This is a remarkable account from Sneha Harish, her first landing on a road at Wilikale, Congo.Â Walikale is a town in the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.Â
I landed on a road for the first time ever! And no, it wasn’t an emergency. A road doubles up as a runway at Walikale.
I work for Air Serv Limited. Their HQ (Air Serv International)Â is in Warrenton, Virginia and the main base is in Entebbe, Uganda. One of our clients is MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res (Doctors Without Borders) and we fly them all over Eastern Congo.
They go to otherwise inaccessible nooks and corners to help people. Driving within the Congo isn’t easy, takes forever with the bad roads. I’ve heard in Walikale there’s an airstrip about 4 nm away but it hasn’t been maintained for a long time and is unusable. Hence most operators use this 1250m of road to get in and out. It is very narrow and sidelined by trees.
At its narrowest, the trees are probably close to 5 to 7 ft from the wing tips so very little room for error. And the road curves at one point. So when we are heavy, we ought to do a “one wheel” take off to stay in the bend and not go off the road. Similar to a crosswind take off if you know what I mean. Lots of rudder usage and the feet stay very busy. Victor, who is checking me out, is very patient.