The last leg of our trip was to Bogota International Airport and it was another part that wasn't pre-organised in the itinerary. Tom, who was one of the pair of extra people that came with us on the Jetstream 41 flight, had got chatting to the CEO of Aer Caribe at the Medellin Air Fair and had negotiated a price for a flight for us on one of their An-32s. He'd got enough interest to make this happen luckily.
If you think the An-26 is difficult to get a flight on, well the An-32 is even more difficult, as these were mostly built for export from Russia.
The An-32 is built specifically for hot-and-high conditions. It's basically a re-engined An-26. The high placement of the engines allow for a larger diameter propeller, and the Ivchenko IA-20 turboprops push out almost twice that of the IA-24 engines found on the An-26. In fact the IA-20 is the same power plant used in the Il-18 and An-12.
We had a few members of the group that didn't want to fly but there were enough for us to get the flight for $100 each. How could you turn that away!?
There was a delay in departing and had to hang around the Aer Caribe office as the Colombian President was supposed to fly and all over clearances were being denied.
We had a chance to wander the ramp and I was surprised to find an ex long-term resident of Opa-locka present. An-26B HK-4888X used to be UK-26003.
Finally it was time to board immaculate An-32A HK-4052 and we were joined at the rear by the loadmaster plus one more employee.
They have a very functional uniform of a flight suit and, as they are a pure cargo carrier, have no need for airline uniforms.
The sheer power of IA-20 engines could be felt as we started up and took the long taxi, but the take-off was something else. The power was unbelievable as we rotated and climbed steeply into the air!
As the airspace was busy we flew a series of holds, and I think the company most likely asked for IFR holds for training, to get around the hassles of the airspace and negating trying to explain away a pleasure flight.
After about 45 minutes we came back to land with broad smiles all around.
This flight was certainly the highlight of the year for me and something very special will have to come along to top that. It was certainly a great way to end the trip! Thanks Tom!photo/serial list]