Mexico With The Flying Samaritans

Last year a friend I met through my favorite forum for Bonanza owners told me about The Flying Samaritans. They are a humanitarian group that organizes doctors, dentists, and pilots one weekend each month to fly to Mexico and run a volunteer clinic. Todd is a dentist, and in addition to piloting his Bonanza down to Mexico and pulling lots of teeth, he organizes the dental half of the clinic. I'd been wanting to do some charitable flying, so I decided to join Todd on his next trip down.

That trip was last September, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to try to go two to three times per year. Unfortunately I wasn't able to return to Mexico for a while, but I made my second trip this past weekend.

Todd's friend, Charlie, met me at the airport Friday morning. Charlie is an endodontist. We took off early in the morning from Palo Alto. Todd took off from Reid-Hillview airport in San Jose around the same time. He had his mom and another dentist in his plane. We met for breakfast in Santa Monica, where we also picked up my second passenger: a UCLA student named Justin who has been flying with the Sams every other month for over 7 years. Justin was one of my passengers last September as well.

After clearing customs in Tijuana, we continued on to our destination: a small town about 180 miles south of the border called San Quintín. I snapped a couple shots of UCSD as we passed overhead.

We landed at a little dirt strip called Rancho Magaña, because the dirt strip on the farm next to the clinic is currently closed for repairs. They are actually in the process of paving it!

That crop duster was the only plane in sight when I arrived

We get to stay at a lovely hotel right on this expansive empty beach. The beach is called Sand Dollar Beach, and for good reason -- it's littered with sand dollars! The food at the hotel is delicious. Going in to town for street tacos is even tastier. The tacos are possibly my main motivation for going on these trips.

Saturday morning we headed to the clinic early to get everything set up. Todd kept us all in line.

El Jefe

One of my main jobs was to set up all the syringes with needles and anesthetic so that they'd be ready to go when the dentists needed them. I got faster at it by the end of the day. I also sterilized several batches of instruments in the autoclave throughout the day. Toward the end of the day I even assisted Charlie in doing a root canal!

It's tough to watch as four or more teeth are pulled from patients' mouths. I can only imagine the pain those teeth have been causing them, though. The little kids are the hardest to witness, especially now that I can picture Max in that chair! This little guy was especially scared of the needle.

After a successful clinic on Saturday we returned to Rancho Magaña on Sunday morning to head home.

The three Flying Sams airplanes at Rancho Magaña: mine, Todd's and Joel's

I really love the combination of aviation, service, and camaraderie on these trips. The people who volunteer their time and talents, many of whom go down every month, are wonderful. It's a pleasure to spend a couple days and share a few tacos with them. I hope to return soon!

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