My trip to Mexico started out as a lot of preflight preparation. First we had to figure out if we wanted to use a handler (someone to handle all of the preparations such as, airport fees, flight planning, and reservations. For the purposes of saving money we decided against getting a handler. We instead bought a book from Caribbean sky tours called “A Pilot’s Guide to Mexico and Central America” which is a necessity to anyone flying down there without a handler.
After all the preflight preparation and planning was completed we departed in a Cirrus Sr22 on the evening of February the 25th for Brown Field just south of San Diego. About two and a half hours later we found ourselves above the famous marine layer of Southern California. After picking up an IFR clearance we shot the VOR approach into Brown and successfully completed a circle to land. The next morning we filed our VFR flight plan to cross the border and received our EAPIS (Electronic Advanced Passenger Information System) clearance from border patrol and fired up the airplane. No longer than two minutes after we were airborne we crossed the border into Mexico!
From there we continued south along the Baja peninsula of Mexico until coming to our first planned stop 3 hours later in Loreto where we planned to clear customs and immigration. The overall experience of customs was not as bad as most people have you believe. The hardest part of the experience was the language barrier that we ran into since no one on the trip could speak much Spanish. We would often start filling out some form and then find out that they wanted us to be doing something else. The first thing we did upon landing was empty our plane and have customs complete a search of our luggage, which took about ten minutes. After that we took our passports and went inside the customs building to fill out immigration papers and get our passports stamped. Once being cleared from immigration we proceeded to pay our landing fee and get our general declaration “GEN-DEC” for our health (a document which states that you are healthy and able to travel in Mexico), which we carried with us the whole time in Mexico. We then headed to the flight planning office to get our weather info and file an IFR flight plan to our final destination of the day, Cabo San Lucas. To our surprise the personnel working in the flight planning office took care of most of the flight planning for us, which we found to be the case at most airports that we went to in Mexico. The whole customs experience including fuel and preflight took us about 2 hours.
We then fired up the Cirrus one last time for the day and after a quick hour and a half flight landed in Cabo. After five days of relaxing on the beach we headed back to the plane and continued on our adventure to our other destination of San Miguel de Allende. This flight however required us to cross the Sea of Cortez. So after some careful flight planning we found a place about 20 minutes north of Cabo that would allow us to cross a shorter span of the sea that was only about 100 miles across versus the 250 miles that the direct route would have given us. So we opted for the shorter distance over water, since we were after all in a single engine airplane. We crossed the sea without a problem and continued to Tepic for fuel and then on to San Miguel where we enjoyed another 4 days of beautiful Mexico weather. The day before departing San Miguel we got a tip from a local who told us that if we wanted to go see some ruins we should head to Oaxaca.
So the next morning we departed for Oaxaca. And after a fairly uneventful hour and a half flight landed and explored our new surroundings. After some exploring we soon found it to be a bit too much city and not enough beach for our liking. So the next morning we headed back to the airport, completed our flight planning, and hopped back into the Cirrus to fly for the coast. About an hour and a half later we landed on the coast of a small fishing village called Zihuatanejo where we commenced our beach relaxation.
After another four days we departed for our last flight in Mexico, a three hour leg to Brownsville Texas. Upon landing in Brownsville we cleared customs for the U.S. Surprisingly, the customs in Texas only took us about 15 minutes. They inspected our bags, looked at our passports, had us fill out some immigration forms and then got us fuel. It was a very easy and pleasant experience and within 30 minutes of touching down we were back in the plane and headed to Abilene about 2 hours northwest, where we spent the night. The next morning we awoke early to take advantage of the smooth skies. Then with a quick fuel stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico we landed back in Heber City five hours after our departure from Abilene.
Flying to Mexico was a great experience that I will never forget. If you ever have the chance I highly recommend doing it in a small plane. The number of things you’ll see and experience are breathtaking.