Sunday, 13 November 2011

Dodging raindrops a great Ugandan sport!

The weather seems very wet this November, unseasonally so, a number of the pilots have had long flights and the odd unexpected overnight dodging raindrops. This is an account of such a day that I wrote not so long ago. What a day, flew about 8hrs including an extra 250nm avoiding awful weather – just about everywhere. It did not seem that bad getting out of Kajjansi but hit a wall of heavy rain after 40 miles and low cloud, west looked dark & foreboding, decided to go east along with another aircraft in the area.
This is part of a black cotton soil strip after recent rain best described as not great!
 Eventually got around the weather, somewhat off course and headed up to Arua for refueling, customs and Immigration. Arua had had very heavy rain overnight but the strip is well drained and although made of compacted murram is in tip top condition, as it is used by small airliners. Took on two barrels of fuel - 400litres - and headed NW out over the Congo to Yambio in SW Sudan another 1.5 hrs away. Visibility was good but gradually the ceiling got lower and lower and I was being forced more and more east and I wanted to go west and eventually the clouds touched the ground and as we did not plan on going any further by road, I had to divert to my bolt hole at Yei – always have an out in bad weather, actually once Yei bound all very pleasant. Munch a tasty flapjack – pleasant sugar boost. Waited half an hour on the ground, the wx is definately moving west, cannot wait too long if I am to complete the flight today. Soon climbing out and heading to Yambio again. Spoke with a UN aircraft that had sneaked out of Yambio, and he advised me it was not that good there, our Op’s Manager in Kampala had checked the satellite photo’s and he thought wx was moving off. Decided to route over Maridi, another good bolt hole, I could always leave the freight there and at least bring back most of my passengers to Entebbe, as I had been going there after Yambio anyway. Passing overhead Maridi, which has some low cloud, 

I look down and I can see the air-strip below the whispy clouds, so I carry on west. A wall of black weather stands proud and defiant on the horizon but I reckon it is just beyond Yambio town now and so of little consequence. Great, got in as the strip, though a tad damp is clear, 600kg medicines for Nzara Hoz & Tambora Diosc & 2 pax, already bright and sunny! Soon my  shirt  is soaked from sweat unloading and loading the freight, as really warm and quite muggy after the rain. Doors are shut, pax strapped in, the turbine is going full tilt and we are heading down the airstrip, bank left into a 180 and abt 30mins to Maridi, then a pleasant jaunt down to Arua , as I 

decide to clear the paper work there as well as  take on extra fuel.  Parked up we  hear the deep rumblings from a huge approaching storm, a large wall of darkness  steaming into Arua. Head out East where it is very clear but  difficult to find a way through tot he south, so after half an hour I am further from home than when I took off, my current escape route will take me for coffee at a mission station in Nimule back in Sudan! At last a clear gap ..... I gradually weave my way down country, pass Gulu – at least that is in Uganda, after that Masindi, then Jinja. All the time I press on and I have to calculate can I get to my diversion strip before last landing time and also feed in a few what if’s into the equation. Look at pax all happy reading their books or asleep, as despite the weather it has been pretty smooth. Samuel is ahead of me by 40 minutes but when I get to the clear airspace he was in, more bad weather. Fox-Fox tells me it is nice in Kampala, Entebbe weather is good but…… was just thinking it might be an overnight now in Jinja and I then I am through, beautiful & sunny, 'what weather' I say!!! I can still make Entebbe before last landing time by a few minutes, beautiful touch down, am sure passengers do not realise we are on the ground, they disembark quickly remarking , 'what a nice flight it was!' No paper work needed, so I can 'leg it' to Kajjansi, only 12 miles away, I am allowed another 15 minutes of 'daylight'. 

Traffic driving home is really heavy and takes forever, this is definitely the dangerous part of the day. Arrive back at the office almost 13hrs after I left it, tired with all the passengers and freight in the right place, twas’ a good day. 

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