fasty From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0 Posted (2 years 4 months 1 week 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 11679 times:
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
TO THE AIRPORT
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.
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)
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.
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 !
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 !)
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
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) ?
Rainbow over the rainforest
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
JL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 7 Reply 7, posted (2 years 4 months 1 week 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 9688 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!
okapi From France, joined Jun 2006, 184 posts, RR: 0 Reply 8, posted (2 years 4 months 1 week 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 9601 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!
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....
eastafspot From France, joined Jan 2008, 473 posts, RR: 4 Reply 9, posted (2 years 4 months 1 week 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 9583 times:
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
fasty From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0 Reply 10, posted (2 years 4 months 1 week 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 9353 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 !
lukeyboy95 From Papua New Guinea, joined Apr 2008, 951 posts, RR: 35 Reply 14, posted (2 years 4 months 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 8833 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.
9W748Capt From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 409 posts, RR: 0 Reply 16, posted (2 years 4 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 8431 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.
fasty From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 36 posts, RR: 0 Reply 17, posted (2 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 7885 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?
AirlineBrat From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 634 posts, RR: 1 Reply 22, posted (2 years 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 6287 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....