A group of American dentists took a break from filling and pulling teeth last week to fly their private planes to the Cayman Islands to dive and have some rest and relaxation – and to continue their education.
Members of the Flying Dentists Association landed 20 small aircraft at Gerrard Smith Airport in Cayman Brac on Sunday, 19 March, to begin a five-day visit that combined a diving holiday with professional lectures for continuing education credits.
Dentist Steve Mowery, who led the trip, said the dentists had a thrill even before they landed in Cayman when they were given permission to fly over Cuba.
“Most of us flew over Cuba on little airplanes and that was a huge adventure for us. If you’re from the US, the island has been off limits for 50 or 60 years. We feel privileged to have been allowed to do that,” he said.
He said an agreement between the US, Cayman and Cuban governments allowed the pilots to fly through a five-mile-wide corridor in Cuban airspace to get to Cayman. “It was a wonderful experience,” Mr. Mowery said.
The Flying Dentists Association was founded in Texas in 1960 by 29 dentists and now has about 300 members.
On this trip – the latest of several they have made to Cayman over the years – there is a party of 80, some of whom flew here on private jets, while others arrived on commercial flights.
The dentists came from all over the US, with some of the pilots flying 16 hours from Arizona. The group met up at Marathon, Florida, before making the final leg of their journey to Cayman.
During their break in Cayman, they did not do any dentistry work, but in their role as flying dentists, they visit Caribbean countries like Haiti and the Dominican Republic to offer free dental care.
“We go to areas where there is no dental care available. We offer free dental care to the local citizens and we go for two or three weeks,” Mr. Mowery said.
The group is a tight-knit one that travels together regularly to ski in Colorado or dive in a Caribbean island, said Mr. Mowery,
On the journey from Marathon, one of the pilots ran into some mechanical difficulty, Mr. Mowery said. “It wasn’t an emergency, but it could have been. We were able to talk to one another on our second radios and were able to sort out the problem. That’s the real bonus of us all travelling together,” he said.
The group, which included spouses and children, also visited Little Cayman and explored the island on more down-to-earth vehicles when they rented scooters.
The dentists were also planning a sightseeing trip to Grand Cayman.