Tojeira ULM

“You know there’s an airfield around here?” Carlos drank from his café cortado and looked at us for some kind of acknowledgement.

“Sure, yeah, the air base,” I said, thinking of the Sintra Base Aérea No. 1 at Pêro Pinheiro, about a 40 minute drive from where we sat in Praia das Maçãs.

“Oh no, an ultralight field.” We drew a complete blank. “Up at Santa Cruz?”

“No—no, between here and Magoito.” We had no idea. “I want to look for it. It’s active—I know a couple of guys who fly there.”

We had lived in the area for more than three years. We were pilots aching to fly regularly but not finding an affordable solution—either cost-wise or time-wise. And to hear there was a pista ULM within 20 minutes’ drive? Oh wow. That deserved investigation.

We made the laughably short trip to find Tojeira ULM the next week. You go through the town of Tojeira, near the coast, and keep going out towards the ocean. Less than a kilometer down the road, you see the sign for the airfield, along with a smaller one that advertises “Escola do Vôo.” We had found it.

It was quiet when we drove up—though a sunny day it was during the week, and only one car was parked in the lot. But it was unmistakably a hangar and a landing strip so familiar to us, like an artifact of our existence we hadn’t come across in a while. We found the manager, Raimundo Casinhas, and he showed us around.

Inside the hangar sat a handful of ultralights, including a shiny Land Africa, manufactured just a few miles away in Terrugem. It was an aero club, a small one, but one that offered instruction and fun flying on happy days—and something else quite special.

“Come by on Friday, for lunch,” said Capitão Casinhas. “We have lunch at 1. Just call to tell me you are coming so we have enough for you.”

We had seen the bar inside—typical of aero clubs in Europe—but had not figured on a restaurant. Turns out it’s open just for that lunch on sexta-feiras, and Senhora Casinhas alternates the menu between cozido à portuguesa and a fish or other dish. 

When we showed up two days later, it was cozido on the menu—what a treat. For €12 each, we broke bread with members of the club and extended family, with soup, salad, olives, bread, and the entradas and prato served buffet-family style, as we looked out over the runway. A Dynamic came back from a training flight, landing confidently in the sea breeze that features daily, and the instructor and pilot came in to join the meal.

After dessert and fruit, we had coffees (or another glass of vinho, with the flying done for the day) and adjourned to the patio, to commune with the airport pup and let the afternoon slip by. Like so many other fine things we’ve found in Portugal, this community would be one to return to, just for that kind of happy connection to people of like minds…pilots and friends.