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To The Heart Of Congolese Bush With An L410  
User currently offlinefasty From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0
Posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 6 days ago) and read 17463 times:

Dear readers,

Welcome to my 2nd trip report. This will relate a daytrip we had between Lubumbashi and Kilwa, a remote big town at the shore of Lake Mwero, in the south-east of the DR Congo, near by the Zambian border.


A few days before the flight, I was informed that a plane was going to be leased by my company in order for some people to ship goods from one of our most remote branches, located in the town of Kilwa.

It only took me a few seconds to find a valid reason to join the flight and after a few phone calls, I was part of the trip.

I was a little worried because my passport was currently in Kinshasa for receiving the work visa, but I was quicly reassured by one of my experienced colleagues that we would skip all identitiy control as we would be directly driven to the tarmac. Not to mention that there was absolutely no security at our destination airport, so my mind was finally released


The rainy season has really begun for a few weeks and it had been raining all night. When the minibus reached our home at 7.00 to pick us up, it was still drizzling and the sky was covered with heavy grey clouds.

The ride to the airport was longer than usual as the rain had flooded several portions of the main road and we often had to zigzag to avoid the mini-lakes forming here and there. We arrived at the airport a bit late but who cares, “our” plane would be waiting for us !

We took a right turn into a “service only” small road which was leading straight to the tarmac. After a wave from our
driver to some RVA agent, we were allowed in. It was really funny to drive on the tarmac, something we simple mortal voyagers will never have the chance to do.

We just drove across an Hewa Bora MD-82 bound to Kinshasa and ended up on a remote part of the airport where our bird was waiting for us.

Today we would be flying on a LET-410 (9Q-CMD) leased from ITAB. ITAB is a small Lubumbashi based company which is operating scheduled flights to Kolwezi (the mining capital of Katanga) and Kamina.


Before boarding

AT Macedonian Airlines (Greece)">INTO THE AIRCRAFT

The seat arrangement was 1-2 with 4 rows, thus making a 12-seats capacity (they actually remove 2 rows from the standard configuration, thus making excellent legroom)


Excellent legroom


Front Cabin

A few minutes after everyone had taken his seat, the engines started roaring pleasantly and soon the propeller was running in full speed.


Taxiing along the runway


Gaining speed (note the Hewa Bora MD-82 and Zambezi 737-500 in the distance)

AT Macedonian Airlines (Greece)">IN FLIGHT

A few seconds later, we were taking off from runway 07 over the lush landscape of this early rainy season.


After a sharp turn, we Crossed the N5 road, the aircraft heading to the north.


Getting higher

We soon reached our cruising altitude of FL095 and there was nothing much to do apart from sticking to the scene outside and of course taking pictures !


Safety Instructions


Big mining field on the way


Chasing our shadow over the low clouds

After a mere 40 minutes into the air, we started our descent into Kilwa. The views were amazing all along our descent. We flew alongside the Mwero lake before performing a U-turn and finally land on the dirt runway.


Overflying the suburbs of Kilwa


Alongside Lake Mwero


A few seconds before touchdown, mostly mud houses around Kilwa

After the brakes were activated the airplane gently touched down and finished his run in the middle of the “runway”. It’s the first time I’m landing on a dirt runway !



The aircraft was parked a few meters away from the runway and we all disembarked quickly

We were welcomed by a few officials as well as our local representative

A vehicle came to pick the goods from the plane (it seems to be the only vehicle in town !)




Welcome session


View of the “runway”

It’s a big event for this town were no scheduled flight has been seen since the Anvil Mining company has left when the global crisis stroke hard the DR Congo.

All the village had heard the arrival of the plane and they were all converging to the site, it was very impressing, we felt like the Messiah. Such a shame we didn’t have much to give all those children, critically in need for basic things such as school material etc.


People coming to meet us

After a short walk we came to the center of the town where our branch is located


You can also reach Lubumbashi by road but it will be an 8 hours ride and, during the rainy season, it’s only accessible by moto.

After a few busy but pleasant hours in Kilwa, it was already time to head back to Lubumbashi
We took a walk back to the plane site (I refuse to call it an airport), followed by all the children looking forward to see the plane taking off.


Children waiting for the show


Terminal building  


Front view of the aircraft


This tire will soon hit the dirt ground before rising into the African skies


Our super-friendly pilot, Josef from Czech Republic, before boarding (with a colleague)

After paying the departure “tax” for which of cours there was no receipt, we boarded the plane and made ourselves ready for the return leg to Lubumbashi

The plane slowly reached the end of the runway, then turned 180° to prepare for takeoff



Cockpit view while turning around

The engines were suddenly put at their maximum and the plane slowly (too slowly on my taste) gained speed.
It can be something from my imagination, but I really do have the feeling we lifted off at the extreme end of the runway, just before the first mud houses.


Just after takeoff, the brilliant lake was visible on the left side of the plane.

The pilot had announced that there would turbulences due to forming thunderstorms but the flight was finally very smooth, letting us enjoy great sceneries along the way. This time, we were flying at FL125 (to avoid most of the clouds) ?


Developing thunderstorm


Rainbow over the rainforest


Tropical downpour


Mud road


Before landing in L'shi

Landing was smooth and we were parked at our initial remote stand 50 minutes after takeoff from Kilwa.


Flying to remote places on small birds like this is a great experience few people have been able to live. I guess this is part of the good sides working in such difficult environments as in the DR Congo.

I’m also actually surprised how simple and smooth the whole process has been. Some of my friends were thinking I was crazy to go for such adventures but honestly, it was a real joy and at no time (except maybe at takeoff time from Kilwa) did I get any feeling of thread.

This is off course mainly due to the good condition of the aircraft and the skilled, as well as friendly, pilots. [BTW Special thanks to Josef who has provided the flight tech data]

Thanks for reading this TR and feel free to post any comment you may have


NB1 For those who missed my 1st TR, here is the link :
Leaving Lubumbashi With Ethiopian Airlines

NB Here are a few photos taken in Kilwa for those who are interested to have a better idea to what the place looks like




Pirogue on the lake


Market street


Dried fish


Palm Oil


Main road


This looks like actually the only vehicle in town owned by the local authoritites


Funny children

[Edited 2011-01-12 14:51:57]

22 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineRobMEL From Australia, joined Feb 2010, 87 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 16814 times:

Awesome trip report, great photos too. Loved reading about this totally random flight.

User currently offlineRyan h From Australia, joined Aug 2001, 1621 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 16706 times:

Interesting, unusual flight. Weren't you worried about the poor safety record of Congo?

Quoting fasty (Thread starter):
After paying the departure “tax” for which of cours there was no receipt,

Bet that went into the pocket of a corrupt 'official'.

South Australian Spotter
User currently offlinethegreatRDU From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 2326 posts, RR: 4
Reply 3, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 15976 times:

NO WAY thisis an awesome TR, Thomas
I've heard really wacky and crazy stories about flights like these......

Quoting Ryan h (Reply 2):
Interesting, unusual flight. Weren't you worried about the poor safety record of Congo?

It's on the back of your mind.....but you try not to think about....

Our Returning Champion
User currently offlineflyorski From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 1003 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 15968 times:

Wow! Amazing trip report! Thank you for sharing.

It looks really interesting seeing the small town. I liked the pictures from it especially, and found the food stands with fish interesting. Gives a view of how so many people spend every day.

The flight looks really great. I am sure it was an experience of a life-time. It was a fun read, thank you.

"None are more hopelessly enslaved, than those who falsly believe they are free" -Goethe
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2657 posts, RR: 5
Reply 5, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 15741 times:

Fantastic trip report with some great photos of places and landscapes so different to what we usually see. Can't wait to read your earlier report and I hope that you'll keep writing more.

I like artificial banana essence!
User currently offlineCheco77 From Peru, joined Oct 2004, 1345 posts, RR: 7
Reply 6, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 15477 times:

Excelent TR! Nice to see a Czech made plane fly sooo far away from where is was built   Also, good to see you found a friendly Czech in Congo  

DR Congo looks amazing! Such a pity they suffered and are still suffering so much!

Thanks for sharing!


Czech Boeing lover living in Lima
User currently offlineJL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 6
Reply 7, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 15472 times:


great TR, I am absolutely stunned. The pictures of the rainforest really left me speechless, as it often happens whenever I stare at anything coming from Africa. I read your TR with pleasure and I hope many more will come, this is no ordinary flight - or ordinary route - at all!


User currently offlineokapi From France, joined Jun 2006, 229 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 15385 times:

Jambo Bwana! Great TR. It follows nicely your L'shi to Europe other story which I read with great pleasure. As my nickname may suggest, I do have a particular interest in DRC...especially Katanga. Always nice reading about the aviation side of it. Any chance you fly to Kin with a trip report as well? It's been far too long since my last trip to the Congo. Yet, I still remember how it feels when you are an aviation enthusiast in Africa and planes are all so easily accessible. I'm also amazed by how green it is near Luano during the rainy season. I forgot it!

Thanks for sharing!

Asante sana

Quoting Ryan h (Reply 2):
Bet that went into the pocket of a corrupt 'official'.

Don't mean to offend you Ryan h, but do you really consider a US$ 10,00 tip given to the local official a bribe that is as bad as the corruption one may find in Western countries? It prevents human development of course but it is sometimes the only form of "irregular" wages, if any, someone will receive and that money may be spent in medicines. I've witnessed this one too many times, not only in Africa. The world is not always what it seems to be...Ask my Italian wife about her Prime Minister's tumultuous relations with the Justice....

User currently offlineeastafspot From France, joined Jan 2008, 906 posts, RR: 20
Reply 9, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 15367 times:

Hey Thomas,

DRC has finally found his reporter among this community, and it's much better like this! A.net fans will expect more now   

a truly bush masterpiece as i love. I have been planning a trip to DRC for a while ... and all those pictures (flight + Kilwa) might have just inspired me to do it faster than I thought. Are you still in Lumb'shi for while?

Quoting fasty (Thread starter):
After paying the departure “tax” for which of cours there was no receipt
Quoting fasty (Thread starter):
Terminal building

no key, no receipt => hassle-free process!

Quoting fasty (Thread starter):
Zambezi 737-500 in the distance

thanks for this info, as the route has been launched only late november

Finally, what are the fishbones on the mud road picture?

Keep it up for your great reports

East African Spotter

Fly with Air Burundi, Air Tanzania, Air Uganda, Kenya Airways and Rwandair...Jumuiya ya Afrika mashariki
User currently offlinefasty From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 15137 times:

Hi all, many thanks for your comments ! This makes me even more enthusiast about posting future SA Linhas Aereas">TR as trips will pop up (although it ends up being a rather time consuming activity   )

Quoting Ryan h (Reply 2):
Weren't you worried about the poor safety record of Congo?

Well, I must say my parents in Europe were probably more worried than I was. It's true there are a lot of so-called "flying coffins" in the skies of DRC but besides this there are also a few reliable companies and ITAB seems to be in the white list (they have several daily flights and I never heard about any incident, not to say accident).
I keep fingers crossed ...

Quoting Checo77 (Reply 6):
Also, good to see you found a friendly Czech in Congo

Yep I was happy to have a chat with him. BTW maybe he will post one comment here, mmmh Jozef ?  
Quoting okapi (Reply 8):
Any chance you fly to Kin with a trip report as well?

Oh yes, rather soon actually, I'll do my best to post a SA Linhas Aereas">TR about it (but taking pictures in big DRC airports is rather tricky, you have to sneak)

Quoting okapi (Reply 8):
Don't mean to offend you Ryan h, but do you really consider a US$ 10,00 tip given to the local official a bribe that is as bad as the corruption one may find in Western countries?

This is an endless debate we have here as well. Most of state official are paid peanuts (something like 20USD monthly), so it becomes kind of natural for them to pocket this money, for survival reasons. The problem is that as there are absolutely no controls on what's happening, some large scale corruption is doing much harm to the country itself.
Let me give you an example : any passenger leaving DRC must pay a 50USD tax. For Luano airport only, there are about 400 intl PAX daily (ET, KQ, SA, UM), you can quickly do your calculation. But still the runway is in terrible state. Who will pay the consequences ? Airlines damaging their aircrafts and pax risking their lives !

Quoting eastafspot (Reply 9):
Are you still in Lumb'shi for while?

Probably one year to go. You're welcome anytime  
Quoting eastafspot (Reply 9):
Finally, what are the fishbones on the mud road picture?

It's probably some openings in the rainforst made by "creuseurs" (artisanal miners) so that trucks can easier collect minerals extracted by them.

User currently offlinePlanemad1 From UK - England, joined Dec 2010, 23 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 14840 times:

Very unique report and photographs. Not sure about those mats on the floor though.

User currently offlineMD11Bob From Germany, joined Mar 2010, 115 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 14690 times:

Hell fasty

amazing trip report from a very remote part of the earth. The photos from the landscapes and the city look awesome, very interesting. Thank you for sharing. I will now read your other report  


User currently offlineThe777Man From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 6801 posts, RR: 54
Reply 13, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 14638 times:

Very nice report with very pictures! Really unique and not often coverrd in trip reports here.


Need a Boeing 777 Firing Order....Further to fly....LX and LH 777s
User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1182 posts, RR: 32
Reply 14, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 14617 times:

Very cool stuff....

Always a unique way to fly in Africa, and avoiding the roads is a great idea in the Congo. Zaire is not on my little trip through Africa, but it is good to see such a good number of African trip reports coming through at the moment.



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlineeastafspot From France, joined Jan 2008, 906 posts, RR: 20
Reply 15, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 14496 times:

hi again thomas,

Quoting fasty (Reply 10):

Probably one year to go.

Great to learn this, but definitely try to visit before you leave there, then 2 questions:
- the safest air-way from Goma or Bukavu to reach Lumbubashi?
- Does KQ still go to FBM?


East African Spotter

Fly with Air Burundi, Air Tanzania, Air Uganda, Kenya Airways and Rwandair...Jumuiya ya Afrika mashariki
User currently offline9W748Capt From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 783 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (4 years 10 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 14215 times:

Wow - I'm getting addicted to your TRs! Truly amazing. Your adventurous spirit is what makes flying so great - how else would you have been able to see all this and then better yet, share it with us? Keep them coming - I'm hooked.

User currently offlinefasty From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (4 years 10 months 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 13669 times:

Quoting eastafspot (Reply 15):
Great to learn this, but definitely try to visit before you leave there, then 2 questions:
- the safest air-way from Goma or Bukavu to reach Lumbubashi?
- Does KQ still go to FBM?

Hi eastafspot

There's some kind of daily connection with HBA between Goma and Lubumbashi. It involves a stop in Kisangani + a transit at FIH (where you must recheck your baggage) but usually planes do wait for each other so you can certainly make it.
You can find the laest schedules from HBA here : http://www.hba.cd/contenu/sites/Hewa...ms/media/file/Time_table_159_1.pdf

Yes KQ is still flying quasi daily to Lubumbashi

Really you are welcome if you wish. But I must warn you there's not much to do here and you will not find the same dynamism and activity buzz as you will get in Rwanda/Burundu or even in Goma.

Up to you my friend  

User currently offlineba724 From Australia, joined Nov 2010, 44 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (4 years 10 months 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 13446 times:

The suburbs of Kilwa,how absolutely African!Thanks for a very interesting TR! Loved it

User currently offlinemagicalcarpet From Thailand, joined Jan 2011, 12 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (4 years 10 months 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 13365 times:

Hi Fasty,

This is one great, and very different TR. I enjoyed it tremendously. Plane sure looks new. And the photos you share were wonderful. Thank you again

User currently offlinereifel From Germany, joined Feb 2005, 1541 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (4 years 10 months 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 13150 times:

Absolutely stunning and exotic trip report. Loved it. Thanks a lot for sharing!

User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 14
Reply 21, posted (4 years 9 months 4 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 12868 times:

Nice trip report, Nice to see an intra-congolese trip report.

Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlineAirlineBrat From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 675 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (4 years 9 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 12071 times:

Excellent trip report! I like the picture of the airport terminal in Kilwa. Reminds me of the airport in Allakaket, Alaska (K68A). The 'terminal' is a small shack with 3 walls. Not very warm during the Arctic winter.

I'm leavin on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again....
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