Sat 3rd September 2011
This morning a good supporter or MoM and its concepts, Mr H, came to fly. He has not flown in a while and was happy to undertake an assessment flight to Battorkope as his lesson. We cannot get the village on the phone and we really need to assess how they are doing and how they are positioned for the forthcoming flooding of their lands. Excitedly he checked out the plane (he is close to solo, and flies really well). As we lifted off of the ground his smile beamed and the comment ‘I have missed this’ must have been uttered 100 times. We could not take a direct line to Battorkope, the relief clouds masked any clear passage, and so we headed to the North, aiming to pass through a lower valley. With the cloud base lowering the lessons for Mr H were many and he flew each section with care and attention to the little details that make flying here so challenging. A two mile deviation can save your life, literally, you have to learn how to read it all. We passed over a resettlement village and had a lively discussion about how his own tribe were displaced in his part of Africa, and how the Government resettlement villages tend tp fail to reach their intended goals and are quickly brushed under the carpet. (The people whose village is destroyed for the building of a lake are given a house in new village, with land and money for 5 years, but they rarely succeed because the ‘encouragement training’ is not there – the people are basically fobbed off with a pay-out and a lump of concrete…. Sad, but true).
We finally managed a passage through the valley and over the lower ridge into relatively clear skies, cloud base varying between 800’ and 2000’ about the surface.
Battorkope peninsular stood out. The ‘five trees’ that mark the end of their home made runway visible clearly from 5 miles away. We got closer and realised that the lake levels are really not lowering much at all – and we are still three months to ‘high water’. Judiciously they have cleared some lands where we recommended, but the majority of the planting is still in the areas that are likely to be lost in the coming months. As we flew over and around we could clearly see that people were excited to see us – but we could also see incredible amounts of debris in the water, making a water landing totally unsafe within two kilometres of the shoreline, and a water taxi in with the fibreglass floats, a non-starter. We need another solution here – we need to get the 701 and the 801 on amphibious aluminium floats, which is close to $80,000 of floats, and seems very unlikely in the next year.
Their homemade runway is pretty much usable with a couple more days of effort, but that effort cannot be made until approvals to land there can be secured. Landing in a village requires an approval. That takes time, money and the right approach by the relevant authorities – we are close, but not close enough to that becoming useable this year.
The good news is that the majority of the community is still clean and the principles upheld. We know that even just the flight over can keep the momentum going until we can get there in person.
WE may need to set a road trip there – but that is a lengthy and very dangerous drive , with no guarantee we can actually reach the community… we need to borrow somebody else’s big 4x4, and even with that it is ‘not easy’…. But we are good at not easy too!!! (Please Paul J or Martin H, can we borrow a car again, please….) Personally I cannot do the trip, my back is unable to cope with the road – so it will be down to the more able youngsters to get out and visit, and it will be a very long day out… even without incidents on the road…
We got back, and debriefed, flying an assessment mission as a cross-country exercise with a student pilot is part of the integrated approach that enable MoM to actually happen. Without its integration to WAASPS and AvTech, it really could not do very much at all. Today really cemented that component in my mind as an ‘essential link in the chain of sustainable support for ETCHE’