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Small Plane Adventure to Central America – Guest post by Merle Headings

August 28, 2019
[We were “off grid” for two glorious weeks so playing catch up here.]
Another Way for week of August 16, 2019

Small Plane Adventure to Central America

Guest column by Merle Headings

Editor’s Note: First of two columns by Merle Headings, who flew missions to Central America for Christian organizations. Columnist Melodie Davis also once flew with Merle on a youth group trip.

Merle Headings photo.

We lived in the Rio Grande valley of Texas for six years in the late 1970’s and early 80’s working with missionaries stationed along the southern border near McAllen, Texas. Four of us pilots regularly flew to Mexico and Central America, each with our own plane. Mine was a red and white Piper Comanche, which could fly 180 miles per hour. Most of the time the planes were filled with people and their belongings, but on this twelve-day trip to Guatemala, there was room to take two of my daughters, Carmen and Anita.

In February 1979, I received a message from a missionary doctor and his clinic, urgently requesting supplies in the deep jungles of northern Guatemala. We located and purchased the items on his list: a new chain saw and parts to fix old chainsaws; tractor parts for their old farm tractor; six different kinds of hand tools; and grocery items they could not get in Guatemala. I began to wonder if all this was going to fit in our plane.

The trip was sponsored by “The Flame of Truth” founders, Melvin and Anna High. Brother High (still ministering today at 90) was invited to speak at a conference being held at a missionary clinic located on the Pasión River.

Anita and Carmen, back seat of plane, 1979. [Photo from Merle Headings]

Early February 28 with the car packed full of supplies, tools, luggage, passports, and flight maps, my wife Verna drove us to the McAllen airport. Our big white bird was ready to be packed, fueled up, and prayed over. While Brother High, Carmen and Anita stuffed the cargo into the four-seat plane, I checked the weather and filed an international flight plan to Guatemala City, with a fuel stop in Veracruz, Mexico. When I got back to the plane, my crew was smiling. The baggage compartment was beyond full. I didn’t dare open that door but I did give it one good bump to make sure it was secure. What didn’t fit in the baggage compartment, went behind and under the back seat. Carmen and Anita would have to share their seats and foot space with the supplies.

The plane was soon in the air and across the Rio Grande river, leaving the U.S. into the wild blue yonder over Old Mexico. With Brother High’s hands soon on the controls, I radioed and activated our flight plan. Nothing looks better to a pilot than a clear day with a nice beach under the wing for the next three hours.

Carmen and Anita were seasoned flyers. Growing up with a pilot father, they had logged many trips. After a few hours, they were beginning to be hungry and in need of a stretch. I said Veracruz was about 40 miles out where we would land soon. After landing, two uniformed men walked toward us and welcomed us to Central America. In broken English, the airport officials asked how long we were staying and if we were U.S. citizens. They looked inside the packed plane, and thankfully did not ask to see the luggage department. After their inspection, I went to get our papers in order and pay for fuel. The girls had gone with Mr. High to order food. Our schedule was tight and we needed to keep moving if we were going to make it all the way to the missionary clinic in the heart of the Guatemala jungle—a four-hour canoe trip on the Pasión River after our long flights.

In short order, we took off. Our flight path soon took us away from the beautiful shore line and over the jungles of southern Mexico. I knew there would be mountains to get over so I climbed to 13,500 feet above the clouds where the mountains were poking up. At two p.m. we landed for another break. Everyone was ready to stretch, breath fresh air, find food, and move on.

While we were getting out of the plane, two Guatemalan officials greeted us. This time they wanted the luggage compartment opened and I thought they were after something. They told me I had to get a cart and bring everything to the terminal. I told them that it was so well packed that it would be very hard to get it all back in and I wasn’t going to bring it in. I went and sat down and looked at a magazine. (I had played the waiting game before in past trips over Central America.) In about ten minutes, the uniformed men came over, gave me my papers and said I was free to go. Thank God! With no time to spare, everyone loaded up with drinks and snacks and again we were in the air headed for the jungles of northern Guatemala. (To be continued.)

“Adventures to Central America,” is a small booklet by Merle Headings and two daughters, Carmen and Anita. For the book by email, write to me at Or send comments or questions to Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. I don’t like small planes. Once, grandma’s neighbor John took me up for a ride above Lancaster County fields. The last time was with Cliff, the pilot, flying over Jacksonville skyscrapers, not fun.

  2. We avoided small planes on our recent Alaska adventures although small planes are prolific up there–a major means of transportation–with 50 percent of the world’s small air craft owned and flown in Alaska. Did not know that! Anyway, I can understand your concern flying over skyscrapers in a small plane. You made it!

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  1. Howling Monkeys: Adventures in Central America | findingharmonyblog

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