I’m not sure why I was looking at Bush Pilot training courses about a year ago, probably I was just bored on a Friday afternoon. In any case I suppose the reason is now irrelevant as history shows that I found the ‘Sky Africa’ website (http://skyafrica.com/what-we-do/bush-pilot-training/ ) and thought that here was something fun that I could try, particularly given the strength of Sterling vs the South African Rand. Here was a real adventure holiday on a different continent where I could improve my flying skill, learn new trick as see some fantastic wildlife. I mentioned the course to Alex Guild and he agreed to join me for the trip. My intention was to fly the Cessna 182 but due to this being unavailable I chose the Cessna 172 ZS-OHK as my mount for the trip; Alex would fly a Pa28-235 ZS-DYX which would have a 100hp more than my 172.
We took the KLM flight from Aberdeen to Schipol and then onwards to Johannesburg on 22 September arriving at OR Tambo International at 2200. Sky Africa had booked us into the Birchwood Hotel complex (rather pleasant) which is near the airport and it was just 200 Rand (£9) to get a taxi to the hotel where our 1st priority was a couple of beers. A text from Sky Africa sent to Alex told us that Clemens Maly would collect us at 0900 and take us to Brakpan for the start of our course. We would be in the hotel for 2 nights before flying to Kunkuru on the 25 September.
Next morning, Clemens duly collected us; we were to find out later in the week that he was also an excellent pilot as well as a taxi driver! It would be Clemens who would do most of the airfield briefing, with Tony Kent going over Forced and Precautionary Landings the notes of which are below
- Brakpan 122.7
- Springs 122.4
- JHB ATIS 126.2
- JHB INFO 119.5
- Safety Comm Equivalent 124.8
- Low Level 124.8
- Unmanned Airfield 124.8
- GF Areas 124.2
- Chat 123.4
Airfield FABB Brakpan
- All Ccts to EAST - RW 36 Rt Hand Cct; 18 LH
- AF Height 5300ft
- Cct Height 700ft AGL on JHB QNH
- Mag Var 18.5W
- All departures and arrivals 6000ft on JHB QNH
- Must be SSR equipped
- No manned tower
- All comms ac to ac 122.7
- Flight test - East Rand Trg Area
- Departures to East (Jan Smuts Dam) or South (Ergo Slimes Dam) Only
- RW 18 climb to 6000ft and route dct to Eastern Side of ERGO
- RW 36 Rt turn to downwind 6000ft off down
- RW 36 RH Cct to Downwind then route dct Jan Smuts Dam
- RW 18 LH Cct to Downwind then route Dct Jan Smuts Dam
- Call inbound at ERGO on 122.7 aim for hangers remain clear of 36 Final
- Call Inbound on 122.7 at Jan Smuts Dam after handover form JHB Info (119.5)
Intentions (e.g East Rand Trg Area)
No Semi Circular Rule - instead North Track 7500ft; South 7000ft; Unable 6500ft or below
SA Air Law'Blue System'
CAA Regs 2011
Min Heights over Built Up Areas or Open Air Assy (200+ ppl) 1000ft Vertically 2000 ft Horizontally except T/O and Landing
- <1000 ft agl clear of ground and cloud
- >1000 ft agl viz >5k 2000ft horizantally and 500 ft vertical separation from cloud
- No VFR on top
- Flight above 3/8 or more prohibited
- IMC Extremely dangerous without weather radar
- Instruments Required - Magnetic Compass; Accurate timepiece; Altimeter ; ASI
High ALtitude Ops
Props and Wings Less Efficient
LEAN - LEAN - LEAN
Start Up Leaning:
- Engine Start
- Check Oil Px
- Mixture Rich
- RPM 2000
- Carb Heat Check
- Lean gently until max RPM
- Rich slightly approx 3 full turns
- Long Ground Run
- Feels Uncomfortable
- DON'T PANIC
- You Have Runway - USE IT
- Use Ground Effect
Options (you have time so use it):
- Fallow Field
- Reaped Field
- Planted Field
- Ploughed Field
- Open Field
Flight 1:42 in ZS-OHK Local Area - ERGO - East Rand TA - Steep Turns - Stalls - Incipient Spins - Forced Landing - Precautionary Landing - Dalmass - Lakes - FABB Join Downwind 6000' - 2 x CctsDinner this night was a Geronimo burger in Highflyerz - an aviation themed pub attached to the hotel that was to become a favourite.
Day 2 - 24 September
In the afternoon a Braii (sic) was held on the roof of the Ops building. As I had flown early I did eventually get a lift back to Birchwood after dark in Got lift back in Glen's Jaloppy - a true experience of AfricaOur second night at Birchwood was spent mostly in trying to find 2 Rand (0.09p) coins for the washing machine – Alex’s OCD had kicked in and he wasn’t going to go into the bush unless he had done some laundry 1st. The trouble was that the 2R coin that was required for the washing machine was a little rare. The Hotel had none as it had been a public holiday and they had no bank run that day. After 2 hours of wandering from place to place we eventually entered Highflyerz just before closing time, got a beer each and at last a handful of 2Rs. Back at the hotel I handed my dirty clothes to Alex and went to bed. He stayed up past midnight to get the clothes cleaned but his personal crisis passed
Friday 25 September
FreewayFrom Brits it was just a 10 minute hop to Kunkuru where I think the powerlines on the approach to 05 led to me coming in too high and then flaring high but OK. OHK was parked for the night and once the other ac arrived and were put to bed we clambered aboard the Landcruiser for the short drive to Kunkuru lodge where cold Windhoek soon proved popular and we were shown to our accommodation for the next few days. A briefing for tomorrow’s flying was held at 1800 which was followed by dinner and more Windhoek.
Saturday 26 SeptemberAfter a good night’s sleep, interrupted only by roaring of the Lodge’s resident Lions, I awoke at 0600. Oddly this roaring was not that disturbing to my sleep, perhaps it being a natural sound it did not keep me unduly awake or perhaps my lodge was further from the Lion enclosure than that of the others meant it wasn’t as loud for me as for the others! After a fine breakfast we drove up to the strip for a soft field take off on 23 . Flap to 20 and stick right back , once airborne unstall the wing and keep nose just off the runway, flap 10 and allow to accelerate in ground effect at 65kts gently climb away. This one was a good one. From now on most touch and goes would be short field (0 flap until 55kts then 10 flap , rotate accelerate in ground effect to 70 kts and climb away at 65. All future take offs from Kunkuru would be soft field though the last one would be somewhat twitchy as we hit turbulence on take-off – more later
MabalingweSand Rivier at 3250’ amsl is a sand strip. Here I did a Medium (500ft) and low (50ft) level inspection plus 2 x Touch and Goes both nice. 15 minutes later we were repeating the exercise at Zebra – a grass strip hidden in trees, this time for a single Touch and Go. Then it was on to the most exciting strip of the day Mabalingwe on the way there an eagle took evasive action on us an disappeared in a steep dive below our starboard wing
Mabalingwe is a game reserve and the landing strip is the access road to the reserve. The road is only 5 metres wide and would be the narrowest we would land on all week. OHK was the 1st to arrive (EGP had already gone on ahead) so it was our job to stop the traffic by flying low over the gatehouses at each end of the strip. There is only one way in and out of Mabalingwe so I landed uphill on 04 (not that the runway had any markings!) and taxied to the end of the road to await the arrival of the 2 Pa28s. These duly landed and we all then took off, in reverse order downhill on 22 and set course for Thabazimbi.
ThabazimbiBecause of the mountains, there are no circuits to the north at Thabazimba. Disconcertingly howver there are also mountains to the south as the airfield is in a valley. Wanting to stay well clear of the hillside to the south I turned in too early on the 1st approach and seemed to be descending at idle ofr ages before getting to the correct height for the approach, all week Glen would be telling me to get lower so I seem to have got in some bad habits. Disconcertingly also there are houses on finals (as indeed there are at Brakpan) that cause turbulence. The 2nd approach was better as I extended downwind for longer but still OHK seemed to have a great glide ratio.
Refuelled at HaakdoringNext stop was our fuelling point at Haakdoring. For the life of me both this day and Wednesday I could not see the strip (a dirt one) from above. Glen pointed me in the right direction but it was only by following the flightpath of a formation of 2 helicopters also inbound to Haakdoring that I was able to locate it. Turning finals it was easy to see as the landmark of a large haystack was just to the right of short finals. We were the last ac in so trundled up to the fuel point and filled immediately. Haakdoring is a farm strip but it also has a flight school and excellent classroom facilities where I was able to get a drink of water (the temperature was now around 35C). In the hanger there were 3 helicopters, a C182 and a large Crop-sprayer. In the garden there was a pet Kudu and impala! I liked Haakdoring.
Sunday 27 September
Shona LangaAnother soft field take off started the day as we headed north East towards Klipvoordam and then turning north on a Navex to the airfield (where we did not have permission to land, at Sunset Ranch. Form here it was almost directly east onto Shona Langa for a low level inspection and a couple of touch and goes. The plan was to carry out square searches for any airfield not found but today my navigation was fine so generally I was hitting the strips too accurately to need to do a square search, Nevertheless the technique was briefed by Tony before the flight and is useful to know:
KrokodilkraalGetting airborne from Kromdraai I had little time to collect my thoughts as it was only 4 minutes to the next strip – Mawala. Here I landed long and thought about a full stop but Glen encouraged me to keep going and selecting 10 flap at 55kts we easily cleared the obstacles at the end of the runway. Again it was a short hop to the next strip Krokodilkraal a 1000m of gravel for 2 more circuits and then lifting an a 5km hop across to Karoobult (800m of grass) for a further 2 touchand goes. The reward for this intense work was a 15 minute low level (<100ft) flight with the occasional 60 degree angle of bank along the Krokodil River to our next strip at Vaalkop and then on for a final 3 circuits at Beestekraal (850 m of gravel and with 2 fish eagles on the approach after a procedure turnn) and then getting down to 50 ft for a flight along the length of Roiknoppiesdam before climbing at the end to over 1000ft to get a good view of the Crocodile farm at the Dam’s southern end. For the middle part of the day’s flying there had been a lot of navigation and time to think but all of this last piece from Kromdraai onwards had been intensely busy and enjoyable. I t was however a relief to head off to Brits to refuel and grab a coke before the return to Kunkuru where a late lunch was most welcome.
Monday 28 September
Tuesday 29 SeptemberToday was a day off but and although there was plenty of time to relax today we were not idle. After breakfast at 0700 we piled into the Landcruiser to follow the farmhands to watch the feeding of the prize Buffalo, a couple of herds of which were kept on the farm. Buffalo are one of the so-called big five (the others are Lion; Leopard; Hippo and Rhino) that are labelled as the most dangerous animals to hunters. On the way back to the lodge we saw a large male baboon. Sadly these are not welcomed on the farm as they attack the prize animals so they are often shot – though none of us were armed.
Tonight at dinner a Violin Spider crawled up the side of the table leg. This, one of only 3 really poisonous spiders in South Africa, was captured in a glass by Glen who then released it away from the lodges. The bite of this spider causes severe tissue necrosis so Glen was being more humane than I would have expected of him
Wednesday 30 SeptOn this morning’s soft field take-off I applied all of the correct techniques but OHK did not want to climb and we struggled away at just 55kts over the trees. Both Glen and I were mystified by the lack of performance and could only conclude that we had been affected by turbulence (today was the only one with any wind - this was to get up to Northerly gusts of over 30kts in the next couple of hours).
Well that was us. We would have a night at the Birchwood and another Geronimo Burger at Highflyerz for dinner. Glen had kindly agreed to pick us up in the morning where we would find a fully fuelled and serviced OHK for our trip to the Kruger.
Total flying for the day 2hrs 12 minsThursday
1 OctoberToday we were off to the Kapama River Lodge in the Kruger National Park. This was the only lodge with spare rooms that Jana could find so it was expensive (for Africa) but it was superbly opulent! All food was included and there was a structured programme, including an 0500 wake up call for the morning game drive but I’m getting ahead of myself.
First we had to get away from Brakpan and OHK wasn’t quite ready when we got there. Our earlier high oil temperature readings had caused Bernard (the Engineering Manager ) an overnight headache and he had had the gauge replaced by an electronic ine which was still being fitted as we arrived. Alex and I decided that I would fly the leg to Hoetsprit and Alex would fly the return leg.
Kapama had sent out a ranger to collect us and we were soon on the way to the lodge. Our ranger gave us the best tip of the day – ‘have your camera out and always switched on’. Even on the way to the lodge we had great views of Giraffe just wandering on the road. We were greeted at the lodge and given the low-down (meal times; Ranger’s name; Time of the Game Drive and Dinner etc) most efficiently before booking in and shown to our extremely opulent rooms.
Dinner was back at the Lodge where we ate with the others in Chanee’s care a feast that included Butternut soup; impala pie and ice cream as well as a very good S African Wine. Eventually we retired late after a couple of beers in the bar.
Friday 2 October0500 the phone rings. ‘Good morning sir its time to get up’. Bleary eyed I quickly showered, gave Alex a shout and we headed to the dining area where coffee, tea and fruit juices were being served along with croissants and muffins (breakfast would be at 0900 after our morning game drive). Once again Chanee took us under her wing and we once again went in search of game. We never found a leopard but this morning we were lucky enough to see a pride of lionesses within 10 feet of us. Apparently the animals see the Landcruiser and its passengers as one big animal and not as lunch – step off the vehicle however and you’re in a whole heap of trouble!
Breakfast was served after the game drive and was, like all the food excellent. We had a couple of extra coffees but for us our time at the Kruger was over and at 1100 we were on our way back to the airport. This time Alex was the pilot so I did the navigation and radios. Our route out was slightly different than the one in as we followed the Olliphant River as far Groblersdal. Here we were able to offer support to Jo’burg ATC by relaying a radio message to an ac inbound to Middleburg. Alex landed at Brakpan at 1430 and our African adventure was over. All there was left to do was to get back to Highflyerz for a Geronimo Burger, lots of Windhoek and Some live music. It was a great pleasure to have the company of Clemens that evening as he arrived to say cheerio and somehow we ended up drinking Whisky and proceeding downstairs to the nightclub.
Saturday 3 October
C172 ZS-OHK – P1 Self; Safety Pilot Glen Price
C152 ZS-EGP – P1 Heyo; Safety Pilot Dr Philip
Pa28-235 ZS-DYX – P1 Alex Guild; Safety Pilot Tony Kent; Pax Ken
Pa28-235 ZS-FHA – P1 Dan; Safety Pilot Clemens Maly; Pax Jan and Bea
Many thanks to Sky Africa for a wonderful trip and in particular to Glen for his perseverance and good humour putting up with me.
Check out the Flipagram I made at https://flipagram.com/f/i5RbYrBh2I