GREAT BARRINGTON — A 25-year-old Church Street resident, Edward Houghtaling, a native of Lee, recently returned from an eventful 5,000-mile trip to Brazil in a single-engine Piper Tri-Pacer.
During the trip, in a plane carrying only standard 44-gallon gas tanks, Houghtaling spent three days in a Brazilian jail as a suspected contrabander and had his plane impounded for six days.
Houghtaling started flying three years ago, studying with Walt Koladza of Berkshire Aviation Enterprises Inc., at the Barrington Airport under the GI Bill.
When an American businessman in Brazil purchased a plane from a New York firm, Koladza was asked if he had a pilot available to ferry the craft to the company in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Koladza offered the trip to Houghtaling who arranged to take two weeks off from his job at Pioneer Credit Corp. here. Houghtaling has obtained commercial, instructor and multi-engine licenses at the local airfield.
Houghtaling studied various routes to Brazil and decided to take the shortest course, over water, hopping from island to island to gas his craft. The plane, with the standard equipment it carried, has a range of about 400 miles. At one point in the trip Houghtaling had a 370-mile hop entirely over water, from Nassau to Matthew Town, a small island just north of Haiti.
Although he had posted a flight plan before leaving, communications into the small Amazon-area cities where he had to land were so bad that his arrival was entirely unexpected. When he landed at Macapa, a city of 25,000 on the north bank of the Amazon near its mouth, he was arrested and placed in jail. His plane was impounded by the city officials.
Houghtaling spent three days in the jail before he managed to contact the only English-speaking resident of the area, an American missionary from Pennsylvania named Clinton Thomas, who arranged to bail him out and have his plane released. The city officials reported they suspected him of flying contraband goods into the country.
Houghtaling reported his greatest problem was the language barrier for in the smaller cities he found no one who spoke English and he speaks no Portuguese, the national language of Brazil.
After leaving Macapa, he flew to Belem, just across the Amazon on the south bank, a distance of 150 miles. There he was not arrested but his plane was impounded. In Belem he was held up for three more days, the time it took to contact the buyer of the plane, 700 miles away.
Houghtaling says it took six days’ flying time to make the 5,000-mile trip. He spent two days in Nassau and one in Ciudad Trujillo, and flew back via commercial airlines. He was gone 17 days.