Saturday, 11 June 2011


'Click,' the last clip of my 5 point safety harness slots into place as I strap into the left seat of my old friend Bill.
Bill - 5X-BIL a 20 year old Cessna 208 Caravan, a 600shp Turbine powered single engined air machine with attitude - room for 1 pilot and 9 passengers - rather like this shot of Bil in Pagak, Southern Sudan. We have had a lot of fun together, having travelled many thousands of miles, shifted hundreds of passengers and many, many tonnes of sweat inducing freight, from dogs to wellington boots, Kitchen sinks to chocolate.

Running through the checklist ...starter on and the turbine spools up, love that whine, if your lucky you might catch the delicious smell of the exhaust gas - burnt turbine fuel - wonderful.
Taxing out we are soon lined up, gentle breeze from the right, Bil vibrates with eagerness, as we leap down Kajjansi's grass and murram runway, first we're off to Entebbe International Airport only 12 miles away to refuel, clear Customs and sort out Immigration paperwork. I have Joey Lincoln and his wife and three small children on board, Joey is a pilot with MAF Congo in Bunia and is also an aircraft engineer - his father is Chief Engineer for MAF Congo based in Kajjansi! They had been working on one of MAF Congo's aircraft that had been parked in our hanger. We also have a couple of other NGO passengers  along with us as well, all seem very happy to be heading home.

It is only 160 miles on a 304 heading to Bunia, 1hr 10 min by Caravan but a long drive to this town in nestled just over the border in Eastern DRC. Climbing out to 10,500ft, it is a glorious day .just need to doge the odd cloud  Soon Lake Albert is in sight and once we are half way across - at the border, not a red dotted line in site despite looking hard for it over blue water's below. We descend into Bunia, crossing the ridge is beautiful, as we slide low over the high ground. The photo below shows a typical congolese town red rusted corrugated iron and dusty roads.  The airfield is easy to spot as it has a tarmac runway that today is easy to spot against the green background. Many UN helicopters squat half asleep like giant bumble bees, guarded by Bangladeshi UN troops, a pleasant and friendly bunch.
Paperwork is fairly speedy today and we only have 4 people to pick up. So we are quite light and all are ready and waiting. My clearance from the Bangladeshi controller is turn north from runway 28, which gives me a different view of town as every-time before it has always a southerly turn. Smoke billows out from a number of fires in the fields, in a few months their smoke will really help reduce visibility, as I am climb back over the ridge, turn on course heading back over Lake Albert, Entebbe bound... thinking what a great job I have.

1 comment:

  1. You should read Acts of Faith by Phillip Caputo- a great novel about a life similar to what you do