Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Pilatus PC12

This machine is a perfect mix of a general aviation aircraft and a corporate jet plane. 
Its ability to take off at full capacity from a rough airstrip with 4h30 of fuel endurance, climb to FL280 in less than 20 minutes and cruise at a speed of 240 kts is beyond any wish of a bush pilot. The ideal commuter for the national parcs to the main cities like Arusha or Dar es Salaam. With a 9 seats configuration it takes off with 30degree of flaps at around 60kts, really impressive...

Pilatus landing
The classic run for this schedulde take you from Dar es salaam at around 8h40 (African time) to Msembe, in the Ruaha Parc, 264Nm in 1h17. Then it continues to Dodoma eventualy (the central capital where there is not much happening). A quick stop over and off it goes to Arusha, the gate of the Serengeti, where people get their corresondances to lodges in a Cessna Caravan.

Cessna Caravan in Arusha
After a quick lunch and the Pilatus refilled with some 1700 lbs of JetA1, the flight goes back to Dar es Salaam via the Ruaha national parc again and possibly a few airstrip on the way. A day with 6 sectors is routine, a nice challenge when conducting single pilot operation.
The shortest leg is a connection between Jongomero and Msembe in Ruaha, 22 nm in 9min, a rocket climb to the top of descent. Nice & low flying over the river with a low wing airplane is unfrtunatly not that fun...

Fabulous PC12
A proper rate of climb at full weight can reach 1800ft/min till FL180 then it reduce progressivly to finish with 600ft/min before reaching FL280. Once up there, an average of 243 kts of groundspeed carry you smoothly to the top of descent, 1800ft/min to keep a 200kts indicated max when entering below 10 000 feet...it can shake quite strongly specially in Dodoma. Power cannot be reduce too much, it provides bleed air for pressurisation of the cabin so the only way to slow down when indicated airspeed reach 200kts is to reduce the descent rate, leading to a steeper & fast approach...a 3,6degree angle of descent in no wind condition sounds right, groundspeeds can reach up to 300kts with a bit of tailwind...

A quick overhead to check out the field condition, most of the time you land and take off on the convenient runway, due to some hill on one side, a slope gradient, or the apron location (Jongomero airstrip is curved on a hill top), the wind is generaly calm but becomes relevant when parking the plane, facing the light wind cools down the engine better during a 10 minutes turn around.

Pilatus Cruising
A proper final configuration is maintain with the use of the AOA indicator (Angle of Attack), this indicate you the angle of the airflow at the wing leading hedge. The overall trick for this plane is to set the power in advance according to the weight (pax + fuel left) and bring the all wheels & flaps down machine at approx 85 kts for a smooth & short landing. Using full reverse until a cloud of dust starts appearing, then full beta...just the the time to switch the avionics, pressu, lights & both generators off and the parking break is set, mixture cutoff & the prop inhibitor pressed (avoid picking up stones/particules during blade feathering).
Only after you opened the door, you notice the few giraffe and elephants standing in peace, eating some trees.

A charter here or there for fortunate guest to hunting reserve, the longest trip you can take from here is a 6h30 flight to reach Johannesburg, Victoria Falls is only 4h40 away...
Pilatus in Dar

A classic bush story

First thing that can strike you when you do bush flying in Africa...it's the wildlife!

Unusual in most airfield of the world, the go around because of giraffe runway incursion becomes a classic to tell your fellow at beer o'clock.
The Selous game reserve and Ruaha national parc are full of surprise, everyday you hope for lions and from times to times it's a giraffe, majestically standing in the middle of your landing strip, staring at you noisy bird, coming for landing, full flashing lights on...the flaps go up to 15 degree, the lever smoothly increased for delivering half of the power, sufficient enough to lift us again, making a fly by obvious to communicate with the unwelcomed intruder. Some times it's elephant or zebras close by, but the trophy goes to the giraffe which doesn't get afraid at all of an airplane diving towards her...

giraffe incursion

Tembo on the air side
It's often that impalas are standing by the treshold of the strip in Ruaha, they can be chilling aside or on the runway in front of you, as soon as they get scared, they start running away and some towards your path, following the rest of the group, the last one crossed in a magnificient jump and almost ended up in my prop.
Some of the birds are pretty impressive too, especially when they are circling in a flock at 500 feet on final, the plane goes up cause the birds goes down.

Airstrip in Msembe, Ruaha
*Even if the runway is long and spacious, full reverse is a usefull trick when landing in a open zoo, to get the slowest taxi speed rapidly, being able to adjust moderate breaking...in case!

Tanzanian way of flying

Welcome on board to all travelers of the world.
Tanzanian national parcs, Zanzibar and the Kilimandjaro offers one of the greatest flying in Africa
 I'll try to bring you along with some nice stories of a bush pilot way of life.
"Ladies and gentleman, please fasten your seatbelt & enjoy the ride"

Wildlife of Africa
Another day in paradise just rise up this morning, hello blue sky, today i am off duty so wont come disturb your peace. This is how it feels living the dream in Africa, bush flying is an addictive job, what else than reaching the clouds tops to take a glimpse at the birds eyes after breakfeast.

Flying around here is accessible for pilot with luck, experience on Cessna Caravan mainly and around 1000hrs TT. There are many companies offering charters and scheduld flights with C208, Let 410 and ATR 42, the main traffic being between Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar and Arusha with the interesting bush airstrip in the Serengeti, Ruaha national parc and the Selous Reserve.

Pilatus PC12 on climb to FL280
The bush machine in Dar is the Swiss made, fast & comfortable, state of the art Pilatus PC12. With its 9 pax commuter configuration and its Pratt&Whitney PT6 turbine engine, providing incredible performances.

There are mainly Cessna Caravan here which is the perfect truck for linking small cities and lodges.

Operations managers like to hire people with extra skills (IT, design, logistics), as everything is to be improved, all skills and experiences are welcome.

To start in bush flying,  Botswana & Namibia offers Cessna 206, Cessna 210 and Caravan jobs. There are loads of europeans tourists and if you manage a bit in German, French, Spanish or Italian, the chance to get a job increase. well, it's all about being at the right place at the right time anyway...

From the flying school to the mystic Cessna 210 there is a leap to take...because sending email & CV is almost but not enough to get the job, pack up the usefull stuff before moving, you hope for the best but prepared for the worst.

Times fly and so do I now, last week I took off after sunrise, direction south along the coast to reach Pemba in Mocambique. 2h along the coast of Tanzania, over the archipelago of Songo Songo, a morning ride at 28000 feet as a bliss for the day. All come to a good end for those who wait...
The Indian Ocean in the morning sun