I had been scheduled to pilot a plane for the Flying Samaritans in November, but I canceled the morning of because of weather. I wasn’t scheduled for the December trip, but a new pilot couldn’t find the registration to his plane (whoops, kind of important) and had to cancel at the last minute. I had my own issues because the day before I was fogged out of Placerville so I had to leave my plane in Sacramento. Fortunately one of the good doctors drove me down early in the morning to get my plane.
We decided to clear into Mexico at Tijuana, but but I think I prefer Ensenada. The controllers kept me at 6,000 feet over the US/Mexico border even though the Tijuana runway is only a few miles away. The Tijuana controller cleared me to land when I was still at 6,000 feet over the runway so it was a matter of pulling the power, getting the gear down and checking to make sure the passenger’s ears were OK for the steep descent. Ensenada is more scenic too. However the doctors say that officials demand that they pull stuff out of the planes in Ensenada for a search, which doesn’t happen at Tijuana. So if you are smuggling drugs INTO Mexico, go through TJ.
The trip down to the dirt airstrip next to the clinic in Rancho Los Pinos was good, as were the margaritas and the fish at Jardine’s restaraunt in San Quintin. Last time I learned a little about helping in the eye clinic so this time I think I was genuinely useful and we did over 80 eye exams and handed out almost 30 eyeglasses (from exams done at last month’s eye clinic). We also handed out numerous reading glasses and took photos of one woman’s eye that had a cyst on it and asked her to come back next time. One of the doctors will check with an opthamologist to get an opinion on her eye.
One of the regular pilots, Joel Prosser,and his wife have been helping a local family consisting of a mother and her kids, including a 12 year girl with recurring health issues. We stopped by their one room particle-board house so Joel could give them some teddy bears and Christmas money and there he learned the daughter had recently died. It was a tearful moment.
Some tell me my blog is full of some pretty cool trips, but I stand in awe of Joel who is not only following and helping this family, but has twice flown patients back up to the US, where he and the organization have convinced Sacramento doctors to operate on serious but repairable health issues such as a large but benign tumor. Joel, you are an amazing person.
We departed Los Pinos Sunday morning and did a little bandit IFR to get up through low clouds. I enjoyed that. Fortunately the big sky theory still applies in Baja California, which means the chances of another plane being in the clouds at that place and at that moment are extremely low.
We cleared out of Mexico at Mexicali (a pain since they still use multi-part forms for everything), and then made the 5 minute trip to Calexico to clear into the US. The flight home was a bit long, but uneventful.