Palms    Palms    Palms    Palms
Vertical line
We departed Long Island for St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands on a beautiful morning. My passengers were sound asleep after the initial climb and I leveled out at 8500 feet with the nose pointed to Grand Turk.

The maximum range for a new Piper Warrior is approximately 600 Miles. The distance between Long Island and St. Thomas is 550 miles, slightly to close for comfort, so an en-route fuel stop was required on the way. We had three options: Turks & Caicos, The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. I had heard many really bad things about the Dominican Republic so that was out of the picture. Puerto Rico was an option, but any significant headwind could put us right in the water. Wet airplanes don’t keep their resell value very well, so I opted for Grand Turk as our refueling point.

Leaving Long Island Leaving Long Island

Co-pilot Thomas is sleeping Co-pilot Thomas sound asleep
With the engine noise and my passengers occasional snoring as the only entertainment available, I had plenty of time to think about St. Thomas. It was owned by Denmark for more than 100 years before we did the horrendous mistake of selling the islands to the US in 1924. Would we find any artifacts from the old Danes? What would the beaches be like? Would they give us Dane-discounts in the bars? What was that beeping sound?

The beeping sound was the GPS, telling me that it was time to contact Turk and Caicos Radio and initiate the decent. I radioed Providenciales International to get clearance for my approach. November 29218 continue approach runway 10. Negative fuel. I had to ask them to repeat the words several times. No fuel. That was not exactly what I had planned.

Unlike continental airports, it can take days or even weeks for Caribbean islands to get aviation fuel. If I continued my approach and landed at Provo I would spend valuable fuel that could be used to bring us to other islands with fuel. I could either continue to the Dominican Republic or backtrack to Great Inagua Island. The latter is listed as unreliable in the fuel section of Pilots guide to the Bahamas, so we really only had one option. It was about to be cold day in hell. Over Turks & Caicos Amazingly clear water over Turks & Caicos

Being greeted with a machine gun is not exactly my definition of “vacation”, but that was nevertheless how we were greeted in the Dominican Republic. The angry little security officer that greeted us didn’t speak English, and none of us spoke Spanish. Great! The language barrier was not a problem for the little angry security officer. He was confident that we would understand him if just he yelled at us. And so he did.

With the angry security officer pushing us around the airport, from the airplane to the the x-ray machine, to the immigrations office it took us roughly 3 precious hours to get all the stamps in our passports. That was followed by another hour trying to locate a telephone that would accept credit cards so I could call U.S. Customs to let them know that we were on our way to St. Thomas. If we didn’t get shot or hanged before we left the Dominican Republic.

Finally we were let out to the now refulled airplane. The angry officer followed us out there to “inspect” the airplane. From the pilot’s guide to the Caribbean, I had learned that the officers are much likely to let you get out again if you pay them a reasonable “inspection fee” (translate that to bribe) and after a handful of dollars we were finally let back in 29218 and continued our flight to St. Thomas.

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Map of the Caribbean