Monday, November 17, 2008

Africa: Cairo to Addis Ababa

The time has come to go exploring Africa. See our nice freshly-painted United Nations Lockheed C-130 Hercules, parked at Merowe in the Sudan? This cargo plane is ideal for short dirt or gravel runways, and has been called the largest bush plane in the world. I will be flying this thing all over Africa, and writing about my experiences with it in this column.

Aircraft: Lockheed C-130 Hercules, by Mike Stone
Owner: United Nations
Mission: World Food Program
Texture set: file

12-Nov. Alexandria.

The mission began at Alexandria Intl. The first leg departs at 6:00 A.m. with an old DC-3 cargo plane headed for Cairo. The weather was fair with scattered clouds and some turbulence, which always makes the DC-3 hard to fly. We arrived at HECA at 8 A.m. after a bumpy ride and a visual landing on runway 5R -- we couldn't have used ILS even if it had been offered, so we steered the old bird down to the runway and taxi'd until we found an exit. Then we were shunted off to the cargo ramp.

Layover in Cairo for three days, waiting for the C-130 to arrive from Turkey. After its arrival and a full check-up by the maintenance crew, loading the plane began the night of the 14th.

15-Nov. Cairo.
The next leg of our flight set out on 15-Nov at 12:44, bound for Hurghada Intl (HEGN). Only 238 miles, but the C-130 is not particularly fast. We landed 2 hours 17 minutes later, and spent the rest of the day doing routine medical tests and handing out food. The C-130 is great, we just lower the tail doors, open up the plane, and people file right in.

16-Nov. Hurghada, Egypt.
we have two flights, first from Hurghada to Port Sudan (HSPN) on the coast of the Red Sea -- VFR navigation all the way, and then a late afternoon flight from there to Merowe, Sudan. I wasn't sure what to expect. A short gravel strip, no control tower, but would there be a town, or was this just an airfield in the middle of the desert? It turned out to be a respectable-sized town located on the banks of the upper Nile. We opened the tail and started handing out food and seeing anybody who wanted medical attention.

17-Nov. Atbara, Sudan.
Morning departure to another town in the Sudan only 138 miles away, Atbara (HSAT). There was even less here than at Merowe, just a converted house trailer being used as a control tower, but the townspeople knew we were coming and were lined up waiting. We could see them cheering our landing as the dust went up behind the plane on the gravel runway.

Well, the supplies are just about run out, but we were told not to waste time flying back to Cairo for resupplies. We fly on to Addis Ababa to pick up new supplies, and then we will be flying to several smaller outlying communities in Ethiopia for the next few days. I'm not exactly looking forward to it -- the terrain is very mountainous in Ethiopia, and this will mostly be VFR seat of the pants flying. I'll write more after we've been to Addis Ababa. Wish me luck!


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