For years, aircraft as small as those that carry only two passengers have used the same Cochabamba airport runways that the major airlines use, a practice that seriously compromises safety, especially in a region surrounded by mountains. To remedy this hazard, the Cochabamba airport authority alerted Mano a Mano’s aviation program, along with all other non-commercial aircraft, to make plans to relocate to a regional airport.

Mano a Mano’s aviation program provides flights on a near-daily basis. This is our Cessna Caravan in front of the Mano a Mano hangar at the Cochabamba airport. Watch a video about our aviation program on Youtube here.

The problem: there are no regional airports to which our aviation problem could relocate.

Our solution: to build a Punata Regional Complex, about 30 miles from Cochabamba, which will include a hangar and a safe, unobstructed runway for our life-saving flights.

Punata Regional Complex

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, and celebrated on June 11, 2022); a new public school (complete, and dedicated on March 25, 2022); a deep well for potable water (complete, and dedicated in March 2022); a three-mile road (this road from Toco to Chirusi, due to be complete soon); infrastructure needed for moving our aviation program from the Cochabamba airport (underway, as described in this post); and preparation for a rural Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA).

Working on the Runway

Because this runway will also potentially serve many non-Mano a Mano aircraft every day, we must build it on a deep, solid base which can be covered with asphalt. To this point, we have laid a dirt/clay runway foundation and will cover it with a sub-base of pre-selected river rock, which we machine-compacted as each six-inch layer was added.

Dozer building runway foundation

Sifting Rock

The next phase in the building process, laying the sub-base, presented major challenges: sifting small pebbles from the tons of gravel that had been transported to the site, and then crushing the remaining larger rocks into modest-size irregular shapes. Without sharp-edged crushed rock, the base layer will not bind together to create a solid structure. To solve the sifting challenge, Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo’s mechanics built a giant-sized, slanted screen. Their front end loaders now engage in a constant process of dumping buckets-full of gravel onto the screen. Small pieces fall through the screen; larger ones roll off. The sifting challenge is met.

Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo staff at our El Abra office/warehouse location welding the sifting screen to sort gravel at the Punata Regional Complex.

Dumping unsorted gravel onto our sifting screen at the runway location.

Acquiring the Heavy Equipment Needed to Crush Rock

The second challenge, crushing rock, requires a crushing machine. Fortunately, a business owner, one who “believes in” Mano a Mano’s work, was willing to sell his crusher to us at a reasonable price. With this purchase and the laborious transport of the crusher and accompanying generator to the runway site, we are able to move forward with the project.

Making Progress Every Day

The daily repetition of sifting, crushing, layering, and compacting is well underway. The ramp and approach to the hangar – the first priority section – is nearly complete, ready for hangar construction.

Mano a Mano staff are making progress every day.

This work will continue throughout the next several months until the runway bed is ready for asphalting. We anticipate that both the hangar and runway will be completed by December of 2023. We hope to move the Mano a Mano aviation program to the Punata Regional Complex at that time.

Recent Runway Construction Photos

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