Tuesday, November 9, 2010

San Juan to Beef Island

On my return trip to Tortola, I had the pleasure taking a more palpable, tactile, immediate flight than I've ever taken before. As a result of the short period of time between my booking date and my flight date, I opted to take a CapeAir flight from San Juan to Beef Island International Airport (EIS). I knew when I booked the flight that CapeAir was known for its small planes, but I had no idea until I walked out onto the tarmac at San Juan exactly how small the planes were.

The plane awaiting my fellow-passengers and me at the gate was a Cessna 402. 10 seats. One for the pilot, 9 for the passengers. Two small steps in the door led up to a cabin that was the approximate size of a mini-van's interior.

On the tarmac, an airline employee assigned our seats to us based on our relative size and weight. Once all 9 passengers, along with our scant carry-on luggage was loaded, our pilot, who looked to be about 20 years old, took off into the nighttime skies and the far outer bands of Tropical Storm Tomas for the 40 minute flight to Beef Island.

Watching the lights of Puerto Rico and St. Thomas about 2000 feet below us, while the night sky, filled with bright stars passed above us, is a scene I will never forget. Similarly, I won't forget the moment when the pilot turned on his map light and pulled out a paper map about 20 minutes into the flight, or the sudden jounce and shimmy we experience when our pilot couldn't quite avoid flying through a cloud.

While I know that it may not be for everyone, if you have the opportunity and wherewithal to take a similar flight, in a similar aircraft, I heartily recommend it.

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