First International Sport Pilot Fly-In

Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, is an expert on Light Sport Aircraft.

“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 International Sport Pilot Fly-in over Dec. 10-12.

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 Airport, 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 and Pacific, but it had me on my toes and I suspect most of us felt similarly.

An hour later, we landed one after another at Freeport to a warm reception by Bahamian authorities. 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.

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.

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 Zidziunas, 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.

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