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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crazy 5000km Helicopter Flight

Mark, that is my son, has been on a few tours to the Sudan late last year and once or twice this year.
He is a commercial Chopper Pilot and is flying Long Rangers as well as Bell HU1's amongst other
types like Bell 407's Robinson R22, R44 etc.
The Helicopters and crew's are supplied by South African Aviation Companies to virtually all African
Countries for a variety of tasks.
In the Sudan, which has almost no roads and the few it has have been beneficiated with land mines, the only
way to go anywhere is by helicopter.
He's job was to take workers and supplies to the oil fields and back amongst other things.
Then the North and South had their much publicized split which culminated in the obligatory
exchange of gunfire and bombs. True to form, nothing new.
So everybody had to get out from there. There was some advance warning so everybody
got out safely. They did not want to leave the choppers behind so someone had to fly them
back to South Africa. Since Mark at that time was on tour he took the Long Ranger, fitted the
ferry tanks and set of for Kampala (Uganda) to have some new Rotor Blades fitted. That took a week.
As he was the only pilot (he had a passenger, one of the fixed wing engineers who also had to get
out) it was up to him to get them and the chopper back safely.
I am going to upload a lot of the flight documentation (flight plans, military clearances etc.)
The first leg was to go across Lake Victoria in a single engine chopper
(a 2 hour flight across water with no floats or life jackets)
into Tanzania, across the well known Serengeti to Mount Kilimanjaro where they spent the night
at the hotel.
A few years earlier one of his class mates was the co-pilot of a plane that crashed into the mountain
a few feet below the summit. As it involved a number of wealthy international tourists the crash made
headlines around the world.
Then further on to Dar Es Salam and then due south along the coastline into Mocambique
re-fueling a number of times along the way. Finally across the South African border at the Kruger Park.
Then the last leg from Kruger Park (Nelspruit Airport) to Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg.
The whole trip lasted 9 days. The flying part alone was 5 days (40 hours). 5000 km exactly.
Lots of red tape on the way as usual when flying in Africa.
Since most choppers do not have an auto pilot all of the flying is done by the pilot. And a chopper
needs to be hand flown from take off to landing. One can lock the throttle, that helps a bit but there is
no lapse of concentration allowed.
As I said I will upload a lot of the documentation which he accumulated. Have already scanned in
most of it. Not many people have the opportunity to go on such an adventure. Flying in Africa is still
a hazardous business due to the sheer size of the continent alone. It is also a very beautiful continent, not
yet dragged into the 20th century, let alone the 21st.
At the moment Mark is in Angola on a 3 month contract. They took 6 choppers up to Luanda
(13 hours flying time). Last time I had an e-mail from him he was taking some ballot boxes
and election officials around.

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Vorna Valley Johannesburg

Vorna Valley Johannesburg
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My Life Philosophy

My Life Philosophy