2010. július 31., szombat

Flying in Botswana and Namibia

As I promised this entry will be a quick answer on the questions I get. So here we go:

Do I have to go back to my country waiting for their call, or I need to stay over there for days, weeks, months... waiting to get hired?
Botswana: Well, don't expect an interview like you would anywhere else. Companies don't really do interviews. Except Sefo a formal one. They will just hire you from one day to the other. So yes, you need to stay there. When they need people is usually for yesterday, so they will not call you from wherever. They will pick the next available guy on site. Companies there also like to see if you can stick to the place. Maun is a really "boring" little town (no offense guys). There's not much to do. So companies will hire you only after one or two months, so they know you're not going to run home after a week. But what I can tell you is that from all those guys I was with in Maun this everybody got hired who sticked for 3 months. 
Namibia: the same applies here. The only company that will hire you through phone and skype is the one I work for. But then I was hired because I spent a month here got to know the pilots, made lots of friends. And when they had a vacancy they told the boss they want to fly with me. Any other company works as in case of Maun.

In case I need to wait over there, how much money I need to carry with me?
Botswana: in Maun the cheapest place to stay is Audi Camp (it is worth checking their site for What to expect and What to bring). Is around 2 euros a night (but you need to bring your tent, matress, sleeping bag). You need to tell you are a pilot. Beer is 1 euro a bottle. Transportation from Audi camp to the airport is 50 cents. You might calculate with this. I'd say 500+ euros a month. Other place to stay is the Old Bridge Backpackers, around 5-6 Euros a night. It is a very nice place just on the shores of Thamalakane river. With great bar and lots of visiting pigeon sized bats after sunset. Namibia: is a bit more expensive. Cheapest accomodation in Swakopmund is Villa Wiese, pilot rate is 85 Namibian dollars (if you can get it), 8.5 euro per night, in a dorm, but with breakfast and wireless internet included. In Windhoek dorms, like the The Cardboard Box or Chameleon Backpackers are 100 namibian dollars  per night(10 euro).

What can you tell me about malaria? Is it a real problem?
It is not an issue. I don't know anybody in Maun infected by malaria. In Namibia it is the same. So forget about it. Worst case you will have to deal it after you got infected (usually you get Coartem), as you cannot fly on anti-malaria drugs. But I suggest you bring lots of insect repellents to Maun as there are swarms of biting bugs in the night.

Let's assume I'll be hired. May I go back to Europe for a few days to renew my CAA licences whenever I need?
You will have your leave. As far as I know is at least 20 days, but some companies will give you a month leave. Although there are seasons, mainly the high season, when you will not be able to leave.

Do I have to spend lots of money for any kind of conversion, medical,and all the crazy paper works, once get hired?
Majority of companies are willing to bond, so I did not spend money on these here. Some of my friends liked to pay for themselves. The paperwork is mainly sorted out by the company, or they are helping you in sorting it out.

What documents do I need to carry with me?
All your pilot papers (license, logbook, any certificates you got from your flight training organization), an accident and incident report from you DCA, birth certificate (with english or having an english translation), police clearence from your countries police, a bunch of passport photos (let's say 10). But, I was never asked for any of them here in Namibia. The DCA wasn't even curious enough to ask for my logbook. In Botswana you might need all, of these papers.

As I understand I have to camp there in Audi Camp what type of clothes and tent do I need to carry?
You do not need to stay at Audi camp, but that is where the majority of guys are staying and as i mentioned above it is really cheap. Any tent will do if it is water tight. Lots of rain there in December, January, February. And there will be very-very hot. You will need an inflatable matress as well. Clothes for a hot summer. It is really hot even in the nights.
Do the companies do any interview? If any what type of questions do they ask? (I mean only related to flying or do they take psychometric test and all also).
Do not really think of these as interviews. Majority of companies do just a formal interview, not even aviation related. They will mainly be interested in your personality. It is only Sefofane who has some kind of a test before hiring, but even if you just write crap they will hire you if they like you (I know of a guy hired this way).
As I mentioned nothing too special, if there is any at all. Sefofane has interviews in Maun, they have a written technical and a psychometric (I posted this a couple of times here, but Sefofane has a good document on their recruitment procedure, download the PDF here). On the interview they will only ask questions that you had on the written exam.In Namibia most companies have interviews but nothing special. Mainly interested in your personality. The trickiest part is the psychometrics that some companies have here. Couple of guys failed them this year.

And what do the companies look in a person apart from flying to hire them?
They like you to fit in their team. Party with the guys, stuff like that. Just give yourself and it will work out. Maun is a pretty isolated place on earth, so they want to see that you will be able and willing to stay there for a year or so. This is more important that your flying skills. You'll anyway do 50 hours right and 50 hours left seat flying, so I might say, they will kindda teach you to fly again! The same applies for the majority of companies here in Namibia as well, except maybe the amount of training hours vary.

There is a lot's more info on these in my first entries from 2008 as well.

My opinion is to not think too long, decide and then give it a go! I spent 2 months in Maun and never got a job there as the hiring season was over, I've been a month in Swakopmund and the hirings did not start. But made friends and after I went home to Hungary I got the call and ended up flying in Namibia.

2010. július 27., kedd

Tropic of Capricorn

It is a long time since I've posted here, but my excuse is that I was busy flying the routes from right seat (had more then 30 hours this month) and taking some instruction in the 210, and then taking the practical exam. 
Witwater apron, but the runway doesn't look much better

The training flights were with Ingrid, a new intructor at Bataleur's Flight school. She's pretty relaxed and will not put you under pressure. But then she has a pretty decent past flying everything from small to big. 
The exam was flown with Jacques, a local DCA examiner. Just some aerial work: turns left-right, stalls in different configuration, powerless landings and a couple of full load takoffs and landings. So I had my first passangers: the ramp guys at Swakopmund airfield.
The funny thing in it is that I do this with a Namibian Student Pilot License.
And now the company training is still on. Till I do not get my validation papers I can only fly right hand seats. But am flying the routes and practice the radio work. I enjoy these with my training captain Somatiko. 
Coming from Europe I'm used to full radar coverage, so once given a squawk we just fly around like flies, and don't really report except if we're asked by the ATIS. Here it is different, there is no radar coverage, so you must continuously transmit your position and your intentions. Wich is not a bad thing considering you have twenty airplanes flying the same route, with some of them coming up ahead. Own separation. And it works very good.
Except maybe if you are a newbie and doing your practice patterns at Swakopmund airfield in the afternoon and suddenly you have ten airplanes coming back from a Sossusvlei scenic and every pilot has other intentions. I was doing some full load checkflights when this happened. I was on left pattern RWY 17. And then some guys coming home were starting to use RWY 35. It was an interesting experience that would never happen back home.
FNG's at Kücki's: Nik of the skydivers. Stephan and Kike for Scenic

Lot's of new guys arrived as well. Most importantly my job hunting friend with whom I arrived here in March, Kike, went online with Scenic.
Sunday sports

Things really picked up paperwork wise as well. In the meantime my work visa arrived. So at the moment the only thing I need is a License Verification sent to the Namibian DCA by the Hungarian DCA. Bush Bird is fully booked for the next month, so I hope I will be online by then.
Although Swakopmund is not even one degree away from the Tropic of Capricorn which marks the most southerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead at noon (here this is in December), it is pretty cold nowadays. Morning fogs, mist is very common. Mainly couple of miles inland and along the shore. This is due the cold Benguela Current. This creates the desert conditions at the shores of Namibia, and the persistent fogs that we now in Swakopmund at the Skeleton Coast and Namib Desert. Which led to lots of ships running aground. Like the Eduard Bohlen close to Conception Bay, one of the biggest now on the shores of Namibia. The ship was a 2,272 gross ton cargo ship with a length of around 100 meters.
Some days it doesn't even clear up during the day. Meaning that when coming back from a flight sometimes we need to use the railway approach RWY 35. But will write you about this later.

The Eduard Bohlen ran aground off the coast of Namibia's Skeleton Coast in 1909, in a thick fog.

My next post will be very soon, as I've got a couple of messages with common questions, and instead of answering them separately will post the FAQ's with the answers here.

2010. július 14., szerda

Walvis Bay salt pans

Had some flight school flying this week. And will have my Namibian commercial check ride on Monday. But will update you on the whole process next week. Until then enjoy some pictures taken near Walvis Bay over the salt plains.

2010. július 12., hétfő

Unusual weather over the desert

Last Saturday morning we had a pickup from Wolwedans with Captain Somatiko. Early morning fogs and low clouds are not unusual this time of year in Swakopmund. And we really got the soup for the departure. Visibility was not that bad, but the cloud base was settled somewhere around 1000 feet. Not your usual VFR day. But we did not have too much time to consider the possibilities. The passengers had to be in Walvis Bay at noon, so they can catch Air Namibia to Joburg. After takeoff we climbed on top and headed Wolvedans. There were clouds under us as far as we could see. But we were hoping that after a couple of miles the fog will end.
We flew all the way till the Dune Corridor until the we left the fog behind. To find fantastic crisp weather in the Wolwedans area. 
After picking up the passengers we climbed to FL065 and headed back. Just to realize that we cannot stay on top. If the cover stays closed we will not be able to land at Walvis Bay and not even in Swakopmund. So we went under. 
Well it was a ride. But we made it to Walvis Bay and the passengers even enjoyed the low flight above the dunes.
In the meantime paperwork is on it's way. As I mentioned I've had my radiotelephony and air law exams. And am waiting for the Student Pilot License (funny), required to be able to do my CPL checkout with an examiner.

The fogline at the Dune Corridor (Sossusvlei)

The fogline and the desert

Wolwedans apron

The bush pilots rest

Under the clouds, over the dunes 


2010. július 3., szombat

In medias res

Not even two weeks passed since I set my foot on Namibian terrain again and I was already assigned for the radiotelephony and Namibian Air Law exam.
On Wednesday night I embarked the TransNamib train and headed to Windhoek. Before you would think this is a train where you travel with goats and cows and everything else I need to stop your fantasizing. The train is pretty decent. Is in Swakopmund at around 2100 and arrives to Windhoek around 0900. Pretty long ride, but as it is an overnight train you can get a sleep (if it not too crowded I use to sleep up in the baggage compartment overhead). And it is probably the cheapest way to get to Windhoek or back. They are charging under 100 Namibian dollars for the ride, depending on the season. As you can see they have tv's on board, and they are showing movies as well.
The TransNamib Eco
So, got to Windhoek, jumped in a cab and headed to Eros Airport (pretty horny name for an airport) to meet the radiotelephony examiner. He gave me a quick test, that was mainly based on the Namibian aeronautical map. Had some questions on TMA's, CTR's. Then he briefed me on Namibian specialities in German and finally signed my papers. Then took me up into the new tower, had a nice chat. Drove me with the exam results to the Namibian Communication so I can get my ROC license. And then he took me to the DCA, where I was scheduled to have the Air Law exam. 20 questions 5 minutes, but will only know tomorrow if I passed or not. 
I met here with Michael a Swakopmund pilot for Pleasure Flights and he offered that next day he'll take me back with his car. So it is Rafters time soon!
All things done and back to Swakop there is a busy day today, first Germany is playing against Argentina, and later Spain will stand against Paraguay. 

Update: today, Monday got the call that I passed.