News: 20 Sep 2010, Zanzibar again







Raff and Ciska left Kervan Saray lodge early morning, Raff to go to Indonesia or somewhere, Ciska to do business in Dar, the film crew to Tembe to arrange ox-carts and film me arriving there. I had to wait until about 10:30 because of the tide. Already quite late, with the risk of a wind appearing.

Remember, I might have to leave almost immediately to go to Dar so the FIB can be loaded onto a ship to go to Mauritius, this will mean I'll miss out Chumbe where the script says we start the expedition by me being unable to lower my nosewheel so I have to divert to Chumbe and I first meet Matthias. This emergency plan is therefore for me to land at Tembe with the same problem and an ox-cart will tow it through the village to be fixed by the bicycle repair man.

Of course there's nothing wrong with the FIB and the nosewheel is so simple I'm struggling to think of what sort of problem I can have with it, but I expected something will present itself.

I took off, and had a rather slow ride into wind over to Tembe. When I arrived, word had obviously got around that something unusual was going to happen because there was already a crowd and I could see many more people running to the beach from far and wide as I circled round.

The wind was quite strong but perfectly aligned with the beach and because it's in a big bay, no waves to speak of. I landed and taxied in to be immediately surrounded by a huge crowd of excited people. I was most worried that someone would be burnt by the hot exhaust pipe. I recruited a few assistants to pull the FIB, or 'Ndege-boot' as it is called in Swahili (Ndege = bird, boot = any kind of boat other than a Dhow) up onto the beach a bit.

Once the crew had got a lot of good shots I was instructed to do a takeoff and landing with Matthias. The other news was that Mzee, the village elder, had told someone the wind would get a lot stronger later, so for once the crew were quite keen to get on with things so I could get the FIB back to Kervan Saray before I could no longer take off. Best of all, the silly ox-cart scene had been abandoned, just as well, because with all these people it was obviously going to take hours to do and would have been a horrible fake all along.

I did several circuits around the bay with Matthias for the benefit of the crowd and the cameras. I'm told it the crowd thought it all very exciting and there was a terrific cheer the moment we got airborne.

Back on the beach, again surrounded again by the crowd, it was becoming clear the wind was increasing so I was keen to fly while I still could. Matthias was going to come with me, but then thought better of it, not because he doesn't like flying, but because he thought he would miss interesting shots in the crowd if he was with me. I set off, shortest takeoff I've done so far on water and apparently another big cheer as my 'Ndege-boot' leapt into the air, and returned to Kervan Saray.

While I prepared my long-range fuel tanks for the flight back to Zanzibar the crew went off with Matthias to meet a man who claimed to be 102 years old and he showed the cameras the magic trick with Cloves. So it does now look as though there will be some stuff about spice in this film after all. There's nothing in the script, but they do seem to have at last realized that spices are an imortant part of why these islands are like they are.

A bit of a shocker, but there was still NO BEER in the evening, this place obviously falls apart once Raff and Ciska are gone. We had to resort to gin and tonics, which ran out, then wine, and when that was gone, and the a half bottle of whisky, there was nothing for all of us to do but go to bed. What the other guests thought I'm not sure; while this place isn't as expensive as those places in Zanzibar, it's still not cheap.

By the time the tide was high enough for me to take off next morning the film crew had long gone, to film something in Chake Chake, the main town, and in the evening the Flying Foxes, a special variety of fruit bat unique to Pemba. I'd quite liked to have gone with them but my job was to get the FIB back to Zanzibar. Eve went with them to catch the daily Coastal flight back to Zanzibar, and then one of the many they do onwards to Dar.

It seems the plan has now changed again, no rush now for me to get to Dar, a better way has been found to get the FIB to Mauritius and I can do the Chumbe island thing after all. The crew will come over on the ferry to Stone Town tomorrow and then go immediately on a smaller boat to Chumbe. I stay the night in Zanzibar tonight and meet them there tomorrow afternoon to do all this fake stuff where I have to divert there because my nosewheel won't come down when I'm trying to land at the beginning of the film, and it's where I first meet Matthias.

I estimated my flight back to Zanzibar airport could take quite a long time, it's only about 85 Nm but I'd sometimes had just 20Kts ground speed into wind here, and the route is mostly dead into-wind, hence the long-range fuel tanks. A simple setup, with two 20 litre cans side into the right side of the boat, a tap, filter and electric pump to transfer fuel into the main tank, the system doubles my endurance to about 4 1/2 hours. Plenty I thought, and in the worst case I could always divert to Nungwe on the Northern tip of Zanzibar island where we'd already been. The only tricky bit was going to be swapping over tanks where I'd have to be careful not to drop things into the prop. Of course the weight of this extra fuel meant it was only sensible I should fly the leg solo.

I was quite keen to file a flight plan but the response from the briefing room at Zanzibar airport was "we do not take flight plans over the phone, send your agent". I called Cedrick who I thought might be able to do it for me but he was not there, and wouldn't be back until the middle of the afternoon. I though Eve might be able to get Coastal to help, but she was obviously somewhere with no phone reception. I said my goodbyes to the kind staff of Kervan Saray Lodge and set off anyway.

The first bit down the western side of Pemba was surprisingly rough, lots of little squally things developing off the island, but groundspeed not as slow as I'd thought, just over 30 Kts. Before I reached the lighthouse on the southern tip I transferred the first can into my main tank, the system worked fine and it was nearly full for the 35 mile crossing to Zanzibar.

The weather settled down and unlike the flight to Pemba where there was a nasty quall line in the middle, it was quite a pleasant crossing at 1000 ft.

When I got to Nungwe I had a choice of flying down either coast of Zanzibar island to the main airport near the southern end. We'd flown up the east coast so I was tempted to fly back down the west to see what it is like, but since it had been so rough down the west coast of Pemba I thought it could be worse down the west side of the bigger island later in the day so I stuck to the east side. I did a circle around Mnemba island, a perfectly formed desert island with a beach all around, a beautiful reef, and a very exclusive lodge, $2000 per night I'm told. It was slow, I was down to 25 Kts in places, but perfectly pleasant until the last bit over land into the airport.

Back in the hangar I discussed the business of no flight plan with Cedrick and he suggested I go to see Mr Sumri, the TCAA boss at the airport, to explain and apologize and should I file one retrospectively? This was the same man Marcel had somehow upset when we were first here so I was a little bit fearful I might be grounded or something. Mr Sumri was actually a very nice man and said a retrospective filing was not necessary, and seemed happy for me to fly over to Chumbe tomorow and land there so long as I kept low as it is more-or-less in the circuit for the airport. I said I'd keep below 500 ft. I think the difference was that I at least appear to know what I'm doing whereas Marcel has no experience of this sort of thing at all. Best to keep him out of this sort of operational flying stuff in the future. Aimiri, Thomas' pet taxi driver came to take me to the Mtoni Marine Hotel for the night. Tuskers baridi at last.

Micro Avionics - Suppliers of pilot intercom and radio equipment to the expedition
Joint Aviation Services, suppliers of insurances 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