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Part 4 – Rounding the Cape of Good Hope


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We elected to do our shakedown flight around the Cape of Good Hope – never imagined  making that statement. I grew up reading stories of the ancient mariners rounding the Cape of Good Hope on their way to the spice islands and other points east. The first european to round the Cape was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias 1488, who named it the “Cape of Storms.”  Evidently this name proved to be a poor choice from a marketing perspective, so Pope John II later renamed it The Cape of Good Hope.

Saturday morning dawned clear and sunny, with gale force winds of, well, 2 knots. We managed to escape the Cape Town airspace while only mildly annoying the air traffic controllers, and had a glorious flight around Cape Point.

The Beavers are assembled and running, and we are all set to start the Safari tomorrow morning.

Behind the Scenes – Part III Getting There

It is a long way from Seattle to Cape Town. Fellow Safari adventurer and Delta Captain Anne Simpson shares her experience….

As an airline pilot it pains me greatly to pay for a ticket when traveling.  So my husband Charlie and I decided, as we always do, to take the “pass rider’s challenge.” In short, this entails flying standby, or as I like to call it, “Last Class.”

Tuesday morning May 7th 4:45 am, we are packed, ready to go, and standing at the door waiting for our good friend, Greg. No Greg.  We call. We text. No reply. I check my message and oh —–! I have confirmed pick up at 5:45.  Call a cab, walk to the end of the street, and miraculously he shows up and gets us to SeaTac only a few minutes later then planned!

Not too much hand wringing at the gate. There are a comfortable number of seats available for a cheap pilot and her husband.   We enjoy an uneventful ride to ATL.  Leg two is 5 hours away so my boss invited us to come for a visit at Delta World Headquarters.  There had even been talk of giving Charlie a little simulator time (the same offer was made to me but that’s too much like work and I am on vacation).  Turns out I confirmed that offer for Monday not Tuesday.  Good thing I am on vacation as I seem to be having time/date issues.

After catching up with O.C., it’s back to the airport and this time there is some hand wringing.   Up until then, there had been 8 business class seats open and we were one and two on the list.  By the time we got to the gate there were still seats in coach but none in business :-( .  Oh well.  Just as we were boarding, I was called to the podium – one biz seat open.  What would you do?  I love Charlie, he is the greatest, most generous person, but they are my benefits, right?  I felt guilty for next 14 hours while I dined well, and slept for 8 hours in my cozy lie flat bed.  If there’s only one going home he gets it – I sure hope there are two!

We arrive in Johannesburg with enough time to make an earlier connection on South African Airways.  But because we are still flying “last class” they won’t load our bags (which we were required to check on this lag) until we are assigned seats and guess what? Our bags don’t make it.  This was actually no big deal.  After about 30 hours of successful pass riding half way around the world an hour wait on our bags was nothing.  It gave us a chance to scope out the Cape Town airport for a little more “risky business” on June 1st when we try to non rev home!

Behind the Scenes, Part II

Pilots are taught to aviate, navigate, and communicate, in that order.  In other words, keep the plane in the air, find your way, and, well, chat.  This advice is well taken if you’re flying in Timbuktu, but if your flight takes you through heavily congested areas such as Cape Town International Airspace – communication is a necessity.

Fortunately for us mono-lingual Safari pilots, english is the international language of air traffic control. On the other hand, not all english is created equal, which prompted George Bernard Shaw to quip ” America and England are two countries separated by a common language.” As it turns out, the english spoken in South Africa adds a third degree of separation.

The following audio clip is of ATC communications at Lanseria, Johannesburg, South Africa. Lanseria Air Traffic Communications

Here’s a test: If you can correctly interpret at least 75% of the communications, you’ll get a special shout-out on the blog.  

Safari pilots Doug, Mike, and David have been listening to tapes of South African ATC communications, in hopes of preventing an international incident with our communications.  :-)