The genesis of this world record deserves as much interest as the narrative of the flight itself, because this flight is actually a fast reaction against what my British companions considered in diplomatic language an “erroneous interpretation” of a NOTAM.
It is necessary to recall that before a foreigner can fly in Argentina, he needs an authorization delivered by ANAC (National Administration of the Civil aviation), an administration freshly created last July by donation of equipment and staff from the Air Force (Fuerza Aerea).
Once authorizations for all pilots have been obtained, the always young (83 and regular flyer) and irreplaceable president of the Argentinean Aero-Club (CADEA) Lito Fentanes works obtaining clearances to fly in any class of airspace above FL 195, a condition which is absolutely indispensable to be able to safely overfly the desert pampa or very high places (some rocks are at FL 220). In a first message dated November 16th, the central regional director allowed flying above FL 195 under some conditions subject to carrying specified equipment (all achieved) and after ATC clearance depending on the traffic. Unfortunately, this derogation is accompanied by a geographical limitation between the latitudes 38° and 41°24′, and between the longitude 70°30′ and the Chilean border. This means that we can fly only to the north since the TMA of Bariloche ends at 41°43′! At the first attempt of flight towards El Maiten, located 100 km south, the ATC denied the take-off on the basis of this message. In spite of one visit to the TWR, they confirmed the non approval of FPL’s outside of the limits specified in the NOTAM.
There was a new intervention from Lito Fentanes, this time at the highest level, the general director of ANAC, in order to get an extension of what Lito called the “box” (cajon). The final version of November 20th says : « GLIDER ACTIVITY WILL TAKE PLACE OVER THE ANDES FROM NOV-22-2010, UNTIL JAN 26-2011, DURING DAYLIGHT, COVERAGE AREA BETWEEN PARALLELS 35°00’S AND 50°00’S AND MERIDIAN 070°00’W AND THE BOUNDARY WITH CHILEAN REPUBLIC, FROM GND UNTIL FL 280. THE GLIDERS SHALL MAINTAIN PERMANENT RADIOELECTRICAL CONTACT WITH THE APPROPRIATE ATC AND TRANSPONDER ON MODE A AND C.”
New discussion with the chief of the controllers, who admits that this decision is ridiculous since for example the limitation to 50°S won’t allow us to file a FPL for El Calafate situated to 50°16’S, i.e. 30km south of the 50th parallel, which also our turn point for the 2.000 km out and return to the south, and the only landable airstrip within 200 km! Furthermore, the limitation to 70°W prohibits any FAI triangle of more than 1.500 km since it is necessary to go around 68°W. Faced with this situation and the position of our ATC’s, we (John Williams, Roy Wilson, Bruce Cooper and myself) then decided to abandon the idea of the triangle and modified our tasks southbound to stay within the latitude 50°S.