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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Phoenix Flight

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
The story of the phoenix bird that loves fire came to mind today.

For the first time this year, we were able to fly - circuits and very local, but operational.  Safety procedures are essential when you have been on the ground for an extended period, as has happened this year.

Our in house regulation is that 'if you have not flown for 28 days you must do a check ride with an instructor for 2 touch and go's and a landing of a good standard before taking a passenger'.  So, since we were all 'out of hours', we carried out the following procedure.  Capt. Yaw carried out 3 circuits solo, then checked out Patrick before starting the lessons for the day (on the next flying day, he will check out Patricia and other pilots).  Of course, the aircraft needed a good looking over since they age on the ground more than in the air, which was Patricia's devoted task of the day!

Safety observed, we started operations over the heavily blackened landscape.  Then, the field to the North of the field started to burn with great gusto, whilst AA was in the air on a lesson with Paul J.  The winds allowed the flight to continue using the cross-runway, 29/11.  Paul enjoyed the pressure and the challenge - and realised that climbing out over a graphite black surface has its challenges - lack of lift, presence of will-o-the-wisps and smoke from burning fields, albeit that the harmattan has lifted to a good level of visibility.

Much of the airfield and over 1,000 acres are blackened from bush fires in the week, so when started on the approach to 19, a lot of care and attention was called for.   As soon soon as the wind changed, it was clearly time to land for a while whilst the undershoot area north of the road at threshold 19 was simply consumed.

Turning final at 300' over the edge of the flames, was timely as the wind then whisked the fire into a veritable inferno - as can been seen by the flames v the adult male running to move his car out of the car park...

Sadly the fire also consumed some properties near to the field.  The occupants are few, and the belongings not substantial, but a room in one of these buildings can be home to somebody...

It can be seen from the photos of the airfield how Matthew and his team worked hard to protect the operations area of Kpong Field in the week and beat out the fire at the fence line and in the bush to keep it at bay. Poor Matthew seems to be constantly thinking about how to prevent and control some natural enemy - be it fire, water, grass, tsetse flies, snakes, scorpions or the engineering team... but he is a steadfast and solid chap, an un-sung hero, without whom the airfield could not function.  (Thank you Matthew!)

So now, we have so many other things to do, on top of the usual usual, and the dust and the dirt is increased.... and this is not going to get any better before the first rain.. .which is not expected for at least eight weeks... there will be more fires, more destruction and more challenges before this dry season is out.

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