News: 17 Sep 2010, Kervan Saray












The film crew wanted takeoffs, landings, and flybys as viewed from Raff's dive boat. The wind was perfect the day we arrived, and the day I took Raff for a ride. As soon as the film crew turned up it turned a bit to the south east which meant I had an offshore wind, difficult to take off in, at least with Matthius on board, and the tide is conspiring to only let me take off later and later when it becomes more windy.

To complicate matters, there's been some crisis with onward shipping to Mauritius, the cruise ship has definitely vanished but there's a ship going that way in a few days time. This means I may have to go back to Dar es Salaam quite soon and miss out Chumbe island, which is, if you recall, where we pretended we were at the beginning of the film, but we're not actually going to until the end, when I have that problem with the nosewheel not coming down and must land there rather than at Zanzibar airport.

While travelling here on the vomit ship and the long hot car ride to Kervan Saray Lodge they'd obviously been thinking about this, and now they want me to land at Tembe, a fishing village about ten miles away from here in a big inlet on the other side of the island, and have that nosewheel problem there. I'm to pull into the beach, take the wing off, and an Ox cart will tow the fib through the village 'up a nice sandy road' to a suitably native repair shop where I can fix the FIB with their big hammer.

What is this fixation by film makers with Ox carts? They wanted to do this in Cabo Verde too. It didn't work out then, I somehow doubted it would work out here too, Raff suggested they could borrow his ox-cart man and we could do it here, but that was rejected as not scenic enough. My first flight was to see what it was like taking off in this different wind, and go and have a look at Tembe.

Crosswind takeoff in a lee wind was as dodgy as I had expected, but I was off eventually. It took ages to get there around the coast, 20 Kts on the ground. At least the beach at Tembe was oriented quite well with this new wind but there were hundreds of Dhows moored there, only one place where I could pull into the beach. I returned cross-country quite a lot higher and faster to Kervan Saray Lodge to report, there were a few football grounds and swampy open spaces I could land in, I don't like flying low over vast areas of palm trees much, they're awfully tall, a long way down if you've hit one.

On the way back I had a look at the big lagoon a couple of miles south where I thought I might have an good into-wind takeoff two-up. Fine apart from no beaches at all, all mangroves. I thought we might be able to get Matteius on-board for the two-seat shots from the RIB in the middle of the lagoon.

They wanted some shots of me flying solo anyway, so once they had eventually all got onto Raff's dive boat I took off to do it, definitely not a place for taking off two up today. I did a whole lot of close fly-bys, a bit of a moment when in a very mild turn I realized the wintip was only a couple of feet off the water; remember this is not a GT450, I was a bit more conservative after that.

In the middle of the lagoon, getting Matthias into the FIB was easier than I'd expected, perhaps because Raff knows what he's doing and let me stay facing into wind while we closed gently. Originally I'd thought it would be a good idea to keep the engine running but when we were a few feet away I thought better of it and switched off. Matteius leapt aboard, I shouted at him to hang on to his intercom lead, fired the engine up and accelerated to take off. On rather smooth water it was rather a long one, but we got off eventually, as a reasonable height I plugged him in so we could talk.

The film crew complained later that our fly bys weren't as impressive. I came as close but didn't turn as steeply away. I tried to explain that it was something like the difference between a van and a truck when you're two-up in the FIB, you have to be conservative or I really will have the wingtip in the drink with spectacular consequences (if they got the shot first time - unlikely), but not very condusive to three more episodes with their expensive aircraft, and I most definitely wouldn't 'be able to 'do it again please'. I'm still not sure they completely understand this sort of thing.

Over the radio Raff suggested I fly down a narrow inlet off the lagoon where they could get nice shots of the big forest in the background but it was rather washing-machine-like and I didn't dare go very low. I'm afraid I was rather rude when I was asked to do it again, but lower please. Eventually I said I was getting a bit short of fuel and must go home, the landing back at the lodge in the lee of the island was fine.

I rang Eve to say she should come to the bullfighting tomorrow. Later she replied that nobody in Dar had ever heard of bullfighting on Pemba, was I sure this wasn't some sort of scam? Raff confirmed it was true, she said she would be on the 3:30 Coastal flight, their only one of the day to Pemba. A bit late, but this is Africa; things runs late all the time.

In the evening, it was thought we could do the fake ox cart thing at Tembe and then go to the Bullfighting, starting at two. I had a problem because I couldn't even get going until about 9:30 because of the tide, so Tembe at 10, then I'd have to get the wing off, attach the thing to the ox cart and even if there wasn't a film crew asking me to do it again, and again, it would still all take ages, and then I'd have to get home again (in a gale) and the bullfighting is an hour away from Tembe, quite a lot further by car from our beach. No chance, even if things run really late it still gets dark at 6. It took ages for them to agree, but we're now only going bullfighting tomorrow.

Joint Aviation Services, suppliers of insurances to the expedition
Micro Avionics - Suppliers of pilot intercom and radio equipment to the expedition
Articole Studios - GRP mouldings
SKYDRIVE, the UK Distributor of ROTAX engines
Polaris - manufacturer of the FIB
Cam-ARA - Suppliers of video equipment to the expedition