Arua Airfeld is a non-radio dirt strip in the far north of Uganda. Before crossing the border of Uganda into South-Sudan we had to clear immigration/customs at either this airstrip at the Ugandese-Sudanese border or we would have to fly from Kajjansi airfield to Entebbe airport and clear customs here before flying to South-Sudan.
We left Kajjansi early in the morning just after sunrise. We were topped up with fuel but had no problems climbing out in the early morning relatively cool temperatures.
We climbed out over the swamps right there on the extended centerline of the runway. We had read the warning poster in the hangar informing us of the Cobra snakes in the swamps and the thought of having to ditch there did look too appetizing to us.
While climbing out over Lake Victoria en before flying out towards Arua we were treated with a beautiful sunrise. It wasn’t for long that the sun broke through completely starting its work to heat up the air.
The typical African dirt strip was well maintained and the landing was a non-event. Just before turning final we had to watch out for several antennas and the airfield chart provided by MAF to us noted that we should not overfly the central market square of Arua.
The door to the Meteo “department” was closed and the table with the sign to pay was outside under a veranda to provide some shade. After all the reason for landing here was just to clear immigration and leave Uganda for our trip into South-Sudan. This time everything was quite efficient and we were airborne again within half an hour.
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 The old view of mission pilots flying to remote dirt strips to support missionary posts is outdated.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.