This article was last updated on: June 2019
This Panama City and Tocumen Airport spotting event article is kind of long and thus is divided into three (3) parts. You are about to start reading part one (1). Choose here any other part you may want to go to: | Two (2) | Three (3) |
A very good friend of mine that’s close to the organisation alerted me about the event a few weeks in advance, and offered hosting and general “logistics” should I assist. All I had to do was just arrive there.
That “just arrive there” was troublesome for me anyway, because air tickets from Colombia in general are expensive, the Colombian peso is pretty much worthless, and I don’t have a penny right now.
Nonetheless, I checked all options, and the ticket via Wingo was more or less manageable, since the trip date was still a few weeks away, and I wasn’t going to check any baggage.
So, I made the choice right there and bought the ticket, because if you don’t take advantage of those prices when you see them, by the time you finally decide to take the plunge they’ve gone up a lot (and indeed, I checked just a few days later and it was about 40% more expensive).
I had gone to Panama already, but I hadn’t flown in Wingo nor used Panama Pacifico Airport. So, as always when I can do it, it was exciting for me to try a new airline, and a new Airport. Just out of pure aeronautical curiosity.
The time to go back to Panama City came.
Airplane: Boeing 737-700
I arrived in the Airport and made my way to Wingo’s counter, there they checked everything, and put the baggage some identifiers.
Before that, they made me print the whole itinerary because “it was a requirement of Panama’s authorities”. I went and printed it, and that was that.
Now, when I arrived in Panama nobody asked me for that. But I know that sometimes they do… I forgot about it this time around, I usually print it all before travelling anyway.
I went to emigration, and they asked me if it was my first time going to Panama, and the purpose of my trip. Then I removed my shoes and all the ritual, and passed security.
They stamped my passport afterwards, and that it was all ready.
There were two interesting things in the waiting room:
First, I bumped into my friend Andrés C.L. He was doing flight hours in Halcones when I was doing the same there.
He’s been working at Copa for some time now, and was leaving for Panama City too (but in the cockpit, not the cabin as me).
He asked me if I was in his flight, I told him I wasn’t. We spoke for a while and then he left to do his job. I was glad to see him.
Besides that, there was an Atlas Boeing 747-400F in the cargo terminal, and from the international waiting room you could see it perfectly. There was also a Western Global McDonnell-Douglas MD-11F, but it was behind the 747, and I couldn’t see it as clearly.
The Boeing 747-400F that was there had already visited MDE. Its registration is N412MC, and in November 2012 was one of the Airplanes in charge of logistics for the Madonna concert in Medellin.
Back then, I took a photo of it landing with lots of smoke. If you want to see it, you can click here.
I took some photos then, and sat to wait. Time passed and the Boeing 737-700 that would take me to Panama arrived. It came precisely from Panama Pacifico, then it would take us back there, and then it would return to Colombia, but to Bogotá.
HP-1377CMP was arriving on-time, and parked at position 12B of the international apron. Boarding was soon begun, with the usual priorities (people in need of help, people who bought the quick boarding service, then by rows).
I sat in my left window seat, stored my baggage in the overhead compartment, and got ready for the flight.
The back of the seat in front was full of pen marks. I’m sure the airline tries its best to keep the Airplanes in the best conditions they can, but can’t fight a horde of thugs. What a pity.
So much so, that the flight attendants in their announcements asked people to please not mark them with ink. People being what they are, most likely that gave them momentum to use even more ink on the seats, just because.
We were pushed-back and started our taxi to the runway. Right in that moment, the Atlas Jumbo was being pushed-back as well.
Wingo’s Pilots are actually Copa’s pilots, and fly Airplanes from both airlines indistinctly. So, on the safety announcements the First Officer said:
-“Thanks for flying Copa Airlines… errrrr… Wingo”.
Flight attendants laughed.
We took off making a standard instrument departure that took us to a right ascending turn to fly again over the Airport, and then over Medellin city, and then onward to Panama Pacifico.
Lining up on runway 01 for departure.
Starting to climb. In sight the passengers and cargo terminal, with the MD-11F in position.
The reservoirs zone in sight as we continue to smoothly turn right before overflying the Airport again.
It was cloudy from Medellin almost until reaching the Pacific Ocean in descent. Getting closer to Panama I could see the islands clearly, and the clouds disappeared.
Islands reaching Panama.
Seconds before landing.
The landing was rather strong, and then we continued toward the apron. Panama Pacifico Airport used to be a United States base in the times when they controlled the Panama Canal. It was called Howard.
Once it returned to Panamanian control, they decided to make it an Airport with commercial services too.
Right now only Wingo flies there, before VivaColombia (nowadays Viva Air) operated there too.
Being the only flight operating at the moment, we disembarked via stairs both aft and front, and then we were directed to a square building where a door was closed the moment the last passenger entered.
There, under watch by the agents, we made the whole immigration process while the walls had announcements such as:
-“Colombian friend you have 90 days to be in Panama as a tourist.
Venezuelan friend you have 30 days to be in Panama as a tourist.”
I made it through immigration and customs smoothly, and right there in the exit was my friend Jarib already waiting for me.
The friend letting me stay with him lives in the outskirts of Panama City, in the Panama Oeste (Panama West) zone. The traffic jam to go to downtown from there is legendary, so the day I arrived we didn’t go into the city.
Rather, we went even more to the west, and went to a national park called Altos de Campana.
Between Panama Pacifico and the park there are lots of paisa food restaurants.
I guess that food is OK if you’re just passing by and are hungry, but I don’t know how people here (paisaland) can eat that every day, and not die from a huge arse heart attack aged 24.
We arrived in the park and walked around a couple of hours there. It has a very nice view toward the Chame and Rio Hato zones.
I had been in Panama before, but I hadn’t left the zone of the Canal and Panama City itself.
For some reason, Panama didn’t register for me as a country with mountains.
That thought left my head with that visit.
In Altos de Campana I of course philosophised, and was super tender all at the same time.
The weather was great, there were few clouds, and a very nice dusk light.
On the other hand, it was windy as hell, so the view was great but at the same time it wasn’t hot. No better combination.
On top of that there was very few people, and just the eventual car passing by. Even better!
More photos of the visit to Altos de Campana below.
We returned a little before night.
There was a traffic jam coming back, and even though I had the impression the driving in Panama is a little better than in Colombia (not that much, though), in those traffic jams you could see many arseholes overtaking on the shoulder.
That makes me very angry. People that think they have more right to the infrastructure, collapsed as it may be, and to arrive earlier by divine right.
That is very common with the despicable motorcycle riders in Colombia, and sure enough, the rest of the people can die for all they care.
Sure, ambulances and similar vehicles should be able to go first, but other than that…
On the way I saw many Terpel fuel stations, the same as in Chile years before. I wondered if they sell the same concoction they sell in Colombia, at the overblown price they do in Colombia.
And like in Chile, obviously nyet.
They sell fuel of up to 95 octanes in Panama, priced more accordingly to the country’s general income situation.
Leaving Colombia is getting angrier with Colombia.
Around those days the presidential campaign was at full steam.
The place was full of advertising, and billboards from many candidates.
They were campaigning for Rómulo Roux in some part (in the end he didn’t win), and they gave me a flag.
I had no idea he existed, nor what his political stance was, nor of politics in general in Panama for that matter. But all the same, when they gave it to me I shouted:
-“¡VAMOOOOOOOOOOH RÓMULOOOOOOH!” (“LET’S GOOOOO ROMULOOOOOH!”)
The woman who gave me the flag was mildly scared.
I brought the flag to Colombia, and I have it in my room, muahahaha.
The next day we went to Panama City.
We were around the most known parts. I had been in some already, but it’s always good to return, even more so if you’re with good friends.
We entered the city through the Centennial Bridge.
And we continued near the Pedro Miguel locks.
In the morning we were taking photos in Albrook, in the Marcos A.Gelabert Airport.
It’s the second most important Airport in the city. Air Panama flies from there, and other smaller companies. Mostly flights to the interior of the country and the islands (and a couple of international flights).
Initially, we were close to the threshold of runway 19 for some minutes, from where I took photos of a delicious Fokker 100 taking off.
There are flight schools also, in addition to operations of the Servicio Aeronaval de Panamá.
We stood on some bridge’s walkway, and had a perfect view to the threshold of runway 01.
Many diablo rojo buses were entering the city through that bridge, and when there wasn’t any Aircraft landing I would look at them in case Kim Jong-Un appeared again, but he didn’t.
I also saw someone who was going to exit the bridge, changed his/her mind, and decided to turn back right on the ramp. The buses that almost crashed against that person would honk and honk, but it didn’t matter for that person that continued to reverse.
With such luck that right there the police was passing by, and a harsh telling was had (I didn’t see if a ticket was involved). It was delicious, so much pleasure!
We also took some photos from the building of the Panama Canal Management.
There were police training, people doing sports (I saw a lone boxer around there), and others taking photos with traditional costumes.
Of course, I was there casual, and had a couple of selfies hoho.
Some additional photos taken in Marcos A.Gelabert that day, below.
After that we had lunch in Albrook Mall, and then went to run some errand in a Sony service centre.
As I said, the presidency campaign was at full steam, and like the outskirts, the city itself was full of political advertising.
(On the billboard it says:
-“We steal your money and your happiness. Uniting rats. Stop it Panama!”.)
Once the errand was done, we climbed Ancon hill.
There we were met with a huge downpour.
The hill has a very nice view over the city, and animals walking around. I saw a lot of ñeques.
More Ancon hill photos in this gallery:
When the rain was gone we continued our tour around the city, we went to Amador, now with great sun and light.
We chilled there for a while looking at the place, the people, the Biomuseo, and other things.
From Amador a very nice view of the Bridge of the Americas could be had, and vessels passing by.
More Amador photos:
At night we met with my friends Rascael and Osorn, that were in Panama too.
On our way to meet them we tuned a Panama City radio station of only cheesy music and I had lots of fun.
Cheesy lyrics rule.
We ate in Multiplaza, and talked shit for a while. Later on we dropped them in their hotel.
From there we began our journey to Panama Oeste again, and arrived there around midnight (way later than planned, but not because of the traffic jams, but rather because of having stayed with our friends).
We drove parallel to the Panama City metro line 2 for a good while, very recently put to service. Meanwhile in Bogotá…
Now, there are some things to fix still in the metro, as you can see in these photos:
It was a very busy day. I had to sleep now, next day was the event in Tocumen.