Page 10 - World Airshow MayJun-2018
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GREG KOONTZ: FROM THE ACE




                                      A Banana Republic Airshow, Parte Dos
                                   The Wild, Wild West



                                           Parte Uno appeared in the March/April issue



                             M      y original deal with the Aero-  there on a platform was his Bell Jet Ranger. Perched on top of ev-
                                                               ery wall and roof top were heavily armed guards.
                                    club in El Salvador back in
                                                                  Archie looked me right in the eyes and said, “Glegg” (spelling
                                    1997 was to go there, teach
                                    aerobatics, then fly in the
                                                               to you, but it is not. Our civil war left many bad guys with guns.
                              airshow  with  their  Decathlon  and   it like it sounds with a Latin accent), “I know what this looks like
                              go home. Transportation and hotel/  Kidnapping is very profitable, and I am a top target.” The body
                              meals were included in the deal. Of   guards now seemed like a good idea but standing next to the big-
                              course, the airline tickets were on   gest target in El Salvador did not. There was even a whole other
                              their own airline, TACA. This was   crew of guards circled around the heliport when we got there.
                              immediately concerning. I’m imag-  This was all new ground for me.
                              ining flying with goats and chickens!   The flying actually went well. Everyone spoke English well,
                                 First, I stroll up to the TACA tick-  and I was very impressed with everyone’s flying skills. It’s not like
                              et counter to pick up my prearranged   the USA, with a maze of rules to enforce safety. El Salvador pilots
                              tickets on a nice Sunday afternoon in   just concentrate on raw stick and rudder skills. Not a wimpy pilot
                              Miami, only to find that not a single   in the bunch.
        soul there ever heard of my deal. No tickets, no nothing. The big    While I waited for students to arrive for their lessons, I sat at
        beautiful El Salvador lady thought my story was a bunch of ma-  the long “social table” at the Aeroclub’s Café. On one afternoon I
        larkey. It wasn’t until I told her I was a personal guest of Roberto   had a long wait. (There is being on time and then there is being
        Kriet, the airline owner, did she start to help at all. But of course,   on Latin time.) I sat and talked to a man named Ricardo who told
        who can you find on Sunday a long way away from El Salvador.  me that since the recent revival of flying after the civil war, he had
           They finally found a resolution just minutes before the flight   been appointed in control of their version of the FAA. He made
        boarded. Stepping onto a TACA flight has no comparison in my   his normal living instructing the air force pilots in a trainer called
        experience of airline travel. Back then there was no first class –   a Waco Minerva.
        it was ALL first class – great food, free drinks, the works! They   After Ricardo left, an older local piloto named Hector sat down
        were hated by U.S. customs for unloading planes full of drunken   at the table, so we chatted for a while. We were suddenly inter-
        Salvadorans all through the holidays. The next thing you noticed   rupted by a plane diving down the taxiway at top speed between
        about TACA back then was the whole plane was also a smoking   the cafe and a tall stone security wall. The plane pulled up from
        zone.                                                  the deck very hard, and at the top of a loop, rolled out and flew
          Getting off the airplane in their 1997 terminal building was a   away. I was startled at not only how close he came by, but also that
        bit confusing. El Salvador has a very moderate climate, so much   this airport had an open and operational control tower. I said to
        of the terminal back then was wide open. It seems to be always   Hector, “If that plane had done that 20 minutes ago, your FAA
        bustling with a crowd of people. Customs there decides if they   guy would have been sitting right there.” Hector replied, “That
        are going to search your bags by spinning a big roulette wheel.   WAS the FAA guy!”
        A non-English speaking man with a Mr. Koontz sign picked me    And so it went for two weeks. I now knew I was back in the
        out of the chaos, loaded my bags, and off into the dark we went.  wild west of aviation. But as the big day for the first airshow ever
           The hotel accommodations were surprisingly five-star. I was   in El Salvador approached, things got crazier still. See part three.
        picked up the next morning by Archie Baldocchi’s driver. Archie   Parte Tres will appear in the July/August issue
        was one of El Salvador’s nicest people, and he loved his country
        with a passion only a Latin person has. He was also a very promi-  Greg Koontz is a full-time airshow performer and teaches basic
        nent banker.                                           aerobatics at his Flight School/Bed & Breakfast called Sky Coun-
          A small group of pilots met me at Archie’s business office (an   try Lodge. Greg is a former chairman of the ICAS ACE Committee,
        old restored office from his family’s coffee company). After we   holds an unlimited aerobatic waiver, and has been designated a
        muddled through ground school, Archie suggested I ride with   Master Certified Flight Instructor-Aerobatics by the National Asso-
        him to the Ilopango airport for the first flight. We walked out the   ciation of Flight Instructors. Please send your comments/questions
        side door and into a stonewall courtyard that looked like a scene   to Greg@GKairshows.com
        from some Mission Impossible program in the 1960s. Perched







                                         WORLD AIRSHOW NEWS   10  March/April 2018
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