Jump to content

Leg 51: HADC Combolcha to HELX Luxor. Part One

Recommended Posts

Leg 51: HADC Combolcha to HELX Luxor. Part 1 – Home for Christmas




I had arrived in Libreville on September 15th  at the end of leg 44 and had to wait almost a month until Joe turned up to collect the baton. Jasmin had left two days into my stay and had headed to Gibraltar for some unknown reason.

After we had met up, in my hotel, Joe muttered some sort of apology and something about unserviceable aircraft, difficult ATC and something about his route. I was torn between two feelings: Where the f*** have you been and thank f*** you’re here.

The latter won as I really wanted to get out of this place and find somewhere a bit friendlier and a lot safer. Four weeks of lying awake at night listening to angry shouting and the occasional small arms fire in the streets around the hotel was taking its toll.

I could now head off to Combolcha to be ready for my next leg.

The list of flights leaving Libreville was not impressive. I didn’t recognise a lot of the airlines let alone the African destinations on offer.  All of them could be a case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

There were only three airlines I knew and two I was happy to travel with, having flown with Royal Air Moroc before into Fez, never again! During this experience our pilot made what should have been a straight forward approach to Fez into a nightmarish rollercoaster ride. The memory makes me shudder.

So it was a choice of Air France to Paris or Turkish Airlines to Istanbul. On the face of it the former looked best, but then the thought of a few days of Parisian waiters swayed me and I booked my flight to Istanbul.  The plane left Libreville at 14:50 the following day and had one stopover arriving in Istanbul just after midnight.



Istanbul Airport


Istanbul was a place I hadn’t been to before and I was looking forward to seeing it from a tourist’s point of view. Istanbul was full of intrigue, where east meets west, a playground for spies, smugglers and other duplicitous bad guys.

I checked in at an airport hotel and went straight to bed.




For the next couple of days I did the tourist thing and saw all the sights while keeping an eye on the Mutley web site for the batons progress.  Again it was a long time before I had to make my way to Combolcha and start my involvement in the next leg of the batons progress. My first job, find out where Combolcha was. It’s in Ethiopia. Oh great, from the armpit of Africa to yet another sweaty crevice of that continent.

I had to fly Qatar to Addis Ababa, and from there to Combolcha airport by small charter aircraft.

I booked on to the 13:35 Qatar flight and arrived in Addis Ababa at ten past midnight, far too late to look for an aircraft to get me to Combolcha, so I found a bench in the terminal and settled down for a long wait until morning. All this airport hopping was getting long, drawn-out and tiring.


Addis Abba airport


I must have dozed off as I suddenly was aware of someone shaking me. I opened my eyes to find myself looking at a clock on the wall opposite. It was 3:40, and still dark outside. That meant AM. Why was I being woken at this ungodly hour? I didn’t ask for an alarm call. It was only then did I look to see who was shaking me.  It was Jasmine. “What the hell are you doing here? And why are you waking me at this hour?

“Come on”, she said, “we are flying out of here in half an hour”. I got to my feet, grabbed my stuff and followed her through the airport none the wiser as to what was going on.

Jasmine and I hustled across the apron and into the back of an RAF Hercules that was already turning and burning, the ramp closed behind us as soon as we had passed over it and the aircraft was moving before we had time to sit down. We were the only occupants, save for the loadmaster, the aircraft’s cargo was fuel, in large removable tanks, configured for transport and not for air to air refuelling. So it was a no smoking flight then. We settled down in those god awful canvas seats, and put on some headphones so that we could talk to each other.

“Jasmin, wtf is going on?” Were my first words into the mic..

“There has been a change of plan. You were going to do this next leg as a normal run of the mill leg, but we managed to delay its start to coincide with a little event we want to disrupt”. So it wasn’t all Joes fault that I was festering in Libreville all that time. Some of the bad feelings caused by my Libreville sojourn evaporated, but I still needed to get that photo Joe had of me as a baby back!

“It’s getting near Christmas and so as a bonus you get to go home to your family” said Jasmin over the roar of the engines as we took off. “But first we have to collect the baton from your friend Brian”.

The flight was dull but we got to Combolcha eventually and soon I was out of the aircraft and looking for Brian.  As I was doing this the Herc. We arrived in taxied over to an apron and stopped next to an RAF Tornado. There was no refuling here No prizes as to what aircraft I would be using for the next leg then.


Combolcha Airport.


I couldn’t find Brian anywhere. I checked with the tower and they confirmed that a Cessna 310 registered as G-MHFC had landed on the 8 December but had left again shortly after. Great. Where was the Baton? They didn’t have it in the tower so I went on a tour around the airport buildings, or should I say bulding, but with no luck. I was just thinking of phoning Joe to get him to ask Brian to enlighten me as to the batons location when the Loadmaster from our inward flight rocked up next to me. “Is this what you are looking for?” he asked proffering the baton, “I found it on an old rusty bowser in the refuelling area”. Thank God for that! I supposed that Brian expected me to be using a light aircraft and so use the relatively small amount of fuel in the bowser. That is if it hadn’t been nicked by the locals, which it had.



So there it is!


Baton in hand, the Tornado and Herc. Refuelled, we said our goodbyes to the ground crew and RAF Regiment lads who were looking after and guarding the Tornado and piled back into the Herc. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for those guys, it was to be a dull and sweaty Christmas for them.

Another dull flight and we were soon landing at Farnborough where I was to meet my wife and then to get home for the festive season. It will go all too quickly and I would be back in Combolcha soon enough.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Edited by J G
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...