It was nice to have been able to spend a month in Costa Rica before my next trip. I had a deal of administrative tasks to do from the previous year. I was also planning now for my first trip in Central America since Colombia a year earlier. This time, Tegucigalpa, Honduras was on tap.
It was time to deliver a round of training in my own back yard. A former colleague, Gerardo Calix, had requested me to assist. Naturally, any chance I get to instruct on a course, my hand gets raised. Plus, I wanted to know more about the region I was living in. Tegucigalpa would provide that. I was sent the general security brief from Gerardo in advance, Honduras being a higher risk country. We also got the security plan for the training.
On March 11, 2012, I began the short journey north to Tegucigalpa. One literally spends more time waiting in the airport than the 45 minute flight. The route is pretty direct flying right over Nicaragua into Honduras.
Gerardo told me in advance about the arrival process in Honduras. What I was not expecting was the approach and landing! Toncontin International Airport is considered to be one of the most difficult, dangerous landings for any large commercial airliner. Situated at the base of mountain and add to that an extremely short runway that is merely 6,112 feet in length. This provides a recipe for armrest-death-gripping, butt-clenching, nervous excitement.
To be more accurate, the actual landing distance is only 5,442 feet with an approach that requires pilots to utilize everything their training did not prepare them for. The mountainous terrain surrounding the small airport forces an approach that’s anything but head on. This results in a fast decent and a sharp turn prior to lining up with the runway. Frequent gusts of wind complicate matters even further. This requires quick yaw adjustments in order to angle the aircraft for a sane final approach.
The largest aircraft allowed to land at Toncontín are Boeing 757s, but there have been times when larger aircraft have landed. These are usually military aircraft where pilots have a specialized set of skills in landing and take-off. However, not every pilot that’s challenged Toncontín International Airport tricky setup has lived to tell the tale.
Of note, on May 30, 2008, involved an Airbus A320, approaching from San Salvador, that came in a bit too hot and overran the runway resulting in 5 casualties. After reviewing the recordings from the aircraft’s black box, the NTSB determined that the fault of the accident was human error and not the previously thought poor weather conditions. He landed a half mile beyond the landing marks as well as in the opposite direction from what the flight tower had directed.
Both the SRMT and HEAT courses were held at the El Zamorano Agricultural School. The drive from Tegucigalpa to the venue takes a little over an hour. Although Google Maps indicates a 42 minute drive, the terrain is not that easy. The roads in Honduras are in ill repair and slow going.
This was the first training in which Gerardo could proudly show off his new promotional videos. It was a good time for Gerardo, he had just been promoted to Regional Coordinator of Corporate Security.
Prior to the training, Scott kindly reminded us of our dress codes. Most likely because in Thailand I did not get the memo and was wearing jeans! Typical for the HEAT course, we were all looking like military.
SRMT – Please wear the navy blue training shirt that you have/will be given. Wear khaki or other similar color chino trousers. NO JEANS. Please do not wear “field pants”. You should wear either black socks and black dress shoes or brown socks and brown dress shoes depending on what you have. If you want to wear an undershirt, do not wear a white one, rather use a black or navy undershirt.
HEAT – Please wear the field gear that you have been given, which is the navy training shirt and the 5.11 TUNDRA colored field pants. Shirts are to be worn tucked in. You should wear your Blackhawk belt, black socks and your black field boots (no brown boots).
This was a good time for the security team in Latin America. We were starting to go through the forming phase and norming into a good group. I had been given some good courses to instruct and was feeling better in this capacity. The group was a hodge podge since most of the main instructors still needed rest from Cape Town.
During the SRMT I only presented on topic, Evacuation Preparedness and Planning. I had a little more action in HEAT delivering Behavior Under Fire and assisting in others. It was nice having Jan with us as well. I was not the only one who was practicing Spanish during this trip. But, they did bring Jan in all the way from Bankok, Thailand.
Gerardo’s Final Comments
“On behalf of LACRO Regional Office, I wanted to offer to all the Training Team my sincerest thanks for the excellent Training in Honduras to all our National Offices in LACRO, in my personal opinion the last Training was perfect because the professionalism of the Team and I know that all the participants now have more skill to keep working safety in every Office.
My special thanks to you Scott for all your leadership and all your great team Bethany, Jan, Sean, Douglas, Laurence, Rick & Rob.
For us was a honor to be part one more time of the Security Training Team, the final outcome is for all the team work together and for me the high honor to be your “right hand”.
We will be ready to keep working for Security Programming in LACRO.”