News: 9 Sep 2010, Teddy Junior





The flight to Dar was reasonably pleasant, mainly because I was rushing about doing last minute stuff for so long before I left home that it was something of a relief to get on a plane so I could have a bit of a sleep.

I arrived in Dar Es Salaam via Addis Ababa Sunday lunchtime. Eve Jackson was there to meet me. For those who don't know who Eve is, she is one of the World's great microlight pioneers. She was the first person to fly a microlight from London to Sydney back in 1986/7. Her CFM shadow, by this time named 'Gertie' was brought back to UK. In 2003 Eve decided to emigrate to Tanzania, so she revitalized Gertie, which included a smart new paint job in electric pink, and flew her from London to Dar. Their adventures are recounted by Eve in her book 'Gertie's day out'.

I was expecting to meet her where you normally do, after doing immigration, baggage, customs and stuff, but because he works for Coastal Aviation, a charter airline based in the airport, she took me by surprise by taking advantage of her airport pass and met me in the corridor as I was filling in a form.

I learnt the FIB had not yet been extracted from customs by Teddy Junior, and being a Sunday, nobody was open, so what to do but retire to her house in the company of a few of her friends and test out some Tanzania beers.

Last time I was here three years ago to do the Kilimanjaro flight, Eve lived in a quite pleasant house not far from the airport where she works for Coastal Aviation. Since then, the landlord put up the rent by five times so she moved out to a place not far away which last time I was here she'd told me she'd bought, but I hadn't seen.

It's a plot on top of a hill, a very nice place to build a house with pleasant views and a nice breeze, the only trouble is it is just a patch of sandy earth with a large cashew nut tree and a couple of small eucalyptus, surrounded by a flimsy fence patrolled by her two dogs Sascha and Jamala - and nothing much else; plans for the house are still that - plans. In the meantime she's erected a shed and the servant's quarters, and for the moment that's where she's living, the servants come in daily from their own homes.

So for the time being Eve's living a fairly Spartan existence, but it's warm and sunny, there's a pleasant breeze, and it's very pleasant to watch the sun go down from the top of her hill with a beer in hand.

Teddy Junior is the company name of an import / export agency who did a splendid and entirely painless job of getting my microlight into and out of Tanzania last time on the Kilimanjaro trip. A couple of months ago I recommended them to the Maritime Africa producers, which is why I called Elonji Dube monday morning first thing to see how the importation of the FIB was going. The answer was that although it arrived in the middle of last week it had not gone as well as expected, but wait, it should be out later today.

Lunchtime came and went, Eve, who's taken a week off work, and I got fed up of sitting around and decided to go the cargo terminal to see what was happening. It was the classical African bunfight, lots of people clutching wads of paper, dozens of windows with tired looking people behind them (the 'error corrections' one was particularly busy); it looked hopeless. We asked around for the Teddy Junior person and eventually found Maisu, a cheerful lady definitely heading towards ample proportions. Things were obviously going slowly, she marshalled us into standing in front of different windows with bits of paper, a sort of simultaneous attack on many fronts, but lacking Maisu's skill of barging to the front of queues I'm not sure how helpful we were, but we did seem to be making progress, perhaps the novelty of having a couple of muzungus (white people) in tow had some effect.

Just before they closed at 5 it looked like we might get the FIB today, my container appeared at 6 through the gate on a forklift, they wanted me to sign for it "Two pieces" I said, "where is the other one"? "Here it is", the man from Swissports who are the people who run the place said, "this is one", he said, pointing at the container, "and this is the other one", he said, opening the door in the container and pointing at the FIB.

"No no no no" I said, "there is another one, four metres long, the wing". Yes, he said, "it is inside the container".

They sent for Ernest, the boss. He agreed the airway bill clearly stated two pieces, one was four metres long, and something that long could obviously not fit in the container. "It is a mystery" he said, and disappeared.

I was cursing Swissports, Tanzanians, Teddy Junior, but some time later he came back. "Yes". He said, "there is another piece, and KLM have taken it to Cape Town. It will be here in some days." So it was none of their fault, KLM were the culprits and had simply taken it to entirely the wrong place.

We went to his office. I said "you do realize a film crew arrived today in Zanzibar and each day they cannot do anything it is VERY expensive". He typed stuff into his computer like 'consignee very unhappy', 'film crew' and 'very urgent'. He was very apologetic but one thing seemed quite clear, there are no direct flights from Cape Town, my wing would have to go back to Amsterdam before it could come here, so it would be at least two days.

None the less, we had the bulk of the FIB which takes longest to prepare but I'd naively imagined the container could be transported the few hundred metres from the freight terminal to the Coastal hangar entirely airside on one of those special trailers with a slippery floor, but when I asked about this possibility it was impossible, it had to go out of the airport, and then in again, just around the corner.

By now it was so late that all the people with small trucks at the freight terminal had gone home, and the Coastal hangar was closed, so Teddy Junior agreed to provide transport and storage for the night, but in the awful evening traffic it took ages to arrive. Just to be safe, they sent their biggest truck, it had 'Shropshire' painted on the sun visor and had obviously spent the first part of its life thundering up and down the M6. A Swissports forklift driver kindly stayed late to load the container. We got home at 8:30.

Early next morning the truck was waiting outside the gate 8 where you get into Coastal. Eve had arranged an airport pass for me, but we had to go to see security in the main terminal to get a pass for the truck, which took a while. Had it been a bit smaller, the container could probably have been manhandled to the ground but impossible from this huge thing, so we had to get a forklift. The only ones available on the airport are from Swissports at $200 per hour. We struck an improved cash deal for the same forklift which had loaded the container to come and unload it.

The FIB was ready to go, all clean and shiny by Tuesday afternoon. Thomas and Marcus in Zanzibar haven't apparently been missing me too much and Carolin in Munich had been set the task of galvanizing KLM to get the wing here as soon as possible. In any case someone somewhere had made an impression because Wednesday morning we heard the wing was in Amsterdam and would arrive here for us to collect today, Thursday morning. Swissports were on the case too, while we were in town getting some bits and pieces Ernest rang Eve to confirm it would be there the next morning.

We were at the freight terminal at eight when it opens, but most people seemed to be more interested in breakfast. Things didn't really get going until 9, but Maisu didn't turn up with the paperwork until just before 10. It all seemed quite calm, the freight terminal obviously doesn't turn into the bunfight we experienced on monday until after lunch, or perhaps Mondays are just worse because of the weekend backlog. Anyway, as our paperwork had already been done on Monday we had the wing out quite quickly and transported round to the Coastal hangar in one of their mini buses.

As I rigged the wing, Petrus, who is re-doing the interior of one of Coastal's Cessna Caravans spotted some broken stitching in the wing. I'd already noticed this and promised myself I'd repair it some time, but it wasn't critical. He kindly repaired it for me in a very thorough way. Mid afternoon I did a test flight, it was bumpy as hell but all went well but conditions are much more pleasant in the mornings so we're all set to fly over to Zanzibar tomorrow, I've filed my flight plan for 8:30. Eve's coming along as co-pilot, it should be about a 1 hour 20 minute flight.

Originally the producers said they wanted me to be in Zanzibar in time for Eid el Fitr, the celebration at the end of Ramadan. I'm still astonished there is no predictable date for this, it depends entirely on the sighting of the new moon. Well it wasn't sighted yesterday, which some people were expecting, so, I'm assured it will almost certainly be tonight, so the party will start tomorrow, and despite the delay cased by half of my aircraft being sent to the other end of Africa I'll have arrived just in time.

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