Flying experiences while on safari?


Dec 5th, 2002, 12:53 PM
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Flying experiences while on safari?

I am planning a family safari trip in Botswana and am concerned about the large number of small charter flights that are required. We will probably be staying at Wilderness properties, for the most part. Please share flying experiences, especially as they relate to safety. Thank you.
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Dec 5th, 2002, 02:09 PM
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I too was concerned about the type of aircraft we would be flying about two and a half years ago when we went on safari with Wilderness. To our amazement arriving at the airport in Maun to transport us was a brand new Cessna. I think it was a 16 passenger. Departing the plane was Norman Schwartzkopf and friends. We were flown between camps more than once with this plane.
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Dec 6th, 2002, 01:13 AM
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I loved the flying between camps and Wilderness use a reputable local charter company which we found very professional.

During the week we were there there was a fatal accident involving one of the small planes (owned by another company) and you can imagine the feelings of the pilots - they were very saddened about it.

There was something wrong with the plane so the pilot decided to do a test flight without the passengers - everything seemed fine after all - and then made the actual flight. Somewhere along the trp things went wrong - he tried to land at a strip near to where he was experiencing problems - I think ATC or someone he was in radio contact advised him it was too far and to land on nearby main road - he realised too late that this was true and made for the road but by then it was too late to get there.

That is what my pilot told me about it - it had happened earlier in the day we travelled.

Whilst I didn't have any worries about the flights even after this, I post this to illustrate that accidents happen in every area of life.

I believe safety records are good, but like flights in any country, they are not 100%.

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Dec 6th, 2002, 06:37 AM
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In October we flew Sefofane from Maun to Mombo and back, arranged by Wilderness Safaris. What a thrill, to see the animals from 1800 feet, and then to see that small airstrip waiting for you. I wouldn't be concerned in the least. I normally avoid small prop planes, but in Botswana had atotally different, much more positive attitude. Relax and enjoy your flights - you'll see it makes a lot of sense. By the way, you can anticipate the bumps - when you leave a wet area and fly over a dry one. One suggestion: take a 50 mg dramamine table 30 minutes prior, this will help smooth the flight.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 12:53 PM
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are these planes pressurized and what is the flying altitude? thanks
susan300 is offline  
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Jan 12th, 2006, 12:57 PM
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The light air transfer planes (usually 4 - 12 seaters in Southern Africa) are NOT pressurized but usually fly at an altitude of about 4,000 - 7,000 feet.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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Flying in small planes reminds me of riding a bike. It is simpler and you are in a more fragile vehicle. Personally I love it and enjoyed every one of the flights between the 3 camps we visited on our Botswana trip. The pilots were all very professional an personable and answered any question you asked.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 01:40 PM
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Most flights by Wilderness Safaris are now in Cessna Caravan's that hold around 14 passengers and are very comfortable even at 7,000 feet. I don't really enjoy the Cessna 206's very much but accept they are part of the deal. As for safety records, they are on a par with most commercial airlines, which they actually are. The reason many small planes crash,is because they are privately owned and we tend to take care of ourselves less well than someone else whose livelihood depends on us.

Most flights are less than 45 minutes (you can try and plan this to a certain extent, Maun-Kings Pool is about 50 minutes and one of the longest flights you can take) and for the most part, the secenery and animal spotting takes your mind of the flight.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 01:40 PM
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We haven't seen your itinerary, you might want to consider longer stays at fewer camps to cut down on the number of transfers.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 04:08 PM
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These flights are taking off, flying, and landing continuously throughout Botswana every day of every year without incident.

I did a google search for "botswana air crash airplane" and came up with a flight in 2001 that killed 5 people on a sightseeing trip in a Cessna 206. Just speculating, but a sightseeing trip does not seem as routine to me as basic transport routes flown day in and day out. Regardless, that's one plane in 5 years. My personal rule is that I do not do flightseeing trips in Africa or anywhere in the world, but readily take small charters as transportation.

My search also enlightened me about an Air Botswana pilot on a suicide mission in 1999 who wiped out the fleet of 3 planes by flying solo into the company planes on the ground. These were not small charters and no passengers were hurt.

Wilderness has an excellent reputation to uphold and getting clients safely to its camps is a good way to do it.

I take Pepto-Bismal chewable tablets with me on flights in case I get a little queasy. They have done the trick on the few occasions I've needed them.

Enjoy the flight and have your camera ready.
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Jan 12th, 2006, 08:14 PM
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I was worried, too, the first time. But once airborne, everything felt right. The flights are short and we are not that high above the ground. I figure that if something really did go wrong with the equipment, there was an excellent chance that the pilot could land the plane in the bush. We didn't have too many bumps. The plane rides were one of my favorite experiences! Especially flying over the gorgeous Delta and seeing animals. A 'life moment'. I chewed candied ginger the few times I felt nauseous (and actually those flights were in Zambia and longer). Whomever is the most frightened in your family, should request the seat next to the pilot. Most reassuring and distracting. Go for it!
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