Monday, September 25, 2006


Cessna : "fuel to noise converter".

Hello Hans,

I do not fly very much at the moment, only 3 or 4 flights a week. In October we will have to change the prop. So there are always things to do. Police are mostly behaving. It seems that even the guys on the streets know me by now. From time to time they stop me, but without making trouble.

But, as promised, I will tell you a short story about the technical problems with the airplane. As you probably know the ALT/FLD circuit breaker popped from time to time in flight, but you could always reset it. It had happened to me twice. It did not worry me too much since Helmut had told me about it, when I arrived here. However, one morning I had 4 sisters in the plane : 2 for Bambari and 2 for Kembe. When I did the run-up check the circuit breaker popped and I could not reset it. I had to cancel the flight and with Minair we were trying to fix it.
We changed the alternator and the alternator control unit. Unfortunately to no avail. So we were trying to find any faulty connections. They found one right at the master switch. So I ordered one and it took two weeks before the new switch arrived. It seemed to work, but only for a flight to Boda and one to Mobaye.
The next flight was supposed to be to M’Boki with UNHCR. It was raining slightly in the morning as I taxied the aeroplane from the aeroclub to the main apron. I put fuel in and then boarded the passengers. As soon as I had started the engine, the circuit breaker popped again. So this flight was cancelled as well.The mechanics at Minair insisted that it was a problem with the alternator and that we needed to change it again. Although I am by no means a specialist on electronics, I had the feeling that there was something else causing the circuit breaker to pop.
So I sent Marc Westenberg a long email describing in detail what had happened so far and what work had been carried out. He sent me some instructions how to do proper trouble shooting. As it turned out it was the alternator control unit again. For reasons I do not yet understand it seems that the newly installed ACU was causing the trouble again. Anyway, after having it changed, I did a test flight and threw the plane a bit through the sky and everything was fine. So the next flight was going to be to Mobaye to fetch Ben. I took off at about 8 o’clock on RWY 17. With flaps retracted, I reduced the throttle to climb power and wanted to adjust the mixture accordingly. While doing that, the fuel flow indicator started to fluctuate violently and the sound of the engine was not very reassuring either. So I immediately informed the tower that I would do a 180 and land right back on RWY 35. At Minair we took the injection system apart and cleaned it as well as the fuel lines going there and since then, I have not had any more problems, at least not with the aeroplane.
The following flight was with two sisters to Kuango. The weather was not great : lots of cumulus and a few showers along the way. So from time to time, we would enter some cloud, but to my surprise the turbulence was basically non-existent. Only the last 20 miles were a bit rougher, since there were some heavy showers just short of Kuango. I tried to stay out of the yellow areas on the radar screen, as I had noticed already that the two passengers did not feel very comfortable. To stay out of turbulence you need to manoeuvre the plane a bit and that caused them to get even more uncomfortable. I finally found a nice hole in the clouds just above the river and descended through it, naturally not with a 300 ft/min rate of descent but slightly more, and then followed the river at about 400 feet AGL to remain below the cloud base.
While doing the obligatory flying over the field to check it, I noticed a lot of goats on the runway. The first time I saw goats instead of people on the runway there, that needed to be chased away. So I added a little bit of power to increase the noise level (you know what they say about those Cessna's : "the throttle is only there, to increase or decrease the level of noise") and put the nose down slightly to skim over the runway lower than usual, as goats seem to be less scared of aeroplanes than humans. That manoeuvre was ofcourse a bit too much for my passengers, although I had tried to do it as gently as possible. I would like to mention, that the plane stayed clean and no plastic bags had been used either. After we had landed though, they were happy to be on the ground and sat down immediately to regain their breath.
In the mean time I unloaded the heap of luggage and packages, that usually fills up the whole plane on every trip to Kuango.
On the way back to Bangui, I encountered slightly more turbulence and the first thunderstorms were starting to flash their lightning at me. I was happy to be alone in the plane. I enjoyed the clouds and rain because it makes for much more interesting views. I also enjoy closing in on clouds and then getting swallowed into the white or grey and after some time being spat out again into the sunshine. Those are unfortunately the joys of flying that are best not shared with your passengers, although there are some sturdier ones who like that too.
On my last flight to Bangassou, I had the pleasure of having two female passengers (one working for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the other being a newly arrived teacher for the Catholic school in Bangassou) who were not only good looking, but did not mind coming with me into the shaky whiteness of the sky.
These are the days I would never trade in for the cockpit of a Boeing.
I will send some more stories as soon as I have committed them to paper.

Blue skies and many happy landings,


Thursday, September 14, 2006


De eerste foto's van Mario uit de CAR : de U'Bangui

Monday, September 11, 2006


De U'Bangui in de droge tijd. Daar zit 10 meter niveau verschil tussen ...

Sunday, September 10, 2006


een doolhof







Friday, September 08, 2006


Meer nieuws uit Bangui

Hi Hans,

Finally I got around to sending some stories back again. I think I was about to tell you about a medical evacuation of a Central African pastor of a free protestant church (I think it is some sect) from Mobaye on the 26th of July. This church seems to have some kind of headquarters in Paris since Tanneguy got a phone call from there. They were asking the price for the evacuation and I actually gave them the mission price which is, as you know, not that much from Mobaye to Bangui - less than CFA 100.000 per person (CFA 2000 = 3 euro).
In the beginning it was obviously too much, since they said they would still wait. The pastor and his wife had only been in Mobaye for a couple of weeks and it seems that he fell sick almost immediately, when he had gotten there. Anyhow, a few days later we got another call and they said it was urgent now, could we take him to Bangui.
The next morning I left Bangui and what a surprise when I landed in Mobaye and got off the plane. The man was comatose and would not even open an eye to blink. So we carried him to the plane and put him in the centre seat with the back rest reclined, his wife beside him. I actually thought that he would probably die in the plane and tried to stay as low as the winds were permitting but also high enough to get some ground speed.
I have to jump back to Mobaye quickly. At the airfield there were naturally lots of people. Since mobile phones work in Mobaye, there was one person able to call their people in Bangui. I told them to be at the airport in Bangui at 12:00 o'clock sharp, waiting at the ‘bureau de piste’ since I would arrange for them to come with the vehicle to the plane to pick up their sick pastor.
I got to Bangui and I stopped the engine exactly a 12:00 hrs. I was in for the next surprise. There was not a single person waiting at the airport. My mistake was not to get the phone number, but would you expect the people to be late to pick up a person at the airport who seems to be dying? I talked to the fire brigade at the airport and they called in their ambulance, which took the pastor to the hospital. I taxied the plane to the aeroclub and after I had secured it and ordered a coke, there was the third surprise for the day. A man came with a taxi and asked me where the sick pastor was. The time was a quarter to one. All I managed to say was that he was already at the hospital before I had to turn away, so I would not loose my temper with him. Normally, there are only three bad surprises in a row but this one had a fourth one. It did not come so much as a surprise to me though, when I was told the next day that the pastor had died in the early morning of meningitis. I quickly checked my vaccination card and consulted a doctor from the French embassy to make sure that I would be safe since meningitis is quite contagious.

The next interesting flight was only 2 days later. I went to Bangassou on the 28th of July taking off into a nice blue sky with hardly a cloud to be seen, a rare occasion in the rainy season. We got to Bangassou and it was getting hot already when we landed before 10:00 o'clock. The passengers for the return trip were two Spaniards, who had visited the bishop in Bangassou and had their flight back to Europe on the evening of the 29th with Air France. So we took off happily in Bangassou after I had eaten my sandwich and drunk my coke that was supplied by the bishop himself.
After an hour flight I had my first echoes in the weather radar and I heard Ryan, a South African King Air pilot, on the radio telling the controller that he was left off his track due to weather. Now he was at FL220 and I was at FL100. So I started to prepare myself and the passengers for a rough ride into Bangui. I had not yet anticipated how rough it was really going to be.
When I finally reached the TMA boundary, about 65 NM east of Bangui, my radar screen seemed to be showing more red than black just ahead of me. I was not amused as the British would put it. We continued since I could still make out some holes in the clouds to get through visually and with the help of the weather radar. The weather radar is a really good instrument but there is one thing it can not do : the radar can not pick up what is going on behind the already existing echoes. So when we passed the first line of CBs there were more to come and they became even thicker. I decided to descend below the cloud base since it is not very comfortable to sit in the grey, bouncing around. Below the base I could at least spot the heavy showers and the turbulence was not so bad. So at about 3500 feet we were below the clouds, trying to find a way through. I avoided the heavy showers and was amazed by the cracking on the radio which was created by the lightning around us.
The tower told me to check my microphone because I was coming in broken. That did amuse me slightly. Finally I was already a couple of miles south of my intended track. It had looked like a good idea to try to circumnavigate the storms to the south but turned out to have been the wrong choice. The controller in Bangui told me that it seemed to him, that the weather was moving southwards. This is very unusual since 98 times out of a 100, it moves from east to west. Anyway, now I knew why the sky was thickening more and more to the south.
So the only option was to head back north, find a way through the storms again and try to reach Bangui from the north. By now there was rain and lightning everywhere around us. But thanks to the weatherradar and a lighter spot in the clouds we got through and headed for the final approach fix DINDA, about 11 NM north of the runway. By the time I got to DINDA though, the thunderstorms also got to the airport. Just ten minutes earlier there had basically been no significant weather at the airport and now there were heavy showers of rain and the wind gusting to 25 knots, of course at 300 degrees. So the controller was giving me a clearance for the ILS to runway 35. I declined that since that would have taken me back into the clouds just south of the airport and I was happily flying along now under quite high ceilings with only rain cutting down the visibility. So I asked for the DINDA VOR/DME approach for runway 17 and circle to land. As if things were not bad enough already the VOR quit doing its job and the needle was useless. So there was the choice of getting onto the ILS but that would probably mean getting into thick cloud again, or letting the GPS guide me to the runway. Since I could see the ground I only needed to get to the airport and I did not have to descend all the way to the minimum. So I decided to give it a try with the GPS. When I got the runway in sight, I was nicely lined up and my spirits were getting a bit higher again. I just stayed right next to the runway with it being on my side on the circling and flew a very short approach. The landing was ok, given the wind and runway conditions and there were three happy faces in the aeroplane when I shut down the engine. We did not get off the plane for a couple of minutes because we would have been soaking wet within seconds.
That was one of these days when I remember my instructor in South Africa saying : 'It is better to sit on the ground staring into the sky wishing to be up there, than being in the sky looking for the ground wishing to be down there ..'
Next time I will tell you about the problem the plane has been giving me over the last few weeks.



PS: Usually I do as you did. But this morning I just wanted to reply quickly.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Groetjes van Mario

Hi Hans,

I know I am late again. I will have no flight until Tuesday, so there will be some stories coming in the next days. I have plenty to tell anyway. The aeroplane is giving me q fright from time to time as well. Had a slight problem with the fuel injection yesterday.
I just got back from Mobaye and will give you more details later on in the day.
If you find any 'q' where there should be an 'a', then it is because I can not get used to this bloody French keyboard.

Regards Mario

Monday, September 04, 2006


tijdens mijn meest recente sleepje stond Ron Handgraaf toevallig te fotograferen


nog even ...


en .... trekken maar


en blijven trekken


en dan flink hard duwen anders overtrekt ie

Sunday, September 03, 2006


even kijken of hij goed hangt

Saturday, September 02, 2006


en hij hangt goed

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