HOT AND HIGH!

In 2010, Ollie my son (then 33yrs) returned from a solo trip on a motor bike around South America asking if I (63yrs) would do a flying Safari in South Africa if he got his licence.

I said, "of course"; so fast forward to Sept 2013 and we (Ollie 40hrs P1 and me 500+ (although Derick said after a club check ride that he put me to shame!) are lifting off from Krugersdorp in South Africa, heading North. We had arranged it all through a company ,who got our S.A. licences, all the visas and provided a pilot guide (essential for first timers) and arranged our check rides (in a 172, which I hadn't flown in 20yrs and Ollie never!) and our air law exam (simple). Our plane was a 1973 PA28 with no brakes, trim in the ceiling (worked with a car window handle) and one radio and no navaids. I took my Garman 500 which proved to be essential. We improvised a pilot cover with a smelly sock! However, she flew well enough.

Much of the flying was at 5000ft and 30C, so leaning was the order of the day. The flying was taxing, often over barren featureless terrain and over ridges with a fair bit of turbulence. We flew with two Americans and their wives, who were great, in 182s (they had 4000+hrs each!!). We flew in formation (well roughly) and the guide helped with the radio. He smoothed all the border crossings and endless paperwork.

We stopped off at lots of airfields ,some dirt strips of varying length, surrounded by trees and crosswinds, a challenge to our flying skills, and some manned larger airports, whose ATCs were very helpful. Airfield information was novel - 'beware Vultures - always fly above; care - Rhinos often on strip!' We tended to stay  two nights and did safaris in the day. It was good to rest - some legs were 3 1/2hrs and very hot. The lodges were fantastic as were the Safaris. We flew to Botswana and then through Zimbabwe along the Zambezi to over fly Victoria Falls and stopped there.

We then flew back through Botswana before splitting up from the group on the last leg to return our plane to a different field. Keeping the tanks topped up was essential (we once got down to 40mins remaining) as were position checks, radioed every 10-15 minutes. My biggest problem was not saying Golf instead of ZS (WHV?!) We got lots of airfields in our logbooks and learnt a lot about flying in inhospitable conditions with no line features , Navaids or FIS etc. The actual trip was 12days (20hrs & 1700+nm). The icing on the cake was a  three day trip on our own after the safari trips (we felt competent by then) in a newer hired PA28, along the Easten Cape coast from Cape town. We flew inwards after that over high terrain (8000ft+) with mountain wave and lowering cloud - all good fun! It was a fantastic adventure for father and son to do, although quite expensive it was worth every penny. Give it a go. We'd be happy to give anyone details (royce.abrahams@modair.co.uk).

Royce Abrahams, Oct 2013