Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Final despatch from 12°6′N 15°2′E.

Well my next assignment is back to Uganda at the week-end. So I thought I would get my Final Despatch from 12°6′N 15°2′E, aka N'djamena in Chad, down onto paper. 
Here in Guernsey we are having our runway re-surfaced and I guess they may being doing a few other things to the tune of £80+million and in Alderney there is debate about whether to keep their grass runway operational - my answer is; when there are minimal sea links the answer this is a no brainer, keep it open!
In MAF we have some interesting rwy surfaces! Actually before landing we run through a little mnemonic. 
Wind direction, strength. Is it gusty, what about the x-wind, tailwind.
Length - but can you use it all? Any new ant hills, heavy rain, unexpected pond on left side, can all
               shorten it and make it seem some what shorter thn the last time you came!
Altitude - If it is hotter than 'normal' it's as if the airstrip is now higher than it was and therefore you 
               need more rwy. So a cold morning arrival can mean the airstrip seems to have shrunk 
               somewhat when it comes to a noon departure at 45C!
Surface - dry season nice.  Wet season, soggy, slippery and unusable! Watch out black cotton soil can 
              catch out the unwarry, as it has a crust that you can break through. Is the sand carved up by
              big aircraft bad news!
Slope - are you landing up hill, down hill or with gentle side slope?
Obstacles - In the tropic things grow ever so fast, holes appear - caused by wart hogs, ants, termites. 
              There may be some animals crossing, thinking of crossing and those who are not thinking 
              about crossing but will anyway!

Rather nice Congo airstrip

Don't assume, check it out. Not a bad attitude to life really.

Here sand is the surface of choice and the golden vista can make even finding the airstrip tricky and after a few heavy lift transports have been in and out the surface resembles a soft beach and great care must be taken ideally to find the firm stuff and not to come to a halt on the soft sand as hauling it the out, is really hard work. Here I am pulling the aircraft, off the strip onto a harder rocky surface for overnight parking. 
In the south the rains have been very good and grass is appearing all over the place. After rain the top cm can be very slick and can involve quite alot of dancing on the rudder pedals to hold the aircraft in a straight line when landing. Even areas that are rarely green this have a verdant tinge and rivers start to flow and over flow making drivable tracks and roads unpassable, cutting off communities. 

The rains keeps the frangipani, donkies and crimson breasted bee-eaters happy though!

Sand causes some wear and tear on the paint work and here the Caravan is getting a check out. Note the oil cooler on the left. The rains keep the aircraft clean!

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