Pilots receive a full briefing from Greg Rolle of the Bahamas Tourism office at Banyan Air’s superb facility
“Too much fun!” was a common exclamation of my Alaska ultralight friend, Mike Jacober. His signature phrase ran through my head as 18 airplanes, mostly LSA, arrived at the Freeport, Bahamas airport for the first Sport Pilot Fly-in over December 10-12, 2010. *** For many this was their first flight over the ocean (including yours truly). It isn’t far — 85 nautical miles, less than one hour — and it isn’t hard (unless you go for a swim en route… none of us did, thank goodness!). But flying out of sight of land, even for a short time, is rather attention-getting.
*** A number of us gathered at Banyan Air Service at the Fort Lauderdale Executive getting first-class treatment and fuel discounts from this “gateway FBO” to the Bahamas. Bahamas Tourism/Aviation director (and fellow pilot) Greg Rolle gave a thorough presentation of the requirements to fly internationally. Each pilot had to complete lots of government forms but they weren’t too difficult and the great help made it go quickly. Then, we all gathered our resolve, fired up our engines, and took off across the Big Drink. Of course, this is nothing for those few LSAers who have crossed the Atlantic andPacific, but it had me on my toes and I suspect most of us felt similarly.
The Light Sport Aircraft group departing from Banyan Air Service
*** An hour later, we landed one after another at Freeport to a warm reception by Bahamian authorities and tourist office staffers. We breezed through Customs and waiting taxicabs took us to a deluxe resort where we could all revel in our satisfaction of making the ocean-crossing voyage. Jacob Peed of Aviators Hot Line / Light Aviation Edition provided customized tee shirts for all participants with their aircraft name and N-number. Nice idea, Jake! *** Thanks for this great experience go to Randy Hansen and David Oord of EAA who worked with the Bahamas Tourism team to make the Sport Pilot certificate accepted at all airports throughout the islands. All participants have many people to thank but the Bahamas team leaders include Greg Rolle and Leonard Stuart (photo).
You — nor any Bahamian officials — have ever seen this: a row of LSA at the Freeport airport.
*** Continuing Bahamas Fly-ins and other LSA activities are planned and if you get the chance, be sure to take the opportunity. Special thanks to Breezer Aircraft USA boss, Mike Z, who loaned me a Breezer, and who very competently helped me prepare for the flight. Mike’s enterprise plans regular Bahamas fly-outs and you should contact him for advice. He’s a wealth of knowledge, having lived on and sailed throughout the islands for five winters.
Enjoying the night life near Lucaya Resort. Pictured are (R-L): Mike Z, Jacob Peed (kneeling), Bahamas rep Leonard Stuart, Randee Laskewitz, and Dan Johnson.