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Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)  
User currently offlineThule From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 114 posts, RR: 0
Posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 12551 times:

My mom and I had decided last summer that in addition to our trip to San Juan (where she grew up) we’d visit my uncle at his house on the island of Culebra, a few dozen miles to the east. Culebra only has about 2,000 people and is relatively unknown as far as Caribbean islands go; as a result, it has a very small airport and very limited airline service. One of the most reliable and frequent of these airlines is Air Flamenco, operating 9-passenger Britten-Norman Islanders out of San Juan’s Isla Grande airport (near Old San Juan and the cruise ship docks) to Culebra and its big brother Vieques.

We rode to the airport and saw that it was nice and sunny today - but we were getting worried about Tropical Storm/Depression Ana and where and when it might be coming by the next day. I’ve seen my share of tiny airports, and I always love them. Isla Grande (SIG) was no exception.


We met my uncle there and went inside. There weren’t any computer kiosks at the checkin desk, but then again, there weren’t any lines, either.


The waiting room. The portrait of the airport’s namesake at the end combined with the red chairs made it look oddly like some airport in a communist country... except for the big flashy ads on the walls, of course.

The restaurant/bar

Sunday, August 16th
Air Flamenco N906GD
San Juan Isla Grande (SIG) - Culebra (CPX)
Britten-Norman Islander

The three of us were the only three scheduled for this flight. We went to the “observation deck” (really, the door leading outside) and saw our plane pull in. My mom remarked “That’s our plane?! It’s that small? Are we going to be able to fit our bag in there?” which was pretty funny because she had done this flight twice before.


The spacious leather interior, featuring the latest in “bump your head on the ceiling” comfort technology

After the pilot seated us, I started explaining some of the instruments and VOR navigation to my uncle. The pilot must’ve overheard this because he asked “Are you a pilot?” “Well, I have 50 hours and just need to do my checkride” I replied. He said “Well, you should sit up front then!” Awesome.

Ignore the guy on the left...

I’m certainly glad he was flying because I have very little experience in Class C+ airspace and none whatsoever in tropical settings. San Juan ATC was speaking English, of course, but it was fast and thick with a Puerto Rican accent. If I were in charge, I’d have to say “say again?” a dozen times before we even started taxiing.

Takeoff was smooth, QUICK, and beautiful, certainly the most glamorous takeoff scenery I’ve seen since I started sitting in the front seats of an airplane.

Takeoff next to a cruise ship

San Juan down the runway

The pilot contacted San Juan and requested a cruising altitude of 1500 feet, VFR. They bumped him up to about 2600. I told him this was a big change for me, and he looked at me in shock when I told him that I flew a Cessna 172 at a normal cruising altitude of 8500 (with an airport at 4400). He told me that the biggest advantage of the Islander was that the plane was extremely forgiving... and that the biggest disadvantage is that it’s slow and climbs like a slug. He pointed to the big landing gear struts sticking down from the wings and then the airspeed indicator (we were going about 100kt... on 2 turboprops!) and said that he got the airplane up to 7500ft once before it couldn’t go any higher. I guess that’s why they call it an “Islander” not a Mountaineer.




Isla Verde and SJU

The (something something something) Moscoso Bridge

an American Eagle ATR landing

The (weekly?) Iberia A340 to Madrid parked on the ramp

Luquillo beach



Palomino Island


The pilot called the CTAF and called a left base for the runway.
“Where’s the runway?” I asked
“Behind that hill” he said.
“So, we’re going to squeeze between those hills there?”
“You got it.”

There it is. Whoa.

Lined up for approach. Yeah, I said lined up.

Slipping around the hill and making the plane dance into its landing. We could hear the stall horn clicking and could hear the trees wooshing by right below us.

There’s a YouTube video that someone else shot a while ago that captures this landing pretty well. Of course, the only way to really experience it is to go yourself!







Views from my uncle’s house:







Overall, Culebra was a great place and I unfortunately only got to spend one night there. The storm actually came in the early morning and we decided to get out of there the next afternoon by way of the passenger ferry to Fajardo. After a long ride in an unofficial taxi (sort of a risk on our part) we got back to San Juan.

Hope you enjoyed the TR!

10 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineinitious From Singapore, joined Dec 2008, 1079 posts, RR: 6
Reply 1, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 12490 times:

Wow, the approach looks scary! For a few times I thought you were gonna crash into the trees!

One way I will fly around the world!
User currently offlinelychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 1633 posts, RR: 3
Reply 2, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 11980 times:

Wow. Fantastic. I really enjoyed your report. I have only visited San Juan. Makes me want to discover the other prettier areas of the island. thanks.

User currently offlinecesarv777 From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days ago) and read 11823 times:

Great to see a report about Culebra. One of my favorite places in the world. Camped out on the beach. Swear the stars were so close you could reach out and touch them! Flew in as well, and loved the landing! Thanks for posting.

User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1577 posts, RR: 3
Reply 4, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days ago) and read 11801 times:

Great report! I love reading ones like yours that show off exotic airplanes and airports. Thanks for the contribution!

User currently offlineEC001 From France, joined Jan 2009, 94 posts, RR: 7
Reply 5, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 11696 times:

Hello there Thule,

I really enjoyed this uncommon TR! the pictures are fantastic!!

Great report!


User currently offlineDeltaRules From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 4188 posts, RR: 8
Reply 6, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 11522 times:

Awesome TR about Isla Grande & Culebra! SJU TRs are always fun, but it's neat to see a flight like this one.

Quoting Thule (Thread starter):
After the pilot seated us, I started explaining some of the instruments and VOR navigation to my uncle. The pilot must’ve overheard this because he asked “Are you a pilot?” “Well, I have 50 hours and just need to do my checkride” I replied. He said “Well, you should sit up front then!” Awesome.

Haha...I love it! I did the same thing & got to sit right seat in a Winair Islander SXM-SBH, including the famous St. Barts nosedive approach. At that point I was working on private with Delta Connection Academy & the pilot was an alum, which helped.

Quoting Thule (Thread starter):
The (something something something) Moscoso Bridge

Teodoro Moscoso.

Let's Kick the Tires & Light the Fires!!
User currently offlinePrinair From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 765 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 11272 times:

Great trip report. I love how attractive San Juan looks from the air. Nice to see a picture of my hometown - Luquillo.

PRINAIR : Puerto Rico International Airlines
User currently offlinestaralliance38 From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 1447 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 11265 times:

Thanks for sharing! Interesting pics and looks like a great experience! Carribbean aviation is certainly unique compared to the rest of the world.

Roar, lion, roar
User currently offlinechepos From Puerto Rico, joined Dec 2000, 6383 posts, RR: 10
Reply 9, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 11136 times:

Thank you for sharing
San Juan looks beautiful up from the air and from the ground, I've only taken the ferry between Fajardo and Culebra but I'm sure it must be a beautiful sight to fly the route (and much shorter than the ferry ride). By the way, the IB flight is 3 times a week (Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday).



Fly the Flag!!!!
User currently offlineRAFVC10 From Spain, joined Sep 2005, 1980 posts, RR: 6
Reply 10, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 11125 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Hi Thule,

nice trip report!

Quoting Thule (Thread starter):
The (weekly?) Iberia A340 to Madrid parked on the ramp

No!!! Three times a week direct flights from MAD with A340-300 equipment.

El dia que los gilipollas vuelen, no podremos ver la luz del sol!
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