There's a photo I've wanted to take since I first got to Xaxaba. When the bigger planes like the Airvan and Grand Caravans come into land on these dirt strips, the sand on the edges of the runway makes beautiful swirls as the wake turbulence disturbs it.
So the other day, I'm scheduled to lift for Maun about 25 minutes after a Gippsland Airvan is due to land at Eagle Island. I brought my camera(the one Mik sent me, not the one that got stolen) over to the hangar. I pulled the heli out, pre-flighted, and watered the road(to keep the dust down, this is Kalahari Desert so some dust will get into the compressor no matter what, but control what you can control, right?)
I figured BBK would be on final approach any minute so I walked over to the strip and waited. It wasn't long and I saw the silver glimmer in the sky. I made sure I had the camera set on burst mode, focused on the other end of the runway, and crouched down.
I started snapping just prior to BBK touching down. I saw a zebra running full speed from stage left. From a thousand meters away I didn't know how close it would be but Martin(the pilot) knew it was gonna be close cuz he tried to lift off again. He had only pulled the plane up enough to clear a warthog when his right wheel clipped the zebra in the back. The plane twisted to the right and nosed down but Martin was able to recover and get it onto the left wheel.
The whole time I'm snapping away thinking I'm about to see this plane roll but he did a great job. Martin was able to stay on the left wheel until he lost inertia, then the belly pod made contact but he kept it straight down the centerline until it was time to pull the plane off to the side. It came to rest just by the windsock, mid-field off to the side.
One plus two on board, injuries: one zebra, damage: one wheel, one belly pod. The plane and the pilot are both back in the air.
I gave the pics to the air charter company with the caveat that they not be distributed without my express written permission. They gave the photos to CAA-B and The Botswana Police. Yesterday, SA Flyer called the air charter company and asked if they could edit the photos. So some jackass at one of those government agencies obviously passed them on. But in keeping with the cultural norms, no one will admit giving the photos away. Always more to the story in this place.
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