In Bamako, Mali we paid a visit to Sahel Aviation. We now were welcomed by the staff of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in Kajjansi, Uganda. Kajjansi airfield is an airstrip about a 10 minute flight from Entebbe airport (HUEN) and owned by MAF.
From the Kajjansi airstrip a team of pilots and support staff provide their aviation services to missionaries, NGO organizations and the local community. The old view of mission pilots flying to remote dirt strips to support missionary posts is outdated. MAF is still flying out to mission posts, but also supporting NGOs and other non-profit aid organizations with their flight operations.
Rembrand, a Dutch pilot flying with MAF in Uganda, walks us around the passenger terminal. He arrived 9 months ago with his family and is now flying the Cessna 206. He arrived with just over 500 hours of flying time and when he reaches the 1000 hours pilot-in-command time Rembrand will be eligible to migrate to the larger PT6 engine based Cessna Caravans.
Kees, also from The Netherlands just like Rembrand, is head of MAF maintenance. They are taking care of several Cessna Caravans, 206’s and several other aircraft.
At another location in the city and about 20 minutes away by car from the Kajjansi airstrip is the MAF Uganda headquarters. Here we met a team of very motivated professionals.
Steve, in charge of MAF Uganda, explains and demonstrates to me how they operate and administer their operations.
All the aircraft are constantly tracked through a sat-link. In addition, the aircraft are all equipped with HF radio for direct communication.
We passed the western part of the continent of Africa and are thrilled by the vast beauty of all the different landscapes, the people who seem so relaxed, and the wildlife in all different shapes and forms. And as we enjoy the flights, we are aware of the three basics for pilots who want to fly in this part of the world. We are happy to share them with you!
Good preparation is the thing. I started reading the Lonely Planet guide for Africa twice from cover to cover to figure out what I would like to see and what to expect. This helped me in preparing for the route planning. I also talked to several (ferry) pilots who had experience flying through Africa, read e-books with accounts of bush flying in Africa and started filling in the details step-by-step. The total preparation took from 2 weeks before Christmas until the day before departure (full time from early morning until late at night).
You need to be flexible to adapt to changes in weather, planning, delays. What helped is that I had the weather, flightplans and routes all preloaded on my iPhone and iPad(s). Filing of the flightplans I did digitally (using our own flightplan app) just about half an hour to 2 hours before departure). If I anticipated that I would not have time on a technical stop for refueling to file, I would file that flightplan ahead of time early in the morning in the hotel or guesthouse. Then, we would cope with what we would come across.
3. SENSE OF HUMOUR
You need to stay relaxed, smile and have a sense of humor. Connect with the locals and definitely do not get frustrated or at least don’t show it on your face.
Mastering these three essentials will make your experience rich and meaningful. Meeting new people, engaging in different cultures and adapting to a slower pace of life give a new perspective.
Today we departed for our ambitious journey from Teuge in the Netherlands. Families and friends had come out of their beds very early on this cold and wet sunday morning, to wave us goodbye.
We left EHTE around 0900 local time in the morning, flying to Béziers at the French Côte d’Azur. We left Béziers only an hour after arriving, to continue on our last leg of this long flying day: Valencia!
We arrived in Valencia shortly after 19.00 in the evening, and witnessed a spectacular sunset during our arrival. For now, it’s off to bed early to prepare for tomorrow, when we start the next part of our next journey, flying to the Canary Islands via Gibraltar and Morocco! (You can follow our progress live here!)
Today we flew our aircraft to our point of departure Teuge, where we will further prepare it for the departure coming sunday. Some proper maintenance was done in preparation of the 130 flying hours it will do in the next six weeks! We will continue tomorrow starting to pack the airplane and install some additional navigation and satellite communication equipment. To be continued!
Between planning our route and arranging the necessary visa we have started putting together a useful survival kit for our trip. What you see is just the beginning, as we will need to prepare for the worst as we will be flying across the dark African continent from North to South. We will cross both the Gulf of Guinea, fly over the rain forests of Gabon and Congo and cross the Saharan desert. These areas bring their specific needs for lifesaving equipment.
The Thuraya satellite network allows us to stay in touch with the homefront and our AeroPlus Flight Operations Centre (FOC) in The Netherlands. The satellite link allows us as well to check for bad weather while enroute or even make phone calls while airborne or to connect to the internet.
The Thuraya Satsleeve will be linked to the avionics stack of the aircraft through the Flightcell Pro device. This way, all voice calls can be dealt with through our aviation headsets while staying in touch with air traffic control (ATC) at the same time. We have adjusted our own AeroPlus flightplan and weather apps to support receiving information over the satellite network. We are therefore able to receive significant weather charts, rain radar, flightplan data, the latest METAR, TAF and SIGMET weather data through our satellite link.
Additional fuel tanks will be taken along as well as that we will be having extra fuel on board using a TurtlePac extra fuel tank. This extra fuel tank is linked to the aircraft system and makes it possible for us to cross longer stredges across the desert or across the deep Africal jungle. Some of the airports we will be flying into will be rather remote and with have no supply of the preferred AVGAS fuel for our aircraft. We will then have to rely on fuel from the local gas station and special fuel tanks, fuel filters and fuel testers are taken along. The aircraft is as such capable of flying on autogas, but we have to be sure it is of the right quality and not contaminated with too much ethanol/alcohol or dirt.
In case we do get stranded we are supplied with a fuel burner (wood burner) that can even charge our satellite equipment or iPhone.