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Leg 59 - Ménaka (GAMK) - Iferouane (DRZI)

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With Putinfeld seemingly getting closer every day to seizing the baton, I decided to try and beat him at his own game. It had been clear, from previous attempts on the baton’s life, that Russian aircraft and equipment had been used. So, first thing was to get a Russian aircraft. I looked for the obvious choice – the Antonov An-24. Sadly, just as the lease was finalised and I went to give the aircraft one last look over, somebody stole the wheels and the propellers. So time to find another aircraft. Sticking with the Russian theme, I found this up for lease:




Interestingly, the aircraft was in the colours of the Jordanian military Special Forces colours. That should help deter any would-be Putinfeld persons! As an aside, the 2 million West African Francs is about £2365.28


Having checked over the aircraft, I took the aircraft on and started to do some flights around the local area, carrying cargo and earning a bit of money in the process. It’s not quite on the credit card yet Joe – its bundles of West African Franc. From my calculations, it’s 864 franc to the pound. Good job I have more than a couple of thousand! I carried on transporting cargo for about 2 weeks, flying in and out of Ménaka regularly, at about the time I wanted to depart with the baton. It made me known and regular – nothing to be suspicious of at all.


Ménaka is not exactly a holiday destination. In November 2009, Pierre Camatte was kidnapped by the North African branch of al-Qaeda and would only be released with the return of 4 al-Qaeda members from French prisons. Luckily for Monsieur Camatte, the French government agreed, and he was released after 6 weeks. In addition, Ménaka is accused of informal slavery between noble caste Tuareg pastoralists and thousands of sedentary low caste Bellah Tuareg. Plus the town is currently under joint Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb control. All this resulted in me not particularly wanting to stay long in Ménaka, besides the heat.


Having got the baton from John, I did another cargo run, just to keep up routine, to XXXX, a paved airfield in Niger, which provided me with overnight accommodation




My hotel, as seen by John


John seemed to be back to his normal self, arriving in style in a big RAF transport. He seemed edgy, and wanted a very quick getaway. So, after handover, John disappeared, where to I did not know


Very early the next morning the pair of ZMKB Progress AI-20DM turboprop engines screamed into life and I arrived back at Ménaka early, this time planning a quick turn-around. Cargo off and away we go. It was far too dark for photos so, by the time we got back, the light had picked up




Getting the cockpit warmed up, so to speak. Hot enough already......




A final rapid walk around confirmed that the rear cargo door was shut and no obsructions




Engine 1 bursts back into life




And about the only digital instrument fixed on the plane says all good




Rapidly going down the 'runway'




And lift off!




Gear up and an immediate bank off to the right to get on course. Good navigation is the key here




About 20-30 minutes later, we were settled in for the cruise




In addition to my GPS, we had a navigator on board. He was bang on throughout




The rather empty cargo hold. About the only time it has been empty!




Approaching the turning point, DRZA Mano Dayak International Airport in Niger








Another 40 minutes and the 'airport' is coming into sight




Nearly there, gear coming out to try and slow down a bit




Due to the concentration involved on finding, keeping in sight and landing on the rather rough runway, this was the best shot that I could manage - after the roll out




Having pushed myself backwards into a parking spot (that I just created), warm air flows into the cargo hold and cockpit. Time for a cold drink with Matt!




Aircraft used - Tim Conrad's Antonov An-32

FS Snaps (a great little site now - thanks Joe and co!) used for the photos

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Terrific job working a job to throw those Putjobs off the track. I was worried that I'd be dealing with trying to hide from bad guys in a tree/canyon/cloud/hidyplace-less region. :(


Pat Moran is back and we are here... and the beer is on Pat. :D We are moving a former junker South African liveried Boeing 727 north to the Med...one of a few acquired and being restored by Pat's Airhauler company. So he is covering my expenses this time. (Joe sighs in relief).

You got in just in time, ;) locals here say the chickens are scratching for cover, a 'sure sign' that a windstorm may be blowing in. hahaha. Well, we'll see bout that. We got a few tweaks to work out on the center engine, it was acting up between Camaroon and here. Pat and his flight chiefs are dealing with it, and promise a departure in a couple/few days. Internet says weather is all Hot, and hotter ahead, so, beat the heat and trust the chickens, or stick around for a few more beers as your 'work schedule' permits.




(p.s. Terrific plane choice, I was almost going to use it myself :D, but thankfully hit on getting Pat involved along with a newish to me Captain Sim bird. Happy to see the ANny in the ATWC ...Cheers again.)

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