My flight from Comodoro Rivadavia to El Calafate had been booked for me by Gaston, the owner of the Hi Patagonia Hostel in Puerto Madryn. When I had asked him for a cheap flight idea to get to El Calafate he jumped on the internet and voila! It was done! The cost was just over $50 U.S. for a 3-hour flight from the Atlantic coast to the eastern Andes! Thank you, Gaston! What I hadn’t truly understood before I took this flight was how cool it would be!
LADE stands for Lineas Aereas del Estado which translates to State Air Lines. It is a state-owned airlines operated by the Argentine Air Force that provides domestic scheduled services mainly in Patagonia. It’s mission is to provide non-profit flights to smaller destinations while it’s own Air Force pilots maintain their flying skills and required piloting hours. Having once flown small planes and still having my pilot’s license, I was most intrigued to fly with these folks!
My first photo was out my window of us flying over the Atlantic coast before we made our 180 degree turn to head west to the Andes.
Not long into the flight the man who oversaw the cabin – I was the ONLY passenger – brought me my lunch!
The terrain below us was pretty bleak, but I reminded myself that this is where the dinosaurs had lived for many millenniums.
After about an hour, an amazing thing happened! The four Air Force men all knew that I was once a pilot. I was watching the number 3 and 4 men discussing something…
… When all of a sudden they invited me to sit at the edge of the cockpit with the headset on so I could talk with the two pilots!!! I was blown away! The Co-Pilot is on the right – he has 300 hours of flying. The Captain Pilot is on the left with 900 hours under his belt!
Their control panel was the height of technical modernization.
After talking with them for about ten minutes I returned to my seat and went back to photo-shooting the primordial terrain over which we flew.
The winds kicked up tremendously and the aircraft bounced a bit. But – it was THE tightest, best maintained twin engine I’ve ever flown in and I didn’t feel the least bit worried – the pilots were AWESOME! They had it totally in control! We approached a lake and started to slowly descend towards our destination.
The pilots let me take a photo through the front window of the Andes in the foreground.
The strong winds remained fierce all the way through the landing, but the pilots were highly skilled and brought the plane down without even a bounce! I was so impressed I had a picture of the four Air Force men and myself – their only passenger on this flight – taken after we had landed in El Calafate! Bravo, gentlemen, you were all superb in your jobs! I feel so blessed to have had this truly unique and amazing experience!
And up next – the adventures with glaciers in El Calafate!