A Small Plane is a Big Deal

By: Smith Schwartz |

Getting from Panama City to Playa Grande, Costa Rica proved to be somewhat of a difficult task. We figured since those countries are so close together that transporting between the two neighbors should be as easy as flying from Chicago to Toronto, right?

Airlines only connect the two countries from capital city to capital city, so there’s no such thing as a direct route to where we wanted to go. Bus travel would have taken 20-30 hours (and border control is notoriously slow and difficult), so we decided we needed to fly. We took a normal flight from Panama City to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, and after that is where the fun began.

I spoke to the lovely airline employee in the surprisingly modern international terminal and she kindly informed me that we’d have to exit the main airport, make a left and walk through a parking lot to the domestic airport. “It looks like a garage.” She told me. Hmm? OK.

She was right, it was basically a glorified 3-walled garage. I looked around and even though there were no less than 9 airline employees and only 2 other passengers in the building, somehow we still had to wait in line. Once checked in, we had to be weighed with our luggage to make sure we weren’t too fat to fly. Luckily, we made the cut.

When you’re flying in such a small plane (our knees were just behind the Co-Pilot’s seat), you can really feel all of the bumps and turns. It wasn’t unusual to feel the tail of the vehicle swaying back-and-forth in the wind, or to drop in the air about a foot or two at a time. It really made me appreciate the expertise of our pilot, since I was just several feet away, watching him muscle the steering wheel to adjust for turbulence.

As you can see above, the Co-Pilot had seriously himself braced for landing, and we quickly figured out why. The ‘runway’ was just a gravel road in the middle of a farm. The horses and cows nearby did not seem phased one bit that we’d landed in their pasture and could have cared less that we were there.

We, however, were quite excited to be on the ground again. We grabbed our bags, hopped out of the plane and stopped at the open-air bathroom in the terminal outhouse, and were on our way.

Perhaps we’re not so much Jet-Setters as we are Single-Propeller-Setters. But somehow, that just doesn’t have quite the same ring.