(July 2011) It was a silence I wasn't used to. Actually, it wasn’t all that quiet what with the whirr of hummingbirds’ wings, the braying of burros and the cooing of doves. But what I wasn’t hearing was the sound of airplanes. For the two months I spent in Oaxaca, Mexico, last winter, the skies were virtually void of the “sounds of freedom.” It seems local general aviation activity is nonexistent in Oaxaca. A couple of times a day there are commercial flights in and out of Oaxaca, but that’s about it.
The lack of airborne activity doesn’t mean there’s not a nascent groundswell of interest by aviation aficionados. We hadn’t been in Oaxaca for more than a couple of days when Tony Raab, a neighbor who runs a vacation rental property with his wife, Rebecca (and her eight dogs, five burros and a horse), stopped by to greet us, and the talk turned quickly to airplanes and flying.
“You know, there’s an RC runway over that second ridge, there,” Tony said, pointing to the north as we sat on the terrace sipping some of his home-brewed mezcal from little gourd cups called jícaras.
“The radio-control airplane guys use it on Sundays, but there’s a runway there that could be used as a runway for a real airplane,” he said excitedly.
Tony’s enthusiasm was infectious, and he took it upon himself to act as an aviation evangelist. On Thursday nights when the Bodega Boys band got together to entertain themselves and a small group of fans, Tony talked up the idea of a flying club.
“You know it’s like a couple guys getting together to work on an old VW. We could hang out at the airfield and tinker with our airplane,” he said. “We could get an ultralight, something we could work on ourselves and fly it to the coast in an hour.”
Puerto Escondido on Mexico’s west coast is just slightly more than 100 miles from Oaxaca, but the trip by car through the mountains takes some six or seven hours. He had a point.
“I’ve always wanted to fly down to Tierra del Fuego,” he said, on a roll. “Can’t you just imagine it?”
Tierra del Fuego? Did he mean the archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan? Yep, he did. Tony’s dream was an aerial trek from Mexico down across Central America and then the length of the South American continent — a journey of more than 6,000 miles each way. Oops.