First Flights and Bruce Yoder Pizza

I finally got to work on Wednesday. I flew to Mbandaka with the South African captain who was out here before I got here. I got to spend a few hours back north of the Equator (just barely) while we waited for the passengers to come back from what they had to do. While we were there, we had the pleasure of meeting the “chief inspector” of the civil aviation authority in Mbandaka. At first we mistook him for the driver that was being sent to take us to lunch. He said, “I am transportation service”, and it seemed logical that he was going to take us to find food. I found out that we were wrong when he said that he wanted to see “the documents”. I showed him the aircraft documents (copies) and he appeared to study them. “Oh no, commander, this document is not good. It is expired.” I pointed out that the date he was looking at was the date it was issued, not the expiration date. He studied the page some more, “commander, I cannot accept this. There is no stamp. How do I know if it is valid without a stamp?” It was clear where this was heading, so I called the manager back in Kinshasa who was very interested in talking to the inspector. I handed him the phone and I could hear angry shouting on the other end. I thought to myself that this could either go well or very bad. The inspector (who was clearly looking for an easy bribe) seemed flustered. We weren’t meant to leave for several hours, so I figured I might wait him out. He asked for money to pay for his phone since he said that he always had to call Kinshasa to sort out my problems, then he asked for two beers, then he asked for a coke. I told him that I couldn’t give him anything. He asked why not and I said, “do you remember that man you just spoke with?” “Oh yes, commander. Very mean man. Not nice. I do not like him.” I said, “when he finds out that I gave you money, he will fire me.” “Oh no, commander. He is not nice.” Eventually he gave up and we waited for the passengers to come.

Yesterday morning was both frustrating and amusing. The passengers to go to Lubumbashi were all strapped in and the engines were started and it was time to call N’dolo tower. There was no response. I tried a dozen times and there was nothing. I called N’djili tower controller (nearby airport) on the radio to see if he would let me take off but he was not interested in helping. He said, “I do not have your flight plan. I cannot do this without your flight plan. You must take your flight plan to the N’Dolo coordination office (not easy to do while sitting inside an airplane) so they can give it to me.” I called Kabemba (our operations manager) to ask him to do it. He drove to the tower and when he got there, the controller told him that the generator that powered the radios would not start. He took out jumper cables and hooked the Air Serv Land Cruiser to the generator and gave it a jump start and then we were on our way.

It was a good time in Lubumbashi. I got the introduction to Bruce Yoder Pizza which was made as a team effort by everyone there, but spearheaded by Bruce Yoder (one of the pilots there). It was funny because everything we ate was a Bruce Yoder something. I think that it must have been a gimmick that started there at some point. We even had Bruce Yoder brownies. There were the Airserv pilots, a mechanic (engineer as they are called here), and a half dozen or so MSF doctors and nurses that came out for Bruce Yoder pizza night. It was good times.


6 Responses to “First Flights and Bruce Yoder Pizza”

  1. Matthew Says:

    All this talk about Bruce Yoder food is making me hungry. Glad you got to fly

  2. janhasbro Says:

    Wow, Patrick, welcome to flying (or not!) in Africa. Sometimes when we get frustrated if things don’t work well here in the US, hearing about how it goes in places like you are working now can make life here seem so simple! Stay cool. Bye for now, Janet

  3. mormor Says:

    I cannot helpl but laugh as I read your blog!!! How true to form!! nothing has changed….I remember trying to call home from Arusha at Christmas time,… phone connection…tried to tell us that the bill was not paid…we knew what was needed, but Svante refused to pay. and after Christmas we got connection. Sounds like you are having and “interesting” time, …how did the trip with the swedes go? Well, fly carefully! mormor

  4. Susan Esser Boahene Says:

    was not able to reply to you about Bibanga on that email- if you reply to this will try again. Sounds like nothing much has changed in 20 years- a great sense of humor is a must!

  5. Smullins Says:

    Geeeez, if we operated like that here in the US it would be a cluster mess. My gosh.

  6. africanized Says:

    I think there is always a choice here: either pay or wait.

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