Frustration, and more waiting

Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Panama  ,
Monday, August 23, 2010

This morning had to be the most frustrating one of this trip so far. I had been instructed to remove a part of our camera and ship it back to Canada for repair, at the manufacturers. So, we just have to go to the plane, unplug the box (which is no larger than a shoebox), take it to FedEx, and ship it. Right?


Our airport shuttle picked us up right on time, but our handlers weren't there to meet us at the terminal. We had to call them to come find us. That done, we were taken upstairs to a security checkpoint, where we were turned back and told to go somewhere else. After great negotiation (and giving over my company credit card because I hadn't felt I needed my pilot's license and so didn't bring it for ID), I was issued a green visitor's pass and taken to yet another door.

This checkpoint was no help either. They told us I needed a yellow pass, not a green one. So back down another elevator out to the back to a third checkpoint (this one outside where vehicles drive through), and finally I was put on the handler's crew bus to drive out to where PXL has been sitting all this time. This drive took almost 20 minutes, because the road routes out around the actually gates, across a construction site, over an active taxiway where we had to wait for three passing jets, then through another construction site and out to a practically empty pad of concrete which is used as the general aviation parking lot.

Apparently, the problems arose because I was planning on getting a piece of equipment and returning with it back to ground-side, and the terminal personnel felt I needed a security pass to do this.

I have never had so much trouble accessing my own aircraft.

Upon arriving at the plane, I realized another problem. In my efforts to be secure, I had locked my passport, pilot's license, cash for fuel and my wallet in the hotel room safe. And wouldn't you know it, the keys to the Navajo's cabin door were in there too.

Luis, our handler, managed to open my locked door with a padlock key from the bus driver's keychain. Thank heaven for 1976 aircraft locks.

I got the box out of the plane, along with a couple other things I had forgotten to take last time, and back through the process we went (faster this time). We got back in the airport shuttle and the driver was told where FedEx was.

Mission accomplished? Not quite.

FedEx was very unhelpful. The lady at the desk told me she would not allow me modify a FedEx Box to ship our equipment in, despite how loosely packed it was. This box is worth thousands of dollars and our cameras are useless without it, but sorry, we won't help you pack it properly.

So out across the industrial sector of Tocumen we went, with the hapless taxi driver having to ask directions along the way. I had thought ahead enough to print out the addresses of all FedEx stores before leaving the hotel.

They didn't speak English very well at Mailboxes Etc, but somehow we bought a nice sturdy box, got the equipment packed nice and tight, and filled out the rest of the paperwork. They tried to tell us to go back to the original FedEx depot, but that was where I drew the line. I said I would let them deliver it to them.

So now we are back at the hotel. We are now being delayed here until Thursday because our handler on the Ecuador end is not available to meet our aircraft until then. I had just finished getting ready to find a taxi and check out Casco Viejo when... it started raining. Hard. Lightning too.

It appears to be another "stay inside and order room service" kind of afternoon.
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