The Chilean company Corpflite plays a fundamental role during the biggest charity event in Chile, the Teletón. Thanks to their Dornier 228s, they can reach the remotest cities of the country so that everyone can participate.
By Santiago Rivas and Florencia Lucero Heguy
Since 1978 the Teletón has been held in Chile, a 27-hour event where all the television channels raise funds for charity, being the largest charitable event in the region, in which in recent years they raised about 50 million dollars, which are used to support the los Institutos de Rehabilitación Infantil (IRI, Institutes of Rehabilitation for Children) of the Teletón, specialized in serving children and young people up to 24 years of age who present some motor disability, due to muscular, neurological or bone causes.
During the 27 hours in which the event takes place throughout Chile, it is essential to arrive with the cameras to small towns throughout the country, to help fundraising. In a nation that is characterized by its peculiar form, with a huge distance from north to south, the only way to get there on time is by air, for which is needed a fast plane that can move teams, but also, since they must operate sometimes on small runways, must have STOL capability.
Corpflite airline began to actively participate in the Teletón in 2010, taking the film crews all over the country and, since that year, they have been working uninterruptedly in a supportive manner flying from north to south with their Dornier 228 aircraft.
For the company, the Teletón is more related to the social conscience, with a different sense and not just fly. “We join this campaign through a concrete action, which is to make the planes available at a very considerable cost that could be called as a donation contribution,” explained Kenneth Fell, operations manager of the company.
It was thus, to be able to participate in this event, that they offered the airplanes as a means to support their transmissions throughout the country, since the geography of Chile makes it difficult to have a parallel or simultaneous coverage in all the cities. “There was how this short-range aircraft appeared, timely and at all times,” said Germán Ribba, president of Corpflite, adding: “We put our planes, we participate in a very specific way supporting this transmission, associated with the interest of the company of having a contribution and participating on the Teletón”.
The Teletón takes place between the last days of November and the first days of December and ends on the second day at 12 o’clock at night, and is carried out throughout the Chilean territory, producing television coverage in which all the channels come together and make a single transmission for 27hs. They are called “27 hours of love”. “In our case, beyond the donation, we make the planes available and actively participate,” Kenneth Fell explained and said that the work begins much earlier, “with many coordination meetings, to check the capacities, limitations, their needs and ours and the plan is made”.
To the north and south
During the two days of the event they use two planes, one goes north and the other south, and the first thing they have to plan each year are the schedules of the television links, which are via satellite, “because maybe there is a time difference since some city could have changed from one year to another. The logistics are not so complex because all we have to do is plan the service periods” of the aircraft and crews, to be sure that the aircraft will be ready to participate and that every pilot and mechanic is prepared to face the challenge that pose those 27 hours. “It is important to note that, due to the versatility of the plane, we can fly to places like Porvenir, a small town near Punta Arenas,” said Fell, explaining that “it is a viable operation because the plane does not require much assistance.”
“We leave at 7:00 am from Santiago de Chile to travel all the way north, we arrive in the afternoon to Arica, in the far end of Chile, and after making the transmissions, we change crews, we make the pre-flight of the plane and we continue to go slowly to the south, that we do all night,” said Ribba, detailing the schedules of the tours that make the two days of the Teletón and continued: “on the way there is a stop, normally in Copiapó and from there to Arica, they are distances of two hours and the second of three, which for this airplane are comfortable stretches”. The company is in charge of preparing the aircraft with a combined configuration for passengers and cargo, they only put ten seats and the rest goes to cargo. “The capacity of the plane greatly benefits the client, because they want to go with their cargo ready and with special care, as they are very delicate elements of transmission,” said Fell and stressed that “this plane allows passengers on the same flight with their equipment, which generates great comfort, safety and reliability”. The route they make to the south is first to Puerto Montt, that lasts 2.40hs, then to Coyhaique, that the flight has a duration of 1.20hs and from Coyhaique to Punta Arenas or Porvenir are other 2.10hs. “For us it is perfect because there are no airlines on that route, but as a commuter we arrive perfectly,” said Ribba. For those sections and that region of the country the plane is absolutely adapted and justified. On the other hand, schedules are a very important issue in this event, since airplanes must be at a specific time in the cities that request them. “It seems so challenging, but, by the type of flight that the plane makes, the organization of our company, through the crews and the area of operations that I direct, can be achieved perfectly,” said Fell. During the Teletón they fly about 15 to 18 hours to the north and another 15 to 18 hours to the south, they are between 30 to 40 hours for the complete operation in the two days.
To achieve the challenge of this charity event they had to go through several obstacles and operate on several runways, where one of the most difficult is that of Calama, which is six thousand feet high, with adverse weather, such as, for example, changing wind, very low temperature and, particularly, in that place they arrive at 5.00 in the morning with a lot of cold. “We take the mechanic well wrapped and fed so that, when he has to support the operation on the ground, be 100 % ready,” said Ribba. Other challenging operations are Punta Arenas and Porvenir where the weather demands the most due to the strong winds, snow, ice and rain; “But the plane, in these conditions, behaves very well,” explained Ribba. Taking into account the climate of Patagonia, especially the winds, Fell spoke about the behavior of the Dornier 228 in that area. “The plane is very stable, has a good rudder, which allows to compensate wind changes and operate on short runways,” he explained and stressed that “the Dornier gets in its full capacity without any problem. The challenge is, above all, planning, because the plane is in its habitat.”
Behind the scenes
Everything starts a couple of months before the flights to manage the work scheme. “Once agreed with the company that organizes the Teletón, we establish our flights with the crews, there are pilots that fly directly from Santiago and others that leave Santiago by airline to an intermediate point to relieve the first ones,” Ribba explained. On the other hand, the administration of the company is responsible for organizing the tickets, hotels, logistics and, to support the flight, a plan is designed where no pilot goes beyond the limit hours. “The pilots leave Santiago, they take an airline, then they rest in a hotel and they intercept the plane somewhere in the return, it is very demanding but with a good planning we achieve it”, assured Fell and said: “we have two crews for the north and two for the south, mechanics that we alert so that they prepare the line maintenance kit that allows to solve problems during the route, which fortunately speaks very well of the airplane, since practically it does not generate problems, the only problems we have are not because of the plane, but for the weather. The plane is very reliable and that allows us to make the contract, because it is a very important commitment of high reliability from the point of view of performance.” On the other hand, Ribba stressed that “it is interesting to see the people who transmit, as it is very happy and generates a team spirit, we have food on board, some games and cards for people to entertain.” He also says that “it is an emotional moment, because at the end this helps people with different needs that need support.” Also, from the Teletón they are still choosing to continue with this task. “There is a cohesion between the crew, the pilots and the customers that gives them confidence and comfort,” Ribba said. “From Teletón I think it is trust and gratitude with the support we have given them, in addition to the fact that they consider it appropriate for the route and for the type of flight we make.”