Captain’s Log-16 November 2010-Airstrip Rebuild & Big Heicopters

Ovening Up Aba Again- Lots of interested people

Today I went to Aba to open the airstrip that has been closed for a few years because of big ruts and tall grass and a very long time of no maintenance.  Last time I went in there people ran around quickly taking down the Goal Posts for the football pitch that had taken over the center section before I landed.  I had to give away 300 meters at the bottom of the hill and at the top of the strip the grass was quite long where I usually turned around, so as people gathered around the plane I asked them to cut the grass back so I could have a bit more length for the takeoff.  All of a sudden in the crowd of people there was yelling and jumping and one guy swung his machete.  I went over to try to save the snake that was surely there.  But all I found was a piece of a tail about 8 inches long.  It obviously belonged to a black mamba!  I was very happy not to get a closer look.  They are usually very aggressive snakes and the most poisonous in Africa.

But today the strip looked great.  It was wide and long and cleared off right down to the dirt.  It had been surfaced with some gravely type of stuff called marum and looked like no problem at all.  I ran down the runway to take a good look at the surface.  There were still rough bits on the edges and I was very up and down….Well, actually down and then up and then down again so on a takeoff you can not see the back half of the runway.

Pastors Prayer Blessing the New Airstrip

Pastors Prayer Blessing the new Airstrip

After landing I turned around and hundreds of people gathered around to see the plane.  The local pastor prayed for the strip to be blessed.  All around it was a very interesting scene.  I took a motorcycle the length of the strip and marked it at 1000 meters.  Not bad.

Big MI-26 in Faradje after Big Dust Storm

We flew over to Faradje from there and as I approached the airstrip a huge MI-26 Russian helicopter came in from the other direction.  I landed first and pulled off the runway as far as I possibly could but it didn’t feel far enough so I motioned to the Landcruiser there to please move out of the way and I circled around again to get even further off.  The MI-26 was heavily loaded so had to make a running landing.  As he came closer to the ground the whole area was enveloped in dust in the biggest swirl I had ever seen made.  Only the nose was sticking out and it was all coming my way.   I reached for my camera as it came closer.  Even though it was not as great a picture as earlier, it was still impressive.  I had a nice chat with the pilots and then another helicopter, an MI-8, landed making another great dust storm and completely blocked my departure so I stayed a bit longer and got a nice tour of the MI-26.

MI-8 Landing at Faradje

MI-8 taking off over me

It was a very nice day at the office.

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