Central America 2019
In February 2019 4Aviation travelled to three countries in Central America: El Salvador, Honduras and Panama. During the tour we were able to photograph some rarely seen aircraft in all countries.
After two years of preparation, our trip to Central America was finally about to start. With one participant joining us in El Salvador, a group of seven photographers joined at Schiphol on Sunday 17 February 2019 for the long trip to Central America. Three countries were to be visited in a period of roughly two weeks. Via a stop in Houston we landed in El Salvador on Sunday night, welcomed by our guide and a nice warm climate. A short trip to our hotel followed for our well deserved sleep.
Our second day in El Salvador was planned for Ilopango Air base, home of the Primera Grupo Aérea, a unit flying a variety of types. The reception at the base was great again. Despite the fact that there were no flights planned for this day, Tuesday 19 February 2019, we were able to see all aircraft on base, including a large collection of preserved and stored aircraft. We were also able to meet and greet with some fellow local aviation enthusiasts that joined us for the visit. The sun was cooperating again today, so we were able to get some really good pictures of the aircraft of the Primera Grupo Aérea. For our second part of the visit we stayed on the airfield and were welcomed by the President if the local Flying club and offered a lunch. Luckily for us, there is quite an active warbirds scene on the airfield with a group of very enthusiastic people. After lunch we were able to visit several hangars and meet different people that told us enthusiastically about their aircraft. Highlights included a C-47, T-28 and even a flyable CM170. We also tried to visit the Police Air Wing on the airfield but they were too tied up in operations unfortunately.
Wednesday 20 February 2019 was mainly used for visiting some Wrecks and Relic locations, including a nice collection at the Military Museum in town. Our guide showed us the beautiful coastline of el Salvador we had lunch before we went back to the International Airport. The hours before our departure to Honduras were spent looking at the activities on the airport. Additional gems were a US Coast Guard C-20 and a DoD Dash-8. In the evening we headed out to Honduras, experiencing the infamous landing procedure at Toncontin International Airport (45 Degree bank followed by rapidly dropping altitude). We landed safely and were greeted by our guide that brought us to our hotel for the following nights.
Our guide picked us up at the hotel on Thursday 21 February 2019 and took us to Toncontin Airport. Being the director of the Aviation museum, our guide knew the ins-and-outs of Honduran aviation which turned out to be a great help during our stay. Unfortunately, due to command changes our visits to the Honduran Air Force bases were cancelled just days before our departure so we had to improvise quite a bit. We started this day at the museum which has a nice and large collection of most types used in the Honduran Air Force. As the museum is adjacent to the airbase, we were able to get some good shots of movements but with the help of our guide we were allowed on the base, making this day a great one again! There were quite some movements on the base and the weather was playing ball again so all happy faces! After lunch we left the base to set up camp outside the base were recently a spotters-corner had been developed (following the recent runway extension). We were able to catch some more movements form the Honduran Air Force, a very rewarding day!
Although the permissions to visit the bases were gone, we were not planning on giving up so we headed out to the training base of the Honduran Air Force: Comayagua/Soto Cano Air Base on Friday 22 February. Of all bases on Honduras, this is the one that really needs access to see something. There is a lot of construction going on as this will be the new International Airport in the years to come. For now we were dependant on some contacts of our guide. Although a lot people gave their permission to enter the base, the final “go” from the Headquarters was not given so unfortunately a slow day today.
We used the weekend of 23 and 24 February to transfer from Tegucigalpa to La Ceiba through the impressive landscape of Honduras. On Saturday we visited the beautiful Pulhapanzak Waterfalls, while on Sunday we took a small boat to the Caribbean Islands of Cayo Cochino. Clear blue water, the second largest Corral Reef of the world and amazing wildlife made this tour almost look like holiday…After a more touristic weekend we prepared for our next week of aviation, starting in La Ceiba.
Goloson Airport, on the outskirts of La Ceiba, was our goal for Monday 25 February. The Air Force shares the facilities with the commercial airport and there are some nice vantage points. The premises the University of La Ceiba are adjacent to the base and we had arranged to watch the activities on the base from their grounds. Apart from some commercial flights and a single Maule, there was not much going although several F-5s could be identified. Just around noon we were surprised by two F-5s buzzing the runway! The immaculate looking aircraft made several low approaches before finally landing on the base. Our position turned out to be perfect for photography of these beauties. The undisputed highlight of the trip!. The afternoon was slow again an after photographing some Wreck and Relics we made our way to San Pedro Sula for our final day in Honduras.
Our final goal in Honduras was San Pedro Sula/Ramon V Morales airport, home to the A-37 fleet of the Honduran Air Force. Although not as open as La Ceiba, some vantage points can be found here. However, the Air Force was apparently not planning any flights this day as no movements were seen during the day. Although we did manage to identify several airframes, no pictures could be taken today. At the end of the day we took our flight to the third country in this tour: Panama.
Today, Wednesday 27 February 2019, we visited both airports around Panama City. We started at the International Airport we were shown all aspects of the airport, included the famous storage area with impounded aircraft. The visit to SENAN however was cancelled at the last minute, although we were able to see and photograph some of their aircraft. After lunch we headed to Marcos A. Galabert/Albrook, the general aviation airfield. Here we were able to see everything we wanted, including the Presidential Fleet of Panama. We ended the day with a visit to some Wrecks and Relics and a well deserved beer in the evening! From this moment on the group made their way home to Europe, arriving on Thursday and Friday.