Raf Jah needs to travel around the east African seaboard on a regular basis. His work takes him from Europe to Zanzibar, the dreamlike paradise of Pemba and then back to dar es salaam. He’s used just about every carrier that serves Tanzania at some stage. But within the island states there is no choice, it is simply whichever caravan is going.
I used to love flying. As a child I flew for the first time on a comet perhaps. I definitely flew on a super VC10 and the Boeing 707 and when they came out, the amazing DC10’s. I remember British Airways flights to Bombay that would refuel in Bahrain, Trident two’s that would refuel in Frankfurt on the way to Istanbul. Cabin crew strikes forced us to eat sandwiches on the tarmac. Flying was sometimes faster, it had none of the perks of today, but it was fun. Navigators used charts and parallell rulers to work out their position.
Times have changed. The four man cockpit crew of a boeing 727 has been replaced by two men and multple computers. The 727’s have been replaced by the next generation of 737’s; where a GPS tells the pilots where they are and the number of guages have been reduced from their hundred to Liquid Crystal Displays – which give multiple readings on one small screen.
Even the caravans of Coastal Aviation have glass cockpits, but as the pilots chart their way around the thunderheads of the east african seaboard, there is still something of the old aviator about them. These images give some idea of the challenges faced by the bush and coastal pilots of today.