My Flight in Cape Town, South Africa.
Written by Akky Mansikka
|About 99s||E. Canada||W. Canada||Articles (Home)||Profiles||Home|
View Akky's photo gallery, then her article below..
I arrived in Cape Town, on a hot, hazy sunny afternoon in April, 2004 on Lufthansa flight 571 from Frankfurt. The flight had left Frankfurt the previous evening. I had flown the night before that from Toronto to Frankfurt. You would think that I would have had enough of flying but no! Our arrival was spectacular. We flew around Table Mountain with the city nestled between the mountain and the Atlantic, then north along beautiful beaches, and circled back inland near the Stellenbosch wine area to line up with Runway 19 of Cape Town International. I was here for the World Championship Dragon Boat Competitions and hoped that after the competitions to do some flying myself. What could be greater that combining my two passions, that of dragon boating and flying, in Africa! The flying schools had not responded to my e-mails from Canada but I had been able to contact one of the 99s in South Africa. Kym Morton lives in Lanseria near Johannesburg about 1300 km. from Cape Town. She gave me the name of an instructor in Cape Town. We were unable to work out a suitable time but he did give me the name of another instructor, Sebastian Hubchen of the Cape of Good Hope Flying Club. I called the flying club and booked a Piper Warrior and Sebastian for a flight.
After the dragon boat races, I had a few days on my own in Cape Town before touring around South Africa with friends. This was my chance. I took a taxi from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where I was staying with my Dragon Boat team during the races, to the Cape of Good Hope flying Club at Cape Town International Airport. I had considered converting my Canadian License to a South African one, but it meant doing all the written and flight tests. I just didn’t have the time or money to do this. It would be more economical and practical to fly with an instructor. The taxi ride cost 220 Rand (about $55) which seemed expensive to me. It would have been cheaper to rent a car for the day. The driver seemed to know where he was going. The Cape of Good Hope Flying Club was to the right of the main terminal of Cape Town International. There was a security gate with a guard on the road into a complex of low white buildings and hangars. When the driver said we were going to the flying club the security guard raised the gate and let us through without checking or asking us anything.
The flying club was in a small one story building. I walked through double glass doors into a small reception area with a counter at the opposite side of the doors. A woman behind the counter seemed to be expecting me. Of course she was. I booked my flying time with her. I said who I was and even though I was a half hour early she said Sebastian was waiting for me. To the right of the lobby was a bar. That’s right a bar…for a cool beer AFTER a flight…hmmm??? Was it my imagination or did the men in there all stop talking and turn around to look at me. Perhaps they don’t have too many strangers or women flying here, or, perhaps they wondered who would walk through the doors with a name like Akky Mansikka…. Male? Female? Black? Asian? White? The atmosphere however, felt very familiar, not unlike my own home town flying school…a smaller version of Toronto Airways at Buttonville. I felt at home here. Between the reception area and lounge (the bar) was a narrow hallway which led to briefing and flight planning rooms and the washroom. On the left of the reception area was the staff and instructor’s quarters. From here Sebastian, a tall slim blond man in his 40’s, appeared. He helped me fill out all the forms for non-club members…including next of kin. Oh Oh! I do forget there are risks. The rates for non members were much higher than quoted on the phone…..close to 1,000 Rand ($200) per hour for the rental of the aircraft….a piper warrior, my plane of choice. The instructor was another 200 Rand ( $50) per hour. Not only does the instructor charge for the hourly flight time but also for preparation time, a pre-inspection fee, the walk around fee and tie down fee. I paid the instructor directly. I could pay him through the flying club but that would cost more. The Cape of Good Hope Flying Club prided themselves on having professional instructors, not just young pilots building time for the airlines. I saw no other students while I was there. The fees were almost double the cost back in Toronto. When I commented on the cost, I was told this was cheap and that Europeans come to Cape Town to train because it is so cheap in South Africa. What is the cost in Europe?
Sebastian briefed me on the weather. He had gotten the weather earlier at their aviation weather web site. The winds were from the south 190/19 Kts. with rotor clouds building up on the windward side of Table Mountain. This meant severe turbulence. We would not be able to fly around the Cape of Good Hope peninsula that day. Our route would be westward over the city keeping on the leeward side of Table Mountain avoiding the rotor clouds, to Robben Island where Mandela was kept prisoner, northward across Table Bay to Blouberg Beach, the shortest distance over water (7 Km.), to the Wine areas of Stellenbosch, and back to Cape Town. It followed somewhat the route we had taken with Lufthansa but now I would be flying it myself and at a lower altitude.
We walked across the parking lot and road, across a lawn to a hangar, which had a brand new looking, Piper Warrior parked in front of it. It was white with blue trim, the same colours as the warrior I fly back in Toronto. I really did feel at home. Sebastian did the walk around with me close behind…fuel quantity…...full; fuel quality…... OK, right colour and feel. I did the oil check…a little dark and thick ..quantity, 7 qts. The chocks and control locks were removed. Ropes were untied and in we went.
I wondered if the seating would be opposite as with the left-hand driving in South Africa…but no, it was the same as in North America. I climbed into the left seat and Sebastian settled himself into the right seat. It was just like the warrior at home but better equipped. It had leather seats with no head rests but it did have shoulder straps. The GPS, instruments and avionics were superior to the ones I was used to. The engine instruments were set on a panel angled toward the left seat. The instructor had his own airspeed indicator and altimeter. There were no charts or maps. I would do the run-up but there were no check lists either. Sebastian was surprised I had not memorized the check list. Everything was done from memory and in sequence….from left to right and top to bottom. It seemed very basic. Turn it on and look at it, to see if it is working…no tune and identify. The transponder was set for 4700 because he was expecting a transponder code of 4701, or 4702 or there abouts. Squawking 2000 meant you needed assistance. I wondered whether the transponder codes 7500, 7700 and 7600 were used. I forgot to ask him. The ATIS reported that winds were straight down the runway at 22 Knots, there were scattered clouds near the mountain at 3,000 ft., the temperature was 20 degrees and the pressure was reported in millibars. I taxied to an apron close to the runway. Sebastian did the communication and I did the taxiing. I had wanted to fly myself but I was starting to feel glad he was there to do the talking. The South African accent and the different pronunciation of names would have made the flight more difficult. The transponder code and taxi instructions were obtained. It would be Taxiway Charlie for an intersection take-off. The pre-take off check was done while taxiing. We switched to tower frequency of 118.1 and were cleared for an immediate take off before a landing Airbus.
With the 22 Kt. wind the warrior became quickly airborne. At 500 ft. AGL, 650 ft. MSL, I turned northwestward and there before me was Cape Town with Table Mountain behind it on the left. On top of the mountain was my first sight of a huge rotor cloud, hanging over the flat top like a giant table cloth. We flew over The Castle of Good Hope, the first European settlement in the Cape, the Company Gardens, down town and towards the water front. There below me was the Victoria and Alfred Harbour where the dragon boat races were held, all the while climbing to 1500 ft. Once we were over the water we climbed to 2000 ft. to stay under the Cape Town Control Area. Visually, I flew to Robben Island where only this morning I had taken a most interesting tour of the island with the island’s ex-prisoners as guides, Nelson Mandela being the most famous ex political prisoner. I circled the Island counter clockwise so I could keep it on my left side for a better view. There was the prison, the quarry, the light house, and staff residences. I lined the plane up to take a picture of the island with Cape Town in the background. Sebastian took control so I could take the picture out of the little left side window of the warrior.
Then on to Blouberg Beach where we had sundowners on our first night in Cape Town a week earlier. We skirted the Terminal Control Area for Cape Town to Durbanville where I had stayed with friends the first few days and would be staying again. I spotted my friend’s new subdivision and her house. Again I took pictures. As Sebastian took control again, I thought that it really was an advantage to fly with someone when you want to take pictures.
Stellenbosch was our next destination. I had heard from Kym that it had a great little airport with a terrific lounge. I hoped I would have time to go there. I waited until Stellenbosch was lined up with the mountains to the east of it, to take more pictures. It seemed to take a long time with the strong head winds. Once again Sebastian took control as I scrunched down to take a picture through the little window. He announced our position to the uncontrolled Stellenbosch Airport on 124.8 the same frequency as the Buttonville Tower. Imagine that! The town of Stellenbosch is in the South African wine region which I had toured earlier with friends from Canada. We did some wine tasting at the wineries and now I was enjoying the beautiful scenery once again from above.
From there we headed west to re-enter the Cape Town Terminal Control Area. The ATIS was obtained. The winds had increased to 24 knots but were still down Runway 19. We were still on the same transponder code. Once cleared to the Capt Town Tower, our call-up point was the towers of the electric power plant. They stood out both on the ground and in the air. They looked like the towers of our nuclear power plants. We joined down wind as instructed by the tower. I do my down wind checks and turn base. I reduce power, the speed decreases and I lower the flaps one notch to set the Warrior down on the threshold. I am landing between an Airbus and a 747. My speed is too slow and separation between aircrafts decreases. When I reach the threshold I am instructed to pull up, turn left, and hold east of the runway. I do so immediately with the 747 behind me. We circle 360 degrees clockwise, once, twice three times. It seems to take a long time for another opening between arriving aircraft. The strong southerly winds make me drift north and I have to correct. Finally an opening. I join left down wind for Runway 19, once again. My traffic to follow is a Citation on final. It passes under my left wing but I continue on downwind to provide spacing for a departing 747. I turn base and watch the 747 roll to position. The spacing looks good. Remembering the theory on wake turbulence from the book “From the Ground Up”, I note where the 747 becomes airborne. I am on a long final but this time I keep the speed up. It still seems slow going with the head wind and have time to reflect on my first approach and landing in the southern hemisphere, with co-ordinates of 33 degrees 58 minutes South and 18 degrees 36 minutes East. In the southern distance the Atlantic Ocean is visible on the east side of the peninsula. On the other side of that ocean is Antactica. More than three minutes pass so wake turbulence is no longer an issue. I will land long and fast near the third intersection with once again, another aircraft behind me. The speed bleeds off quickly and I land a little short of the taxi way. We are told to expedite and taxi speedily to our exit point Charlie.
We taxi back to where we started from in front of the hangar. We do the shut down checks, tie the plane up, and stroll back to the Flying School. I pay the bill and get my log book stamped with the Cape Of Good Hope Flying Club stamp. I can’t wait to go flying again. The next time I will go over the mountains into the Karoo, a remote desert region north east of Cape Town in the rain shadow of the mountains.
|About 99s||E. Canada||W. Canada||Articles (Home)||Stamps||Home|
Website email: firstname.lastname@example.org