Strangely for someone who suffers from vertigo (don’t bother trying to get me up a ladder or the top of a tall building) I actually don’t mind flying at all. I’ve taken a lot of flights for work over the years, but it has always been on decent sized airplanes. This week that changed. I had to go to Miami on business for a couple of days and the best flights were from San Juan but I just couldn’t face the drive. So instead I booked on Cape Air to fly from Mayagüez to San Juan and back. Cape Air fly Cessna 402’s with a capacity of 9 passengers (and that includes one sitting in the co-pilot’s seat!).
As far as I know, these San Juan flights are the only ones that leave Mayagüez airport, so it didn’t surprise me that I was the only person there when I arrived, apart from a couple of bored looking car rental clerks. The Cape Air guy checked me in and took my ‘carry on’ bag as there really isn’t any carry-on to a Cessna. It was fairly informal, no luggage tag or boarding card or any of that nonsense. He did ask how much I weighed, which was a first for airline check-in! 🙂
I then had the airport to myself for a while. Eventually a few more people drifted in and we ended up with a nearly full flight (7 people). Boarding consisted of the same guy (now wearing a hi-vis jacket) calling us over to go behind the check-in desk and through a door marked “authorised personnel only”! The airport does have departure gates with a security lane and a walk-through metal detector but these were clearly not in use. The corridor we were in led straight out onto the tarmac and the same check in agent/baggage handler/ground crew guy ushered us on board. Our personal items (laptops etc.) were taken from us as we boarded and put in a storage compartment on the wing. The reason soon became obvious – the cabin on these planes is tiny.
Then we were off, and oh boy, this was flying of a whole different sort. First you’re basically right there with the pilot and can see everything he’s doing, secondly you can see straight ahead and third you feel EVERY SINGLE bump. I was trying to take some pictures but often found myself gripping my seat with both hands instead! 🙂 Happily we made it to San Juan without any problems (as they do several times every day). Total flying time was under 30 mins as opposed to a 2.5 hour drive (assuming no traffic).
On the way back, check-in at San Juan was more formal and tedious, with security lines, luggage tags, proper boarding cards etc. The flight however was more fun. Another Cape Air pilot was onboard as a passenger. She sat up-front and our pilot Sean decided we’d take the “sightseeing” route. So we flew along the coastline the whole way, staying at an altitude of around 500ft. The highlight for me was zooming along the Rincón coast and doing a very sharp banked turn around Domes beach and El Faro (the lighthouse) which are right on “the corner” of the Rincón coast. Overall it was a great experience and I’d definitely do it again… especially if work are paying! 😉
Pictures from my flights
Taking off from San Juan
Landing at Mayagüez