Correspondent Toby Muse reports on the skybuses of the Amazon, which as one grateful local resident says, are not just bringing necessities like toilet paper and food, “they’re also helping develop these tiny towns in the Amazon.”
The DC-3 plane may be an artifact in most places. This particular plane was built in America as part of the war effort during World War 2. In the U.S., planes like this one sit in museums. But in Colombia, the planes of Air Colombia cruise across the Amazon skies, providing lifelines to the tiny towns spread out across the immense jungle and helping keep the economy alive.
In the town of Villavicencio they are known by locals as the “buses of the jungle”. They serve the region as the only links to areas barely touched by the modern world.
“For me it’s an honor to fly a DC-3. To have in my hands a jewel of world aviation. It’s still being used even in these days,” says Captain Joaquin Sanclemente. “They say God lives in the clouds and every day we visit him.”
For the past 30 years, Captain Joaquin Sanclemente flies DC-3 planes over the Amazon jungle. In that time, he’s racked up over 25,000 hours in the air. The DC-3 was first flown in 1935. It revolutionized air transport, traveling faster and further than the competition. The sturdy planes were so reliable thousands were made for the Second World War.
Colombia’s southeast corner is a region of few people and vast jungles, an area the size of Germany. There are no roads –the only connection these towns have to one another and the rest of the country is the river and the sky.
These pilots have a quiet pride in their ability to handle these planes over difficult territory. Some of them use their phone to see NASA reports on weather in the Amazon. Tropical storms can appear out of nowhere, often grounding flights. And the jungle is merciless. If a problem occurs in the air, there’s no guarantee of finding a runway to land in the rainforest. It is so dense that it could still be protecting uncontacted Indian tribes.
DC-3 airbuses major mode of transportation in AmazonCorrespondent Toby Muse reports on the skybuses of the Amazon, which as one grateful local resident says, are not just bringing necessities like toilet paper and food, “they’re also helping develop these tiny towns in the Amazon.”
Watch all the segments on this week’s Americas Now.