Been flying in Africa since the age of eighteen, had the good fortune that my Dad was a pilot, so yes the usual story of it being in the blood. No horse my bro, just reality and by the way I am an African whom has lived and flown in Africa for the duration of my career, which now spans 17 years .
One really must be very careful how one goes about this business of anything being in the blood. On the vain glorious assumption that one can trace one's ancestry back a few hundred years or so, certainly far further back than the first colonisers of the Hottentot lands; any familial characteristics which might have flowed from the first generation to the last, might reasonably be said to be in the blood. Anything much less than this is simply pure nepotism. Toodle Pip.
The memories keep coming back.. Class 1 renewal... Dr .......... in ........ ( I can't say because ..hey ... I may someday be old enough to need this guy again ! ) I walk into the 'surgery' ... antique surgical implements displayed along the walls like a museum of Scutari Hospital .... He asks me to fill in a form and while I'm doing that he's scribbling away.. just as I finish filling in the form, he finishes scribbling and then asks the only question of the interview... "Can you please give me $150 ?" ... I hand him the filled in form and the money... he passes to me the paper he's been scribbling on... a receipt... end of medical and I have my Class 1 renewal.
Since we’re on the subject, Swamp Rat, who exactly is bitching here. Most awe-inspiring place I ever flew. I’ll say it again, at least until you guys get it; God Herself lives in the magnificent skies over Africa, of that I have no doubt whatsoever. Anyone have a reasonably intelligent argument with that?
So, there we were, in a B-720, parked on the Kananga ramp, 9Q-CTD if any plane spotters are interested. The flight from Kinshasa was the usual ICTZ T-storm duck, dodge and weave operation. And there, on the ramp for our arrival, in all his golden uniformed and Swiss bank-accounted glory, was the Marshall Mobutu himself. Holy Sh@t my brothers and sisters, an appointment with destiny, that little voice inside that whispers, one might want to tread delicately in such close proximity to celebrity A-List thugs.
Casual murder being what it is in Africa, a cheerful no-offence-intended blood sport mostly I gather, and our well-honed aversion to same, we dutifully assemble under the chipped and dented radome of our ancient Boeing Seven, applauding raucously as the Big M himself strides the ramp. All the while bestowing blessings on the lesser folk of this impossibly miserable planet. How could it exist without the Marshall, God forfend!
He even nodded my way, brushes with greatness have never been my thing. I’m still trying to fathom the ultimate meaning of that one. Rumor had it that the Marshall’s Great Mahogany Throne was installed somewhere in the mid section of his 707. I don’t know, personally, I never saw it first hand, but it rings true, in an intuitive sort of way. Sometimes it helps to finish off the bottle of Johnny or Jack, as you will, provides a measure of temporary closure that comforts and protects. Against the insects at the very least. That’s how those things go in Africa.
But I digress. The Marshall, installed in his over-wing greatness, dutifully orders his pilots to light the fires. Four spit-shined Pratt JT3-7’s are now spooling up, the incline of the ramp dictating considerable break-away thrust, that gorgeous smell of jet kerosene, the inexorable and dizzying intoxication of willful and final escape, mounting its grand and forceful presence over the African landscape. Billowing, pregnant cumulus towering to impossible breadths, heights, continental by any other description, all around the field.
A more magical place, you’ve never been, I think…duty calls, to be continued…
Had the First Lady hurl down the back of my Cessna 402C. Had a big, fat argument with two of the First Sons when I didn't want to land at Minna Airstrip in the dark, just because there were no runway lights. Had fifteen souls in a Cessna 404 just because the Military Governor wanted it so.
In the dark days of Sani Abacha you used to see the Argentine Peugeot 504s, black with blacked-out windows, chasing the Presidential 727 down the runway as it departed, providing some weird kind of security. 727 in the middle, 504s off each wingtip, and "AWAY THEY GO!" Peugeots keeping up well-well until, ooh, 35 knots or so and finishing up at about mid-field doing 110 mph as the 727 is turning on course.
I had to explain to a newbie why I had 3 hours fuel just to do a flip around the pattern at Lagos, a couple of touch-and-goes. He had never been to a place where they could close the airport on no notice for 30-45 minutes for VIP movements with no estimate for when it might reopen, either.
A 200 once carried 27 pax out of Kuito, Angola, when the latter was being attacked by Unita. Refugees stormed all available aircraft on the ramp, it was completely impossible to get the people off again. (I don't blame the poor bastards, everybody was taking it in turns trying to wipe them out!) Aircraft taxied out with the door dragging and a pilot on the steps fending off more refugees. Top right corner of the door was ground away through contact with the tarmac. Aircraft got out ok and made it back to Luanda, albeit at a low altitude and unpressurised.
Civil Aviation (in country of registration) notified, airframe inspected, door fixed, carry on chaps...
...when you're attempting to do something perfectly normal (fill in paperwork, complete GENDEC's etc) and an 'official' stops you with some utterly bizarre reason why you can't do it, despite it having been done for the last 50 flights or so, AND they are the ones requiring it. His explanation of why you can't do it is either a) physically impossible b) has the logic used by five year olds, or c) he simply repeats the original statement that 'No, you can't do it', as many times as it take no matter what sane and rational arguments you put forward.
Or when using say, a US$100 bill to pay landing fees whatever, they refuse to accept it on the grounds that it has a tiny 'nick' somewhere on it... their own paper currency of course looks as though the entire population have wiped their ars*s on it.... if it happens to you, do what I do.. throw it on the floor and say.. "Well.. if no one wants it.." and then watch their faces.
Entering the airport, the security-guy, who has to inspect the vehicle for hidden bombs, asks you to turn off the engine, get out and open the trunk. You tell him you're in a hurry, so he smiles and asks for some "chai". And off you go...
I was sat in the cockpit of my Twin Otter filling out some paperwork or else trying to think up some brilliant scheme that would get me out of Nigeria when I felt the airplane shift a bit as someone came up the stairs to the cabin. Then I heard, "Peeeep, peeep, peeep..." What in the world?
When I looked around, there was one of our security Shell Mopols using his metal detector to verify that each seat frame was, indeed, made of, umm, metal! Well spotted! He gave me a sheepish grin when I looked at him and fecked off to waste oxygen in a different way after that.
They used to check the pax, get a peep, the guy would pull some keys out of a pocket, show it and, "Okay, these are not the droids we are looking for." Not to give anything away but might there be a way to smuggle one thing by showing something else when both are made of metal?
Anyway they never checked the pax on Sundays but that was okay because we had never had a hijacking on a Sunday except for once or twice but that was helicopters and I was flying fixed-wing. See?
Post 9/11 I told my cabin crew that I would be keeping the cockpit door locked on the Dornier, when I took the key with me and slid the door closed. Halfway to Abuja we got the usual cup of tea and some biccies... Two minutes later I had the sudden thought, "Hey! How did he do that?"
On the ground again I got a very self-satisfied smirk from my steward as he showed me the extra key he carefully kept hidden away in the first baggage locker on the right, the one the pax weren't supposed to access.
You know, I could lock the door if I wanted to but it was his privilege to unlock it if he wanted to!
After having three guys shot and wounded, two shot and killed 50 meters from me on a money run I started on insiting on a vest and straping on my nine milimeter on all money flights.
One day the head of airport security tells me I cannot do this as I am scaring the passengers. Even though I'm licenced to have it. So we come to a comprimise I can put it on once I get to the plane.
After having checked my firearm through the security (50% of the time it's not noticed) security still gives me grief about my leatherman or lighter.
Whatching the security waving his metal detector wand over a hunter who was about to go on a charter. All sounds correct till you consider the hunter had his rifle in one hand, a bowie knife strapped to his side and a belt of bullets round his waist. Wish I'd had a chance to take a picture.
Where fighter jets, which have not moved or flown for over seven years, and will never fly again are considered top secret. And not really there. Even though everybody can see them.
The army has transport aircraft which are referd to by their own pilots as "flying coffins" because they were donate with no life history.
Where the airforce repaints SAM sites even though they have not worked and will never work again. It's not like the public can see them.
Where ramp guys decide, why push the plane when we can taxi it like the pilots do. Start aircraft (amazing in itself) loose control end up crossing active runway, missing landing 737. Apparently stopped the aircraft by feathering the prop (piston mind you) and as quickly as possible pushing said aircraft back to the ramp.
Finding the chickens you were supposed to fly out o a hunting camp in the bush have been thrown into the pod without their cages. Cages did not fit.
Baggage door comes unlocked, some poor guys back are somewhere in the sea, hopefully not through someone's roof.
Search and rescue helicopter not available because pilots have already clocked off.
Tower let's VFR traffic arrive, even though when one mile from the field without the field visual everything is still deemed ok.
National airlines take priority over everyone else.