February 5, 1986
Dick Schreder of Bryan went sailplaning in Chile. (Staff photo by Jim Wrinkle).
Pilot returns from Chile
Bryan businessman and pilot, Dick Schreder was on an unusual trip during the month of January.
He was on of a group of international pilots who flew to the South American nation of Chile to fly sailplanes among the Andes Mountains north to the border of Peru, a distance of about 2,000 miles.The trip started on January 5 as Schreder left Toledo, flew to Dayton and then Miami where he picked a Lan Chile flight that made one stop, in Caracas before reaching Santiago, the capital of Chile about 24 hours later.Schreder's luggage arrived three days later. Schreder said had he known the Lan Chile terminal was next to the Piedmont terminal, he would have checked his luggage through to the end of the line.
Schreder met the other pilots in Miami and when they got to Chile, they found a welcoming committee waiting that included the press, radio and TV with the fliers pictures appearing on the front page of the papers. They were given rooms in the finest hotel on the main square next to the presidential palace, (not always the safest place to be in case a revolution should break out).
They were then taken to an airport that was owned by the soaring club. It had a paved runway, a small control tower, swimming pool, tennis courts and other benefits. The club had 12 sailplanes and four tow planes available. The visitors were checked out with local fliers until they were issued Chilean pilot's licenses. They flew German Janus two-place sailplanes for three days and then were flown over the route of their planned trip in an airplane so they could get an idea as to the terrain they would be covering.The country was mostly desert and mountains. There was little evidence of human population as the towns were few and far between. They crossed over the world's largest open pit copper mine which was two miles long and one mile wide. There was quite a large town next to the mine, occupied by the mine workers. Thre ground greatly resembled a lunar landscape with few airports, no vegetation, trees or animals. The pilots were then returned to Santiago where their licenses were ready and they were issued maps that showed the location of towns, roads and more important airports.They were flying the Janus craft with another American who brought in a Caproni jet-powered sailplane and joined them on his own. They were disappointed by the lack of thermals for soaring. Chile is on the wrong side of the Andes to get thermals as the sun does not reach the western side of the mountains until about 2 p.m. and as a result they started later than most were use to. In addition to the late arrival of the sun, the Humboldt Current comes from Antarctica and runs north along the coast. It is a cold current and the winds blowing east onto land kills any thermals which are needed to give the sailplanes lift to gain altitude. The temperature was cool, not like the summers here and a jacket was needed if you were going to be in the shade. Without thermals it was difficult to stay airborne and there were few places to land due to the rugged terrain. The Chilean copilots were kept busy checking the maps to find the distance to the nearest airport and telling Schreder and the other pilots when to head for the nearest airstrip. Most of the airstrips are dirt and had no facilities, people or anything. The local pilot would give the word to head for the airport so they did not land out in the rugged country. There was only one road going north and south with east and west roads few and far between. At times there would not be a building of any sort for 100 miles.Several days and sailplanes had to stay under tow all day and it was discouraging, Schreder said. They had expected to have good conditions but Schreder can't remember any of the updrafts. The only lift was from a wind blowing against a high mountain wall but that was not consistent as there were no well-defined ridges, there were breaks and to go to the mountains again it would have been necessary to go up a canyon. That would not have been a good idea as if the sailplane got too low, the canyons were too narrow to turn around.Schreder said that the foreign pilots were invited to make the flight to see what they could do as the local fliers had little luck on distance flying. The farthest they had been able to go was 250 miles north of Santiago. The visitors could do no better as the conditions were not there.Schreder had to land out once. The tow lines used were only about 100 feet long compared to 300 feet that he was use to using. The short tow line forced the pilots to pay close attention to their flying at all times. It was like flying with the Blue Angles, Schreder added. On the day of the landing out the pilot of the towplane thought he had flown through a thermal so he banked sharply to the left, without any warning and the airplane went one way and the sailplane the other and there was a danger of collision. They were using heavy 5/8-inch rope compared to 1/4 used in the U.S. There was also no safety link that would break when the stress became too strong so all Schreder could do was drop the tow rope and seek a place to land. He spotted a road but upon examination saw that there were piles of dirt along the road too high for the wings to clear. Schreder was able to land in a field with no major damage. About 35 people were following along for support of the sailplanes. The members of the soaring club took their vacations to follow the flight northward. The sailplane was loaded onto a truck and carried to the next airstrip.The trip finally ended at Arica on the Peruvian boarder. Then was the problem of getting back to Santiago. There is a railroad but the train only runs when they feel like going. However, there was a Chilean pilot who had been flying along with the group in a twin-engined Cessana and he would drain gas from his tanks for the tow-planes. Schreder was able to get a ride back to the capital with him.The American in the jet-sailplane would put a barrel of fuel in his tanks in the morning and take off and then try to soar. When he got too low he would start his engine and regain his altitude. He spent about $20,000 on the jaunt.Leaving for home was a problem as there were no plane seats available until mid-February. Schreder asked for standby but there were 31 seats on standby and 32 waiting. Schreder was able to pull a few strings as the airline was one of the sponsors of the trip and he wanted to go home. They found a seat in first class from the seats used by crew members going from one place to another. The plane made but one stop, at Lima, Peru, before reaching Miami.After getting back to Bryan, Schreder said he got a call from Charlie Spratt who was still in Chile. Sprat, who has been in Bryan, is one who works the 'window' at soaring competitions noting the time that pilots start their flights. It seems that Schreder was given his ticket home by mistake. Schreder does not know if Spratt was able to leave or not.Spratt drove the truck carrying baggage and fuel. In Chile one never knew where there would be a military roadblock that stopped all traffic and checked travelers' papers. Spratt speaks no Spanish and had trouble being understood so the soldiers would finally pass him through. Schreder said once a taxi he was riding in was stopped in Santiago and when the driver did not have the proper papers, the soldiers took him away and left the cab set. Schreder then walked back to his hotel.Schreder said the Chilean people were very nice and courteous but outside of Santiago there were few people who spoke English. Angie Schreder was scheduled to go along on the trip with her husband but due to business in Bryan was unable to go. She speaks Spanish and would have been a great help.Schreder said almost all of the visitors got sick. He did not drink the water but drank pop. But the ice that was used to chill the drink had bacteria and as a result had much the same affect as castor oil.
Schreder would like to return to Chile, but not to fly.