After a trip back up to Faradje, Auzi, and Aru I was meant to meet the MAF Uganda flight and pick up Eric to fly him out to Epulu and stay overnight to do a survey in the morning. We got all loaded up and taxied out to the end of the runway but as hard as I tried to kick the plane around to line up, I could not get the plane to turn straight to the runway and the right side was dragging. I asked Eric if he could confirm the right tire was OK and he said it was good. But then suddenly he said, “No! It is flat.” We stopped at that weird angle on the end of the runway and after telling the tower I would be on the runway for a bit and calling my MAF guys to come and help, I shut down the engine and got out to look at what had happened. The tire was definitely flat with the valve stem ripped off. There was also a small hole in the tire. As I was thinking how glad I was that this had not happened on landing at Epulu the UN Ops guys drove up said they had a DeHavilland Dash 8 on the way from Entebbe and I would need to get the plane off the runway as soon as I could.
Dave J. was on his way from Dungu in our Caravan and suggested over the radio that I take a tire off our other C-206 so we could move it. A good idea. I got a ride with the UN down to the ramp, where our other plane was, while one of our guys, Jean, went to Dave’s house to get the jack and some tools. It’s easy to get the tire off the left side of CUI because there is a step on that side, but getting the flat one off CMY was a bit more of a challenge. Jerry-rigging finally done, we got the good tire on CMY and were able to taxi back to the ramp, although too late to take our flight. So with Eric we had another guest for the night and, after a great supper, got some sleep before an early departure to catch up on the previous day’s work.
Epulu is always interesting and, since I was there anyway, it was arranged that I would take a short survey flight in the south of the park. The militias are ramping up again in the area and they had burned houses and looted one of the stations on the boundary. The Congolese Army had come down to help and, with game scouts, were busy tracking them down. It started to rain just as I put the day’s co-ordinates in the GPS so it was an hour before we got in the air. Although rain was around, it was a great day to fly, cooler and better visibility than usual. After a couple of hours of flying the river boundaries over the beautiful Ituri forest we were back at Epulu. A very nice “day off”. A lovely day at the office.
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