Monday, February 25, 2013

This Is Africa

It seems that as time goes by the days are starting earlier and earlier.  6:30am has become "sleeping in", and 5:30 happens almost every day that I fly.  Then, on one Sunday morning a few weeks ago, my alarm clock started beeping at me at 4:00am.  Oy.

Half an hour later my taxi arrived, and I was off to Entebbe International Airport.  My final destination of the day was the Touch of Africa lodge, located just outside the back entrance to Lanseria International Airport in South Africa.  The South African Airways flight to Johannesburg was uneventful, and around noon I found myself walking through the doorway to the room that would be my home for the next two weeks.  After a short nap I was feeling almost as good as new, and ready-ish for the adventure that awaited.

Lanseria International was the setting of the next big step in my MAF journey.  MAF has a training base set up at that location, and I was there to do some more flight training.  After nine months of flying the Cessna 206 it was now time for me to move on to the larger, more powerful Cessna 208B (Caravan) aircraft.  A much bigger plane, a different engine, much more power; all of these things call for specialized training, and I was there to receive that training. 

Over the course of the next two weeks I learned more and more about this fantastic airplane.  Day one was entirely ground school, and on that first day it was all about the Pratt & Whitney PT6 turbine engine.  I still smile inside when I stop to think that for the next while I will be sitting behind one of the most reliable aircraft engines ever made, and that it was made in Canada.  It's an incredible piece of technology, and I'm excited to finally fly an airplane that utilizes one.  Day two saw us driving down the road to Pretoria, where the simulator was located.  This particular simulator is made out of a crashed Caravan airframe, so everything in it is exactly true to life.  It is very useful for a pilot who is just starting out in this aircraft, as things like the start-up sequence, checklist usage, and emergencies can all be simulated very accurately.  It was a great training aid.

Thursday morning was a big day for me.  Arriving at the airport at 8:00am, I did the pre-flight inspection of the aircraft and finally climbed the steps up and into the left seat.  Starting up the real airplane was a little bit more intimidating than it was in the simulator, as down inside my head was the knowledge that if I messed this up, the price tag on a mistake was astronomical.  Everything went well, and several minutes later I was in position at the end of the runway, anticipating my take-off clearance.  It came.  As I slowly eased the power lever forward I felt power surge through the airplane, pushing me back into my seat.  I slowly pulled back on the yoke, and softly, gracefully, three metric tonnes of metal lifted off the ground and into the clear blue skies.  It was a perfect day for flying, and the flight went very, very well.  The picture above was taken at the small airport that was the sight of my first landing.  It was a good day.

The rest of my time in South Africa went by very quickly, full of fun and full of hard work.  Before I knew it I was back on South African Airways, winging my way northward towards Uganda.  My first Monday back here in Uganda I flew again, my first flight here in the Caravan.  It was my base check (kind of a mini flight test) and although it wasn't perfect, I still felt that I did very well.  Since that day I haven't flown again.  MAF policy dictates that when a pilot learns a new aircraft type, they must only fly that airplane for the next several hundred flight hours.  This is to avoid confusion between checklists, procedures, and other differences between airplanes.  Also, up to this point I have been able to fly the Caravan because I have been sitting under the tutelage of a flight instructor and I did not require a type rating on my license.  For any future flights, I will need to have the type rating on my license.  I wrote the exam for the rating about three and a half weeks ago, and I have yet to receive the results of the exam.  When the exam results do come in (positive, of course), they will begin to process my application for a type rating.  When they are ready to put it on my license, they will phone me and have me bring in my license so that they can add the typing and rubber stamp the rating on my existing license.  Hopefully this will only take a couple more days.  After this happens I will finally be able to fly again. 

I have to say that I'm really looking forward to flying the Caravans operationally.  It will mean that I will be able to help more people to get from "A" to "B" in one day, and during the busy summer months it will be great for MAF Uganda to have one more Caravan pilot at it's disposal.  Thanks once again for your prayers.  Please continue to pray for safety as I learn this airplane, and then as I begin operational flying and continue to serve many of the people in this area.  I look forward to telling more stories once I begin flying again, and have some news of some of the exciting ways that MAF is helping to bring the love of God to east Africa.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Dallas. Very descriptive with a good dash of explanation. I just did my second last flight here in SA - down to Pilanesburg for the VOR approach and back up to Lanseria. Can't believe how quickly the two weeks went. You must be missing the Caravan. Hopefully you're able to do more ride-alongs and that who ever you're with is letting you do some of the work. Not looking forward to possibly having to wait the same 3 weeks. But perhaps I won't have to since I'm not trying to get a Uganda licence endorsed? See you all soon.