This trip report is about a couple of flights I had with in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since they were unusual for me, I thought it might be fun to post as much as I could. So, here goes.
March 16 2008
Kinshasa to Kisangani (FIK)
Hewa Bora Airways
DC 9-51 (according to the safety card)
I arrived at the domestic terminal about 630, and the terminal was empty. An hour later, at 730, the place was a mad house. And I mean ZOO. Traveling in the DRC has its own surprises. And they began with check in.
First, I didn't check myself in. Rather, that gentleman who works for my company -- a local hire, driver, organizer, general help get stuff done guy -- took my passport, ticket, and luggage and fought his way to the ticket counter. I stayed out of the fray (and couldn't even always see him). He came back about 15 min later with my boarding pass. I then proceeded toward the departures lounge. Prior to security, the police looked at my boarding pass and passport. I also was required to show my letter for permission to travel within the country, signed by our local company manager, stating I was traveling for company work.
It was strange to see a plane painted all white -- no livery of any kind. F was rows 1 --4, 100% full. 7 on was Y, I was in 7E
, bulkhead center.
Well, boarding happened in the usual way, going up 1L, via a stair case. About 15 min late, we started to taxi to the runway. The security demonstration was quite short, and done in French and Swahili (I think). The safety card included other languages.
We got to the runway, started powering up the engines. Then powered down, taxied back to the terminal. About 45 min later, we were ready to go again. It turns out that the FO was feeling ill, so we went back for a replacement. Once he was aboard, we closed the door, went to the runway and took off (no new safety brief).
Service on board for this morning flight was quite nice. We were given a package of cookies (125 g), coffee, tea and usual morning drinks. I saw F breakfast -- a danish.
We arrived about 75 min after take off, very smooth flight. The governor of this province was aboard with us, so he deplaned first. It was not until he began his official handshaking that the rest of us were allowed to deplane.
Now, by deplane, I mean straight onto the tarmac. We were able to see our luggage being taken off the plane and put onto a flat bed cart. Many people watched their luggage being put onto the cart. I started walking toward to the terminal.
As I was about to cross the tarmac service road, a man comes up to me and says: David Scj? Yes, I respond. He said my colleague had sent him to pick me up. After Kinshasa, I knew to expect this so wasn't surprised. He asked for my ticket, passport, and letter of travel and escorted me to the "Bureau D'migration" (sort of an internal visa check, or boarder police). They registered me into the province. And Then I went for my luggage. It was interesting to see the chaos that abounded. I stood away and let him grab my luggage for me. Again, I wasn't the only one, so again seems to be the norm.
FIK -- BNC (Beni)
Cetraca Aviation Flt #?
Antonov plane (I think)
This flight was an experience. I will describe the plane, so someone can confirm the type. It was Russian, propeller , 3 blades, 1 x 2 seating, 7 rows. Does this help?
Ok, the usual preflight drama with check in (which my colleague and I allowed the local person we hire do it for us). Well, that went well. Suddenly, the whole departure area stood up. How they knew it was our flight, I don't know as I never heard a call. Oh well. So, open seating. I took a seat toward the back.
Now, for cabin crew who read this;
The only uniformed crew was the Capt. and FO.
There was no one taking boarding passes as we got onto the plane.
Luggage (and I mean checked luggage) was piled into row 1. Of course, no safety net to keep it from moving, and no such thing as overhead bins.
Can you imagine the FAA allowing that for a non second? Well, the capt and FO walked up the aisle, climbed over some luggage in the aisle, pushed aside the curtain and took their seats. They guy sitting next to me got up, closed the door to the plane. And the engines started and we were off.
Needless to say, no safety anything. I don't know what he could say, the plane clearly had no oxygen masks, and the seat belts (while present and functioning) were apparently not required. They were the old press a button style, not the lift the metal flap style.
The cabin service was non existent for this 3 hr flight. We flew in smooth skies until we arrived. We circled the airport a couple times waiting for a storm to blow over. Then we landed, quite smoothly.
It was as we landed that I realized there was no lighting on the runway or taxiway, and that the runway was a dirt strip. The first time I've ever seen either. We got off the plane, door at rear again, went to check in with the internal Migration people, and luggage was quickly brought for claim.
Interestingly, on the claim tag, you're advised it is not a bag tag as defined in Art 4 of the Warsaw Convention.
BNC -- FIK (Beni to Kisangani)
We arrived early in the day at the airport. I was impressed by the services at the Beni airport. They have a cafe, stores with convenience items, and even a lounge (Salon D'Honneur VIP). While we were invited in, we declined so as not to miss the flight announcement.
Beni has no separate area for check in, departure, security, etc. All is in the arrivals/check in hall.
There was an interesting calander listing people whom the world misses (Bado Tunawakumbuka Saana). Those, we in the world miss, are:
John Paul II
, Cardinal Rugamba of Tanzania, Cardinal Nsubuga of Uganda, Cardinal Etgou of Kinshasa, Sheik Yassin of Palestine, Mother Teresa, President John Garang of Sudan, Sir Edward Muteesa of Uganda, Pres. Banda of Malwawi, Pres. John F Kennedy, Princess Diana, Patrice Lumuma of Congo, Martin Luther King, Pres. Obote of Uganda, Pres. Nyerere of Tanzania, Pres. Idi Amain Dada of Uguanda, Pres. Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo, Pres. Kenyata of Kenya, and Pres. Laurent Kabila of Cong.
Certainly an interesting selection.
Finally, it was time to board the antonov (9Q CAZ) to Kisangani. The flight is a repeat of the above, so I won't waste your time re-describing everything.
Later that day I took
Hewa Bora 122 Kisangani to Kinshasa
This was another DC 9. Again, about 1 75 min flight. The only difference between this flight and the other Hewa Bora flight was the snack was nuts, and cokes were served in glass bottles (like the old ones) and beer was offered as well ( for free, by the way).
If I can answer any questions, I will. Photos aren't allowed at airports, i was told, so I didn't try to take any. I am writing the TR
from notes I took on the plane. As always, will try to answer any questions.