The season is in full swing and the last couple of days has been busy. Ask any pilot and they will always be excited to visit a new airfield. Different scenery, different scenario, new challenges are always welcome. Some of the airfields that I visited in the last couple of days here in eastern Zambia are Mwanya where I am based, Kapamba, Jeki, Mpika, Shiwa Ngandu, Luawata, Mwaleshi, Royal and the international airports Mfuwe and Kenneth Kaunda in Lusaka.
July the 1st, the busiest day yet. I was scheduled to shuttle three loads of passengers from Mfuwe to Mpika. It takes roughly 45 min one way, so in total, I had 7 legs (Mwanya – Mfuwe in the beginning and Mpika – Mwanya at the end). Mpika is a small town situated on the escarpment to the North West of Mfuwe. It was fascinating flying over the escarpment which is a steep 2200ft drop into the Luangwa Valley. This big difference in elevation creates different climates. At the top it is cool (generally 2 degrees Celsius cooler per 1000ft), windy and dense forest and at the bottom, it is warm, without a breeze and much less dense forest.
The airfield at Mpika was an interesting one. The imagery date of google earth is of 2012 and now looks very different. It has roads that pass through it and the runway itself was being used as a road. It is not well maintained or maintained at all and one of the previous pilots had a puncture there, so I was on high alert to not taxi over any plants. It felt like landing on a road, luckily one without cars. The village dogs, however, crossed as I landed and also chased the aeroplane as I taxied to the drop off point!
All in all the day was a great success and ended with a much-needed sundowner at the crossing point with thesafarisisters of Shenton Safaris.
The next day was also busy, this time two loads of hunters from Shiwa Ngandu on the escarpment to Luawata on the Luangwa river. I was pleasantly surprised by the scenery at Shiwa. The runway is surrounded by dense forest and plenty of tall Savanna trees which gives a true African feel to it. The runway is 1 km long, but being at 4850ft elevation, it goes by quickly when you have big trees to clear. Nothing the mighty C210 can’t handle.
In conclusion, I managed to upload this video of crossing the Mwaleshi river from one of my previous posts. Videos are unfortunately too bandwidth intensive to upload from the bush. Until next time, cheers!