Leg 2: from Foz to Brasilia, IFR departure
After landing in Foz on day 1, we spent the night in the hotel closest to the airport to leave as early as possible to Brasilia. In our attempt to limit the number of stops in Brazil as much as possible, we chose to stop in the capital because two famous earthrounders, Margie and Gérard Moss, live there. They have flown around the world together more than once and Gérard (pictured above) alone circled it again in 2001 with a Ximango motor glider. His adventure is captured by Margie in the book "On the wings of the wind". In addition, I had always wanted to see Brasilia, fascinated by the idea of a capital built from scratch since I heard about it in geography class in middle school.
So, at the crack of dawn on our second day, we arrived at Foz airport. Unfortunately it was so early that the morning fog had not lifted yet so the runway was still closed, but about half an hour later, the tropical sun had cleared the air enough for an IFR departure towards Botelho airport (SIQE), a public airstrip near Brasilia that is more convenient for small planes than SBBR, the main airport where they are more used to large jets.
Between layers near Foz, after IFR departure
We landed at SIQE after 4.5 hours, after passing France and Uberlandia (!), interesting round fields and a few thunderstorms that required some attention.
Géerard and his friend Geraldo Piquet (Nelson's oldest brother) were waiting for us and immediately suggested we fly to SSGP airport, 5 minutes away, where Geraldo's family had several hangars. They did warn us that the runway was a little tricky because it was behind a hilltop, short (800 meter) and was tilted upwards but Alex was immediately up for the challenge. I was less brave and flew with Geraldo in his Piper Malibu while Gérard accompanied Alex in our Cirrus to help him approach. The Malibu landed first and we both started filming Alex' arrival.
Alex described the experience as quite unique. The approach is unorthodox because of the little hill, you need to approach at 45 degrees instead of flying a regular base leg or final. Then, because the runway goes uphill, it looks very short when you are close but after touchdown all of a sudden it looks longer.
Another unique aspect was Nelson Piquet's hangar which is said to be full of vintage airplanes and other vehicles (which we did not see).
After this second touchdown in Brasilia, Gérard took us on a quick tour of the city, on the way to our hotel. The city was empty - they had just started a lock down- so the modern architecture stood out even more against the blue sky. The center is filled with government buildings: the congress, the senate, the presidential palace and lots, lots of ministries!
The New Bridge (about 15 years old)
Our hotel was the (almost empty) Brasilia Palace built by Oscar Niemeyer himself: a beautiful 60's atmosphere with a view on the huge artificial lake that was part of the city planning.
That evening, we had dinner at the Moss residence where we met Margie and were treated to an authentic Swiss raclette (Gerard is from Switzerland). Raclette is part of my Swiss childhood memories so I was overjoyed. The beautiful garden we were sitting in, with appropriate social distance of course, as well as the ideal temperature (Brasilia has an elevation of about 1200 meters so its climate is nicer than Rio's for example where it is frequently 40 degrees Celsius!) enhanced this wonderful night. We mostly discussed our respective trips and Alex and gobbled up the Moss' wise advice on traveling the world and on the best itinerary for the next day.
In the morning, we refueled at SSGP and left, after some more expert recommendations from Gérard and Geraldo. Intended destination: Belem via the Lençoís Maranhenses, but it turned out a little differently as you will find out in my next post.