2011 Governor General’s Cup Caribbean Air Challenge We did it !!! 28 pilots and crew from 7 different countries crossed 7 borders in 12 days The Winners ! Oscar C. Hope and Richard Brown holding the Cup Oscar C. Hope, Utah, USA Richard Brown, Great Britain Second place : Raj Soni & Tom McGloin, N.Y. USA,Charly Pearce, N.S., Canada Third Place : Don Lounsbury and Robert Ogilvie, Ontario, Canada _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Second edition of the Caribbean Air Challenge took flight Saturday March 19, 2011. We can be proud of this year’s International representation: Crews from Mexico, Chile, Holland, Switzerland & France added to the Canadians and US. For the Canadians the fun started 2 days earlier. Québec pilots were faced with marginal VFR conditions that made the crossing of the Adirondak Mountains difficult. Having an IFR support pilot onboard, Young Mentoree Pete Beaudry from California was very much appreciated by the crew of the Piper cherokee 6 departing from Montréal. Pete Beaudry was one of three Young commercial pilots to benefit from the Pilot Mentor Program sponsored by Bombardier. Pete’s father Rob is a captain for American Airlines and Pete is following his fathers steps. It was a great opportunity for him to log on valuable hours: Montréal-Martinique and back. 24 pilots from 7 different countries gathered at Banyan fort Lauderdale air services on March 13 for the morning briefing. Greg Rolle, Bahamas aviation specialist Bahamas Tourism (Partner and host of the 2010-2011 Caribbean air challenge) welcomes the teams explaining all there is to know about flying the Bahamas. 10 AM- Wheels up ! on route to Great Exuma (Georgetown) enjoying the most scenic, beautiful flight over the breathtaking Bahamas Islands and the brilliant colors of the Atlantic Ocean! Greg was right, as we moved along, Bahamas waters exploded with spectacular bursts of various blue azure transparent waters and white sand in a glorious tribute to Mother Nature The Bahamas are well set up for light aircraft and welcome over 40,000 private flights per year. Routing: Bimini, Bahamas (MYBS) 57 NM – San Andros (MYAN) 76 NM-Staniel Cay (MYES) 103 NM-Exuma (MYEF) 48 NM Upon landing in Exuma Intl, we proceeded to fuel up the planes and clear customs. Airport of Entry was a quick and simple process with the help of Bahamas tourism assistants. After a nice cool Kalik Bahamas Beer we proceeded to the hotel. Our visit happened to coincide to the 7th annual Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival. We had just enough time to drop our bags and join the locals in Georgetown where most talented native musicians performed. We had fun taking part in conch cracking onion peeling coconut baking competitions, story and poetry readings. The holiday had begun and the beautiful Bahamas was working it’s magic. Flight planning was by the pool. We all enjoyed the Sunset and a nice meal at a nearby restaurant .
Sunday March 20, early morning rise and off we went on to our next destination, Puerto Plata Barcelo resort DR. Routing: Exuma Intl (MYEF) – Puerto Plata (MDPP) TOTAL: 401 NM
If you have been following our adventures since 2003, you know that this event is associated with unique and special events, ONLY Air Rally participants can enjoy. This year, the GGC air rally was the special guest of the Chief of State, Minister of airports, the honorable Fernando Zucco, to celebrate 100 years of Dominican Republic Aviation. On arrival, pilots and crews were directed to a VIP lounge and greeted by appointed officials, enjoying the open bar and the company while we waited for all planes to land. Customs ? barely noticed…. The Barcelo Puerto Plata resort is located right on the magnificent Golden Beach only 15 minutes away from the Georgio Luperon airport and 20 minutes from the picturesque village of Sosua. It was the perfect place for a layover. Unfortunately not enough time to enjoy the everything inclusive offered on the programme: 8 restaurants, 5 bars 18-hole golf course huge pools with bar in the middle for guests “to wet their wissle” while cooling off and many other facilities. Rooms were spacious and very comfortable. Unfortunately we fell right in the middle of Spring break !!! what goes on in there, must stay there.. Fortunately we were to return on our way back for two nights, this time after the crowds had gone.
Monday March 21: Puerto Plata (MDPP) – Saint-Martin (TFFG) 443 NM – Routing: San Juan PR (TJIG) 266 NM- Road Town VI (TUPJ) 89 NM- Saint Martin (TFFG) 88 NM
Vieques, Puerto Rico had been a destination we tried to include in the itinerary. Unfortunately it did not work out this year. But what a pleasant surprise !!! the kids came to the airport to sing songs and show the banner they had worked so hard to compose. They were happy to see the planes and spend a few moments with us while we fuelled up. The airport manager had a nice lunch prepared for all. Thank you Vieques!! We will be back! Vieques was a mandatory fuel stop: 100 LL was not available in Grand Case Saint Martin*. *Note: After our visit there, St. Martin Grand Case changed hands and offers fuel and service to general aviation. It is now property of a Canadian engineering firm: SNC Lavallin. A major restructuring is on the way and will benefit directly Saint Martin’s economy bringing more tourists to the French side and providing better service to general aviation users. Arriving late in Saint Martin due to unexpected delays in Vieques, we just made it before dawn cut off time. St-Martin is a French commune part of the European union. Saint Martin/Saint Marteen is a wonderful island that has grown independently on each side making it one that is fascinating to visit with the diverse cultures side by side. Very safe, with strong European flavour, it allows visitors to enjoy the beaches, the quality shops, the great restaurants and the night life. The French side, St. Martin, is quiet and refined, with gorgeous white beaches, French cuisine, and sophisticated resorts. The group checked in the impressive five star “Radisson blue” overlooking the bay with beautiful gardens and fountains leading to a private beach. The next morning, Mrs Johns, Tourism director and lovely ladies also from Tourism St-Martin brought us into town for a fun and educational competition: a walking rally through the capital of Saint Martin starting at the St-Martin tourism office. On the way we drove through the Bellevue area, a stretch of rolling green hills with great lagoon views, stopping for picture taking before reaching bustling, elegant Marigot. Our first stop, the tourism office (above,) a beautiful building with colorful painted ceiling telling the story of the Arawack Indians A series of quiz was given to each. Answers will lead us to various interesting parts of town. The walking rally was the best way to discover Marigot, leading us to Port Royale marina and nearby small cafes quaint shops, busy market offering a combination of souvenirs and produce stands attended by local women wearing bright colored dresses. The town is alive with the hustle and bustle of shoppers and tourists. The rally quiz led us around the streets to the remains of the old fort Marigot built in 1789 to protect the French from the British and still standing High above the city’s waterfront and illuminated at night adding a touch of magic. The Fort was easy to reach and the view of Simpson Bay Lagoon and the surrounding verdant hills and valleys was refreshingly beautiful. When feeling kind of lost, we asked sat at the café with friendly locals and got al the answers to move on to our next clue. We finally found the old Catholic Church that sits atop a hill.
Invited by St-Martin Tourism at the popular “Blue Martini” restaurant, located in the heart of night activity, we got a first hand experience of St-Martin’s life after dusk ! St. Martin is said to have the most exciting nightlife in the Caribbean with trendy beach bars, clubs and casinos. The activity can last all night until the wee hours of the morning. How lucky ! today, happened to be a Tuesday! and what happens on a Tuesday ? “Les Mardis (Tuesday) de Grand Case” a weekly carnival, Rio style. Beautiful ladies covered with red feathers dancing in the street followed by drums and other instrumentals invaded the restaurant. We had a wonderful time ! Thank you St-Martin for this beautiful experience ! Wednesday March 23 – 10:30 AM wheels up ! to the beautiful island of Martinique, Flower of the Caribbean. Routing: Pointe-à-Pitre (TFFR) 140- NM-Martinique (TFFF) 104 NM A stretch of well over an hour can never be boring in the Caribbean just staring at the spectacular scenery: a sailing boat her and there, and a multitude of small islands many of which are not habited. Amongst all the wonders was this unusual sight of a volcano island, that looked like a chimney circled by clouds. Most private pilots don’t venture further than the Bahamas, some pushing to Puerto Rico, going beyond those points was for most of us an accomplishment of a lifetime. But as we proceeded down to Martinique we felt just as comfortable and safe following the chain of islands all the way as we would a highway, no mountains to fear, no clouds no haze…. and an airport to land all the way ! Martinique is another French territory but so different from Saint Martin offering visitors another unique experience.. Located in the heart of the Caribbean archipelago, Martinique is one of the Windward islands in the Lesser Antilles group. Its eastern coastline borders the Atlantic Ocean while its western coast is flanked by the Caribbean Sea. Martinique is equidistant from the coasts of Venezuela and Haiti/Dominican Republic (497 miles). This strategic positioning was only part of the reason Martinique was declared the official turning point (base) of the Governor Generals Cup. When a delegation from Martinique arrived in Montreal during a Caribbean tourism event, we were immediately taken over by the passion and the genuine attachment that came out of this wonderful lady, Muriel, director of Martinique Tourism promotion across the Americas (photo) Still under the influence of her passionate speech we contacted her and said we want to bring our pilots to your island ! Thanks to a great team effort from people driven by the same love for their Martinique roots, we arrived in Martinique on this 23rd day of March. A memorable day ! Muriel and Catherine (Morellon) received us at the airport with wonderful smiles and great relief: “You made it ! You people are crazy ! laughing she was while I wondered if there is something I should have known Was there any reason for us not to make it ? Let the people who stayed behind answer the question……. Local TV crew and flying club Members greeted pilots one by one as they opened the cockpit doors. We were directed to a small building reserved to general aviation and surprise !!! dancers beautifully dressed, musicians and a table filled with great French creole foods and punch awaited. Regardless of the heat, dancers kept dancing graciously and performing with great smiles. The islanders passion for aviation justifies the two aeroclubs operating on the island: The Madinina and the Martinique Aeroclub AND, not to forget the annual Martinique Air show, unique in the Caribbean ! We checked in at the Bambou, an amazing reproduction of a creole village with cabins of different bright colours, wondering streets bordered by beautiful tropical flowers. Each had its little front porch with a chair to enjoy the people passing by. we appreciated the view at night especially and the great folkloric shows going on at the hotel every night. Thursday, off we went for a 4×4 guided tour (confortable SUV) driven by a very interesting and knowledgeable young man who knew everything about flowers, spices, banana culture, history of Martinique and its people… a talking wikepedia !!! and even spoke to the birds and the spiders… We toured the north of the island, crossed rivers (yes indeed… onboard our 4×4) stopped at a rhum “halt” in the forest. Due to its tropical climate, Martinique is covered with a mantle of lush vegetation: sumptuous rainforests, bush, savannah, and innumerable species of trees, fruits, plants and flowers, mangroves making Martinique an extraordinary garden. On the way to the restaurant La Chaudière in the region of Morne Rouge, we crossed villages that reminded me of those in my home town (French Pyrenees): white villas with fenced gardens, small old churches, convenience (epiceries) stores, green pastures, paradise to healthy lazy cows, lying there watching cars go by.. and the goats…. Pierre, a historic and cultural town and finally had a great dinner !along the way. Friday, was reserved for the catamaran experience with the Ballades du Delphis we experienced the other great side of Martinique, including a dip at “La baignoire de Josephine”. Josephine, Napoleon’s wife was born in Martinique and you can visit her home there. She is not popular amongst the locals as she supported slavery.
In the evening, time to get ready for the reception offered by the Committee of Tourism taking place at the Restaurant Ti-Sable (Anses d’Arlets directly on the beach) There we met members of the community, Tourism and Chamber of commerce as well as pilots from the aeroclubs. Martinique was proclaimed official stop of the Governor General’s Cup. Camil Dumont Aviation connection president delivered the official plate to Mrs Karine Roy-Camille, President of Martinique Tourism Committee.
During the evening participants enjoyed games and competitions on the beach and the winning team received the Flag of Martinique as well as other gifts. Diner was served: “Boucan” (Grilled fish & meat ) and the show started : “hommes d’argyle” Saturday, It was with sadness that we departed saying goodbye and thank you with a tilt of the wing. Thank you Martinique ! The hospitality was overwhelming and the experience absolutely fabulous ! See you Next year at the Martinique AirShow ! Sadness was quickly replaced with great excitement: An extraordinary privilege is ahead: The teams of the Caribbean Air challenge are invited to perform a Flight formation over the Santo Domingo Malecon to celebrate 100 years of Dominican Repsanto ublic Aviation !!! Photo: Piper Seneca flying over Santo Domingo Malecon : team Asenjo/Riga from Canada & France (Guadeloupe) taken from PA32 also from Canada.
The Dominican Republic Air show was a two days continuous display of High quality aerobatic performances and military aircraft demonstrations.
It was again an opportunity to enjoy Santo Domingo and the old Colonial City and Christopher Columbus’ son home. His son Diego resided there from 1509 to 1524. Santo Domingo is about history culture, great coffee, the best night life and great cigars. and… where the development of the Americas began.
We found this beautifully decorated Italian restaurant right on the old Plaza. A.. was the perfect place to enjoy the Airshow.
Time to leave again! back to Puerto Plata for two nights at the Barcelo resort. this time to relax ! the spring breakers gone, we had the whole place almost to ourselves. It was a great way to prepare for the finals and celebrate new friendships!
The finals took place at the beautiful Treasure Cay, marina and resort. A reception was hosted by Bahamas Tourism
Treasure Cay Marina and resort offer great accommodations: beautiful apartments and terrace overlooking the marina and an incredible beach!
A fantastic place to end this unique adventure !
Thank you Bahamas Tourism !
Until next year !
Again, thanks to the generous contribution of Bombardier, Aviation Connection and generous Mentors, three young pilots had a chance this year to participate and acquire the professional training they could never have accomplished without the Caribbean Air Rally experience.
2011 beneficiaries of the Pilot Mentor Program:
For more about the participants and the Media promotion:
|List of Participants|
|Media & Advertising|
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