Ferrying an Aircraft Across the African Continent!

Lungpinglak Domtta is an MAF pilot from Nagaland, India.


Story by Lungpinglak Domtta. Photos by Lungpinglak Domtta and Rembrand Rodenburg.



The year 2021 started with an exciting adventure for me.

It has always been my desire to ferry a plane across a country or even better, a continent. I hoped that one day, when the time was right, I would have the opportunity, but I did not expect it to happen so soon.


MAF in Liberia operates an aircraft registered in Uganda. Being one of the newer MAF programmes, with only one plane and limited on-site maintenance, the aircraft needs to be flown to its mother base in Uganda for major scheduled maintenance.

The engineers at MAF Uganda had already completed a major maintenance on the Cessna Caravan used in Liberia. My colleague, Rembrand Rodenburg, and I were to ferry the Caravan back to Liberia and bring the aircraft being used there back.

Preparations


It was wonderful working as a team with Rembrand. We spent two days at our desks preparing for the flight - the routes to fly, alternate airports, communication procedures, etc.

The ferry flight was planned over nine days, from the 3rd to the 11th of February. It took a lot of planning and preparation as the flight involved flying over different countries. Thankfully, all our permissions came through on the 2nd of February, and with that, we were set to depart.

This was our planned flight route: Entebbe (Uganda) - Kisangani (Democratic Republic of Congo) - Yaounde (Cameroon) - Accra (Ghana) – Liberia. We also flew over a few countries: Democratic Republic of Congo – Brazzaville (tip of Central African Republic) – Nigeria – Benin – Togo - Ivory Coast. Our return trip followed the same route except that we had an extra night stop in Kisangani (Democratic Republic of Congo).

En-route


As planned, we took off on the 3rd February from Entebbe in Uganda to Yaounde in Cameroon with a technical stop at Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Being just north of the equator, February is right in the dry season. This was good for the flight, although we did have low visibility because of all the dust.

Did you know that Cameroon is a French speaking country? We faced a big challenge when we landed in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon - we couldn’t communicate with anyone! Thankfully, a pilot from Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) came to our rescue. We’d spent almost 4 hours that day trying to organise the next day’s flight. On the morning of the 4th, we continued to Accra, the capital of Ghana. Things went much smoother, and we arrived in Liberia on the 5th. The plan was to swap across all the aircraft equipment from one plane to the other on our arrival and fly out on Monday morning. But the plane in Liberia was busy doing a double rotation and we had postpone the swap to Monday.

The weekend

I was already looking forward to this for a very long time. MAF has a house next to the Atlantic Ocean in a shared compound with other NGOs. It was the first time I was going to the beach since I’d improved my swimming skills. To add to the excitement, it was my first time seeing the Atlantic ocean after having learnt about it in school.

It was quite an International weekend with colleagues from Finland, The Netherlands, Scotland, South Africa and India. Despite coming from different backgrounds and cultures, I love how we all shared one identity in Christ, working towards the same goal of reaching isolated people with help, hope and healing.

The flight back

The 8th of February was a Monday morning and we were back at the airport preparing for our return flight. This time we had an extra stop on our way in Kisagani, Democratic Republic of Congo. We flew back the same way( Liberia-Accra-Yaounde-Kisangani-Entebbe) and arrived back in Uganda as planned on the 11th.

We covered a total distance of 9830 kms in a little over 36 hours, flying over 11 countries with night stops in 4 countries. We were able to swap the aircraft successfully.

The aircraft will be heading back to Liberia again once the maintenance it needs is complete.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this ferry, it really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and if given a chance again in future, I would most definitely say yes.

I am and will always be thankful to God for this experience and blessing.

Even though I always dreamt of becoming a pilot, I never really thought I would be away from home and my country. As I look back at where I started, I am humbled, thankful and grateful for how far God has brought me. I am looking forward to many more adventures!

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