,” said Don.
    Finally, they both felt very lucky with the group they were travelling with, “All 20 of us in the group got on well...We certainly have made some new friends and have been emailing back and forth since,” added Don.
    Their only regret: “We would have liked to go to a few more places since we were down that far south” commented Carol, adding that they are already compiling a list of places to visit on a future trip.    

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