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COSTA RICA CHALLENGES


Today, Aerotour and AENSA are thriving helicopter and fixed-wing operations offering many different types of aviation services, but according to Laurencich, things were not always so easy. If the terrain and operational environment of the country were not challenging enough, overcoming the country’s bureaucracy and regulatory environment (or lack thereof) has been a daunting and monumental task.


In the U.S., we like to criticize the FAA and their propensity to slow down processes and growth—but at least there are processes. Laurencich explains that AENSA was the first helicopter school to ever open its doors in Costa Rica. Combine being the first, with an inexperienced regulatory body, as well cultural lethargy: you will experience large delays. As a result, it took Laurencich a full year to get just a private-pilot training syllabus approved by the Dirección General de Aviación Civil (DGAC), the regulatory body responsible for air safety in Costa Rica.





a rough business plan, one Robinson helicopter, and a dream


COSTA RICAN BUSINESS IS BORN


Additionally, aside from a few government helicopters in operation, there were virtually no operating civil helicopters in the entire country when Aerotour began. As a result, the air traffic control system had no understanding of how to handle helicopters. “When we first began flying helicopters in Costa Rica, we were treated exactly like airplanes. We had to operate from runways, fly airplane traffic patterns, and use the same weather minimums,” Laurencich.


explained


Because helicopters are so expensive to operate, Laurencich had to patiently embark on an educational campaign with the government and controllers in order


AeroTour Costa Rica was the brainchild of its founder and “El Presidente,” Federico Laurencich, and was launched in 2003. But his journey to owning a helicopter operation did not start then.


Early on, Laurencich had a strong pull to aviation and decided he would most likely become a fixed-wing pilot and fly airplanes for the rest of his life. So in 1991, he slowly began fixed-wing training, completing ratings from private pilot all the way through multi-engined certified instrument flight instructor (CFII). He even gained experience flying seaplanes and performing aerobatics.


to teach them


how helicopters are truly different and more capable than airplanes. Over time, the company was able to operate helicopters at lower weather minimums as well as be handled similarly to operations in the U.S. Had the company been required to operate as inefficiently as in the beginning, Aerotour and AENSA would have probably gone out of business many years ago.


Still, Laurencich kept an open eye, and open mind, to the possibility of also learning to fly helicopters. In the late ‘90s, he decided


to take a helicopter flight. “It was really frustrating at first, because you know, airplanes are easy to fly. I thought: This is too hard, I cannot even hover! But after four hours, the switch flipped and I got it. It was at that moment I was hooked on helicopters forever,” Laurencich recalls.


Federico headed to Palm Beach Helicopters in southeast Florida and over the course of a couple years, he obtained all of his helicopter ratings through CFII and gained additional experience. In 2002, the timing was right for a new helicopter business in his home country of Costa Rica and Laurencich’s business planning wheels began to turn. So in 2003, with a rough business plan, one Robinson helicopter, and a dream, Aerotour was born.


rotorcraftpro.com


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