Into the wilderness

Into the wilderness

MAF Pilot Andrew Mumford describes the view from his office window in Chad

To avoid the hottest part of the day, mine starts early: a 6am arrival at our hangar at N'Djamena airport.

I gather weather information, drop off my flight plan and carry out a pre-flight inspection before we push the plane out of the hangar. Today's flight is to Ati, a small town in central Chad two hours away. But our passengers from a Lutheran mission organisation would have endured days of sweltering overland travel to get there.

After take-off, the landscape becomes instantly barren and sparsely populated. Landmarks on this route are few and far between.

Today's satellite technology makes navigation easy over this terrain, but before GPS, we would have been relying on landmarks. It's still a good idea to become familiar with the landscape, just in case.

A sparsely populated, semi-ahrid wilderness is Pilot Andrew Mumford's view.

A village and a hill

The village of Moyto (sporting not only a main road, but also a hill) is one of the few settlements we see on this flight. A little further on, Lake Fitri is another notable landmark. I notice, however, that the lake appears to have migrated south in recent decades – judging by its position on our charts and where it's actually situated!

A birds eye view of Lake Fitri taken from the seat of a Cessna 182.

After nearly two hours, the town of Ati becomes visible ahead. I've flown here several times before, so the airstrip is easy to spot this time.

Just the two of us

Although it's a small town, Ati is the largest place of any significance for a long way in any direction. We usually overfly uncontrolled airstrips like this one before we make our approach to land. You never know if you are going to encounter vehicles, people or animals, and it's best to have an assessment of the wind direction.

Today, I spot the rare sight of another aircraft. This means I need to negotiate with the other pilot over the radio to decide who lands first. There's no air traffic control out here in the wilderness, it's just the two of us.

Coming into land on the airstrip at Ati.

After landing, there's a moment to stretch my legs before welcoming my passengers on board.

The journey home is a repeat of the same vast empty landscape. At least this time I've got an opportunity to practice my French!