Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A day in the life of...

Happy early Valentines day y'all. First things first, if you venture to the bottom of the page, you will see we've added yet another "gadget" to the blog. My miles flown have started to add up quickly! It doesn't hurt though when you get trips that cover over 1,000 miles in a day.Monday my first passenger was a young lady originally from Great Britain, her family now lives in Canada, but she is studying in Scotland, and would be spending 5 months working along side of a university from Japan studying the Bonobo Monkeys, teaching forest conservation, and generally helping improve the living conditions there.

This trip was about as far into the jungle we take the Cessna 182.
The three tiny "pins" from left to right/south to north are Kinshasa, Semendua and Djolu.
I got to the airport early, had the fuel tanks  topped off, and took off for our first fuel stop in Semendua, about an hour and a half flight. After being on the ground 20 minutes, we were off again for Djolu. The flight was just at three hours, including crossing the equator (but there was some cloud cover so I couldn't see the line on the ground like all the maps show). Once we landed, I off loaded her luggage, and prepared the aircraft for my next passenger. Except we had 3 passengers show up. Once was a researcher headed home to Japan, and the two other were medical patients. Unfortunately with the three of them and all their luggage, it was too much weight and I had to inform them one of them would need to stay behind. Once I payed the landing fee ($50...for a grass airstrip, literally in the middle of the 2nd largest jungle in the world) loaded the bags and briefed the passengers, we were off again. This time however, we were racing the sun.

 As a new pilot on the program I have to be on the ground 1 hour before sunset. In essence, I had to cram 9 hours of flying, roughly 30 minutes at each stop along the way into 11 hours of sunlight. It was going to be tight. Then if you subtract the hour of sunlight we burned getting to the airport and readying the aircraft, we were really cutting it close.

The ridiculously vast jungle. Nothing but trees as far as you can imagine.
Oddly enough, we frequently have a tailwind going out AND coming back from Kinshasa. Going east, we try to stay below 5000 feet, and we typically have a few knots of wind on our tail. Coming back west, we attempt to stay above 6000 feet, and we usually will get 5 to 10 knots of tailwind.

Fuel stop at the old MAF base in  Semendua
So I decided to climb. I went up to 10,000 feet and got a nice twenty knot tailwind. We were able to touch down in Semendua about thirty minutes early. After a quick splash of fuel, we were off again. By the time I leveled back off at 10,000 feet, it was getting later in the day and most of the winds had died down. But, almost exactly one hour before sunset, the wheels gently chirped on the broken asphalt at Ndolo, and after offloading passengers, bags, and a little paperwork I was able to go home and spend the evening with my girls.


  1. This is totally fascinating and I learned you assist quite a wide variety of people working in DRC for one reason or the other. Just what is in that dense jungle shown in the photo here? God Bless All. Tom H.

  2. Tom, that photo has trees. Lots and lots of trees. There is a small river going through the picture. Other than that is anyone's guess. Oh, bonobo monkeys are apparently there too.