We ask Mountain Aviation pilot, Steven Foltz what goes through your mind while flying over the continent of South America?

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Steven Foltz

Operating in South America offers it’s own unique set of challenges and rewards. Challenges that must be evaluated include security, weather, terrain, and volcanic activity. Security risks are always of concern, and must be purposely mitigated. Evidence of the drug war is everywhere. It’s not uncommon to have drug dogs and military personnel board the aircraft. You must take your personal security and that of your passengers seriously. I remember before a trip to Venezuela requiring to have in my possession a photograph of our passengers driver and his vehicle, as kidnappings for ransom had been occurring from the airport. Operating near the equator requires careful planning in regards to weather. Route planning plays a big part in avoiding huge thunderstorms. [image_frame style=”framed” align=”right”]https://www.mountainaviation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/andes1-e1379994376987.jpg[/image_frame]
The biggest thunderstorms I’ve ever seen were enroute to Rio De Janeiro over the Amazon near the equator. The terrain of South America is breathtakingly beautiful. The Andes is the longest continental mountain range (over 4,300 miles long) and has an average height of over 13,000ft. On a recent flight over Bolivia we passed La Paz whose airport sits at 13,313ft. During the summer the density altitude there is often in excess of 18,000ft. Having flown in Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina it’s been an amazing experience to look out the window when climbing through FL200 and see peaks above your altitude. When flying over the Andes preplanning and situational awareness is obviously necessary. There are over 500 potentially active volcanos in the Andes, and eruptions are common. Here again planning is key. Volcanic activity is carefully considered when route planning; you don’t simple take the shortest route. Despite these challenges, I’ve found that the more experience I gain in the region the more I look forward to each trip. The people and culture are fascinating. The natural beauty is distinctly unique. The hard work and preparation pay off, and the sense of accomplishment is very rewarding.

– Capt. Steven Foltz, Mountain Aviation Gulfstream Pilot