So after a day running up and down central Kenya, I get home around 8pm to find that a flight I had booked at 6.30 am had been shifted all the way down the schedule to 5pm. That was Thursday Evening. I don’t like 5.00pm; one reason being it’s expensive. That is getting to Wilson from home is around Ksh 90/- and getting back home is Ksh 130/-. On the other hand. Leaving home at 5.00am means I pay Ksh 60/- to get to Wilson and Ksh 40/- back. Besides that considering traffic levels, it gets worse. Secondly you cannot extend a time slot and here it’s you and darkness to decide at what point you will let go of each other. So I was pissed to hell and back. However something prevented me from calling the scheduler and spoiling their evening. I managed to forget it… Considering the tons of issues I had to sort out that evening.
Today (Friday) came through as usual. After my less eventful day, I left home around a quarter to four and got to the air side via departures at 5 on the dot. I was late. For a 5pm flight, I was supposed be at the air-side for my preflight 30 minutes prior. Anyway. After pre flight (November Bravo as usual) I was cleared to start around 30 past the hour. I went ahead to do my 2 dual circuits. I extended the first circuit all the way past the monastery and still had to go around because of traffic on 07. On the second circuit, but first landing, I didn’t even feel her touch the ground. It was just feather light. However on the third circuit – second landing, I did a ‘bad’ landing (Over flaring Issues). There was also some bit of crosswind that took me off the center line momentarily. I’m taking off, Captain Joey tells me to make the next one a full stop. This call is usually made on downwind, but we usually discuss it at random points on the circuit. However, my distracted mind and probably the voices, that I recognized as the voices on duty during my first Solo… I called out to land while upwind 07. I had not even cleared the blue bird Hangar. “But you are on 07 November Bravo!!!” followed by their seasoned after laugh when rookies mess up. “eerrr, I am eerrr, upwind 07…” Smh. Weee. The moment I let go of that PTT! The captain was on my case. I got… Anyway, after landing we exited on Bravo and he alighted for me to proceed with my solo circuits.
This is where the fun started. As I was taxing to holding point 07, I noticed the movement of strobe lights on the taxi ways & grass too. The police type and the firetrucks. And then I hear something like command vehicle hold short 14. So I was like Okay!!! Con Air Stuff taking over! ‘What’s going on!?’ As a rookie pilot. I have never been around for this procedure before. I did not even know what it was at first. The presence of the lone GSU on sentry at runway 14 on my way in, became part of the equation. It hit me that probably something was amiss. Listening keenly on the radios; there was no urgency or distress call. There were three in the circuit and I guessed there might be someone who had an engine failure or simulating one. Paranoid me also thought, could I be the one the firetrucks are waiting for since it’s my first day to fly in the evening? I also imagined an aircraft that had been suspected of ferrying contraband etc. & the authorities were alert to counter the same. To make it worse someone had flown over a restricted airspace somewhere & we heard it on radio as they were being told to divert ASAP.
I was cleared for take-off and I joined the circuit. Maybe tower did not hear that it was my third solo… I let it go and proceeded to do my circuits. The first one was a short one. For the second and the third, I went all the way to the Monastery. It was while overhead the Monastery that I heard Harambee One from Kisumu having been cleared to route via the Monastery… My! My! Was I excited… So, I was sharing the airspace with Harambee One. I looked out because at the time I was around the Monastery and saw far off in the distance the lights of the Dash 8 – the designate Harambee One from a distance. In case you are wondering, any plane that carries the president automatically becomes Harambee One. Even if he decides to ride in November Bravo – which I will explain why I refer to it as Ninety Nines One – later. It becomes Harambee One. I continued with my approach. Everyone had landed and I was the one remaining on final. Ahead of me had been a Cherokee that had touched down a short while earlier. I guess that is why tower never told me to land immediately. (No aircraft is supposed to be in the vicinity of Harambee One I guess) Otherwise my intention was to fly until I couldn’t see my references… (Not recommend at all!!).
I delightedly listened out to Harambee One’s coms with tower as I touched down 07. I was tempted to call Harambee One & say “Jambo Jambo kikosi!” in a guttural voice but that would have been another ticket to jail. The secret banter that goes around on these airwaves… Wacha tu!!! People even set up coffee dates on some frequencies, I know, with code. Very soon I will be sending shout outs too, avstalkers standby. Got so many friends in these towers. Evil plan two; to share a taxiway was fouled when I was told to backtrack 14. (In green) My intention was to roll all the way to Charlie and then taxi slowly back to base (Apron 3) – The X. I wanted to have a closer look at that moment when Harambee One was ‘stripped’ off Harambee One privileges as The President stepped onto the tarmac to his awaiting convoy and KAF 305 given clearance to Eastleigh as an ordinary Dash 8 (I still feel butterflies when anything Air Force is mentioned – the good butterflies. Love et al). Ha ha. Fine, eerr… as an extra ordinary Dash 8 given its military roles. That did not happen though. Pie on my own! As per the small map. The red mark indicates how my intended taxi plan was, but the green is what I got from the beautiful voiced air traffic controllers. X is what we refer to as base for the Ninety Nines Family, or what I mean when I tweet “Good Morning from Apron 3”, *smiles*, or where I park our* November Bravo. I however managed to watch as it touched down as I was taxiing to base. The first thing my captain asked was,
“umeshukishwa?” (You were forced to land?)
“No, I was done with my laps,”
“How was it?”
“Exciting…” “Sharing the control zone with Harambee One…”
… or maybe not as exciting to others as it was to me… Its just the other day we were discussing how Wilson used to feel like a grave yard hours before such operations resume normal in such scenarios.
After, debrief and signing my log, I left the airside via arrivals after that walk admiring the runways and taxiways at night & the heavy traffic on Lang’ata Road inbound due to the president’s convoy. I even forgot to ask at what point one begins to clock night hours. By the time I got to town, courtesy of traffic, it was 8.20pm or thereabout, even missed a meeting I was to attend at 6. To crown that moment the official Harambee One – The Fokker now, was doing night circuits over the CBD.
This would just be an ordinary tale though, but considering my stint with military aviation & the role change… Eish!!! You think I will sleep normally today? I did not even tell the controllers goodnight…