With my dad’s love for aviation, aviation has always been part of my life, but it was really in the background until after I started working. I qualified as a geologist and joined a consulting company where I have been lucky enough to travel throughout Africa for work. We had some good trips, some bad trips and some amazing trips. What sticks out the most in my mind when looking back is the excitement every time we got to fly to some remote project in a helicopter or a small fixed wing.
The flights across Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Benin stick out the most in my mind. The DRC was my first work trip, and the client had a number of gold assets spread across southern DRC. We spent a week flying from the hotel lawn on Lake Kivu to the different sites!
In Benin, another gold project was located right at the border with Niger, and we were transported to site in a military Agusta. I was fortunate enough to have a headset to listen to the pilots and I was intrigued to listen in to the co-pilot who was busy with his training. My colleague was clearly not enjoying the trip as much as me and after a fuel stop around halfway, he threw up on my shoes. Despite the fact that we landed directly on site to spend the day like that, I only recall the excitement of the trip and was very disappointed that we had to drive back later in the week.
In Kazakhstan we were lucky to be transported from Aktobe to an iron ore project in the far west of the country, flying for miles over desert, watching the wild camels far below from the biggest helicopter I have ever seen. It was so cold that we were bundled up in our best South African winter attire and I couldn’t take more than a few photos before my camera froze!
I was recently reminded of my grandparents visiting from the UK when I was 14 years old. My grandfather asked what I wanted to be when I grew up to which I responded without hesitation “A pilot!”. I was clearly inspired by my memories of running around at airshows asking pilots for autographs, taking thousands of airplane photos and running outside every time we heard a plane go past our house. My parents were not as keen and insisted that I would first go to University, but as an instructor in the UK, he was so excited that he immediately arranged my first introduction flight at Rand Airport.
I forgot all this until the work trips started and finally decided to start my pilot’s license. In between, I was also fortunate enough to get married at the Airplane Factory surrounded by Sling 2s (the same as what I was training in)!
It took me longer than most between work commitments, an accident at my first flight school in their only trainer, weather and my extreme procrastination but I finally did it and in December 2019, I became the holder of a shiny new private pilot’s license.
Since then, I can’t get enough of aviation, and I have so many amazing memories that I decided to start this blog. I had been thinking of it for a while but was struggling with a name when one day driving home from a site visit in Mpumalanga, I heard Joe Mann on Jacaranda claim he could name anything. I sent a voice note challenging him to name my blog and couldn’t believe my luck when they called me back and named this blog for me! You can listen to a snippet of the show here: https://www.jacarandafm.com/shows/scenic-drive-rian/joe-mann-helps-listeners-unique-names-businesses-pets-and-more/