Carlos Beltran learned early on to double, triple, and even quadruple check that he had everything he needed to greet incoming LATAM aircraft at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM) before taking off from the Panasonic Avionics office.
At some point, airport administrators had taken his crew’s ground transport privileges away, meaning he and his small crew had to rush around the airport on foot. The walk from Panasonic’s airport office to the LATAM gates was often a 45-minute trek, which was certainly no joke in Lima’s hot, tropical climate. Not only that, but security was incredibly tight to guard against smuggling and other criminal activity—meaning Beltran and other maintenance service representatives (MSRs) were thoroughly searched before and after boarding every single aircraft.
“If you need an additional aircraft component or tool, you’re running back and forth between the office and the aircraft, then you’ve got to get inspected all over again,” Beltran says. “We had to be very organized, identify everything that could be needed on the aircraft, and bring only that.”
Beltran had only worked for Panasonic Avionics’ Technical Services team, as a maintenance service representative (MSR) in Atlanta, for a year before his manager asked him to move to Peru to help kickstart the company’s expansion in Latin America. As a first-generation American born to Peruvian parents, he leaped at the opportunity to return to a country he’d only really visited on childhood family vacations.
Little did he know just how different the work would be.
Limeño way of life a major draw
Peru is a long sliver of a country hugging the Pacific coast of South America, rich in pre-Columbian heritage and natural beauty. The capital city of Lima, however, is a force unto itself. It is home to nearly a third of the country’s entire population of 32 million, and because of its position sandwiched between the edge of the continent and the Andes mountains, the city grows in length with each passing year. Traffic is chaotic, buses are always crowded, summers are impossibly hot.
But the ceviche is always fresh, the pisco sours are always cold, and whenever there’s a fútbol game on, cheers spill out of apartments, cafés, and restaurants and into the evening air. Nearly every warm day, locals flock to the city’s roadside beaches to bathe in the sun and surf the Pacific’s waves.
Beltran dove right in.
A steep learning curve in a developing country
Upon his arrival, he settled down in the neighborhood of Surco, a 45-minute drive from the airport in the easiest of driving conditions, but more like two hours in Lima’s characteristic stop-and-go traffic. He surfed its waters, ate and drank in its local establishments, and even met the woman who would eventually become his wife.
But it wasn’t easy—not at the beginning, anyway. He arrived at the Lima airport to start an all-new operation from the ground up, with only the help of another MSR and a regional manager. And as he discovered, getting things done in Peru is not like getting things done in the United States.
“It’s completely different. It’s a developing nation,” he says. “Getting there, we had nothing—we just had an office at the airport, and that’s it. I had to find uniforms for the staff that we were going to hire, train new employees, get furniture, vehicles—everything that’s required to establish a brand new line maintenance station.”
As he quickly discovered, accomplishing tasks like these wasn’t as straightforward as it was in the U.S., especially for non-locals. Navigating around Peru’s laws, norms, and infrastructure was a major challenge for nearly everything, from getting bank accounts set up to internet lines installed. “It’s been a year since I’ve been back in the U.S., and it’s night and day. Everything is very easy here,” he says.
“If you need an additional aircraft component or tool, you’re running back and forth between the office and the aircraft, then you’ve got to get inspected all over again. We had to be very organized, identify everything that could be needed on the aircraft, and bring only that.”Carlos Beltran, Maintenance Service Representative at Panasonic Avionics.
The convoluted logistics of opening a new station weren’t the only obstacles to contend with. Throughout his entire time in Lima, Beltran and his colleagues had to deal with getting replacement parts through customs. It was an exercise reliant on making sure complicated paperwork was completed and filed properly within a maximum of 30 days, never mind if they happened to get a particularly ornery customs agent.
Monthly inventory inspections were also part of the routine, which local authorities used to uncover any potential criminal activity.
Despite increased work difficulties, living in Peru is a precious memory for Beltran. As a dual U.S.-Peru citizen, he has the privilege of going between the two countries, as well as traveling the world. During his seven-year stint in Peru, he was able to visit other parts of Latin America, as well as other corners of the globe, to assist in Panasonic’s maintenance programs.
In 2018, he moved back to the U.S., to become an instructor at Panasonic Avionics’ headquarters at Lake Forest, California. “Now I teach everything I learned on the aircraft to new MSRs,” Beltran says.