Didn’t expect to end up in a cockpit this morning.
So today the IWMF team landed in Beni after some very productive days in
Goma. I have a slight fear of small planes, but this one, a turbo-prop
Fokker 50 run by the Kinshasa-based airline Compagnie Africaine d’Aviation,
Takeoff at 9:40 was smooth, and halfway through the first leg of two, the
flight attendant asked if I’d like to sit in the cockpit during the landing.
Uh, yes… yes I would.
So I went up front and buckled up. It was scary and exciting and great…
And I was also invited to hang out with the pilots again for the entire
duration of the second leg. Lucky!
The pilots, who were Belgian, told me they weren’t operating in “controlled
airspace,” which gave them a fair amount of autonomy. I watched them arc
around a big raincloud, and they showed me how, during autopilot, they
could tilt the whole plane by turning a single dial the diameter of a thumb
tack. Then we landed on a red dirt tarmac at Beni airport, where we
disembarked and the plane circled back to Goma.
Obviously this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.