On July 13, 2018 – 3 years ago – Mano a Mano staff, board members, and volunteers went to Fleming Field in South St. Paul to check out the Cessna Caravan before it started its journey to Bolivia. Since arriving in Bolivia, this plane has increased the capacity of Mano a Mano’s Aviation program to transport more people & more cargo, more efficiently.

Mano a Mano’s new addition to our aviation program, at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Minnesota, preparing for a test flight on July 13, 2018.

First Flight at Fleming Field – July 13, 2018

Impact of the Aviation Program in the First Half of 2021

The aviation program has stayed busy in 2021:

Arriving in Mapiri to transport a patient on the Mano a Mano plane, May 2021.

Challenges to Get the Plane From Minnesota to Bolivia in 2018

After purchasing the Cessna Caravan in Minnesota in the summer of 2018 (thanks to the generous support of donors and the sale of Mano a Mano’s airplanes that the Caravan would replace), there were months of training and prep for our pilots. Our pilots first traveled from Bolivia to Orlando, Florida for pilot training for this new, larger plane. Then they flew to Minnesota on August 11, 2018. From there, the plane was flown to Tampa, Florida to have an extra fuel tank installed to minimize the number of landings. With the additional tank, the Caravan would be able to reach the Guayanas (the most northern part of the South American continent). The Caravan was then flown from Fleming Field in the Twin Cities to Cochabamba, Bolivia in October 2018. Over the next 5 months after it arrived in Bolivia, we obtained registration and certification, made the required customs payment, and received approval to purchase jet fuel for the airplane. All steps were completed and the airplane started flying in March 2019 (5 months is actually an extremely fast turnaround).

Mano a Mano’s Caravan taking one of its first flights in Bolivia in March 2019.

Challenges of Flying in Bolivia During COVID-19 in 2020 & 2021

The Caravan had about a year of providing emergency flights, transporting cargo, transporting Mano a Mano staff and volunteers for projects in rural areas, and providing a portion of flights for paying customers to subsidize its nonprofit work…and then COVID-19 hit.

The past 18 months have presented unprecedented challenges to our aviation program. During much of this time, government restrictions have led to grounding aircraft, or limiting flights to COVID-related purposes only. Prior to the pandemic, our aviation program had reached its goal of flying 50% of its flight hours for private individuals, businesses, and other NGOs to help cover the costs related to its service mission. Pandemic restrictions eliminated our opportunities to raise funds through these means.

Flying in Bolivia in the Time of COVID-19: Flight Radar screenshot from a flight from Cochabamba to Beni in mid-2020; Mano a Mano was one of only 2 planes in the air in Bolivia at the time. Picture on the right: a Mano a Mano emergency flight in 2020.

But we continue to respond to the demand and fly.

Aviation Photos in 2021

An emergency flight in June 2021.

Learn More About Mano a Mano’s Aviation Program