After – virtually – plying the world’s skies for the last several months courtesy of you guys, often in first or business class, after trying out countless lounges and sleeper seats, after some fine and some just so-so dining aloft and the odd glass of champagne, bloody mary, beer or just plain coke, I thought it was my turn to contribute to this forum as well.
Mind you, this report will cover a trip on the other extreme of the spectrum: an Aerovías DAP flight on what I believe is the most austral scheduled passenger route of them all. No fancy lounges, no OLCI, no catering, just plain and fun flying from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams!
Aerovías DAP (www.aeroviasdap.cl) was founded in 1980 by D
ivcevic, a descendant of Croatian immigrants. They are based in Punta Arenas, Chile, and operate scheduled service to Puerto Williams on Navarino Island and Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego year-round as well as seasonal charter flights to Antarctica during the southern summer with a fleet of two BAe-146’s, a DHC-6 Twin Otter, a Beech King Air 100 and a couple of Cessna 402’s. At some point in time they also flew to Mount Pleasant on the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. The flight from Punta Arenas across the Strait of Magellan to Porvenir was covered a few years ago on this forum by fellow A.netter LH526: Aerovias DAP Patagonian Magellan Hop (Pics) (by LH526 Jan 28 2007 in Trip Reports)
Friends of mine live in Puerto Williams and operate a charter sailing yacht business offering trips to Antarctica, Cape Horn and the “Glacier Alley” of Tierra del Fuego. They have been encouraging me for years to join them on one of their trips and last year I decided that this – southern – summer it was to be. Time constraints wouldn’t allow for the long journey to the white continent, but a 12 day trip around Cape Horn and along the Beagle Channel to see the glaciers suited me perfectly.
Once the dates for the sailing trip had been sorted out last fall, I bought the ticket for this DAP flight in their main office in Punta Arenas during a previous stay there last November. Then in early March I flew from CCS
(south) and on to PUQ (further south) on LAN. As LA
have already been extensively covered on this forum, I will limit my report to the PUQ-WPU (southernmost) sector.
GreatCircle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz
I had allowed for the better part of two days between my arrival at PUQ and the continuation of the trip to WPU to accommodate for any weather-related schedule changes and also to visit some friends and get me some clothing items suitable for the proverbial harsh climate in this part of the world that can’t be had in our tropical climes.
Airline: Aerovías DAP
Flight: DAP 20
Aircraft: DeHavilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
DAP offers a van shuttle from Punta Arenas to the airport. You can either wait for the pre-ordered transport to come by wherever you are staying at or be at DAP’s main office at an agreed time to be picked up there. Since my B&B was just two blocks away from DAP’s headquarters, I didn’t mind walking the short distance. Baggage had to be light anyway for two reasons: space constraints on the boat and a 10 kg weight limit for the flight. After picking up another passenger and me at 8:35 – 20 minutes past the agreed time – at the office, the van set out to collect one other person at his home and then we went straight to the airport.
Upon our arrival at ‘Aeropuerto Presidente Carlos Ibañez del Campo’ the DAP check-in counter was still unstaffed. A queue of waiting passengers had already formed in front of it, though. I saw that most of the other passengers would be families with children returning home to WPU after the summer holidays, and a few public servants or businesspeople; only one other non-Chilean. Eventually the staff arrived and proceeded to check all the passengers in. As I mentioned before, the baggage weight is limited to 10 kg. This is strictly enforced and every piece of luggage is weighed and then the weight painstakingly noted on a W/B-sheet. After about 10 minutes all of us were checked in and in possession of our boarding cards. There are no seat assignments on the Twin Otter and the boarding passes resemble those you get for transit when you have to get off a plane during a stopover.
Check-in (taken at the end of the process):
FIDS - not that many places to go but plenty of flights going there:
Passengers were told to be at the gate at 9:30 for the 10:00 departure. There wasn’t much movement at the airport at this time of the morning. The early flights to Santiago had already departed and the next one would only leave an hour after us. I made my way up to the departures level and was through security control in no time.
A predictable gate neighbor:
All 17 of us gathered at gate 1. The children would play around but weren’t loud or annoying or anything. Eventually, at 9:55, a ramper gave the sign that it was ok to let the passengers board and out of nowhere appeared a DAP employee to open the door to the jetway and collect the boarding passes. The last section of the jetway, usually leading to the airplane door, was cordoned off and we were directed to proceed downstairs and out to the ramp to board our plane.
This is it:
In a rush to get “the best places”, the families with children saw to it that they boarded first. I was in no hurry and got what I wanted anyway: a window seat in the penultimate row, with the seat next to mine remaining empty! Once the door was closed the crew from the flight deck turned around and gave the safety briefing and flight information. Three children had made themselves comfortable in the seats of row 2 – the exit row on this plane – and the captain asked the parents to have them sit somewhere else as only adults were allowed to be in exit rows. Quite plausible.
The word from the captain:
After some passenger shuffling everybody was settled in the right seat and we were ready to go. By the time the engines were started, we had taxied to the active runway, made an engine run-up and were ready for takeoff it was 10:17. Departure was from runway 30 and, this being a STOL plane, the takeoff run into the strong Patagonian wind was pretty short. A long right turn put us on course towards WPU.
Climbing out over the Strait of Magellan, with Punta Arenas in the distance:
Making landfall on the opposite shore of the Strait, over Tierra del Fuego:
Time to inspect the contents of the seat pocket in front of you:
The customary legroom shot:
This front-office followed an open-door policy throughout the flight, a nice change from more northerly latitudes:
The lack of IFE and the obvious familiarity with the route put most of the passengers soon to sleep:
But, hey! Who needs PTV and AVOD if turning right or left out of the window gets you all the IFE you need (provided the weather plays along)?
Cruising at 10000 ft over Tierra del Fuego:
Bahía Yendegaia in the foreground, the Beagle Channel by the wing strut:
Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands:
Navarino Island in the foreground; the Wollastons with Cape Horn Island are just beyond the wingtip:
In these high latitudes fall foliage sets in early:
The Navarino mountain range:
And finally approaching WPU:
Downwind for runway 26:
Touch-down was at 11:27, an hour and ten minutes after lift-off, just as the captain promised. Backtracking on the runway to the ramp took no more than 3 minutes and we were ready to disembark. After all passengers had deplaned, I went up front to the cockpit to thank the crew for the flight and bid them farewell.
Then it was time to head to the terminal building:
See ya in two weeks, CC
The single hall was pretty crowded with the passengers departing on the flight back to PUQ, the people seeing them off, us passengers arriving from PUQ and the people there to welcome us. My friends had come to the airstrip as well and once my baggage was delivered after some 10 minutes we were all set to start a new adventure. We just had to cross the harbor entrance opposite the airfield to get to the Club de Yates Micalvi (great pisco sours, by the way!) and board the sail ship that would be our home for the next 12 days. But that is another story and rather belongs to a Yacht dot net forum of some sorts…
This concludes my first trip report on A.net. I hope you enjoyed it. Feedback will be most appreciated.
Cheers and happy Easter,
Anyway, since it has become customary to share some pictures from our destinations, here are a few:
The Navarino Range showing its teeth – or is it a broad grin inviting to hike it? – as seen from the Micalvi marina in Puerto Williams:
A ‘butterfly’ off into the sunset:
The Darwin Range on Tierra del Fuego:
Northwest Arm of the Beagle Channel near Olla Cove / Italia Glacier:
Pia Fjord, east arm:
Pia Fjord, east arm and Pia Glacier:
Some perfect moment
Estancia Yendegaia in the namesake bay:
And finally... THE Cape:
It’s incredible how many sailors have lost their lives attempting to do in the harshest of conditions what we were able to accomplish in smooth weather and sunshine…