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Messages - Sardine

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Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: January 01, 2018, 07:27:47 am »
A dreary morning in Maun. One of the first decent rains of the season, it bucketed down all night and well into the day. It was cool with a breeze and reminded me of Cape Town.

I love watching raindrops roll off the windscreen.

The flying that day was fun- lots of decisions to make regarding the clouds (do I go over or under?), and plenty of mud.
The following users thanked this post: zetman

Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: December 14, 2017, 05:46:50 pm »
The days have become quiet, but busy. Like a road stretching off into the distance in the hot Karoo, life just seems to be dragging on.

Between training people on the Caravan, I have done a few line/Delta flights. Well, I have been in the air but not actually doing the flying. Insurance requires newly rated crew do at least 50hrs under supervision before being let loose.
Some days it is fun, other days it is boring. But it gives me a chance to look out of the window and appreciate the beauty passing by.

The Delta has changed a lot. Rain here and there has transformed areas from brown to green, but the rivers and water ways have dried up.
The Thamalakane River, which runs through Maun, has dropped well over a meter.

It is both amazing and sad to see. Maun is really a dust bowl, a donkey town. It has a certain charm to it, but in winter when every day brings blue skies and sand, you get over it.
But after the first two or three good rains, it is transformed and everything is green and clean. I love driving down the main road and looking at the contrast between black tar, brown sand on the side of the road, lush green trees, the blue of the sky and white fluffy clouds.

Today was a short one with just ground school in the morning. Then we packed the car and got ready to set course for Guma, about 3.5hrs' drive towards the pan handle. Only we didn't even get 3.5km when my car started to overheat. We pulled into a petrol station with an Autozone (I think) and had a guy come take a look. He schemed it was the thermostat. No point in risking the engine so we nursed it to the mechanic who has done a lot of work on it.

Blown head gasket. Joy of joys.

No more Guma for us. And no car until next week.
At least it didn't happen halfway to Guma.

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Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: December 04, 2017, 10:09:36 pm »

Doing circuit training in the Caravan with a storm about 10nm SE of the field. Always spectacular to see. Soon after we landed for the day it moved over Maun and graced us with a night of rain.

And Today

More circuit training. Got a good view of Maun and realized that 1.) it has grown a lot and 2.) it’s green!
The following users thanked this post: zetman, EssBee, westfrogger

Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: December 01, 2017, 09:25:39 am »
I feel sick.

My head is down while I frantically skim through the Kodiak's big POH (Pilot Operating Handbook, sometimes called an AIM - Aircraft Information Manual), as my colleague, B, throws the machine around.
He is doing his CofT- Certificate of Test- an annual check where we go over emergency procedures and other drills. Our boss is one of two people who can do them on the Kodiak, and he is the type of examiner who makes you sweat, makes you realise how little you know, and yet is able to teach you.

I had finished my Kodiak rating in SA a few weeks prior, and I was only just beginning to realise what I didn't know. The Boss fired questions at B, from technical aircraft questions to asking how his family was, all while instructing B to complete various manoeuvres and procedures. This is a sneaky tactic as you don't even realise you're being distracted until The Boss says "You just busted your altitude" or something similar. Damn.

I'm sitting just behind them, with my headset plugged in so I can see as well as hear everything. And as each question is fired at B, I realise that I have been able to answer 2 of the 10 so far. So that's why I'm sitting head down, feeling ill. I don't make a good passenger. I figure it won't be good to throw up in The Boss's plane, so I resign myself to the fact that when we land and swap places, it will probably be a dismal test, and I put the POH away and focus on not puking my guts out.


Fast forward to now, and I'm the one in the right seat, firing questions at a sweating student. As they fumble over words and their eyes search frantically around the cockpit looking for an answer, I'm taken back to my first Kodiak CofT. It feels so long ago. I suppose it has been 2 years. I smile as I watch them, not because they are struggling but because I can see where their eyes are looking and I can tell that they know what to do, but they just can't quite get there. I wait a second or two more before giving them a clue, a step in the right direction, and it's all they need to get their brain back into gear.

It's really satisfying being able to take a student and teach them, and watch them learn and grow. It's even more satisfying witnessing the effort some of these guys (and girls) put in. And I remember how much I enjoyed instruction. Sure, it gets VERY repetitive, but to teach someone to fly is great.
To try teach someone to fly when they are lazy, however, sucks. And it's when I get those types of students that I lose my patience and give a hard time.

But, I digress.

My last day is nearing, and I find myself having more and more flashbacks. It is comforting in a way, to see how far I have come. And while next year is unknown, and scary as heck, at least I can look back knowing that, having accomplished everything so far, I can definitely take on the challenge of the unknown and make it work.
The following users thanked this post: zetman, westfrogger

Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: November 10, 2017, 09:20:53 pm »


Yup, I'm still alive.

The fires had died down for a while, but with temperatures still well into the 30ies and very dry air, more and more fires have been popping up. Particularly in the grassy areas, and along the pan handle.
The reeds burn well, and coat the Okavango River in a layer of oil.

One day I fly to the east, the next day to the west, and on the third I fly to the east again and can barely recognize the scorched earth. It is both remarkable, and a little sad.
Of course, clients are always asking "Is that a bush fire over there?"
Why no sir, it appears to be a different type of fire.
"Is that fire there man-made?"
No ma'am, it's because it's so hot and dry out here.
"Is that Victoria Falls?"

The smell of the smoke reminds me of summer at home, of the Working on Fire Huey's wopping overhead, Spotter planes buzzing along, and the whine of the bombers going back and forth. It feels me with a sense of need to help, and makes me want to return home and do something, anything. Some days, the smoke here will drift across the sun, casting a deep orange glow over the world. A brief respite from the intense heat. But I can't think about it too long because where there is fire, there are dead or dying animals, and where there are dead or dying animals, there are birds. Lots of them. Huge flocks circling, waiting for the next meal, as I slalom around them, dipping a wing and kicking in rudder so as not to have one hit my aircraft.

It is fun sometimes, a moment of action. But there have been some very close calls that have got my heart racing and me thinking "Phew, that was close!" as I give my passengers a thumbs up or shout "BIRDS" to explain the aggressive maneuvering.


The Kodiak is in for major maintenance; the engine hot section inspection is due, so the engine has been pulled out the hot section sent to South Africa to be inspected. This is done at the engine's half-life. As the pilot, we are able to see the ITT (inter turbine temperature) which, depending on the day and the aircraft, sits around 700degC. The hot section however reaches temperatures in excess of 1000degC. Scary stuff, but amazing too.

Turbine engines are still magic to me.


I have been flying the Caravan's a lot lately, which has been a good change of pace. A bit of variety is always good. The downside is that 10 other people also fly the 'Vans. With the Kodiak, I leave the cockpit in a certain way, and that is how I find it the next day. Everything has its place and I know about all its scrapes and scratches, squeaks and rattles.
But flying a different 'Van every day means you don't know what condition it has been left in. You don't always know it's quirks, you don't always know if a particular item has been acting up, you don't know how it responds to hot and heavy conditions.

The other day I was flying one of our older 'Vans, a grand old lady with over 20 000 landings to her name (more if you count the bounces).
She is coming up for a major inspection and her compressor section is getting a little tired so she doesn't quite churn out as much oomph as the others I have been flying.
The first landing was fun... on the approach when we know we will make the runway in the glide, we close the power lever to idle. The propeller "discs" causing a lot of drag in some aircraft (and a really cool sound). Some disc through 500lbs of torque, others through 200lbs of torque. Well, this old girl discs very rapidly and the drag is enough to make you feel like you just snagged an arrestor cable.

She also likes to plonk herself down on the runway.
And her stall warning gets a little over excited especially if there is a stiff wind. The stall refers to an aerodynamic stall of the wing rather than the engine. The result is a loss of lift, which, if you have altitude, is a non-event.
A stall can occur while straight and level, in a turn, climbing and even descending, and at any speed. It is a function of the angle of attack of the wing: The angle between the Relative Airflow and the Chord Line.

On this day, I on the approach into Kasane. It was hot, and I was heavy, and the wind couldn't make up its mind. Landing runway 26, we land deep to avoid having to taxi almost 1km to vacate the runway. So 1/4 down the runway, I retard the power to idle, ready for the disc-ing.
What I wasn't ready for was the windshear about 50ft above the runway.

Windshear is a sudden change in wind speed and direction. In this case, it pushed down, and to the side. With a lot of force.
I grabbed a fist-full of power, but unfortunately with the turbine engine, it takes a while to spool up and for the power to kick in. And it was around then I thought "Oh snap!" and the stall warning went off.

Just before we met mother earth, the power came in and caught it, cushioning the landing (it was actually one of my better ones of the day!).
Windshear is no fun, and can easily take down an airliner.
I was with a training pilot and decided to turn it into a learning opportunity "Now you've seen the lag in power delivery I was telling you about!"

We parked and as the clients were heading to the terminal, a gentleman came up to me and said "I'm going to give you one piece of advice... speed is your friend! I never want to hear the stall warning go off on landing. Speed is your friend!"

Then he muttered about his 30hrs on a Caravan.

I thought of asking him how much he knows about windshear and hot and high ops, but decided to hold my tongue.


Anyway, I "thanked" him for his advice (sjoe, thank goodness I had him on board to educate me) and left him.


Other than that, the pace of flying has been relentless. Normally by now it quietens down but it doesn't seem like we will have much of a quiet season.

I have also been doing more training so days when I'm not doing 'camp flights', I'm either giving ground school or doing training flights.
Again, a good change of pace, not without it's interesting moments...
Disc-ing in the Caravan takes some getting used to.

Training someone how to fly a Caravan and demonstrating a glide with the propeller feathered is both fun and nerve-racking.
By feathering the propeller the blades turn so they procedure very little drag, allowing the propeller to windmill, and allowing us to get a little more distance on the glide. In the Caravan you can actually feel it accelerate as the propeller feathers.

I don't think I will ever get used almost seeing each individual blade as it languidly turns in the airflow, and my biggest fear is it not coming out of feather for some reason. So I always make sure to do the exercise where we could land off the glide if that were to ever happen.


Anyway, enough random musings. I best get to bed otherwise I'm going to stay up all night.
The following users thanked this post: Oubones

Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: October 12, 2017, 10:28:41 pm »
Thank you, Tom. Unfortunately I can no longer get footage like that as one individual broke a rule and ruined it for everyone else.


Have you ever woken up, looked outside and felt you are only just seeing the world for the first time? Or at least, for the first time in a long time.

Out here, days cease to exist. My weekend is Friday, my day off. There are no public holidays, no half days. The only days I know as days are Friday, and Sunday (because Woolworth’s closes early).

After several months of this blur - or it could even be weeks, or maybe even only one week, I don’t know because everything has morphed into one big blob - something shifts. And it’s like coming up for a deep breath of fresh air. There’s an attitude shift, colours seem brighter, things seem clearer.

As the days heat up and the METARs and TAFs (weather reports) taunt us with forecasts of clouds and rain, the wind has shifted. And blown away the dust and smoke and muck. And all of a sudden, I can see.

I can see the bright greens and spunky browns of the grasses, the deep blues of the lagoons and the shimmering rivers. A vibrant sky with a whisp of white cloud. I can see the Maun hospital from 60km away. Everything seems closer, like I could just reach out and grab it. Everything looks different; was that river always there? Where has that lagoon gone? We’re those trees always that colour? I’ve never seen that place before.

And then, out woof the corner of my eye, a big dark shape. I am snapped out of my zen type state as I bank hard right and a marabou stork flashes past close enough for me to count it’s feathers.
The following users thanked this post: Dustman

Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: September 21, 2017, 07:31:58 am »
1.) Hippo play in the water outside the maun arranged of Machaba lodge. It looked quite fun and I was a little jealous
2.) Pack of wild dog run past the main area
3.) A wild dog carries the stomach of the lechwe to an area away from the others. It was gobbled up within minutes
The following users thanked this post: zetman, tulips, Smidty

Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: September 19, 2017, 07:42:56 am »
Monday, 18 September

07:45 is the take off time for a run to Seronga (40min away) to collect a group for Kasane. We do these flights every week around this time of the year, transporting around 30 people in 4-5 aircraft.

Empty out of Maun, the surface wind is calm but from about 100ft AGL (above ground level), a northerly kicks in at 20kts.
The temperature on the ground was already 21 by that time of the morning, and as I climb through 5500ft, it rises a few degrees; an inversion layer, where all the heat and smoke and muck is sitting. And the layer extends to about 10 000ft (okay, I might be exaggerating, but at FL085, about 8700ft altitude, the visibility was still bad and the temperature in the mid 20ies).

But it was smooth, so I was complaining.
The wind in Seronga was all over the place, layers about 200ft deep had wind shifts of anything from 20-180degrees, and 5-10kts. Nothing too hectic but enough to keep me on my toes.

Leaving Seronga we fly low level for 20 minutes to offer the clients a scenic. The smoke is so bad I can barely see the horizon. One thing we tell our clients is that it is a scenic flight, not a game flight. Animals aren't guaranteed so they must enjoy the view. Not today. Fortunately the visibility was alright  looking (straight) down, and I found some elephant and buffalo.

Then we settled in for the leg to Kasane over mopane, mopane, and more mopane. Not in the mood to talk to Maun Approach, I stayed below their airspace at FL075, there was a 10kt headwind but it was as smooth as glass, a small price to pay.

Nearing Kasane the visibility got worse and worse. The horizon pretty much disappeared and it was a case of scanning between just left of the aircraft nose, the cockpit instruments, and above the nose (for birds). At about 6nm from the airport I finally found the runway. Later in the day Airlink only found it once they were overhead!

Then it was off to Kwando, about 45min from Kasane. Still fairly smooth, but the temperature was into the 30ies. (By now it was about 11:40)
At one point I looked inside to check the engine instruments, and when I looked back outside literally 2 seconds later everything had disappeared- I had punched into a thick layer of smoke.
It's not a nice feeling suddenly losing all external visual references. I could still see the ground, but had no horizon.

By law we fly under VFR (Visual Flight Rules), but days like today make that very difficult and you have no choice but to rely on instruments to make sure you maintain heading and altitude. I was very grateful to be in the Kodiak with it's digital instruments; they're accurate and build a nice picture for situational awareness.

At Kwando I dropped my clients then hopped to Selinda 10 minutes away to pick up 4 people. On meeting them they sounded South African. Normally I ask "So, where are you from?", but today I just said "You sound very South African!" And smiled.
The 4 looked at each other, and one finally piped up "Er, we're Australian."
"Whoops! Sorry about that! Normally people ask me if I'm Australian and I'm actually South African."


Then it was back to Kasane, drop them off, pick up a big group, and fly them to Khwai an hour away.

Hot and bumpy, the smoke was sitting despite the wind. A day like today is typical of winter and we are lucky we haven't had many, but sjoe, it isn't fun. Our biggest fears are; birds, and losing visual reference and entering a spiral dive. Well, those are my biggest fears at least.

Anyway, I'm writing this from Machaba camp. The guests are out on game drive so I'm sitting out front in the main area watching the hippos wallowing in the river and ... a pack of 9 wilddogs have just run past the front of camp! Woohoo!
Got a ride with the manager to track them and see where they're off to!


Aaaand, I'm back. The dogs followed the river and we found them with a lechwe kill. The guides reckon one dog chased it into the mud on the riverbank, killed it, went to get the rest of the pack, forgot where the kill was, ran through camp, and eventually found the kill again.

The (now) 10 dogs tore it to shreds and there was almost nothing left after 20 minutes. Brutal. I'm glad I didn't see the actual killing- I don't have the stomach for that sort of thing.

Funny how these creatures are such brutal killers in that they will tear their prey apart while it is still alive, but they have such a naffy whine.

Anyhow, it was cool to see. Normally I never see this type of thing on night stops.


Just enjoyed another lovely Machaba dinner, which included cheesecake for dessert. Diet, what's that?!
Now I'm in bed and bugs keep flying into my face, so I'm going to call it a night.

Did 5hrs flying today and got another long day tomorrow! :)
The following users thanked this post: zetman, Smidty

Africa Info & other International Travels / Re: My African Dream
« on: September 12, 2017, 09:57:30 pm »
Sunday, I'm running upstairs to the briefing office to file a flight plan for the changes to my afternoon. One of the ladies who manages tours is there waiting for guests and I stop to say hello.

After the pleasantries she throws out a "I hate being in airports, especially on weekends! It's easy for you- you want to be here, you're used to it!"

And I respond with "I choose to be here!"
But afterwards I realized that I don't choose to be stuck in airports. I love days where I don't have to see Maun or Kasane, and just hop around the Delta.

Nope, I'm not used to it. My life is meant to be spent soaring through the air.

I do love hanging around airfields though.

But even though I don't like hanging around in airports (normally because I'm waiting for clients who tend to be at the back of the queue of 100 people, and my already long day gets another 45 minutes added to it), I do like to watch the people.

It's an ebb and flow of homosapiens.
They come through immigration and are met by a safari company representative, or their pilot.
Names and pleasantries are exchanged.
Tired faces try to understand the flurry of information, older folk lean in closer to hear better over the din, those who don't speak English have pained expressions on their faces as they catch a word here and there.

Eventually you resort to hand signals, and point to their ticket and passport, then the security point to indicate they must go there.

Families with children tend to have more energy and smiles, honeymooners are taking selfies and holding hands, older couples bicker with one another "I told you you had to pack that! Where have you put that! Listen to the man, Tom!", and those whose faces are wrinkled, hair grey, and eyes with many decades of experience are quite content to just sit and read, or take a nap.

Once the clients are through security we meet the next wave, until we have everyone for our flight (1-11 people). Then it's a flurry of bags on our side as we get their luggage checked through, and organize a vehicle to transport everyone to the plane, 700m away.

But first you have to remember which 1-11 faces of the 50+ waiting in the departure lounge belong to you.

On the way to the vehicle they are briefed. They are tired and zoning out. Those who used to fly way back when are all "Look honey! That's the Cessna Caravan!" Those who fly for a living just look but don't talk.
"Folks, when we get to the plane please mind your head- there are lots of things you could walk into! And watch your step! Steel cables run along the ground that you could trip over! Please stand in the shade and we will sort out your luggage!"

Bleary eyes look back, and I get one or two nods of understanding. I'm thinking 'don't tell me I didn't warn you when you get an elevator to the forehead' but I give my most winning smile.

At the plane I jump out and start taking off the tie downs and opening doors so fresh air can flow through. By now it's over 30degC.
The porters arrange the luggage and once everyone has identified their bag, I give them another briefing- how to get into the plane. Yes, they need to be briefed on that.

"Be careful on the steps- they fold up and you can catch your foot. Put your hand luggage on the box in the back! Mind your head as you move through the cabin! When you put your seat belt on, tighten the lap strap first, and then the shoulder straps."

About half listen, and I have to spend time re doing people's seat belts.

By now the plane has turned into a sauna. And tired faces are growing sweaty.

A final briefing- safety information. And telling them that if they use a sick bag, they are to take it with them- a souvenir!
Yes, people leave their used sick bags in the plane. Along with all of their trash.

All in an afternoon's work.
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