On July 13, 2018 – 4 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.

Impact of the Aviation Program in Bolivia

Mano a Mano’s aviation program has 2 primary programs working with Bolivian communities that have minimal access to health care: emergency rescue of ill and injured individuals, transporting them to urban hospitals for life-saving treatment; and weekend clinics for which we transport volunteer health care professionals into remote areas to provide primary medical & dental care. The aviation program has stayed busy in 2022: every month, on average, our aviation program has provided emergency air transport for 20-30 people; transported 20,000 pounds of cargo; and transported volunteer medical professionals to provide 1-2 weekend health clinics.

In 2021, our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Aviation provided emergency flights for 308 people, with many flights related to COVID-19. We transported 241,820 pounds of cargo (the majority is medical cargo, but it also includes repairs for Mano a Mano heavy equipment and vehicles, transporting basic food supplies from the city to rural areas, transporting meat and produce from rural areas to the city, and other items), and provided transport for volunteer medical professionals for 29 weekend health clinics.

First Flight at Fleming Field – July 13, 2018

On July 13, 2018, Mano a Mano staff, board members, and supporters went to Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Minnesota for the first flight in our new plane. Special thanks to Tom Merritt, who went to Fleming Field and made this video for us.

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.

Aviation Photos in 2022

Mano a Mano Airport Under Construction

Mano a Mano started the “Punata Regional Complex” in 2021– a comprehensive project in the Cochabamba Valley’s Punata region over the next three years that includes a 3rd expansion of the Laguna Sulti agricultural water reservoir (complete); a new public school (complete); a deep well for potable water (complete); a three-mile road; infrastructure needed for moving our aviation program from the Cochabamba airport; and preparation for a rural Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA).

The community of Laguna Sulti, about 30 miles outside of the city of Cochabamba, set May 12th as the YEARLY date to celebrate the construction and recent expansion of their water reservoir built with Mano a Mano; it was moved to June 11th, 2022 for this inaugural year to accommodate everyone’s schedule. This was a State Fair day at the Laguna Sulti reservoir site, complete with a traffic jam at the new airport Mano a Mano is building alongside the reservoir (the airstrip foundation is on the right, the Laguna Sulti water reservoir is on the left).

While there is still a LOT of work to be done, several private aircraft, including the Mano a Mano airplanes, have already landed safely on this solid foundation (this video is our Cessna Caravan landing on the foundation in February 2022):

Learn More About Mano a Mano’s Aviation Program

Watch a Mano a Mano Flight to Oruro From Takeoff to Landing: Transporting Medical Supplies (2021)

Watch a Mano a Mano flight on the Cessna Caravan from takeoff to landing with pilot Ivo Daniel Martinez transporting medical supplies from Cochabamba to Oruro in 2021. These supplies were for Hospital Barrio Mineros, with the flight taking place on April 29, 2021. You may notice the dogs inspecting our cargo at the start of the video; after loading everything onto the plane at our hangar, we have to unload everything for inspection on the platform by airport officials before refilling the plane and being approved for takeoff – standard procedure for every flight. Ivo talks about the process at the airport in this video here.