Wednesday, July 10, 2013

African Safari Recap

It has been a couple of weeks since my flying safari finished.  As expected, I took a LOT of pictures (over 1300 when the dust settled in my iPhoto library).

Here is a short video recap that includes a few of my favorites from the trip:

Aside from the photos, the animals, and the wonders of Africa, it was also a great way to experience a totally different flying environment.  Since I have been back, many people have asked me about the aviation differences.  So I thought I would share a few of my observations:

1. The flying: This was the easy part for most of our group.  In truth, "flying is flying", no matter where you do it. However, for me it was a bit of an adjustment to fly a steam gauge 182 with no autopilot vs my usual Cirrus cockpit.  But it was great practice and truly the most authentic way to fly on a safari adventure.
2. The airports: We experienced a huge variety of airports ranging from dirt strips in the middle of the Kalahari desert and Okavango Delta to normal big city type of airports in Johannesburg.  But all of the airports were in remarkably good condition and properly managed.
3. The radios: While the ICAO phraseology was quite similar to the US, many in our group had difficulty understanding the controllers due to the accent. In addition, the occasional mix of Afrikaans on the radio only added to the challenge.
4. Radar/GPS: Radar coverage was rather limited throughout our entire journey.  But thank goodness for GPS!! We all relied on a variety of yoke mounted portable GPS gadgets.
5. Altimeter: All settings are in millibars instead of inches, which was expected.  But unlike the US, the process in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe is to switch to standard (1013Mb/29.92") upon reaching cruise altitude which may only be a couple thousand feet AGL.
6. Legal/Customs formalities: As you might imagine, this is something that absolutely demands proper planning.  Luckily, the Hanks had thoroughly prepped us.  So we all managed to stay out of jail ;-)  Between landing fees, airspace usage fees, tower fees, entry fees, departure taxes, etc  you definitely get fatigued at paying fees.  In addition, you truly appreciate the simple, relatively cheap flying environment in the US!
7. Fuel: Avgas was readily available.  The cost was a little more expensive than the the US... But still way less than Europe!
8. Survival gear/ prep: Since we were often flying over very inhospitable terrain, the Hanks made sure each plane was well equipped with ~ 50 lbs of survival gear!  Luckily, none us had to use it!!

Overall, this experience totally exceeded my expectations and I would encourage anyone who is thinking about doing something similar to give it a shot!

== T.J.==