November last year, I took over your club's reins from my predecessor Rob Linck. A very difficult task especially after all the good work that Rob did for us.
A lot of things have happened and I am very proud to announce that your committee has been very dedicated in bringing the Club forward.
Our club having been in existence for many years now, inevitably involves expenses. Our major priority has been to focus on the rehabilitation of the ACEA Hangar, well overdue for a facelift. To a vast extent, Colin Davies contributed to certain sections of the hangar including the workshop.
Gemineye Construction run by Ben Cork was contracted to revamp the entire floor with the latest technology and materials.
On the accommodation side, we upgraded all our rooms with an Internet and DSTV facility.
Very shortly soft furnishings within the rooms will be replaced.
Our aviation centre is in the process of being relocated to the Reception area of the club house, where more services will be available to our members, thanks to those who have communicated their support.
We suffered recently a serious water shortage which unfortunately cost us a fair penny in water bowsers. As we speak, all is up and running as normal.
We have had a few events at the club;
Quizz Night was kindly organized by our treasurer Chris Hardisty and his wife Faye, bringing together quite a few members, resulting in a very enjoyable evening for all;
Our Karoga’s are well attended - these we would like to hold monthly and turn to you to volunteer your cooking skills for what is always a fun evening;
We are looking to host a ‘play’ in the foreseeable future, which shall involve many members.
Our Vice Chairman, Jamie Walsh is in the process of organising a fishing competition in Malindi towards the latter months of this year.
Our Annual NAVEX will be held in October this year, dates to follow.
Our ACEA Club house at Orly is looking great, all it requires is for you to visit. Please do.
On the less enjoyable side, we suffered a few losses from very dear friends and long time members; Rory McGuinness, Bill Cronchey, Bridget Davies, Lionel Nutter and Victor Wahlroos: we will miss you guys.
As a conclusion, I would like to thank you for your continued support and for believing in your committee.
The Natron Saga Part I
It was as nice a day as any on the afternoon of Sunday 1st April 2007 (April Fools day), when Cessna 150 trainer, 5Y-AZW took off on a solo cross country from Wilson Airport Nairobi at 3.30 pm, bound for Magadi, about 70 nautical miles SW of Nairobi.
Magadi airstrip is on the side of Lake Magadi, a soda lake near the Kenya-Tanzania border- a favourite destination for student pilots, being very easy to find with prominent landmarks all along the route. The student pilot at the controls was Peter, a young Kenyan with ambitions to obtain his commercial pilot’s license, and becoming an airline pilot.
When dusk approached and AZW failed to return everyone feared the worst, but there was nothing to be done until the following day.
Next morning two aircraft took off from Wilson Airport on a Search and Rescue mission to look for AZW. Rory McGuinness, African Sky Charters chief pilot flying Cessna U206, 5Y-AHZ, with myself and two others, Faheem Razzak, an instructor with Pegasus Flyers, and Kenneth Kilewe, one of my mechanics as observers. Joe O’Brien, chief flying instructor of Pegasus Flyers, together with Victor Wahlroos, (who was the instructor in charge of the lost young man) and Gideon Kingoo my head mechanic, flew in Cessna 182, 5Y-ATS.
AHZ was to fly down the east wall of the Rift Valley and circle round to the west to Magadi, and Joe O’Brien in ATS was to fly down the Nairobi-Magadi road to Magadi and the circle round to the west and fly up the west wall of the Rift.
We duly took off on our respective routes, fearing the worst, but hoping for the best.
AHZ flew south along the Rift wall and ended up well into Tanzania, everybody on board keeping a sharp eye out. We were heading north west towards Magadi when some intuition made me think we should fly towards Lake Natron, a large Soda Lake, which lies due south of Lake Magadi, in Tanzania, with a large hill, (in Europe they would call it a mountain), called Shompole, in between the two lakes.
Africa is a damn big place when you’re looking for a tiny aircraft which may be anywhere within a hundreds mile radius, and it seemed pretty hopeless.
We approached Lake Natron and flew towards a large hill on the eastern side called Gelai, and then skirted its eastern slopes, heading north towards Magadi.
Suddenly far away to the left, I thought I saw a small speck of white. Rory flew in the direction I was indicating and amazingly, there it was. An aircraft sitting on the side of a grass strip, which was not indicated on any map, with no signs of human habilitation anywhere near. We circled over the aircraft several times, flying low, and it did not seem to be damaged, but there was no sign of a pilot, only a couple of seat cushions lying under the wing.
We did not land as we were in Tanzania airspace, without clearance and it would have been a bit embarrassing if we bent our aircraft and ended up with two aircraft on the ground in Tanzania without permission.
After flying around the area for some time without spotting the pilot, we decided we had better return to base at Wilson, and report our findings to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority. This we did. The Tanzania gave us permission to mount a Search and Rescue operation to find the pilot and we started preparations to go back to the site the following day.
We made arrangements with Ol Donyo Laro Lodge, which is situated in the west Rift up against the Tanzania border, to send some four wheel drive vehicles down to Shompole airstrip where Rory and I and Gideon Kingoo, my head mechanic would fly down in
5Y-AHZ to coordinate a Search and Rescue by road into Tanzania. Only problem being there are no roads, only some very rough cattle tracks. Otherwise it’s off-road cross country stuff.
I also contacted Bruce Field who owns a Gyrocopter, and he agreed to help. His machine 5Y-TOY a Magni Gyro SRL M16-2000 being ideal for this kind of work, as it can fly extremely slowly, and land and take off on a sixpence.
Anyway, we set off in the morning in AHZ and flew down to the area. The 4X4 vehicles were making their way down off the Rift Valley escarpment from Ol Donyo Laro, which was going to take a couple of hours as the tracks are extremely rough.
When we reached Magadi in AHZ, we decided we’d look for a possible route for the cars from the Shompole area down the eastern side of Lake Natron. After a while we arrived overhead the airstrip where AZW was situated and we saw some people near the aircraft. As we now had the necessary permission we decided to risk a landing.
The airstrip was actually not at all bad and we had no trouble landing.
AZW was standing about 100 yards off the top left hand side of the runway, on the eastern end, away from the lake. There, looking rather skinny and frail, was the elusive student pilot in the company of three Maasai gentlemen. He was found to be uninjured, but quite badly dehydrated. He has spent the first night under the wing of the aircraft, and next morning had walked off with a small bottle of water towards the shore of Lake Natron and started to walk north.
Now this area is hot – damn hot. “As hot as a snake’s ass in a wagon rut,” as quoted in the movie, Good Morning Vietnam. And desolate. And the lake is a soda lake, and not advisable for drinking. He was, very luckily, for him, found by the Maasai, because this area is very sparsely populated, and full of wild animals, including lion and hyena. He was in a very weak state. The Maasai took him to their manyatta and looked after him, giving him milk and food. The next day they brought him back to the aircraft where we found them when we flew over.
On inspecting 5Y-AZW we found that it was quite badly damaged, though this was not evident from the air. It seemed the student pilot flew straight past Lake Magadi, with its very prominent town and factory, flew past Shompole hill, and on into Tanzania for about 25 miles. He then spied this airstrip, half way down the side of Lake Natron, on the eastern side on an east-west heading, with no buildings or roads and not indicated on the map, and thought “Ah! That’s it!” and landed from the west, coming in over the lake and putting the aircraft down at the extreme eastern end of the runway, on the last 10%, the aircraft running off into the bush to the left, through a small rocky depression, which tore all the left main undercarriage leg fittings to pieces, and then hit the only tree in 1000 yards dead-on with the propeller, and then the left hand wing leading edge and bent that right in and also bent the lift strut before coming to rest at 90 degrees to the end of the runway.
We left Gideon at the site with the Maasai, taking the radios and instruments out of the aircraft. Rory, the student pilot and myself, took off in AHZ and flew up to the north end of Lake Natron, and landed at Shompole Lodge airstrip across the border back in Kenya.
We called the Ol Donyo Laro Lodge and thanked them for their assistance, and said their vehicles were no longer required and could turn back as we had found the pilot.
We contacted Bruce Field, to tell him that his services were no longer required, and he replied that he had taken the day off from work, and was coming anyway and we would have to provide lunch for him at Shompole Lodge. We filled up the student pilot with hot, sweet tea, which improved his strength somewhat.
It was decided Rory would fly the student pilot back to Nairobi, and I would wait for Bruce to arrive in his Gyrocopter, then I would fly with Bruce, (after I’d bought him lunch), back down to 5Y-AZW, and Rory would return in AHZ after dropping off the student pilot at Wilson and pick up Gideon.
Rory took off with the student pilot and flew him back to Wilson. On passing Lake Magadi, Rory asked the student pilot if he’d seen the lake and the town, to which the student pilot replied, he had, but he thought they looked too small! So he carried on for another 25 miles, found a strip on the east side of a very large lake, on an east-west heading, with no habitation and buildings, that’s not marked on any map. Decides, that’s it, and lands.
Anyway, Rory dropped him off to the waiting arms of his grateful family and then flew back to Natron.
I in the meantime flew back down from Shompole, with Bruce in his gyrocopter
5Y-TOY. Gyrocopters are fantastic for seeing the countryside. Open tandem cockpit, bit like flying around sitting in a bath tub, flying low and slow, a few feet above the lake and bush. If you want to take a photo of a giraffe from an airborne gyrocopter, you have to point the camera up!
We all met back at the accident site, where we loaded all the pieces of AZW into AHZ, radios, instruments, batteries, seats etc, and Rory flew back with Gideon to Wilson and I flew back with Bruce in the Gyrocopter. Bruce and I flew low looking for a suitable route for the recovery vehicles to come and collect AZW. We got to Orly airfield in the evening, a new airfield on the road from Ngong to Isinya. Orly is a shortened version of the name of the small village it is situated next to with the picturesque but bit of a mouthful name of Olooloitikosh. We then drove back to Langata, arriving as the sun went down at the end of a long stressful episode, but with a happy outcome-having recovered the student pilot without injury.
I then started planning the next part of the operation – the recovery of 5Y-AZW from Lake Natron, which proved to be a bit of an epic, to say the least!
You could have knocked me over with a feather; all the staff at the Pemba (Mozambique) airport were there at 6:00am as they promised.
But it had been raining almost all night at Pemba, there was no power and the airport had no back up.
I fired up the plane and called the tower; no answer. I switched radios, tried other frequencies but still nothing, so I taxied to the base of the tower, pulled the prop to feather, set the brakes and had the “co-pilot” stand on the pedals just to be sure.
As I opened the door I could see the controller looking down at me. I raised both arms, pleading and he gave me a gallant “bull fighter’s passé”, and that was our clearance to fly an IFR departure, cross a few hundred miles of sea, and depart for an international flight. I didn’t wait for him to change his mind.
We were IFR seconds after we departed as I banked us gently east; out over the Mozambique Channel (the Malagasies call it the Malagasy Channel).
I called position checks for the next two hours but it was lovely silence as a response. And then Antananarivo came through.
Approach and control both spoke flawless English and couldn’t have been nicer. They took me straight in, so we plowed on over the sea, across the shore line and rivers that met the ocean there and an hour later “Tana” came into sight.
Cleared for runway 11, we landed, and taxied to our “handler’s hangar and apron space. They must have put down the red carpet (really) and the fences, and even tail stand, while I was cooling the engine because by the time I was down the steps and around the back to pull the stand out, the welcoming party was there and my guests were descending the stairs onto a red carpet. I’ve never had a red carpet before.
Coffee, tea, juice, a red carpet and smiling faces; flying around Madagascar for the next 20 days was going to be fun.
My guests were taken to lunch while I had to go and sit two exams; one on air law and one on Madagascar-specific weather. I had a Malagasy proctor for each exam and they were most, most helpful, and the exams were quite fair. An hour and a half later I was back at the plane and we were already fuelled and flight plan was filed for us, Morondava here we come.
Morondava, the largish town on the western shoreline, is near the famous “Baobab Alley”, something we wanted to photograph at dawn. We left the next morning at 4:30am to accomplish that, and it was so worth it.
We only did a one-night-stand at Morondava, and I took the precaution of topping the tanks before flying further south; not knowing truly when Jet-A would be available next.
Isalo here we come: Almost two hundred miles south and slightly back to the east is a stunning mountain range, almost like a very dry version of the upper Aberdares. The gently rolling sandy strip was wide and lovely, and set beautifully between two mountain ridges.
For the next two days we walked and birded here, managing to see our first lemurs, and also had a lovely time swimming in the most beautiful, gin-clear waters of the rivers of Isalo National Park. I went running every day across the tracks of the high mountains, for once not worrying about buffalo or elephants.
When we departed two days later, for the very bottom of Madagascar island, the winds were calm, it was warm (and high), and it was a relief to have the Blackhawk power and 30 degrees of flap available for take-off. We departed to the east, lifting over the mountain ridge, banked right, crossed the spine of the range, and set course almost due south towards Berenty, a private sisal plantation with a still intact Spiny Forest. We had three days scheduled here to learn that forest a bit, as well as bird the riparian forests that border the reserve/plantation along the eastern side.
Ring-tailed lemurs, little Sportive lemurs, white-fronted owls, and three species of vangas, a uniquely Malagasy family of birds, were on our target list. I was more concerned about the airstrip.
The GPS coordinates I had were off by 5 miles or so but that wasn’t really the concern. I had received a somewhat alarming phone call from a French speaking stranger who had heard I was flying down to Berenty. I speak no French but I did, repeatedly, hear the words, “No”, and “disaster”, and the phrase “Big, bad rocks”, so I didn’t plan on a straight in landing. But when we got there and flew down low along the side of the airstrip one of the first things I saw was a King Air (90 series) in the parking area; hugely reassuring.
Bumpy grass tussocks for sure, but the runway had no rocks and 29 inch tires had no problem.
Berenty was so worth it, with Ring-tailed lemurs IN our rooms at times (though not at all like baboons or Vervet Monkeys in the same situation), and great birding as well.
At the very bottom end of the island, Ft. Dauphin, for fuel (and me landing on the wrong end of the right runway), I took the opportunity to go to the tower to get a view of the sea to the south, the mountains to the north (and to apologize), and to try and get some weather information as we were then headed on a three-plus-hour flight north to the centre of the country. To an airstrip that was supposed to be quite short.
Typical for all my flying experiences in Madagascar, the welcome at the tower was great, photographs allowed, coffee and conversation “required”, and everyone could not have been more helpful, relaxed and easy.
In Madagascar, even with a foreign registered aircraft, you can file and cancel flight plans by phone at any time, and, even more amazingly to me, one can change them on a moment’s notice, by phone when on the ground or by radio when airborne. And the attitude throughout it one of easy acceptance by the powers that be.
“Bekopaka, hmmm....be careful; its smooth and wide, by short, short, short.”
“-Cross the big river and its straight ahead of you.”, and they were right. We fought strong winds all the way (up to 65 knots almost directly on our nose), but the mountains were stunning and the country gliding by below us was varied and so different from Africa that time did not drag.
Bekopaka was short and was smooth, but I was only in a Caravan so it wasn’t an issue. The park guards were there and waiting for us, having been told that we would be arriving. They helped put the plane to bed, and we just jumped in two 4x4’s and headed off for the lodge (and more lemurs, birds, Tsingy formations and boating on a lovely river).
Flying back to Antananarivo three days later was anti-climatic and we didn’t get a Red Carpet Welcome this time, but processing there was, once again, smooth, easy and relaxed. We were to leave the plane here for the three days as we went to the highland forests to the north east, in search of a dozen species of lemurs and so many types of chameleons and new birds that we would be finish each day reeling with new natural wonders.
MADAGASCAR IS NOT AFRICA, it truly is so vastly different that you are eventually forced to realize, even having done all your homework ahead of time, that this Eighth Continent really is a world within the world; hence the joy of exploring and flying it all.
Flying north, to the dry country, was a scenic joy. Mountains and wide open country in between, cut by dry water courses, and views of the distant sea, kept everyone’s noses stuck to the windows, and the headwinds of the week before we gone, and all was smooth and clear.
The descent into Diego Suarez, and the very top of the island, required a steeper descent than I would have liked, but weather, and very nearby mountains deemed it necessary, and, once we broke out, we were rewarded with lovely views of sea and mountain and a green, green world.
Once again, everyone at the airport couldn’t have been nicer and more relaxed. I asked for fuel, got my guests in for coffee and cookies, and ambled to the tower, just to see what it was like and say “hi”. I was, yet again, warmly welcomed and was impressed that the controller noticed our Caravan had a four-bladed prop instead of the usual three blades. We chatted too long, about flying in East Africa and my recent experiences in Madagascar, and so, after easily filing a flight plan, I went and joined everyone for coffee, and we were off.
The only somewhat demanding leg of the whole trip was our flight from Diego Suarez down to Maraonsetra, south, and on the eastern side of the “continent”. We filed IFR, and, after a VFR departure, climbed quickly because of the mountain’s proximity, and were almost immediately IFR; not to break out VFR on top for 20 minutes or so.
I had just installed Synthetic Vision in my Aspen MFD prior to this Mozambique/Madagascar safari, and brought it up in the screen for this flight. We had to descend right to the sea, and it was IFR from 11,000 feet on down, with Minimum Sector Altitude of 7,000 feet.
Tower at Maraonsetra, though no fault of their own (lack of radar, etc.) could offer no help but a detailed Moving Map and Synthetic Vision really did make it safe and simple. I knew I could, if all avionics disappeared into a puff of smoke and blackness, plow on south and east, out over the Indian Ocean, and then turn 180 and come back to the airport.
The tower had said I’d break out at 1,500 feet, and we broke clear, just at the shoreline, at over 2,000 feet. I turned 180 but still couldn’t actually see the airport because of rain between us and them, but in a few minutes it was directly ahead of me, and in we went.
Into a car, onto a boat, over to an island, two new lemur species, eight new birds, and the greatest gecko in the world; the Leaf-tailed gecko (look that one up). A picnic lunch, back in the boat, and thirty minutes later we were where the rainforest meets the sea. In the afternoon we went kayaking and diving, and if it wasn’t for the salty water you would have thought you were on Lake Tanganyika. Miles across the bay, the opposite shore was mountains, the beach golden sand with smooth black rock outcroppings popping up all down the shoreline. Even the colour of the water reminded me of Mahale and Lake Tanganyika. But the wildlife was, yet again, of another world. Morning and evening walks, with mid-days used for diving and kayaking, and suddenly, it seemed, we were back in the boat, plowing across the sea to the Caravan. Three days had vanished in a lovely flash.
I had called around a bit and it sounded like I could get both fuel and clear immigrations straight west of us, at Mahajanga, instead of going all the way north to Diego Suarez, and then flying right back southwest again to Mozambique.
The tower confirmed that as well, and over the mountains, away from the sea, and across the country to the channel. At Mahajanga we bumped into the only unpleasant airport experience we were to have during our entire 20 days of Madagascar flying. A customs officer there didn’t like the wood-carved baobab souvenirs that he found, and wasn’t pleased about the US dollars that showed up when he rummaged through someone’s day pack.
But he was honest: “Give me $20 and you can go!” You almost have to admire that, and it did get him the $20. The plane was fuelled during all the baggage inspections and run-around, and I even had time to go, once again, to the tower just to see what it was like. Friendly, helpful (they filed the international plan for me), and a few photographs of the setup, and we were off, over the water and headed for Mainland Africa!
It’s a long ways to fly, this Eighth Continent, but it is a world unto itself. I wished I had gotten here years ago, as it’s, for a biologist, so different and actually bizarre, so fascinating.
From a flying standpoint, it’s easy, welcoming, diverse and the only way to get around that vast country.
Find an excuse, any excuse, and get there!
13th march 1935 – 7th January 2015
I first met Peter Lucas in 1965 when he was learning to fly at the Aero Club East Africa at Wilson Airport, Nairobi. In those days he was doing his apprenticeship as a Printer which he hated.
Always full of fun. This stroppy Cockney with a quick mind and evil laugh, was determined to get into aviation and this he set out to do.
I was a flight instructor at the Aero Club at the time. Peter’s first flight with me was on 10th September 1965 in the DeHavilland Chipmunk 5Y-KLS doing a “spinning check out”. On landing at the end of the lesson he went to the boot of his car, took out his gloves and vomited into each one of them in turn and then neatly tied them up and put them back in the boot.
On five subsequent flights in the Chipmunk he always did likewise. I asked, “Peter do you really wish to continue?” “Yes!” he said, “but I hate the smell of all that aeroplane’s oil, dope, fabric & brake fluid.”
OK we will change aircraft next flight to be in the Cessna 150, 5Y-AAN. This we did on 11th November 1965 and he was fine on subsequent flights. No more puking into gloves.
On 27th January 1966 I checked him out on the Piper PA28-140 Cherokee 5Y-ABG.
In early 1966 I left Kenya to work in the state of Victoria in Australia and then moved to Kitwe, Zambia and on my return to Kenya in 1969 I found Peter had become a fully qualified Commercial Pilot.
Whilst he was working as a pilot on Wilson Airport, he was one day asked to pick up 3 passengers at Samburu airstrip. He duly flew down to the Samburu strip on the Nairobi-Mombasa road and landed, and waited, and waited. In those days there were no mobile phones, so when he flew back empty cursing, he learned that the passengers were still waiting for him on the other Samburu airstrip!.
In late 1982 my former student Peter, had become Chief Pilot and MD of Skytrails in Mombasa.
I had obtained my A & P, and completed courses on Beech Craft King Air 200’s and PT6 Turbine engines in Australia and USA, and I became Chief Engineer of Skytrails. Skytrails was a new & successful Charter company and Peter and I worked together there for many enjoyable years.
On one occasion whilst demonstrating the King Air B200 to prospective customers, Peter did a low fly past at Mnarani club in Kilifi. I was later called out to check the left wing after Peter reported a bird strike. There was green coconut leaf stains on the wing, and I said to Peter on the QT “was it really a bird strike?” and he said, “yes, but it was in its nest!”. The damage was nil and we had a good laugh about it.
On another occasion we were having trouble with the pressurization on a King Air B200. In those days most passengers smoked and the pressurization outflow and safety valves used to stick up with nicotine and required regular cleaning with mild detergent. To test the system we took off and obtained clearance to climb to 21,000 feet overhead Moi International Airport. It was a beautiful clear early evening and we could see for miles. Suddenly there was a loud crack and the Pilot’s perspex storm window parted. I was being cautious (windy), and already had my oxygen mask on, so quickly pulled the supply knob on the cabin roof between us. Peter did not have his mask on at the time and very soon we were headed towards the Seychelles and the wide blue yonder with Peter beginning to slump. We both scrambled around and soon had his mask on, and returned safely to the Airport. His comments were “That was a bit of a bummer”.
Hugh Pryor was a close friend of Peter’s. Hugh was a pilot who flew for the Fly Doctors for many years. On one Hugh’s Instrument renewal pre-tests Peter was the instrument examiner. All went well until the approach, when Hugh forgot to tune in the outer marker beacon, so he whistled the code into the mike and Peter didn’t notice anything unusual as Hugh was an expert whistler. On the de-briefing Hugh felt guilty and confessed to Peter. Peter was furious, failed Hugh & stamped off to his car.
In aviation jargon a Piper PA18 is a Super Cub, and a PA20 is a Pacer, the crop spray Piper Pawnee is a PA25. Hugh was filling up his log book and asked Peter, “Hey Pete what is a Pawnee, a Piper PA?” Pete replied “a Piper PAWNEE you idiot”. That was Peter Lucas.
Compiled by Alan Herd, January 2015
The year is racing by and it is hard to believe that we are already half way through the year.
Creative Kitchen celebrated its third anniversary at the Club in October 2014. At the same time we introduced a Members’ Discount Scheme that offers 15% discount on all items on our a la carte menu, which is available throughout the day.
We continue to open our doors to non-members between 6am and 6pm seven days a week and to members and their guests daily from 6am to 9pm. We are also proud to announce that we have been awarded Trip Advisor certificates of excellence for 2014 and 2015.
In addition to our regular restaurant menu, we continue to cater events both in and out of the club. We cater functions for up to 200 people and provide a range of options including buffets, active cooking, plated banquets and cocktail parties. We also offer a conference package to those using the Aero Club conference facilities. For further details of our menus and prices, please contact us directly.
In the past year we have catered some fabulous events at the club, including Boskys 50th Anniversary dinner, the annual Aviators Ball and the Swedish Society Ball as well as several children’s parties. We shall be organizing events and entertainment throughout the rest of the year and will be starting with a Hog Roast lunch menu every Sunday in June. On Sunday 14th June we shall also have a live band to keep you entertained.
We will also be starting our Planet Picnic lunchtime sandwich delivery service from Monday 8th June. If you are interested in this service, please contact us directly for further details.
We thank you for your continued support and look forward to seeing you all over the next few months.
Neil and Tara
Phone: 0722 959452
Facebook: Creative Kitchen at the Aero Club