If you are an AvGeek, you likely know that there is no shortage of flying or plane-spotting opportunities in the world. It does not matter why you are flying to a place. There will always be a way to include aviation in any trip.
This is especially true while traveling in South America. Despite being one of the most consolidated markets, there are several hidden gems for aviation lovers. For AvGeeks, South American is a paradise. In this post, The College Points reviews the ten best opportunities in South America for you to scratch off your aviation bucket list.
10. Rio’s Breathtaking Approach
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities in South America, if not the world. Built around the Baía de Guanabara, praised since the start of the colonization for its natural beauties, the Pão de Açúcar mountain, and the Cristo Redentor statue are the most famous points of the city.
Santos Dumont Airport, which handles domestic flights, has one of the most extreme approaches in the world. The main runway measures just 1335 meters. Additionally, expansion of the runway is very unlikely. The Sugarloaf is near one of the ends of the runway, while the Rio-Niterói bridge is on the other end.
For that reason, the approach patterns of both runways are very complicated, including steep turns to avoid these obstacles. The runway used most often is 02R. If you are on the right side of the aircraft, you’ll be able to see the Cristo Redentor and the Sugarloaf up close. Additionally, if you are seated on the other side of the aircraft or runway 02R is not used, the sights will also be breathtaking. The opportunity to land in SDU is not to be missed.
Departure City: Several cities in Brazil
Arrival City: Rio de Janeiro/Santos Dumont Airport (SDU)
Airline: Azul, GOL, LATAM Brasil, Passaredo
Flight Duration: Varies
Flight Dates: Multiple Daily Flights
9. Nazca Lines’ Sightseeing Flights in Peru
Peru is a country loved by tourists from all around the world, with its most significant asset being the gigantic heritage left by Pre-Columbian civilizations. The Nazca Lines are massive figures inscribed on the ground of the Nazca Desert. They depict various designs, such as birds, animals, and natural objects, created between 500 BC and 500 AD, according to UNESCO.
The drawings are so gigantic you can only see them fully by flying. For that reason, there are several operators based in Pisco and Nazca Airports, which are near the lines. They regularly carry tourists for sightseeing flights around the geoglyphs.
Aerodiana and Movil Air are the two largest carriers in the Nazca region. Although the aircraft used by both is the widely popular and thus not-that-exciting Cessna Grand Caravan, this is a unique AvGeek experience not to be missed.
Departure City: Nazca (NZC) or Pisco (PIO)
Arrival City: Nazca (NZC) or Pisco (PIO)
Airlines: Aerodiana, Movil Air, among others
Aircraft: Cessna Grand Caravan
Flight Duration: May vary based on the route, around an hour
Flight Dates: Daily
Where to Buy: aerodiana.com.pe, movilair.pe, among others
8. Air France’s Milk Run to the French Guiana
People often forget that France has its own territory in South America. French Guiana has about half the population of Suriname, the least populated country in the subcontinent. As the department is a French region — the country’s equivalent to a state –it is an integral part of France and thus a part of the European Union.
Given the French influence around Caribe, Air France has two A320s operating between the major French-colonial cities in the region, bringing AvGeeks a European experience in the heart of Latin America. In French Guiana, Air France serves the capital city of Cayenne twice a day.
Among these operations is a rather interesting flight that goes from Miami to Cayenne, stopping in Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe), and Fort-de-France (Martinica), a true “milk run.”
The flight leaves Miami at 08:10 a.m. and arrives in Cayenne at 7:35 p.m. Considering the French Guiana is two hours ahead of Miami, that is more than nine hours between departure and arrival. After all, why should you take the shortest route if you can make such an absurd flight?
Departure City: Miami (MIA) or Cayenne (CAY)
Arrival City: Cayenne (CAY) or Miami (MIA)
Airline: Air France
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Flight Duration: Around nine hours
Flight Dates: MIA-CAY on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays; CAY-MIA on Thursdays, Fridays
Where to Buy: airfrance.com
7. An Amazonian Journey on the Embraer Bandeirante
Embraer is one of the major players in the global aircraft industry. It was not until 1968, however, that Embraer’s first-ever aircraft took off. The 19-seater Embraer E110 Bandeirante built the foundation for the Embraer company.
Over the years, technology has improved significantly. These technological improvements have essentially made the Bandeirante obsolete. Today, there are very few Banderiantes flying commercially. In the Brazilian state of Amazonas, there is still one airline that operates the aircraft: Apuí Táxi Aéreo. The regional airline connects the capital city of Manaus to Apuí and Manicoré.
Although there is not much to do in Apuí and Manicoré in terms of tourism, Manaus is the primary hub for Amazonian travel. That being said, a quick round-trip to one of these cities would is recommended.
I once had the chance to fly the Bandeirante some years ago. It was one of the most exciting flights I’ve ever taken and was a truly unforgettable and unique experience. The way the engine screamed for the entirety of the flight made me respect those who had flown regularly in these birds for the past century. The flight is a throwback to the past and is a must for any AvGeek who loves aviation.
Departure City: Manaus (MAO)
Arrival City: Apuí (SWYN), Manicoré (MNX)
Airline: Apuí Táxi Aéreo
Aircraft: Embraer 110 Bandeirante
Flight Duration: Around four hours (round-trip)
Flight Dates: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Where to Buy: voeapui.com.br
6. Flying the 737 Classic in Peru
The 737 is a legendary narrowbody now in its fourth generation. Despite issues with the most recent generation, the 737 MAX, the first and the second generations — the Boeing 737-300 to the -500 are quickly being phased out around the world.
In South America, however, there are still opportunities to fly the 737 Classic — as the second generation was nicknamed. In Peru, Star Perú has a fleet of two 737-300s and a 737-500, serving five cities around the country from its base in Lima.
It is essential to mention the airline has just left a restructuring process, so delays and even cancellations are somewhat frequent. If you want to have a trip with fewer surprises, you may prefer flying Boliviana de Aviación (BoA) in Bolivia, which has ten 737-300s. However, their fleet has some 737NGs, which may spoil your plans of flying the Classic.
Departure City: Lima (LIM)
Arrival City: Five cities in Peru
Airline: Star Perú
Aircraft: 737-300 and 737-500
Flight Duration: Varies
Flight Dates: Daily operations to various cities in Peru
Where to Buy: starperu.com
5. The Amazonian Milk Run
The two largest cities in the Brazilian Amazon, Belém and Manaus, are connected by major carriers with the typical Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies. However, why not turn the two-hour flight into a five and a half-hour trip with three stops along the way, all in a small turboprop?
Another milk run, this unique route is operated by MAP Linhas Aéreas, a regional carrier based in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. The airline connects Belém to Manaus and vice-versa, stopping in three cities in the Northern region of Brazil: Altamira, Santarém, and Parintins.
The flight is operated by the ATR 42, which, thanks to its high-wing configuration, will provide beautiful sights of the Amazon Rainforest.
Departure City: Manaus (MAO) or Belém (BEL)
Arrival City: Belém (BEL) or Manaus (MAO)
Airline: MAP Linhas Aéreas
Aircraft: ATR 42
Flight Duration: 5 hours and 30 minutes
Flight Dates: Tuesdays and Thursdays
Where to Buy: voemap.com.br
4. LATAM’s “Secret” Flight to the Falklands/Malvinas
This weekly flight operated by a 767-300, to the isolated archipelago with a population of only three thousand people, carried just 78 passengers compared to 884 seats offered during its first month of operation.
In 2019, LATAM Brasil started this operation, connecting its hub in Guarulhos (near São Paulo) to Mount Pleasant Airport, in the Falkland Islands.
This flight is subsidized by the UK government to boost tourism to the islands and reduce their isolation — the flight even connects to Europe and to the United States.
Twice a month, the flight stops in Córdoba, Argentina, then proceeding to the Falklands/Malvinas. This led the Argentinian government to request Brazilian authorities not to celebrate the new flight, fearing this could be a subtle Brazilian endorsement of British control over the islands.
All these facts will make up for an exciting trip to a fascinating place, in the extreme south of the Atlantic Ocean.
Departure City: São Paulo/Guarulhos (GRU)
Arrival City: Mount Pleasant (MPN)
Airline: LATAM Airlines Brasil
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Flight Duration: 6 hours and 5 minutes
Flight Date: Wednesdays
Where to Buy: latam.com
3. Fokker 50 Adventure in Peru
Aero Transporte S.A., popularly known as ATSA, is a charter operator in Peru, with a considerably large fleet and enormous know-how, gained with years of flying in the challenging conditions of the country.
In 2017, the company started regular operations from its base in Lima to some underserved locations. They currently connect Peru’s capital to Atalaya, Chachapoyas, Huánuco, and Tingo Maria. The last three destinations are served by the rare turboprop Fokker 50.
These three cities have their own tourist attractions — Chachapoyas featuring the Kuélap fortress, known as the second Machu Picchu.
I flew with ATSA to Chachapoyas in 2017. Although the flight was operated by the 19-seater Beech B1900, it was truly remarkable. Traveling just above the Andes’ snowy mountains and landing with strong crosswinds in an airport embedded in the Amazon forest was an unforgettable experience.
I also went to Huánuco Airport, although with another airline. The approach is unbelievable, flying just over the houses of local residents with a sharp turn to the right just before arrival. The sights after disembarking are breathtaking, so you will not want to miss flying ATSA’s F-50.
Departure City: Lima (LIM)
Arrival City: Chachapoyas (CHH), Huánuco (HUU) and Tingo Maria (TGI)
Airline: ATSA Airlines
Aircraft: Fokker 50
Flight Duration: Varies
Flight Date: Mostly daily operations
Where to Buy: atsaairlines.com
2. Saab 340 to The End of The World
Ushuaia is regarded as the “end of the world” by the Argentine. Indeed, it is Argentina’s southernmost city and it receives thousands of tourists every year, mostly people seeking for cold weather and snowy, peaceful landscapes.
While there are multiple flights a day to Buenos Aires, regional integration is still an essential goal in the region. For that reason, Argentina’s Air Force, through its airline branch LADE – Líneas Aéreas del Estado (State Air Lines), operates flights connecting the smaller cities of the Argentinean Patagonia.
Although schedules change every few months, the airline currently connects the oil-producing city of Comodoro Rivadavia to Ushuaia, stopping in Río Gallegos, Rio Grande, and Ushuaia. The equipment used is the Swedish turboprop Saab 340, which can carry up to 30 passengers.
The Saab is becoming increasingly rare. With the Saab 340 becoming such a rare aircraft, this is quite a unique opportunity for AvGeeks.
Departure City: Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD)
Arrival City: Ushuaia (USH)
Airline: LADE – Líneas Aéreas del Estado
Aircraft: Saab 340
Flight Duration: Around four hours
Flight Date: Mondays and Fridays (schedules change quarterly)
Where to Buy: lade.com.ar
1. Flying the Jumbolino in Bolivia
The BaE 146/Avro RJ is an aircraft beloved by many. This is thanks to its unique design — a 112-seats jetliner with a high-wing configuration featuring four engines, the Avro RJ is an odd sight.
However, the Jumbolino, as its commonly known, is becoming quite rare, as new, more efficient technologies and aircraft are introduced. In Bolivia, EcoJet operates 4 Avro RJs connecting several cities across Bolivia.
Bolivia is a beautiful country surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and sights. Add flying the Jumbolino to this equation, and what you’ll have is an AvGeek’s dream: an absolute must for your bucket list.
La Paz is also home to multiple abandoned and preserved aircraft. These historical aircraft may be worth a visit during your trip to the highest capital in the world.
Departure City: Multiple cities in Bolivia
Arrival City: Multiple cities in Bolivia
Aircraft: BAe 146-200/Avro RJ85
Flight Duration: Varies
Flight Date: Daily operations
Where to Buy: ecojet.bo