14 January 2014

To Infinity (and back on a big plane)

A year ago Mercy Air was generously given a Piper Seneca III which we used quite extensively during 2013. The plan from the start though was to sell it and use some of the money to replace one of the engines on our Cessna 310.

Late last year a buyer was found and the process started to ferry the plane to its new home. Turns out the buyer was an airline pilot from Kenya which is four big African countries away from where we are. A trip that even cruising at 300 kph would take two days. We had hoped this would happen in November but paperwork delays meant that in order to deliver it in the 2013 calendar year, we had to travel on 30th and 31st December.

The weather for the days we flew
Due to the weather we had to pre-position the plane at the local international airport a few days prior to the flight and the day we left (at 05:30) the weather wasn't very good at all. In fact we were in cloud and rain for the first hour but then, a bright spot and even a glimpse of the sun and then, blue sky and a requirement for sunglasses.
The obligatory in flight shot.
So apart from the initial clag the first four hour leg from Nelspruit to Blantyre, Malawi was quite uneventful. The turnaround at Blantyre was quick and we were only on the ground for an hour before pointing ourselves north again and setting sail for Dodoma in Tanzania, another four hours away.

We flew along almost all of the eastern shore of Lake Malawi which is huge and equivalent the distance between London to Glasgow.
The Cape McClear Peninsula at the bottom of Lake Malawi
Just as we crossed the border into Tanzania the clouds got a bit more organised and we had to do a bit of dodging.
It's hard to get the scale here but even at 13000 ft many were still towering way above us and the tops were rolling around like naughty boys fighting under a blanket.
Eventually they gave way to a more predictable pattern and we arrived at Dodoma and landed at the airstrip in the middle of town.
Some of the MAF guys had graciously made themselves available during the Christmas break and put us up in a house on their compound which had a swimming pool. Turns out this is an excellent idea in a hot and dusty place.
On the last day of the year we took off for the last time to complete the last Mercy Air flight in the Seneca. Despite this it was still the first time we had flown at 13000 ft and had higher terrain showing on the GPS - the orange and red in the picture below.
This was Kilimanjaro and Meru Peak which were safely about 65 miles away.
What it looked like out of the window.
Kilimanjaro seemingly floating above the vast African plains
How to pass the time on long flights - take another selfie
The last landing followed all the other lasts and the aircraft was delivered to its new owner at Wilson Airport, Nairobi.

Turns out he was still busy with his own day job on New Years Eve but invited us to fly jump seat on his Dash 8-100 that afternoon.
Call it a bus-man's holiday but despite over 10 hours in a little plane the previous two days we jumped at the chance.
We flew down to the coast just south of Mombasa
And back!
We spent a few days in Nairobi while the plane got checked out and the Kenyan paperwork and bank transfer were completed. Then we boarded a half full Kenyan Airways 737-800 for a less than exciting four hour flight back to Johannesburg.

So, our little adventure involved 1770 miles (2850 km) which is enough to get you from London to well past Moscow or very almost from the UK to Canada.

Thank you

Mercy Air team