The man with the key has gone!


CMS in Flight

There are some sayings that are heard all over Africa, such as TIA (This is Africa) and ‘the man with the key has gone’ and Flying Mission pilot Jonathan Weaver got to experience both of those recently.

‘I was doing an international flight for some of the Baptist Missionaries. I was excited about this flight because I had never been to Mozambique, but I was also a bit apprehensive because, with international flying in Africa, you never know what to expect.

The planning started with our chief pilot applying for clearances not only from Mozambique, but also from Zambia since it was an international flight between the two countries. I did the actual flight planning and filed a flight plan. Tete, our destination, isn’t actually that far from Lusaka, so the flight was only about two hours.

The morning of the flight I took the plane to the Lusaka International Airport and found the passengers. Together we went through customs. Sometimes you get asked a lot of questions with a private flight, but usually it’s not too bad. We have nothing to hide, but too many questions do delay things. Thankfully, this time the customs agent was more concerned with his cell phone conversation than with us going to Mozambique, so he stamped everything with no questions asked.

After making it through the international terminal we found the exit door for the international flights.  It was locked.  And the man with the key was definitely gone. The airport staff prepare for the large airline flights, but in between those there aren’t too many people around.  I went to search for the key, leaving my two passengers at the door.  After several minutes of futile searching, I came back to find that they had flagged someone from outside and he had gone to get a key! Hurrah. We made it out to load up the aeroplane and were on our way! 

On the way

The flight went smoothly.  As we reached the border, Air Traffic Control Lusaka  transferred us to Beira Control.  I made several radio calls: no response. At this point we were well into Mozambique.  My passengers and I had discussed the correct way to say “Beira”, thinking that maybe my pronunciation may have been the problem.  I then pulled out my chart and found a different frequency and tried calling on that one. Lo and behold, they could hear me on that one and responded!  We continued on and made it to our destination of Tete (we had also discussed how to say that, because I heard it said three different ways on the flight…).

After landing, we had to figure out where to get in! Finally we found the window where we would clear customs.  After some initial confusion – there were 3 of us but only 2 had visas because I was not staying – they determined that I also needed to pay a fee because I was at the window too! So I paid the $25 dollar fee and we, along with the missionary we were meeting there, went to pay what I thought were the landing fees. 

We were detained by a police officer because he wasn’t sure why we were going back out toward the aeroplane. He spoke to me in Portuguese .  The missionary we were with spoke Portuguese and responded to the officer.  It was interesting because the officer continued to speak to me, though I obviously didn’t understand a word he was saying. I suppose it was because I had the official-looking pilot uniform on.  He allowed us to continue and we paid the fee. I said goodbye to my passengers and went to the control tower to file a return flight plan.  I wasn’t sure where to go in the building, so ended up climbing the stairs all the way to the Air Traffic Controller himself.  He was tickled (amused) that I had come up to see him and we had a great conversation.  He pointed me to the correct spot to file the flight plan and told me if I ever came back to be sure to come up and see him again! 

While I was filing my flight plan I was told that I hadn’t actually paid the landing fees! What? What we had paid in the other office was the “Customs fee” for bringing a Zambian aeroplane into Mozambique. Ok…. so I paid another set of fees and then was free to go.TIA.

Back at Lusaka I felt I was home when I landed at the international airport to clear customs. It was a successful flight and, as usual, I was grateful to the Lord because, like I said earlier, you never do know what to expect when you go flying here in Africa!’