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JohnL

Leg 44 GBYD Banjul to FOOL Libreville

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Alas and Alack! The flight has been completed, the screenies selected, and most of the PIREP drafted, but the ol' faithful laptop has chosen this moment to go into very-very-slow mode, the browsers aren't browsing. and I can't even read my email.  :gaah:

 

As I'm going to be away for most of the next fortnight, I regret that the saga of how I got from Banjul to Libreville, via Dakar(!) in 2 odd-looking aeroplanes, is unlikely to see the light of day in the near future. :(

 

Joe, I suggest you get someone else to refly it. 

 


 

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Oh no John, that's terrible news!

Not only for you and your laptop (hope it sorts itself out), but because we might never get to read it!

Can someone else work with what you do have to complete it?  I would offer, but i'm away this weekend and in the big smoke early next week.

Tragic :(

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Just as an update, good news is John's laptop is now back in the land of the living but as John said, he is away so I have suggested we put the ATWC on holiday until the end of August as it would be a shame to lose John's work.

 

 

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Good news about the laptop,  and good call to wait for John's return. We all know how much time and effort goes in to making an ATWC PIREP it would be such a shame to miss all of John's hard work..

 

It's the last leg of this section anyway, so good shout, Joe :good:

Edited by hlminx

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Just a quick note that we are going to carry on with sector 5, in the mean time, JG has stepped in to make a ferry flight for this leg. :good:

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Leg 44. GBYD Banjul to FOOL Libreville Pirep.

I woke from a fit full sleep in my airport hotel, my slumber having been punctuated by weird dreams about the death of Putinfeld and the emergence of the Temperance organisation. The final straw to my rest was the harsh roar from the departing RAF Tornado as its afterburners powered it into the air and toward RAF Marham.

I said a silent prayer of thanks that I was in that aircraft when Putinfeld attacked. The Tornado was the aircraft that I had most hours on ant therefore the plane that I would be best suited to flying a combat mission in. Only one aircraft would have been better and that would be the Tornado F3, the fighter variant, and there were none available at the time1.

1 It is still in the Just Flight hanger with some work being done before it can fly. J

With the Baton somewhere ahead of us we had nothing to do for the moment. Looking at the remainder of the section, Jasmine and I agreed that we should stay put for the time being, our present position being somewhat more comfortable than those ahead to the end of the section.

Three weeks later, I had explored almost all of the Canaries places of interest, interspersed with a few days in the pool, Jasmine and I were chatting about the lack of apparent progress of the Baton on one of the pool days when who should appear, walking towards the pool from the hotel reception than Clive.  

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By the pool

After some greetings, we settled down at the bar for a serious chat. It seemed that the ATWC had stalled.  Jess had taken the baton to Banjul and deposited it with the local police for safekeeping, and awaiting JL. It seems that he didn’t show and concerns are mounting for his safety. Clive assured us that the UK government were cooperating with the Gambian authorities in seeking his whereabouts and ensuring his safety. Clive asked us to step in to ferry the baton to the end of the section.  We readily agreed, but pointed out that we had no aircraft.

He then told us that a Hercules would take us to Banjul where we would pick up an aircraft to fly to Libreville. The aircraft for the leg wasn’t decided yet but would be ready by the time we got there.

It’s a bit of a trek at over 3400 km, across Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and the Gulf of Guinea. So I wondered what the aircraft would be.

Clive then said that we were to take a diplomatic package with us to Gabon. It would seem that local operatives had evidence of trafficking activities that were thought to be masterminded by Temperance; this was to be handed to the British Consulate in Libreville.  MI6 agents there were to compare the data gleaned in the Gambia with Gabon intelligence in an effort to prove a human traffking route that was thought to be part of a wider operation under the control of the Geography Teachers evil empire.

The following morning we presented ourselves at the airport and were bustled into the rear of a Hercules. We were soon in the air and on our way to The Gambia. I spent my flight time reading up the intelligence briefs on The Gambia and Gabon.  I must admit that I had a little smile at Gabon’s president’s name. He is called Ali Bongo Ondimba. It’s a gift of a name for sundry members of UKIP. In fact, could I have stumbled on the infamous “Bongo-Bongo land” of the late honourable member for Plymouth Sutton, Alan Clarke? What a scandal that was.

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Our taxi to Banjul

Having finished reading up on the Gambia and Gabon, I closed my eyes and slept through the rest of the journey, only being woken by the bump of undercarriage on tarmac that heralded out arrival.

After the palaver of customs and immigration was done, we went to the police at the airport to get the baton.  After paying a minders fee in US Dollars Cash which seems a bit expensive, we were soon in a taxi with our blue cylinder and driving to the consulate to pick up the diplomatic bag with the trafficking information in it. All we needed now was an aircraft to fly the leg in the baton.

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Banjul airport.

Jasmine and I were putting out feet up in the crew lounge when a very animated bloke dressed in the airport staff uniform came up to us saying that there was a phone call for us. “That will be Clive telling us we will have to wait a week for an aircraft” I said gloomily.

But no, or rather yes, it was Clive but no we wouldn’t have to wait for an aircraft, we could take a brand new RAF Texan II that was hidden away in a hanger which explains why we hadn’t seen it.

However there was a catch. Normally I don’t pay for fuel, HMG takes care of that as I am usually flying an RAF aircraft. However this time the catch was that we would have to pay for the fuel ourselves. That was the load here at Banjul, a top-up at Monrovia Liberia, another at Accra in Ghana. The aircraft was then to be dismantled in Libreville at the end of our leg for onward shipment in an Atlas. The Texan was originally bound for Gibraltar from the USA, in bits in the back of an Atlas and so, in the eyes of the RAF, a diversion from Gib, south to Banjul one thing, but swanning off to Gabon was another.

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Flight Plan

When I asked about the cost and the fact we were carrying a diplomatic bag, this was dismissed as it could have just as easily gone on scheduled flights.  MI6 was not helping either.  So Mutley had to cough up.  I think I might have maxed out the card.  Sorry Joe.

I wandered out to the aircraft and asked the ground crew when the aircraft would be ready and I was told that an hour should do it. The ground crew was flying on commercial flights to Libreville after we had taken off, It seemed that the Atlas had buggered off a few hours ago and would meet up with the us in Gabon. The ground crew were noticeably pissed off at these arrangements as it involved a 12 hour journey via Monrovia and Lagos.

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Texan on the stand

I spent the hour filing flight plans and checking over the aircraft while Jasmine filed away olives and checked over a G & T in the lounge. We were flying to Libreville Gabon, the ICAO Code for Libreville airport is FOOL. I was out in the heat working on the flight preparations and Jasmine was swanning around in air conditioned luxury. Clearly FOOL is apt for me at the moment. My sentiments were aligning with the ground crew.

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The diplomatic bag

Clive had given Jasmin the diplomatic bag, and once this was stowed along with the baton, we were soon starting up the Texan and preparing to taxi. I had notice a slight temperature issue with the engine but it had sorted its self out after a quick run-up.

With the permission from the tower we set off for the active runway.

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Lined up and waiting

Despite there being no other traffic we were told to line up and wait at the end of the runway. Clearly someone was loving the little power that they had. While waiting I checked out the weather.  It was blue sky here but we were on the coast and subject to a nice fresh breeze.  Inland would be different, the hot and humid jungle we were to cross would be bound to change things

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Takeoff

As we climbed out of Banjul and turned onto our course it soon became apparent that the atmosphere was changing.  The further we flew over the jungle the more humid the air became and visibility grew worse and worse.

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Climb out of Banjul

Soon we were enveloped in mist and so climbed up above it. We popped out into clear air at 11,000 feet and settled into our cruise at 11,100 feet.

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A hazy day for flying

We pushed on skimming over this ethereal cloud that occasionally thinned to gently remind us that we were still over jungle and that putting down anywhere but an airport would not go well.

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The ground – Just visible through the murk

As we made out way south east towards Monrovia it became clear that the misty clouds weren’t going to let up. Let’s hope that Monrovia had a sea breeze like Banjul.

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On finals at Monrovia. Where is the airport?

It didn’t. Our approach was from the sea, was a bit interesting. As we dropped down through 1,500 feet the mist thinned and what was at first a blind decent became clear, but not until the end of the runway was very close.

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Runway in sight but so close

We quickly taxied to the fuel box and started refuelling as quickly as we could. A small bribe was made so that we could hot refuel and get on our way as soon as we could. The day was no longer young and we had two flights to make before we could rest.

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Hot Refuelling

Internal and external tanks filled we set off again, climbing through the murk but up to 14,000 ft this time

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Off again

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Its murk ground hog day

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Jasmin’s view was as dull as mine

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On finals at Accra.

As we approached Accra id was much the same as before. Perhaps the mist didn’t come down quite as far but it was still almost a surprise when the runway lights suddenly appeared below.

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Hot refuelling again

We hot refuelled again and obtained taxi clearance to the active runway.  This leg was over the sea and so perhaps it the visibility would be better. Surely all of Africa can’t be like this? It wasn’t. Rain was moving in from the sea and it started to come down hard as we filled our tanks.

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Taxing for the last take-off.

It was one of those evening tropical storms. The sun had lost its power and all the water in the air suddenly falls out in a thunderstorm. We were headed out to sea and so the storm wouldn’t be with us for long.

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Take-off

The sun sets quickly in the tropics, and so it was this day. By the time the land was fading into the distance it was almost fully dark, and the sky was now cloudless

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Beautiful Sunset.

So it was a beautiful starry night, which turned out to be a very lucky thing for me. Libreville is a interesting airport. That is to say interesting from a pilot landing point of view.  You see there is a bloody great hill at the end of the runway. Not much of a problem if you are taking off unless you happen to be overloaded, but landing into Libreville is a different kettle of fish.

When you start your approach you are over the sea, but between the sea and the runway there is the bloody great hill and It’s about 450 feet tall. This hill is steep, hump backed if you like, and can easily catch you out. It’s a case of going over the top at about 100 ft above the hill and then doing a 500 ft nose dive once you are over it.

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On finals at Libreville.

The photo above has be approaching the runway with all the lights at white.  To high you say. No I says back.  If I had two reds and two whites I would be somewhere inside the hill.  So a difficult approach and in my case made harder as it was at night, and although there are many lights from the town around the airport, no one lives on the hill and so there are no lights on it. It’s just a big black hard to see lump. So you see I was glad of the stars because at least I could something of the hill.

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Taxi to parking

Once down we breathed a sigh of relief and went through the stress free taxi to the stand.

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Aircraft shutdown.

If you look carefully in the photo above you can just make out the nasty hill in the background. We shut down the aircraft and made everything safe. This being completed we walked into the terminal building an in the customs hall we were met by an Englishman from the Honorary Consulate in Libreville. He took the diplomatic bag from us, and pointed out a room where we could handover the aircraft to the Atlas crew who were to dismantle the aircraft and ship it to Gib. Just before he left he did us the kindness of recommended a good hotel.

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Libreville Airport

So here we are, sitting pretty in Libreville, waiting for someone to hand the baton over to. Being the end of the leg we could be in for a bit of a wait.  Not my favourite option for a layover, It’s hot, humid with, according to the CIA database, a high risk of infectious disease, Aids is rife, rabies is common in animals, mugging and robbery happen all the time and of course human trafficking and corruption are endemic.

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Libreville.

Despite a rather dull leg and a successful, although small, contribution to the case against Temperance, I think I will stay in the hotel. Best not to push my luck.

Oh, by the way it’s the Le Meridien Re-Ndama Hotel.  So whoever has the first leg on the final section, you can find me and the baton there. If you arrive at night, get a taxi from the airport, don’t walk and make sure that the cab driver isn’t armed.  Actually, on second thoughts, do that in the day as well.

 

 

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Fab Ferry Flight JG!

Hot refuelling? jeez you really didn't want to be on the tarmac too long did you.

Try and stay out of trouble.. Libreville looks like a bit of a melting pot :unsure:

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Superb JG :clapping:

Knowing what short notice you had this is a brilliant PIREP.

Ferry flights always have the tendency to be boring but you sure made the best of it.

I have added a few thou' to your card limit as a bonus!

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