Monday, 14 July 2014

... gloriously exciting!

There is something gloriously exciting about anticipating ones next Chad assignment, sitting in the back of the relative comfort of seat 34J, the the drone of the Air France Airbus 330's General Electric turbines is almost soporiphic, as behemoth marches rapidly across the black Libyan star strewn skies. It creates a certain reflective mood that encourages one to trawl through countless memories of this staggeringly beautiful nation. Images that bring a smile, yet it is a land so harsh, so so generous and yet so unforgiving. My 15 assignments over the last 10 years have meant I have lived here for over a year in this little known part of sub-Saharan Africa. 

The Tibesti Mountains that stretch up to over 11000ft.
Perhaps one region that has the greatest memories is that of the Tibestis, home to the Teda people, protectors of some of the oldest early history rock art in Africa. This ancient people traded with Romans, fought with the Touaregs and many other 'visitors' they call them the Mountains of Hunger, much of it is seemingly uncrossable and it takes days to traverse by foot yet only a couple of hours in our small MAF aircraft. They are a unique stark silent volcanic range of stone that soar into the clear blue skies of the north, they beckon you benignly into their bosom but when the rare rains come they are anything but safe as their steep, rough cascading slopes a thousand shades of black and brown, carved by generations of storms and rock falls that have created a land devoid of flat, that given half a chance will throw up turbulence into your path that will rattle your very soul. Entry is invited only after you have plodded your aerial Caravan*across the gloriously golden desert, a gigantic ocean of stationary swells, punctuated by the rare oasis, a port of calm refreshment. Thinking about the delightful aristocratic snooty look of your average Chadian camel brings out ones biggest grin. 
Here there is a real contrast between the silver and gold sands but at times it is just gold stretching unto gold.

Possibly Harrow educated?

An earlier blog tells more but surprisingly beautiful
Where else can you travel hundreds and hundreds of miles to find a work of art that involved 30 tons of paint, seen by perhaps a 100 art lovers a year (near Bardai) or be invited to haul up cool refreshing water from a hole in the desert floor, munch on warm crispy breakfast flat bread freshly pealed off the wall of a wood smoke caked oil drum oven. Sit under a palm in the cooling air of the setting sun, eavesdropping on translated conversations that tell of tales of desert smugglers, talk of the sometimes failure or rescue from certain dehydration and death of their cargoes. There is something beautiful about being greeted by the Elders and sitting quietly with the men sipping sweet sweet tea under a tree visiting a bereaved family, not really understanding what is going on but knowing it is the right place to be.

The Airbus bounces through some turbulent air...  driving through a sandy river bed the harsh gritty sand suddenly turns to micro-fine dust, we are enveloped in a storm of 'talcum powder' and our truck sends a dust cloud that rises in a plume, that surely must bring darkness to the earth. Such choking laughter as we exit this fog, looking like millers, feeling that we are adventurers who have traveled the world, and lived life to the full.

The author enjoying the worlds largest open air museum?
Touching the sandstone carvings hundreds of years of age, tell of the days of plentiful water, elephants, leopards, cattle. All have gone save the lone gazelles, hardy goats and countless date palms that sip from the underground waters on the wadis that keep them sustained. Sadly the palms suffer much neglect as people have moved on, perhaps new wealth from Tibesti gold will discourage many more to further forget their heritage. 

I remember driving through this minefield last year, keep the red stones on your left or is it right? But the burnt out car gives a clear clue to the correct answer.
The village had once had maybe 1500 people in it 20 years ago but a forgotten war drove them away and they never really came back. The greeting from an old soldier worn an aged by years of drought was wonderful, I doubt he was really any older than myself, when I asked I explained I had once completed 4 months as an RAF officer cadet, this seemed to make an old soldier to and a bond of friendship was made. He gave us this granular slightly sticky mix, marginal in looks but ambrosia - ground up dates and grain the taste danced on the tongue, the stewardess collected my tray, I will never remember the flavour of the bland cheese she served but those dates are surely a real smiling memory.
Two of my passengers overlooking a wadi.

MAF fly in Chad and bring help, hope and healing to all who ask. 

* the aircraft I fly is the Cessna 208 Grand Caravan, a name designed to evoke images of the Camel trade routes of Marco Polo. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Appearances can be deceiving

The hills of Karamoja, the most north-easterly region of the Pearl of Africa - Uganda, they look so beautiful in the bright morning light, as I bank steeply over the delightfully named airstrip called Kaabong 5180ft up in the highlands. I can see a Landcruiser acting as a useful marker parked on a clearing on the side of the airstrip.  My two passengers and their driver gaze up at me, as I zip overhead, usually there is a flag fluttering in the breeze from the large aerials these vehicles usually sport, always a useful aid as to the winds strength and and direction but today nothing but it is not difficult to work out today! The sun glitters on the quartz covered runway and all seems peaceful. Excepting it had been such a rough, slow ride as we pushed our way north at 114kts*, into exceptionally strong winds that tore across Karamoja, despite the tranquil scene that lay below me, as the aircraft bounced with enthusiasm from aerial pothole to pothole.

It's warm sunny day in Africa and you wonder what events this airstrip has seen as in it's heyday it was a lot longer! Lining up on finals I held the aircraft steady as the runway desperately tries to dance it's own rythmless quickstep, left, left, left, right, up, up, down, down and down. Somedays airstrips really do not behave and today it seems particularly eager to discourage a visit. It is a strong quartering headwind from the right but I soon get the airstrip to behave itself and come into line. Need to add lots of power descending through the last 200 feet, as a sudden rush of air** seems particularly keen to push one into the ground for an early 'arrival' but I out guess the downdraft and so cross the threshold in a firm, secure and very short-field landing. Definately a nine (my daughter always used to mark my landings out of 10), there is a certain pleasure in the challenge.  The runway has been shut for nearly 2 years and has only recently been re-opened after some remedial work but it is rather narrow now and turning on the runway needs caution as the slope of the drainage ditches is not ideal.

In the old days I used to always pull off the runway but now the drainage 'dip' need more of a 4x4 if one was to negotiate them, so wisdom says stay on the strip. I taxi to the end of the runway which has a convenient turning point, avoiding a rather hefty piece of quartz I park and hop out, quickly chock the wheels. I have decided I will take-off into the slight upslope with gently rising ground, as with todays strong headwinds and my light take-off weight this will be the way to go.  I've dropped off all my up country passengers en-route and just have a lone return passenger, who I picked up at Kotido, she  is very pleased to have some fresh air. The other two passengers walk down to me with their bags.

I do a quick walk around the aircraft to get ready for departure again, I find a couple of small nicks in the prop from a stone or two either kicked up on the brief burst of reverse thrust which helps slow the aircraft down on landing or on the turn, engineering will be able to file those out easily when I get back, props have quite a hard life!

The aircraft rocks gently in the breeze and I think about Karamoja over the years so many cattle raids, fights that have become battles. Almost unreported the tribal warfare has cost many a young man's life. The nomadic lifestyle paints a romantic freedom to the westerner tied up by rules and expectations but the good and bad rain cycle creates a hard hard life and the mobile life takes its toll on the women and children of the region. Interesting how some may say let them be but if you talk with a few of the mothers you find they want for their children exactly what we want for ours, to have health living beyond 5, they want peace and for their children to go to school.

Perhaps appearances can be deceiving...

as I look at the photo , I think what a lovely day, so peaceful but appearances can be so deceiving, in so many ways.

Full power and I am off in no time as I turn into wind and climb away. Next stop Soroti where I pick up 4 more people but we have an extended stay for 20 minutes whilst my 3 passengers change their complexions back from green to white. Actually in all my years I have had very few passengers who have been sick - honest.

 *we would expect a groundspeed generally around 140-160kts
** downdraft

If interested their is a video on youtube bigglesgsy you should be able to find a clip of landing at Kaabong a couple of years ago.

Friday, 7 March 2014

The BVLGARI of the air? Jet A-1 the way to go

As a 'part time' mission bush pilot who is not based in one particular country but has the privilege of helping out on several programs, when they are short of crew. I usually travel between assignments  el cheapo!' But I have to confess that I have received several times from BA and Emirates the  occasional up grade or the chance to use my air miles to move up and get a good nights sleep on a bed and Emirates are the bees knees at providing a very comfortable bivouac and they also give you a great overnight bag containing various men smells by BVGARI which are excellent.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, quite like catching the scent of a turbine engine's exhaust fumes drifting on the the early morning air, of what is to become a glorious summers day. So I can but recommend, if you ever get a chance to stand downwind of a turboprop as it starts it's engine, seize the day, stand fast, stop, listen, sniff as you are in for a real treat, especially if it is a PT-6.  The sound of the engine spooling up as bursts into life and struggles to get the prop spinning, the engine notes move through the octaves, from a reverberating low growl to a high pitched whine followed by that delicious fragrance, oh so sweet, with perhaps caramel overtones.

Author with the magic liquor and his mount in the background in Pala, Chad
Jet A-1 is wonderful stuff, the fuel of choice for civilian commercial jets and also for an increasing number of Mission Aviation Fellowship's (MAF) fleet of over 130 aircraft. Whilst av-gas, a form of 100LL petrol is used in the piston powered Cessna 206 and Gippsland Airvan's and the last few 185 floatplanes, some of the the 206s are being phased out to either be replaced by piston Airvans or by our increasing fleet of turbine powered aircraft. This is made up of the incredibly kapable  Kodiak, consistent Caravan and somewhat surprisingly the small 4 seat diesel engined 182. We also fly the Twin Otter, King Air & PC-12.

Jet A-1 is much cheaper than the petrol equivalent, more readily available and safer. It is clear to straw coloured liquid, that unburnt smells pretty disgusting, makes your hands smell and tastes little better, no don't suck Jet fuel out with your mouth if you wish to syphon off the tanks of your 747. Though the fuel burns well in your hurricane lamp. It has a flash point of 38C, freezes at -47C and if you burn it out in the open the flames are about 300C but is essentially quality paraffin or kerosene.

In fact according to St .Wikapedia, the fount of all generally reliable info, this is for all you chemists out there, suggests the combustion reaction can be approximated as follows, with the molecular formula C12H26 (dodecane):
2 C12H26(l) + 37 O2(g) → 24 CO2(g) + 26 H2O(g); ∆H˚ = -7513 kJ

If you burn 5* Jet A-1 (RP-1) with liquid oxygen you can put your friendly Saturn V rocket into orbit! But my Jet A-1 does nicely in my 675shp PT-6 and drive sit along at abut 150kts and gets me in an rout of some tricky places with some amazing people making a real difference... bringing help hope and healing to many very remote communities around the world.

Leaving fuel in Bol for the very frugal diesel 182
However I use natural oxygen to power my Cessna 208 and the higher the better (usually around 9-12000ft) and it powers my chariot reliably. We burn about 300lb's an hour so you have 1000 litres in the 5 barrels in the photo above. Which will keep going for about 6hrs or 900 miles!

These donkeys would need to bring me about 8 jerry cans an hour! Actually I was dropping off fuel for the 182 in Bol, western Chad by the shores of Lake Chad.
 This 1979 Cessna 182 had it's old petrol/av-gas engine removed and a new diesel engine put in it's place, this SMA diesel burns paraffin and consumes a very frugal 35 litres of cheap Jet A-1. Cessna now do a brand new aircraft with the SMA installed at the factory, lovely machine but it is not cheap!


Thursday, 16 January 2014

A delightful dance!

An explosion of thunder bounces around the hanger walls, an approaching storm has obviously failed totally in it's efforts to creep quietly in upon on us. Already the light is starting to fade as the dark grey clouds rush in across the lake shore obscuring the African sun.

An hour ago, great excitement as we watched Leader 2 (5X-LDR) a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan depart for it's first operational flight to Bundibugiyo to pick up a team of mission personnel from World harvest Mission in western Uganda.

But today I am hitting the books for my Base Check tomorrow a routine 6 monthly practical exam that all our pilots have to take and of course pass. But I am quite distracted by our engineers.

It really is a pleasure to watch...

as the engineers put their aircraft back together again watch them put the finishing touches to their work after maintenance is a real joy. There are five engineers in this sequence sorting out MAF Congo's 206 9Q-CUI, they dance around the aircraft with a vitality and passion, a real mixture of expressions on their faces; concentration, laughter, thoughtfulness, each seems to know his part well, 5 solo acts turning, moving, spinning yet they dance as one as they rebuild their 206, the land rover of the skies.  Then the heavens open and rain on the roof is deafening.

Behind the main program there  is a more sedate waltz going on as two other engineers fix the elevator on 5X-SCO a Grand Caravan and in the background the Chief Engineer runs familiarly through his routines as he builds some scaffolding! Then he to is called in to offer advice and lend a hand and so joins the dance.

 Then it is time for an engine run to see if all is well...

Martha Graham (1894-1991) said

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” but when you see these guys in action you realise they have great technique as well.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Perhaps one of the most select pieces of art work in the world.

Surely, this is one art gallery only the hardiest of travellers, will ever see...
If you had 5 months to spare, 30 tonnes of paint and enjoyed being creative when the temperatures rise into the 50's, degrees C that is! What would you paint?  In 1989 Jean Verame used the huge natural 'amphitheatre' of magnificent rocks around Ehi Kourne a few miles outside of Bardai, some miles north of the Tibesti Mountains in northern Chad, due south of Libya.  Using a spray gun, the blessing of the Chadian President and some helpers one would imagine, he turned a selection of khaki sandstone rocks into a kaleidoscope of colours from a gorgeous deep blue, spectacular purple, coral pink, to a crisp carbon black and snowy white.

The spectacular blue is now only visible beneath some of the small stones that make up several of the more individual pieces of patterned stone work but the huge rocks and boulders the core of the image remain.  Shades of ghostly whites and pink for all to see, despite 34 years of searing sun, freezing winter nights and the driving blasts of the Harmattan sands.  These strangely beautiful set of rocks may have lost their virginal crispness but they have gained the weathered beauty, the patina of age, their mystique is perhaps barely noticed by locals and yet is admired by a handful of tourists that journey each year through this remote region through one of the world's incredible art galleries. I wonder how long though Jean's art will last?

'Down the road' south of Bardai are some rock carvings, scratched into the soft sandstone,  a leagacy of times past, showing animals that are no longer seen in this neck of the woods, elephants, leopards and cattle. Despite billions of gallons of water hiding below the desert surface, this is now a world where only date palms, and the hardiest of animals survive Addax, Dorcas and Rhim gazelles to name a few. These carvings are found all over the Sahara in the soft sandstone, an eternal parchment telling tales of times past, of changed climates of perhaps happier times. All are unsigned, many are hundreds, some thousands  of years old.

I wonder what kind of legacy we will leave behind? Perhaps it will be a thing of beauty that will still be talked about 25 years on, or maybe like William Wilberforce, I saw a play about his life recently, it will be more enduring. 
I am on day 18 of a 42 day project reading Rick Warren's 'What on Earth am I here for ? (Zondervan 2013). It is thought provoking and one is reminded - What will I leave behind? What is my legacy? Ummm now that is food for thought.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

'Dad I want a job like yours where I don't have to work for a living.'

Some years ago my son looked up with his usual grin and said in all seriousness, 'When I'm older Dad I want a job like yours, you know, where I don't have to work for a living!'

I guess one is apt to groan at the work word but equally if for whatever reason there is no work the groan then penetrates the very heart but I guess the term paid employment & no choice perhaps have something to do with our general dislike of the word.

I think I can safely say I have the best work/job/employment in the world, after all they give me a working aircraft  and a tank of fuel and say go do something useful - actually those are my words.  Apart from when I have to fulfil the occasional paperwork requirement from a ground based office somewhere or other - now that is work, I have loved doing/living it for the last 21 years. 
Generally I have a paper free office, though the old joke about aircraft can only fly when the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the aircraft still exists. My offices have been able to look after between 3-12 passengers, cruise at between 100-150kts and at various times been able to operate on land and sea and all with one engine.  
There have been times when I have groaned at the occasional 0400 wake-up call from the alarm in Chad, the prospect of fitting what looks like a 1000kg of freight into a space built for only a smidgen over 500, the fitful nights sleep in the tropical heat whilst camped out in the back of my 208, the shiver of cold water trickling down my back on the cool rainy season pre-flight in Uganda and my helplessness sometimes in the face of hopelessness.

The mobility of my office is second to none!
But when the truth is told, this is work as it was meant to be, a delight.  Ah you see there is nothing quite like an early morning departure, the smells and sounds of the African dawn still lingering in ones memory as the airfield boundary slips away behind you; a bumpy approach in a stiff cross-wind, ones dancing on the rudder pedals caressing 4 tonnes of slippery Alumium and people into a shortish rough dirt strip on a wet day in Karamoja; or the delight at seeing missionary youngster (MK) throwing his arms around his mum's neck when he's returned home from boarding school. Umm.... memories, so many.

Sometimes 3hrs into a long flight the desire for leg stretch become almost over whelming; equally 4hrs on, on a day full of very unhappy weather with another 7hrs more to be added to it, you think being somewhere else might be nice. But as the days events roll on, you realise where else do you get a chance to give a gift of a blessing to your passengers, put a reasuring hand on a medi-vac patient before departure or spend an hour, a day, a night, with some amazing people, doing some incredible stuff in some unbelievably remote places?
Perhaps it is only when your work takes you to to some sad sad places, you realise how privileged you are, doing something you want to do, are called to do, can do, then do do and do with a passion.

I was amazed to see there are over 50 jobs going around the world in Mission Aviation Fellowship. I cannot believe we have so many gaps for numerous managers of all types, about 5 accountants - there cannot possibly be a shortage of accountants can there, suspect we would consume all the engineers (aircraft) we could find, and as for christian avionics engineers they are almost almost as rare as a few grains of Astatine!

My bonus is I get to then talk about my work to pilots, rotarians, school children, non MAF people, MAF supporters, actually any one who asks me and anyone who will listen!

Also on Face Book and just about on twitter!

 ...the life of a bush pilot the last great truly civilised job in the world!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Always wear the shoes you are going to walk home in!

The Airbus bounced gently in the cool pre-dawn air, as it banked and descended lazily into Charles de Gaulle (Paris). I slipped on my boots, they felt somewhat snugger than normal on my slightly altitude swollen feet, tying my shoe laces up and put my seat back in the upright position. I made myself comfortable for the early morning landing, only five and a half hrs from Chad, yet I seemed to be landing in a different world. My flying boots looked smart, an almost new sparkle to them, as yesterday I had sat in the shower and given them a good scrub removing the ingrained dullness from weeks of desert dust. I'm fond of my boots, they feel good and provide me with a firm, secure footing be it  on scree slopes, rudder pedals, rocks or ladders. I guess I've had half a dozen pairs of Merrell's through the years, though this set of vibram soled ankle boots must be the most expensive yet! But when the time comes for replacement, the old ones get passed on and I try and get the best I can afford, as a phrase given to me early in my bush pilot career always echoes in my mind when I am tempted to save a few £/$  'Always wear the shoes that you are prepared to walk home in.' Something I might add I have oft quoted to my flipflop or fashion conscious children though it was only heard with only 'moderate success'! 

'Be prepared' is more than just a good motto if you are a Scout or Guide, it is sound life advice. These boots really do keep one out of trouble, they really do keep one in readiness when I fly into some pretty remote and wild places. It reminded me of a book written by a chap by the name of Paul, he wrote about always being prepared as well, 'and your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.' Ephesians 6:15.

Flip flops or last years cast offs are just not good enough to get you out of the desert, jungle or mountains. You need the right shoes for the right job but even good shoes can let you down if...

It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it is the grain of sand in your shoe.
What a great quote, and as I am now into the final year of an MA, it goes against the grain, pardon the pun, not to be able to attribute a quote to an author - it thought to be from a trade journal for the Insurance Industry in 1916*. I guess it is alluding to the fact that it is sometimes the small things that can knock you off track/wear you out/disable you, often more so than the big and often obvious ones. That Paul bod has something to say about this as well 'You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth.' Galatians 5:7 
Limping along is not a good idea, sometimes you need to stop, empty your shoes and get back into the race. Sadly a number of friends over the years have thought they could get by with spiritual flip flops or whilst well equipped forgot to sit down, get refreshed and empty the sand out of their shoes.

So always wear the shoes you are going to walk home in!

Thinking about shoes I did find this Charlie Brown type amusing quote!
“Never dance in a puddle when there's a hole in your shoe (it's always best to take your shoes off first)." - John D. Rhode


Friday, 19 July 2013

A shortish walk in the middle of know where!

Eric Newby writes beautifully in his A Short walk in the Hindu Kush, one of his best, he crafts words in such a way that you walk the journey with him and can almost smell the fragrances! I wonder what he would have written had he been with me in this remarkable, little known region, in this barren yet beautiful part of Northern Chad. Today the skies are so clear you seem to be able to see forever.

The golden dust cloud rises up high into hot afternoon air making a distinctive wall trailing behind me marking my track as I bounce across the rough airstrip, the sand itself provides more effective braking than anything my brakes can offer. The wind has long since scoured a natural parking area onto the bed rock, as the nearest other aircraft is probably about 400 miles away, so finding a parking spot was not terribly difficult!

I secured my hotel d'avion for my two night stay, whilst my pax, engineers from the region's Aviation Authority carry out some routine work on a nearby communications network in what could only described as the in the middle of know where. If you look carefully below you can see them in the distance!

Supper was a tin of French Military beef lasagne, not bad actually, even had to have a mug of black instant coffee, whilst not usually my favourite made for a pleasant evening drink. As night fell with it's usual rapidity, so the wind began to pick up speed. I prepared my boudoir, tonight I decided the aircraft floor offered the best sot, my portable mattress, more like a large babies changing mat with one imagines a similar level of comfort fully explaining why babies cry when it is nappy/diaper time!

My not so comfy pillow was my puppet Jim Le Huray (everything has a dual purpose, as every kg counts) and was between the boarding stairs and the freight door, created the most marvellous wind tunnel as the desert windows began to really howl across the sands.  When it was time for slumber, closing the two lower doors with the top two open to the universe, removed worst effects of the gale that now gently and occasionally not so gently rocked the aircraft at it's 'mooring'. Then the display started, a million individual stars blinked on, suspended as background to the milky way as it swirled and illuminated it's majestic way across the inky blackness of space. A streak of light, zips across the sky, the image remaining  half a second after the errant rock has turned to vapour, it sets one's imagination racing*. The play that unfolds is magnificent, beautiful perhaps one of the few times awesome can be correctly used,  'He stretches out the heavens like tent.' (Psalm104:2) Eventually sleep moves across my thoughts pulling my eye lids closed.

So friday morning I wondered if I could make a phone call! I set out to climb the pile of rock before me what I guessed would be an hours walk away, perhaps 5km across the golden but firm sands before the heat of the day though at this time of year the temp is more in the mid upper 30's than 40's.
I kept were I could to the vehicle tracks, as we do fly MAG (Mines awareness group on occasions) and it was a delightful hike. I was able to set a good pace up the slopes as the rocks were generally very stable mixture of scree with the odd outcrop of what appeared to be crumbling sandstone. I decided about about third of the way up, that if I wished to continue flying perhaps thus far and no further as it was rather steep and arguably steeper on the descent. I doubt I would be missed till it was time to take-off, so one had to be careful! I then skirted around to the right maintaining my altitude till I could get a signal from a phone tower some 15km away in a small but important nearby village. I was able to ring a friend who had arrived there an hour an a half earlier after almost a week of driving across desert and mountains to do what I had done between 0645 and 1400 the day before. Managed two bars and so best of all I was able to ring my wife, Trish in Guernsey. Phone call achieved.

Anything after a bit of hard graft and effort, ah, how sweet it tastes!

* Made me think of Antoine de Saint Exupery author of the Little Prince. Published in 1943. A great read for young and old.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Lake Bol by diesel 182

So to give you an idea of what it is like in operation last month I had a chance to fly to Bol on Lake Chad with Andrew to pick up an amazing lady who works as a mid-wife in this area.

This last few weeks we have had the opportunity in the UK to show off the latest gift from MAF's loyal and generous supporters, a diesel powered 4-seat Cessna 182, MAF's newest and smallest tool to be added to our toolbox. Hard to believe we have around 135 aircraft operating in over 30 countries all involved in bringing help, hope and healing to whoever needs it. In fact this is our 6th diesel powered Cessna182, the others being stationed in Madagascar, Chad, Angola (2) and DRC. This airframe is the same age as the Chad aircraft having been built in 1979 so it's hardly new, yet it has a beautiful paint job, is really well equipped but best of all has a diesel engine built by SMA - Societe de Motorisations Aeronautiques.

Petrol when sold for piston aircraft is called av-gas, for our piston engined aircraft we use a particular brew called 100LL (low lead), made to a specific fomula, it is expensive and difficult to find in some of the remote places we fly.  However Jet fuel, called Jet A-1, kerosene/paraffin to lesser mortals, the same stuff our turbine Caravan burns, as does your favorite wide bodied jet, is very much cheaper, more plentiful and hence easy to find in most countries of the world, is the stuff burnt in diesel engines. 

So Jet fuel-paraffin is cheap compared with Av-gas, more environmentally friendly and a safer fuel. This machine 227hp machine burns about 2/3rd of the fuel of the avgas powered version so fully fuelled it can carry a bladder busting 9.5hrs of fuel travelling at 110kts (110nm an hour) you can go a fair old distance in this machine and because aircraft, subject to pilot, go in straight lines that makes for a lot more economy, than your average Toyota or Land Rover bouncing on a circutous routes at 30mph on the nearest track below you!

So this will be jaunting around the UK in June and July before heading for Juba in South Sudan.