Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What happens if an aircraft develops a mechanical problem along the way?  

The plane you fly is Airworthy when you launch on your Self-Fly Safari. The fleet of available rental aircraft are older airframes – often 1970’s era C-182 P models. The planes fly regularly. They are well-maintained and all receive 50-hour, 100-hour, and annual inspections.  AD’s and SB’s are mandatory under South African CAA rules. The engines are all within TBO limits.In our 20 years staging Self-Fly Safaris we have never had a case where the client could not complete a trip due to mechanical or electrical issues with a plane.

However, glitches can occur – anywhere along the way. If a glitch occurs we jump in with a fix.  The cost of the fix is with the aircraft owner.  It’s important to remember that you are never alone. We can communicate with you wherever you are. If you need help we are there. That’s our job.

We deal with problems as they arise. What we do depends on many factors. What is the problem? Where did it occur? Are you able to fly to a field with an FBO?

During our “Route Briefing” we list the airfields along your route that have maintenance facilities.  If you have a problem and if you are able to fly, we’ll ask you to go the nearest one.  If you can’t, you should land at your destination lodge or the nearest suitable airfield. Once on the ground, call us. Give us as good a diagnosis as you can. What we do depends on the nature of the problem. Likely, we’ll have two or three days to effect a fix.  

Some examples:

  • ·     A starter motor failed at an intermediate stop during an escorted group safari.  People and luggage were divided among the other aircraft. They flew on to their lodge.  While the client enjoyed his safari, we flew a mechanic to the U/S aircraft with all possibly needed spares. The plane was fixed and ready to go before the next leg.
  • ·    A client reported an electrical problem after landing at her lodge. We notified the nearest FBO. The plane was flyable. The pilot flew to an airfield with an FBO.  The mechanic was waiting as the plane taxied in and had the plane fixed and back out the door within an hour.
  • ·    A dead battery at camp. The “Emergency Kit” that we supply each aircraft or group includes a jumper cable. The game lodge Land Rover supplied 12v power to start the plane. The pilot took off and flew to a field with an FBO where an alternator problem was fixed.
  • ·    A hyena chewed the plastic tail cone off the back of a plane while it was tied down. With duct tape from the “Emergency Kit” the pilot taped over the opening and flew for the rest of his trip without issue. The pilot’s “Excess policy”, included in every Self-Fly Safari package, paid for repairs after the pilot completed his safari.
  •       Pilot lost radio comms enroute. The pilot communicated with a hand-held radio and landed at an airfield where the radio problem was diagnosed and fixed.

Once, early in our operation, a cylinder failed in a C-172. In that case we flew a replacement aircraft for the pilot to complete his safari. He missed one day of his scheduled itinerary. 

These problems are rare.  Our point in highlighting them is to illustrate that they are manageable and that Hanks Aero Adventures actively deals with them.  We do our best to insure that a plane will fly the entire safari route and return to base without a mechanical issue.  It costs us money if a plane or a component fails. If a problem does arise we are there to deal with it with the least possible disruption to your safari.  It is a hallmark of our service and a matter of pride. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Weather – what happens if weather interferes  with our safari?
Weather: Seasonal weather patterns in southern Africa are such that the region’s best flying weather – May through mid-October – coincides with the best game viewing. That’s when we operate, it’s winter in the southern hemisphere, and that’s when you should fly your Self-Fly Safari.

Daytime temperatures are pleasant (Low 60’s°F/16°C); there are no bugs, few clouds and, typically, VFR conditions. Nonetheless, weather can intervene.

“Season is what you expect,” the pilot said, “Weather is what you actually get!” By rule of the South African CAA, Self-Fly Safaris may only be flown during daylight hours in Visual conditions.  We watch the forecasts along your route. 

If we see something likely to affect your itinerary we’ll let you know and offer guidance on how to deal with it. 

  • Stormy weather threatened to scuttle the client’s initial launch from base. We saw this coming two days in advance.  We changed the initial leg to another lodge where weather along the route was VMC. They visited the lodge they had missed at the tail end of their safari. On another similar situation we launched the party one day early, before the adverse weather set in.
  • Low clouds on a flying day prevented the client from taking off as scheduled. The forecast predicted that the clouds would be lifting later in the day. We advised the client to wait a few hours for clearing.  The client waited and took off later.  We updated the lodge with the clients’ new ETA.
  • Low clouds along South Africa’s escarpment prevented the client from returning to base on the last day of his safari. He flew to an intermediate airstrip and we sent a taxi to drive him back to Johannesburg. 

METARs and TAFs may be difficult to get at a lodge deep in the bush due to poor cellphone signal coverage. No formal PIREP system exists in southern Africa. Your first clue of the day’s weather at camp is to look to the sky when you wake up.  Chances are it’ll be clear, blue sky!

Beyond that …
1)    Hanks Aero can send you a TAF for the day’s flight on your cell phone or via satellite on your Delorme tracking device.
2)    Ask enroute ATC for weather at your destination.
3)    Speak to pilots aloft coming from the opposite direction.
4)    Get a forecast at major airports along your route.

In any case, if you can’t fly there are worse places to be stuck than at a private game lodge in southern Africa! If that happens we’ll be working at Base to make any needed adjustments to your itinerary – while you’re lounging comfortably at an amazing lodge.

Hanks Aero Adventures Inc: Full Service!