... the 4 stripes on the shoulders, the way they call you Commander in Franco-phone countries, definitely the difference you can make to a lot of people using a large piece of noisy aluminum, being part of a team that extends from supporters in Guernsey, Jersey, Sark, Alderney, UK, New Zealand, Australia and a few other places to the front left seat and everyone in between, possibly the fact that every one looks up at you (pun intended), fulfilling a boy hood dream or answering a call to fulfil your dream from the King of Kings - actually I'll go for all 7!
What is the best the best part of flying def...has to be the landing .... Here are a few African ones that I have filmed over the last few years, which you may find of interest?
Am Sitting at Joe’s Kitchen in Manchester Airport large hot coffee steaming before me being kept company by an omelette that could only be described as a sausage and mushroom Frisbee. Not quite what I expected when I put my order in but I’m sure it will hit the spot. Catching these red eye flights is hard work you know - In Guernsey these are the 0700 ETD’s, just glad I am not one of the crew! There is something about airports that always make me day dream about journeys past, adventures lived and opportunities taken. Thoughts turn to the question, what am I missing most .... umm memories drift lazily by as I tune into my own personal imaginary TV station, Ahhh images of my Instrument proficiency check and MAF Base Check start to appear and my logbook all signed off but actually they are memories of stress and relief, time to change channel :-
On my way into the office from the MAF Guest House zig zag around numerous pot holes - today’s selection tend to be either large and shallow or deep and crunchingly short - do you hit them fast or slow, head on or at an angle - you only really know after the event? Pedestrians, goats and a herd of rather impressively horned Acholi cattle flash by my windows in the early morning gloom, seems somewhat windy with some dark & damp clouds overhead.
Have my usual fight with the office door, are keys designed to keep you out or let you in ummm, after a brief struggle I guess the latter, pick up some freight from the office, along with the paper work and head out to Kajjansi just over 20 mins drive on a good day, wx already seems somewhat calmer now and it will not be long before the day starts to warm up nicely. African mornings are delicious, can almost smell the freshness of the dawning Ugandan day. A whiff of my Cappuchino adds a certain reality to my ponderings.
Heading up to South Sudan and picking up passengers at kajjansi and Entebbe today. Have a brief chat with a couple of the passengers before finishing my walk round to see if the aircraft is correctly glued together. But before I start up for the brief hop 12nm hop to Entebbe to clear customs and immigration, I pray (love this bit), blessing the passengers ministry, work and onward travel, inevitably all laugh when I give the briefing and remind them that “should you decide they did not enjoy their early morning breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, then feel free to use the white bag inside the blue envelope inside the clear wallet …but plan ahead as it takes ages to get it out!” At Entebbe have 7 pax, as well as some freight, combined with fuel, I am as full as full can be. All passports checked and I get a copy of a stamped manifest and we are free to go. Tower give start up and taxi clearance very promptly “Taxi and hold at 17 and clear to cross 12”. Engine checks complete and tower give me my departure clearance, “MAF Charlie Oscar cleared take-off 17 right turn, initially not above 5500 (ft) on a 320 heading”. I read back the clearance, release brakes, apply full power, hold the centre line and we are off into the wild blue yonder, bank over an array of ariels and assorted aggressive military equipment and head northish for the next 200+miles...
Better tuck in, as the omlette will soon grow cold... Yei (just west of Juba) flew almost 3/4 of tonne of medical supplies to the Anglican church clinic, these supplies will make a great difference to a lot of people. They had had heavy rain in the morning so the strip was really soft in parts, the grass is growing fast on both sides
making the strip appear somewhat narrower than it really is. Watch a twin engined aircraft come in and its full reverse thrust give their aircraft a remarkably efficient coating of red mud and soil, having said that mine has a nice smattering across the paintwork! Some engineers where mending a Ugandan twin that had aborted a take-off a few days ago and had a rather heavy conversation with a tree! Two German volunteer students, Joseph and Simon help me unload; they manage to fit everything with the aid of a shoe horn into both of the trucks they had brought up.
Golly it is only about 6 weeks since I last flew and I’m already day dreaming about it, the smell of the Kerosene, fresh rain, dust in the noon day air but actually they are just memories what I really miss is a warm embrace, an outstretched hand of trust, arms raised in praise - those moments when you feel the Kingdom of God is touching down on earth.
PS I appreciate some of you will notice the photo is of 'RM in picture 1 & 'IL in picture 2- well done! I am sure you spotted they were taken in Ikotos S Sudan and Kotido Uganda.
From my July Blogg. I was asked to tell a little more about Plumpey nuts, so thought a spot of video would tell it all...
Gave a chap from Save the Children a lift 1hr 20 flight back to Juba and asked him how long would it have been by road? 'Oh 2-3 days assuming you can get through!'
Parts of South Sudan's small network of roads are quite difficult to travel by road at the best of times but there are seasons in the year when they become downright almost impossible to navigate and that is when MAF really does come into it's own .... Flying over a thin brown pencil line in the green sward below me, the road as if drawn with ruler disappeared into the distance, yet closer examination showed it as a mass of puddles, ponds and small lakes, that must easily turn to a quagmire once any weight is applied to the surface, especially where there is black cotton soil - should think that was the end of that, till things dry out a bit!
Even with the long arm of MAF getting around here is not easy. Have just had 4 days flying up in the north of South Sudan, loved it I have to say, a demanding environment. Amazingly green, I had jotted down on my knee board when the muse was upon me, ‘The verdant grasslands stretch before me, a luxurious green carpet as far as the eyes can see, to my right the Nile winks in the morning sun.’ but the rains have been light this year ...well the media have let us know that, so the disaster ‘sown’ years before, unfolds in northern Kenya, Eastern Sudan and Somalia.
This trip much of my freight was plumpey nuts and I add below a spot of film that perhaps fills in a few gaps on these strange squidgy aluminium foil packets ...
Plumpey nuts fill many an eager stomach and provides for physical needs & hope for another day, alongside this runs the Jesus Church, purveyors of spiritual hope. Only a fool says in his heart that you only need one of these.