CANAV Books Adventures
Over the decades I travelled the world covering aviation in all its fascinating variety. It was a gypsy’s life with lots of work, but the results were well worth the effort, whether I was hosted by the Canadian Forces to cover some NATO fighter meet, Canadian UN transport operations in the Sinai or Horn of Africa, the final return home of Canada’s 1CAG NATO CF-18s, visits across Canada to every Canadian Armed Forces flying base, flying in most CanForces airplane types, or spending two years as a Snowbirds civilian photographer. Then there was a host of other fun including Arctic adventure, and US military activities from flying on a B-52 mission to “famil” flights in everything from the Huey Cobra to the F-106 and F-16, and flights with the US Marines in the Indian Ocean, including accompanying the Marines from the USS Wasp on a beach assault in Somalia “flying” aboard a Bell LACV-30 hovercraft. It’s been the best of fun since my first flight as a 12-year old Air Cadet in 1956. Most of these adventures resulted in material for magazine stories and raw material for one book or another. This is a good time to look back on one of my African trips.
Already I have heard from many readers about this important world history, so thanks as always for tuning in and reacting. One review comes from aviation writer Andy Wright in Australia. He adds the attached important file covering the Australian side of Rwandan relief. This occurred in the aftermath, and illustrates just how merciless the Tutsi were in taking their revenge on the Hutu, following the initial events of April 1994. The Aussies knew what happened in this instance, even if the United Nations and the Paul Kagame government to this day lie about the actual results. Please be forewarned — this item is not for the feint of heart. This is the link from the Australian War Museum: https://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/39/bravery
Horror in Rwanda
It was 25 years ago that insanity took over in Rwanda. A tribe-on-tribe genocide arose with Hutu cutting down every Tutsi in sight. All this was manipulated by shadowy figures. The UN was present with UNAMIR – UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, trying to bring some sanity to what was shaping up to be genocide. UNAMIR fell short and the First World was slow to react, but Canada stood out as an exception. When the slaughter moved into high gear on April 6, 1994, Canada quickly set an example, dispatching a C-130 Hercules from Italy to Nairobi on April 8 to bolster UNAMIR. Staging out of Burundi under Maj Ken Pfander, this “Herc” flew its first operational trip on April 10, landing at Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Carrying extra armour plate, anti- missile electronic counter measures plus flak jackets and helmets for the crew, the Herc was well equipped, for Rwanda clearly was a war zone. On approaching Kigali, the Canadian crew could see exploding mortar rounds and tracer fire around the airport. Nonetheless, the mission was successful. This was the first of many by Canadian Hercs under what famously became CanForces “Operation Scotch”. The CanForces dispatched a second Herc to Nairobi on April 11. Soon, a major worldwide relief mission was underway, but Canada had led the way. The books still are being written and the academic debates and conspiracy theories continue. A seminal book is Shake Hands with the Devil by Canadian Army LGen Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN forces in Rwanda in 1994. A new book worth your attention is Allan Thompson’s Media and Mass Atrocity, which analyses the role of the media in as much as it largely was conspicuous by its absence in getting the story covered before and during April 1994. (Canada’s CBC was too busy covering the totally predictable election in South Africa to send reporters to Rwanda in the early days. During my visit in July/August, I didn’t bump into any news reporters from anywhere. A few must have been around, for I always would see them in the field or at bar in other conflict areas, etc. Not this time.) This April (2019), the TVO network in Toronto aired a very good Rwanda 25-year retrospective with host Steve Paikin. Try to track this down via TVO.org. Another good summary is provided by RCAF wartime navigator and prolific writer, George Sweanor, about whom I’ve written in earlier books. Soon to turn 100, George keeps a superb blog, one of his latest topics being his Rwanda analysis. See this at www.yeoldescribe.com. Also … in my own book Air Transport in Canada (a few copies still available — usually cheaper than used sets on the web) you’ll find a hefty section with info and photos from Rwanda. For more such background, simply google “Rwanda 1994” and you’ll find endless sources, one essential backgrounder being Rwanda – UNAMIR www.un.org/Depts/DPKO/Missions/unamir_b.htm
Entebbe-Nairobi-Mogadishu-Kigali-Goma … Air Transport Overview, 1994
My involvement in Rwanda came about when Ken Swartz, then with the Toronto-based UN air charter company, Skylink, got me a place aboard an Antonov AN-124 under UN contract to fly from CFB Trenton to Entebbe, Uganda via Mirabel, Tenerife and Lagos with a load of heavy equipment for Rwanda relief. My simple job in return was to cover the airlift for Skylink. That done, I remained in the region to cover the Canadian Forces relief airlift and see what all else was going on air transportation-wise. In going through hundreds of long-forgotten Kodachrome slides lately, details of the trip flooded back to mind. I decided to do a blog item covering the aviation photography side of my trip and say a bit about the daily adventures of a roving journalist. The “slide show” that follows is a Kodachrome review featuring many of the aircraft photographed along the way from when our “1-24” groaned into the air at Trenton on July 29, 1994 to when I landed back in Canada on August 10 aboard a CanForces CC-150 Polaris. The captions give you the details, then you can delve deeper on the web, as you wish. Have a look and enjoy, but then do some further reading into the bigger story 25 years down the line:
(Click on any photo to see it full screen) Our Ukrainian-registered Antonov 124-100 “Ruslan” UR-82008 at CFB Trenton on July 29, 1994. Operated by the Antonov Design Bureau and its UK agent, Airfoyle Heavylift, ‘008 was here to load 85 tons of heavy equipment for the UN Rwanda relief mission, then getting underway (the genocidal Hutu had been defeated and driven into exile in Zaire by the Tutsi “Rwandan Patriotic Front” on July 19). Wherever a 1-24 appears. it creates a buzz. People swarm out to the airport to catch a look and maybe get some video. If you google “UR-82008” you’ll find photos of it taken over the decades at airports everywhere in the world. I hear that ‘008 still in service in 2019.
Here’s a nifty souvenir – my AirFoyle AN-124 boarding pass.
First flown in 1982, the 1-24 has a stated all-up weight of 893,000 lb. It can carry as much as 150 tons of cargo. Depending on what interests you have, you can dig into all the fine details by checking on Wiki, etc. These views emphasize the ease of loading this mighty air freighter. Some 55 – 60 1-24s have been delivered (UR- 82008 is No.2). Ukraine has been talking in recent years about a new production run. 1-24 lore is amazing. These planes have been everywhere carrying astonishing loads. One story has the Sultan of Brunei – nasty fellow that he is – doing his festive-season shopping in
London, then sending all his spoils home in a 1-24 – gold-plated Mercedes, private helicopters, etc.
This contingent of CanForces personnel accompanied us on the short leg to Mirabel. There, they decided that accommodations in the 1-24 pressurized crew compartment away up at the base of the fin were inadequate, so they decided to go no further on the Antonov. That left me as the sole passenger among about 15 Ukrainian crewmen. I was well cared for and enjoyed every hour along the way, even though conditions actually were a bit “basic” (the CanForces people had made a wise decision).
Inside UK-82008 at Trenton – the packed cargo bay and the cockpit. I was invited to ride on the flight deck by co-captains Anatolii Khroustitskii and Valeri Shlyakhov for our short hop (46 minutes) to Mirabel, where the main fuel load was taken on. I heard en route that both captains were the best in their class. Anatolii recently (June 30) had made the first flight of an AN-30 retrofitted with Garrett engines.
While we fuelled at Mirabel, I spend my time photographing the wonderful “airshow” underway there featuring all sorts of airplanes – a second 1-24 included. These photos are in random order, starting with a pretty little Kitty Hawk DC-9-15 freighter – N564PC. Having begun with Trans Texas Airways in 1968, it would eventually have a host of owners. It first flew as a freighter with Purolator in 1984. It joined Kitty Hawk in 1993, had a sojourn in the desert in 2001, then became HK-4246H in Colombia. On December 18, 2003 it was approaching to land at Mitu in the Colombian interior, when it crashed in mountainous country with loss of the three crew.
Another nice surprise was catching this attractive Air St. Pierre ATR-42 in cargo mode. Note the French civil registration, St. Pierre and Miquelon being the French overseas department just off Newfoundland’s south coast. In 2019 this 1992-model propliner was in Nicaragua as YN-CHG.
Our 1-24 companion at Mirabel on the 29th was Volga- Dnep’s RA-82047, but I didn’t get any info about its mission. Checking on FlightAware, I see that ‘047 made a short 1:20-hour trip on April 5, 2019 from Chalons Vatry in NE France to Leipzig, Germany. So it’s still “on the go”.
Another grand old Soviet era jetliner at Mirabel was this Aeroflot IL-62 with Russian registration RA-86534. First flown in 1963, the “62” carried about 200 passengers, making it competitive with the West’s 707 and DC-8. Its inaugural passenger service was Moscow to Montreal on September 15, 1967. About 290 examples were delivered, most (if not all) of which by now have been scrapped. All things considered, the IL-62 proved to be a safe and reliable design. It’s history on Aviation Safety Network shows that it was pretty well as safe as any of its Western contemporaries. Built in 1983, ‘534 was scrapped in 1997.
Another relic of sorts at Mirabel were these tarmac busses used to get passengers to and from their aircraft and the terminal. These intricate and bulky machines always fascinated passengers and visitors at Mirabel. Other than maybe at Dorval, I don’t think they had regular use at any other Canadian airport.
Air France 747-400 F-GITB arriving from overseas. It had been in the fleet since 1991. Retired in 2010, by now it may have been scrapped. Then, an Argentine 747 “Classic” on arrival.
One of Mirabel’s resident Air Transat (ex-Air Canada) L.1011s. Then, A310 C-GCIT of Mirabel-based and short-lived Air Club. Originally with PanAm, “CIT” later served Delta before coming to Air Club a few weeks before my visit. In 1997 it joined the Spanish operator Air Comet, but since has gone for scrap.
Lufthansa’s A310 D-AIDN taxis in after a trans- Atlantic trip. Built in 1991, this great ship served into 2004, then became C-GTSH with Air Transat, where it flies to this day. As I put this info down on April 20, “TSH” was operating as Air Transat TS725 from Glasgow to Toronto.
After an enjoyable few hours on the ground at Mirabel, we had a smooth 7.5-hour flight (about 3300 sm) to Tenerife South. While the tech crew checked out the aircraft systems, emptied the honey bucket (no kidding – that was the toilet system) and refuelled, I enjoyed a drive around the island and a nice overnight to be ready for what April 30 might bring. Our next leg was to Lagos (about 2000 sm), which ‘008 covered in 5.2 hours. Landing there on a very humid night, the chief duties again were to refuel and make sure to empty the honey bucket. Here, BP refuels ‘008 at Tenerife. I don’t know the fuel we took on here, but at Lagos our total was 118,000 liters, or about 26,000 Imp. gallons/190,000 pounds by weight.
Again topped up, on July 30 ‘008 carried us in 5.5 hours to our off-loading destination — Entebbe, Uganda, a distance of about 2100 sm. The airport was swarming with UN activity generated by Rwanda. Here, ‘008 starts to offload. Look how easily heavy vehicles can roll off a 1-24. That’s an old An.12 “Herkski” in the background. These seemed to be everywhere in Africa back in this era, often on UN contracts, otherwise doing anything from supplying remote mines to smuggling illegal weapons and who-knows-what-else (don’t ask, right). In the second view, Canadian soldiers manoeuvre personal lockers belonging to the troops who (wisely) had left us at Mirabel. A huge US Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53E is in the background.
The USMC CH-53E contingent at Entebbe. In chatting with some of the crew, the best info I could glean was that they were on medevac, combat SAR and “QRF” (quick reaction force) duty. This made sense, there being so many US military aircraft in the region. If something like a C-130 went missing, it would be vital to have SAR resources right there.
The first Antonov An-12 flew in 1957. Production continued into 1972 by when about 1250 had been delivered. Seen at Entebbe on July 30, AN-12 RA-13341 had begun in 1969 with the Russian carrier Gagarin Avia Enterprise. In 1993 it joined Amur Avia, then spent years on UN contracts. Finally, it was UR-CAG with Ukraine Air Alliance. On August 9, 2013 it was destroyed at Leipzig, Germany when fire erupted during start-up. Aviation Safety Network describes what happened: “Loading operations commenced at 23:30 and were finished at 01:00. The cargo consisted of almost 49,000 day old chickens, weighing 3061 kg. The airplane was then fueled with 22,908 litres … for the flight to Mineralnye Vody Airport (MRV), Russia. Fueling was completed at 01:21. Planned departure time was 02:15. At 02:01 the controller at Leipzig cleared the crew to start the engines. The APU was started, followed by the No.1 engine. During the starting process of engine No.4, the crew heard a muffled bang and the airplane jerked. The co-pilot, who was monitoring the instruments during the starting process, had observed variations in APU speed and an increase in temperature. Immediately the APU fire warning flashed. The crew shut down both engines and activated the fire-extinguishing system of the APU. A flight mechanic then opened the emergency hatch located below the flight deck and observed the fire in the area of the APU. Other crew members handed him three fire extinguishers that were located on the flight deck. The flight engineer and two flight mechanics then proceeded to the fire and emptied the extinguishers. The captain meanwhile instructed the radio operator to warn the tower controller about the fire. The controller was contacted at 02:07. He activated the fire alarm at 02:08:00 and reported the location of the fire at 02:09. The first crash tender reached the airplane at 02:12 and began an attempt to put out the fire. By then all crew members had evacuated through the emergency exit below the flight deck. The airplane burned out. Due to the high degree of destruction it was not possible to determine the exact cause of the fire. It is possible that the compressor wheel had burst.”
Ilushyn IL-76 UR-76323 loading food aid on a UN World Food Program contract. I haven’t found any info for this registration. The IL-76 first flew in 1971. Some 950 were manufactured at a facility in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where the last few were delivered to China c2005. Subsequently, a few IL-76s have been manufactured in Voronezh, Russia. All things considered, the IL-76 has proven to be a superb transport over the decades and many remain in use.
A view from the other end of the Entebbe flight line with USAF VC-137B 58-6971 shining in the foreground. I didn’t find out what this VIP “707” (one of only three VC-137Bs) from Andrews AFB, Washington, DC was doing at Entebbe this day. ‘6971 served from 1959 until retired to desert storage in 1998. Today it can be scene at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson. Any time the President of the United States was aboard a VC-137B, the aircraft was designated “Air Force One”. It was great fun being able to wander up and down this ramp at Entebbe with no one yelling or pointing a gun at me. If you were on the ramp this day, you were assumed to be “legal”. When someone warned me not to go into the main terminal, or I would have a lot of trouble getting back out to my airplane, I took this seriously. Later in the day, ‘008 carried us the (approx) 570 sm to Mombasa, a flight of 1.5 hours. This was the first bumpy part of our travels so far. On arrival in the Mombasa terminal control zone the weather was extreme. The pilots struggled with 3 or 4 approaches that had the mighty 1-24 heaving and complaining violently. Finally we touched down. Torrential rains were lashing the area and lightning was everywhere. The airport was flooded and the lights were out — even the runway lights. Kudos to our pilots, that’s for sure (i had noticed some of our crew in the back looking pretty worried as our pilots struggled with the nasty conditions). That’s another thing about usual 1-24 operations. The crews (back then, anyway) were hardcore types mainly with long years of military flying, and the 1-24 is amazingly strong and airworthy. Only four total hull losses with fatalities have occurred. Aviation Safety Network lists only 12 An-124 crashes and incidents, the most recent involving ‘008 at Antigua in 2017 — there was costly damage when ‘008 clipped a lighting pole. (Below) A distant view of the old Entebbe tower, site of the 1976 hijacking drama (see “Operation Entebbe” on Wiki), where Israeli commandos rescued more than a hundred hostages aboard an Air France A300. I don’t have the story about the derelict jetliner rotting away nearby. A US Hercules squadron was temporarily based on the adjacent tarmac.
The trip to Mombasa was mainly for crew rest. We stayed in a the Nyali Beach Hotel, a top beachside resort. The crew was returning to Kiev, invited me to come along, but I had my East Africa mission ahead (and no visa for Ukraine). We parted company and on August 2 I boarded Kenya Airways KQ605, a 737 for Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport – a hour’s flight. I got downtown and checked in to the Nairobi Safari Club, one of the decent spots, then made some connections that Ken Swartz had provided, one being a UN staffer who could get me on some flights. Right off the top I was able to arrange a mission aboard an IL-76. Next morning I rendezvoused with the crew of IL-76MD UR-76443. While waiting around I photographed IL-76 UR-76393 on a Red Cross contract, and N918SJ — one of the ubiquitous (in Africa) Southern Air Transport L.100 Hercules. One never knew exactly what the SAT “Herks” were doing, but it was common knowledge that they flew a lot for the CIA. N918SJ later was with Safair as ZS-ORA.
After meeting my crew (who couldn’t understand why some wandering Canadian would voluntarily go flying with them), we set off on the first leg of the day, being noted as UN flight number UN392. This was to Mogadishu about 625 sm up the Indian Ocean coast to deliver 13 tons of food aid (bagged cereal). I was curious to see what was new around “Mog”, where I had visited a few years earlier. Here you see the cargo hold on ‘443 before we set off. Then, a flight deck view as we flew north towards Somalia. The trip took 1.6 hours.
Views of ‘443 at Mogadishu on August 3. After delivering our cargo for whichever client, 28 tons/8 pallets of old US military MREs (“meals ready to eat”) were loaded for Kigali, Rwanda. Some crusty fellow observed that these dusty MREs more accurately could be called “Meals Rwandans will never eat”!
“Mog” still was a busy base for UN operations in the summer of 1994. As usual, helios were thumping around, including 9Y- TIL, a Trinidad & Tobago-registered Bell 212. After serving under many flags, “TIL” now is in Canada as C-FTLR with Calgary-based LR Helicopters.
Some of the UN troops and equipment at the airport this day.
No big surprise to see a DC-3 at “Mog”, in this case ex- Royal New Zealand Air Force NZ3552, by this time ZK-BBJ with some oddball window mods. Last heard of in the early 2000s, “BBJ” was derelict at Mombasa.
“Mog” always seemed to have an interesting boneyard. One year I photographed several abandonned MiG-21s there. For August 3 all I spotted was this derelict ex-Somali National Police Dornier Do.28. I didn’t spend much time snooping around on the edges of the airport after some rough-looking young fellows with AK47s started to look me over.
Finished at Mogadishu, we flew off for Kigali 1100 sm southward, a flight of 2.5 hours. It looks as if our turn-around was quick, since I have few photos to show. Here’s a vintage Angolan 727- 100 at the Kigali terminal. D2-FLZ had begun in 1968 as American Airlines N1965. It left AA in 1993 for the Angolan outfit and last was heard of about Y2K.
I often spotted French and German Transall medium transports during this trip around East Africa. This one was at Kigali on August 3. Also often seen were USAF C-5 Galaxys – the main rival in size to the AN-124. During this visit it was clear that the Americans were the most involved in supporting the Rwandan recovery, when one would have expected the French and Belgians to be at the forefront. But isn’t this the usual story – wherever there’s a disaster, look to the USA to get right in there with the aid. The Brits were also committed in Rwanda. Here is Royal Air Force Hercules XV210 at Kigali. Note its aerial refuelling hardware. XV210 was withdrawn from use and scrapped in 2003.
Our last leg for the day on the IL-76 was Kigali to Nairobi, a distance of 470 sm covered in 1.2 hours. What a fantastic day I had had, and what great info and impressions had been gathered about an IL-76 operation, and what was starting to shape up for the Rwanda international relief mission. Back at JKIA I noticed how the whole scene on the ramp was new, so snapped a few final shots. Included was another ancient 727 parked next to our IL-76. This was N723JE in Air East Africa colours. Originally with South African Airways in 1965, this early 727 ran through a host of operators. It flew back to the US in 1998, then was scrapped in Miami in 2001. I also shot SAT “Herk” N901SJ loading for the Red Cross, and Transafrik L.100 S9-NAJ.
Early next morning I introduced myself at the CanForces/Air Transport Group “ALCE” (Airlift Control Element) at JKIA. This was a component of the overall CanForces operation in Rwanda – “Operation Scotch”. At first, however, no one at the ALCE had ever heard of me, so I had to cool my heels until BGen Jeff Brace of Air Transport Group HQ, CFB Trenton faxed the ALCE commander: “Mr. Milberry is authorized to fly on any ATG aircraft in theatre and is also authorized to return from Africa to Canada on a space available basis”. I was in! Here’s a candid scene at the ALCE as a crew waits between missions.
On Day 1 from Nairobi I flew on two C-130 return trips: first to Goma in Zaire return, then Nairobi-Kigali return. On the first trip we were airborne for Goma at 0810 at 144,000 pounds (pretty well all-up weight). Both were with Capt John Stevens and crew in C-130H 130337 carrying personnel and cargo. John had begun as a young commercial pilot, but the hours and pay were making no sense – – he was flying hard but earning just $200 a week, so decided to give military life a go. In eastern Zaire, Goma was a Rwanda relief mission airhead where masses of materiel came in by air for redistribution, but it was not easy to figure out exactly what was going on. After all, Zaire itself was in turmoil and within months would be collapsing, only to re-form as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Armed Hutu cadres were harbouring around Goma from where they were launching raids against the newly-ascended Tutsi forces of Paul Kagame in Rwanda, and there were many nearby refugee camps run by the Red Cross and various NGOs (some 2 million Rwandan refugees then were in eastern Zaire). On the whole, things were messy around Goma. Any CanForces crew had to be ready at a moment’s notice to jump to “Plan B”, e.g., perhaps suddenly having a mob of passengers appear out of nowhere. This made for exciting days on the job for the Canucks. We landed at Goma at 10:13 and quickly off-loaded 31,000 lb of food and water on three pallets plus a pallet of rubber boots. Here are two candid shots of our mighty ‘337 at Kigali on August 4. Then, Capt Stevens on the job. We were airborne empty out of Goma at 11:18 and landed back at JKIA at 12:54. Aircrew had been warned to expect anything at Goma, but on the way home someone remarked, “I don’t get what the big hassle at Goma was supposed to be.” On a later flight that I was on, the pilots would beg to differ. Later (August 25), a CanForces 707 from Trenton landed at Goma with 27 tons of supplies for the refugee camps. Before departing, a group of 15 stranded media people appeared, hoping to get onboard, wherever the 707 was headed next. In true Canadian fashion, they were taken onboard.
In this period Goma was the Grand Central Station of Central African airports, with transport aircraft from all over the world coming and going steadily. Heavily armed troops were everywhere, and the tarmac and surrounding open spaces seemed chaotic. Here’s an everyday (August 4) scene with Air Zaire 737 Combi 9Q-CNI on a turn-around. Everyone in town seemed to be milling around in a party- like atmosphere. Who are these fellows with guns watching for, I wondered? Built in 1973, 9Q-CNI ran into bad luck at Kinshasa on January 2, 1995. On landing in bad weather, it left the runways and was damaged beyond repair.
Our C-130 waiting at Goma on August 4. ‘337 previously had served the Abu Dhabi government before joining the CanForces in 1986. Then, our aircraft security officer WO Don Drennan on the job. He was our only armed crew member.
Wherever one turned there was something else to photograph at Goma. This Israeli military 707 was present on August 4, but I couldn’t determine much about its mission. Someone thought that Israel was supporting the field hospital at Goma. Notice the huge rubber fuel storage bladders in the foreground. These would ease any refueling crisis that might arise. Then, a Tunisian military C-130H. The crew in the foreground is busy with their mobile satellite communications system, then hottest deal in voice communications.
Veteran IL-76 RA-76389 awaits at Goma. Sometimes it wasn’t clear which aircraft had anything to do with Rwanda relief, since an aircraft could be in Zaire for one of many reasons. ‘389 later went to Armenia as EX-093. On May 10, 2007 it was destroyed by fire while loading at Pointe Noire on the coast of DRC. Then, Aeroflot’s impressive RA-76527.
Smaller aircraft types were always buzzing around at Goma. DHC-6 Twin Otter 9Q-CBO was coming and going all week. Originally delivered to Air Illinois in 1980, it ended in Zaire in 1980 with TMK Commuter. Sad to say, it crashed on September 12, 1997 after leaving Bukavu, Burundi for Uvir, DRC. All 19 aboard died. Then, superannuated DC-3 9Q-CAM. Looking at the entry for it on p.632 of the great Air Britain history by J. Gradidge, DC- 1, DC-2, DC-3: The First Seventy Years, 9Q-CAM began as USAAF C- 47 45-1139. It was delivered in November 1945, retired from the USAF in 1963, then went to Zaire the same year. It looks to have been the very last new DC-3 ever built. The dogged plane spotter never knows what he’ll run across next!
Helicopters were constantly in the air around Goma. These photos from August 4 show the compound for the French Army’s Pumas and Gazelles.
This derelict 707 at Goma had begun with VARIG of Brazil in 1963. Retired from that fleet in 1979, it became 9Q-CMD with a company having the amazing name “Business Cash Flow Aviation”. On November 27, 1991 “CMD” somehow was damaged at Goma and had been lying there ever since.
Some grab shots taken from the flight deck of ‘337 as we flew back and forth to Goma on August 4. The roads and small settlements of Rwanda were ominously quiet. After all, as many as a million Rwandans of a national population of 7 million (92% rural) recently had been butchered (Hutu had comprised 85% of the population, Tutsi 15%).
An aerial view around Kigali on August 4. Where were all the people on such a fine day?
Another Kigali neighbourhood. Then, the flight deck on one of our legs this day, including a snapshot of your scribe on the job aboard ‘337.
Canadian Forces military staff deployed at Kigali manoeuvre a load for ‘337 on August 4. Then, WO Drennan briefs some passengers. Beyond, an IL-76 waits at the Kigali terminal. Someone mentioned that this attractive building had been designed by Canadians. I have yet to confirm that.
A closer view of the terminal.
130337 delivers an Isusu Trooper to the UN at Kigali. Note how on a specific UN mission, aircraft fly the UN flag on the tail.
Belgian national Thierry Vanneste, who worked in Kigali for SABENA, had been among thousands of Europeans hustled out of Rwanda in the early days of the Hutu genocide against the Tutsi. He recently had returned to find that his two dogs, which had been left to fend for themselves, had survived in the streets of Kigali in spite of a sport that had arisen among the locals of using dogs for rifle practice. He and his dogs were about to board ‘337 for a trip back to Nairobi.
This BelAir IL-76 also was on duty at Kigali on August 4. Our Nairobi-Kigali return operation this day totalled 3.8 flying hours (about 470 sm each way). Our Goma trip took 4 hours (about 530 sm each way), so by day’s end I had spent 7.8 exciting hours aboard 130337.
If August 4 was fun, next day was even more so with 8.1 hours aboard 130337. Things started at Nairobi where I joined a CanForces crew under Capt Mike Biehl. First we flew to Kigali, then Entebbe, back to Nairobi and another leg to Kigali. There I decided to leave ‘337, do some photography, then return to base on ‘315, which I’d heard was likely to show up. To start this little album, here’s the scene at Entebbe with two world class Lockheed airlifters: C-130 ‘337 beside a USAF C-141 from the 452 nd Air Wing at March AFB, California. If the AN-12 is jokingly sometimes called the “Herkski”, is there a nickname for the IL-76, which roughly resembles the C-141? Then, a view down the same ramp where the VC-137B was sitting when I passed through here a few days earlier. Dominating on August 5 were two lovely IL-76s, then an AN-12 beside a C-130.
A standard ¾ front angle of Bulgarian-registered Air Sofia AN-12 LZ-SFL at Entebbe. Not sure if “SFL” is still around. I see reports on the web that it was hauling tuna in Australia c2004. Along the way, apparently, Air Sofia was turfed out of Bulgaria, then resettled in Serbia.
Back at Kigali it would be a busy afternoon, especially since I had access to the tower, the best vantage point in sight. Here’s one scene showing 130337 taxiing for Nairobi, then two photos of ‘315 on the ramp. In 2005, ‘315 became the first military C-130 to reach 45,000 flying hours (not a high number for a commercial Hercules).
A fuel transfer under way at Kigali between a USMC CH-53E and USMC KC-130. The helio unit was HMM-166 of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, California. The overall US operation in Rwanda was called “Support Hope”. HMM-166 now flies the Osprey tilt rotor.
Aeroflot IL-76 RA-76527 has just off-loaded at Kigali. A USAF C-141 is seen arriving. Such flights carried either food relief for refugees (WFP, Red Cross, NGOs), or general supplies to support the thousands of peacekeeping personnel.
Volga-Dnieper AN-124 RA-82046 touches down at Kigali on August 6. A couple of teenage RPF soldiers decided to let me walk out to the runway to see if I could catch this arrival. Then, ‘046 ready for off-loading.
AN-12 RA-13341 (which I had seen earlier at Entebbe) during a Kigali stopover on August 5.
Shoved into the weeds at Kigali was this worn out Noratlas, a type provided long ago by Belgium to Rwanda’s fledgling air arm.
This 1963 ex-American Airlines 707 was one of the oldest of its type still in service when I photographed it delivering cargo at Kigali on August 5. Already having served a long list of operators, in 1988 it came to Sky Air Cargo of Liberia as EL-JNS. Last reported, it was at Sharjah in the UAE in the early 2000s, but likely has by now gone for scrap.
These Canadian Helicopters Bell 212s were at Kigali supporting a project to renew communications across Rwanda.
A US Army contingent pulls in at Kigali airport to establish a temporary bivouac.
UN troops make do in Kigali’s control tower. The place had been badly shot up in the battle between Hutu and Tutsi forces 2-3 weeks earlier. The Hutu were routed.
From the tower I spotted 130315 landing, so hurried down to connect with the Capt Jim Bertrand crew. Soon we were headed back to base, where we landed 1.8 hours later. Here’s the crew of ‘337 chitchatting at JKIA following their own interesting day “on the road”.
One of the CanForces Herks at day’s end beside Air Madagascar’s 747 Combi 5R-MFT. This old Boeing was scrapped in the UK in 2005.
A couple of interesting last-minute “grab shots” this day show Canadian and Ukrainian techs changing tires after all the planes had made it home. But, as usual, the technical crews had a lot to do to check out their aircraft, before finally getting downtown for supper and a beer or two.
Last but not least on the 5th I photographed this US- registered DC-4 being tweaked up for its next cargo run – it was mainly on a run from JKIA to Burundi. The old crate had been in Canada 1979-84 as C-GCXG. It was Liberian-registered and supposedly Miami-owned when impounded at Luanda in 1998. It’s never difficult for any such old “tramp steamer of the air” to get in trouble with the law in Africa. I remember chatting with its captain at JKIA, but he wasn’t too interested in answering questions from anyone with a pen, notepad and camera. Failing all else, however, he and his boys were keeping “the old gal” looking sharp.
On August 6, I flew two trips to Kigali, two more on the 7 th . There always was something to photograph, but after a few days there was a certain amount of “repeat business”, so this nice scene was welcomed – a USAF C-130 and a Luftwaffe C-160 Transall. Across the field you can see the old Noratlas. I was told that that big hangar had been the base for the Rwandan Falcon executive jet shot down in April – the event that became the pretext for slaughtering the Tutsi.
After August 7 it was expedient for me to avoid Kigali airport. Here’s the story: Covering the excitement there that day had me going all out. I went up to the tower a couple of times, which always was OK by the ATC staff. Then, while re-entering it again, I was confronted at the door by a young RPF soldier who stuck his AK in my back. He was very clear (in good English) – what was I doing here, why didn’t I stop when he called me (couldn’t hear him due to a taxiing C-130), what was I doing with the cameras, etc? Needless to say, I was on my best behaviour. I handed over my passport. The soldier then pulled a sat phone from his pant pocket – he was well equipped. Speaking a local dialect, he talked to his superior while keeping an eye on me. In a few minutes, a shiny new jeep arrived with a very sharp-looking RPF officer – the RPF had me impressed so far. Speaking French, the major reviewed my papers. Happily, before leaving Toronto I had contacted RPF HQ in Belgium and secured a laisser-passer for my Rwanda trip. This was signed by none other that Paul Kagame, head of the RPF and (to this day) the hard-fisted dictator of Rwanda. Inspecting my pass, the major lowered the heat and directed me to a tent on the tarmac. Someone else would follow up with me there, he advised. At the tent I noticed that a USAF transport operation was next door. I chatted up one of the USAF noncoms on duty, then was elated to see 130315 taxiing in. The noncom agreed to walk me out to the Herc, where I spoke to the Capt Jim Bertrand crew. All was well – I was OK to jump aboard. Thus did I slither around the next step in my RPF adventure. We soon were back at base.
Here are two views around our busy ALCE on the 8 th . The ALCE was sometimes a quiet place, but suddenly would be booming as loads of people and trucks piled with freight came out of nowhere. The Canadian Herks usually carried both freight and passengers. Who were they all? Some clearly were military people, others were diplomatic and UN staff, there sometimes were families, missionaries, media folks and all sorts of others. One day I met a retired physician aboard our flight. He recently had come down from Sudan to help out. Up in Sudan he once had been kidnapped, cleaned out of his belongs, then released by some bandits. I guess he just couldn’t get enough of Africa. Another day I bumped into a group of nuns sitting primly in the Herc’s austere bucket seating. On the 8 th I flew two more trips to Goma to see what was new there.
Canadian ALCE commander, LCol Joe Calleja, on the ramp at Nairobi on August 7 with Herc pilot, Maj Brian Jossul.
Another day in our travels someone arranged for a pizza with cold pops. Usually the indispensible Herc “loadies” (load masters) performed such miracles.
Three more vintage airliners at Goma in August. First, Shabir’s 727 9Q-CAV. It had begun with Eastern Airlines in 1966. For 1989-91 it had been with Trump Shuttle as N906TS, about which Wiki notes (I know … I digress), “Trump pushed to make the new shuttle a luxury service and a marketing vehicle for the Trump name. Its aircraft were newly painted in white livery and the interiors redecorated with such features as maple wood veneer, chrome seat belt latches, and gold colored lavatory fixtures…” This orphaned N906TS. As so often happens with such airliners, it then made Africa its last stand. “CAV” long since has gone “for pots and pans”. Notice the typical Goma “crowd crush” around the 727. I noticed that there always were people in such a crowd openly carrying weapons. This kept the mob in line. Then, EL-AJO, a Liberian DC-8-55 tramp freighter. It originally (1964) had been a “Queen of the Skies” with KLM, named in honour of Alfred Nobel. In 2003 it was registered in DRC to Kinshasa Airways, but soon afterwards disappeared to some boneyard. Finally, a rare visitor about which I didn’t learn much at the time – IL-18 SP-FNB of the Polish cargo company Polnippon. The IL-18 was the USSR’s answer to such Western airliners as the Britannia and Electra. A very tough design, a few still operate. I don’t know what became of this one.
In another corner at Goma were several smaller planes rotting away. One wonders how something as nice as a Beech Bonanza could end up in such a pitiful state.
Goma to the normal eye was a bit of a crazy place. Families were squatting all around the airport, to say nothing of how the city pressed right up along the runway (R17-35 at 5000’ ASL and 6500’ long). If you google “Goma Airport” you can study the satellite imagery – it’s worth a look. I wonder if the folks lounging around the runway included a lot of displaced Hutus on the run from the RPF? Anyway, they were everywhere. Airplanes were coming and going steadily as folks ambled across the runway and along its edges Gamins were having extra fun playing chicken with planes landing and taking off. One day there were so many people on the runway as we approached, that our Herc commander decided, “Nuts to this, we’re going back Nairobi”. Here, a Transall gets into the air, then a UN King Air flares to land. The pilots would have been watching like hawks, but the “runway people” seemed oblivious. Don’t worry, be happy, right! Finally, a general scene along the runway. Somehow, this works OK for Goma.
I was so well treated by the CanForces crews with whom I flew during this trip. Typical was this crew who were from 429 Sqn at Trenton. I set this shot up back at base at day’s end on August 8. In front is Sergeant Marc Kovacic (flight engineer). Standing are Captain James Pierotti (navigator), Master Corporal Dave Hutchinson (load master), Captain Rob Butler (pilot), Captain Jim Bertrand (aircraft commander), Master Corporal Denis Culver (load master) and Master Corporal France Dufort (aircraft security officer).
My last flight “in country” was with the Bertrand crew in 130337 operating Goma to JKIA on August 8. Next day I boarded CF6129 C- 130 130327 of 436 Sqn under Capt Yannick Pelletier headed for Souda Bay, Crete –first stop on the gruelling trip back to Trenton via Souda Bay, Prestwick and Gander. However, while staring out a window I saw what looked like fuel streaming from No.4 engine. I reported this and the flight engineer and others started observing. They soon concluded that something was amiss. We turned around and landed back at JKIA after 1.7 hours. Back we all went to the Nairobi Safari Club. Next day (August 10) I returned to JKIA. 130327 still was unserviceable, so, instead, I boarded 437 Sqn CC-150 Polaris (A310) 15005 under Maj George Urquhart. We flew first to Ancona, Italy (7.5 hours) for fuel. Everyone was happy to get away from Ancona, where the temperature was in the high 30s C. For the next leg we had a new crew under LCol Rapanga, destination CFB Trenton, where we landed at 0200 local time after 9.1 hours. I then caught a local 0305 bus for Toronto International Airport, a downtown bus from there, then the streetcar back to my neighbourhood. So ended another whirlwind adventure. My total flying for the trip in 30 flights was: 21.5 hours AN- 124, 1 hour 737, 6.1 hours IL-76, 29.9 hours C-130, 16.6 hours CC- 150 for 75.1 hours. As for “Operation Scotch”, it continued usefully until September 28, when the last of 312 sorties was completed. The simple stats to then included: tons carried by CanForces C-130s 2935.6, passenger carried 6340, hours flown about 1200.
Introducing two gorgeous publications for every serious reader of aviation history
Gallantry in Action by the renowned Norman Franks is an amazing new history of bravery in the air among RAF and Commonwealth airmen from WWI, through the interwar years and WWII, then in the postwar era. “Gallantry” gives the reader all-encompassing, in-depth coverage for each of the 60 skillful and brave young men who put it all on the line. From those who fought in the Camel, Hart, Hurricane, Spitfire, Kittyhawk, Tempest, Stirling, Manchester, Lancaster, Halifax, Beaufighter, Mosquito, or whichever combat type, this is a book honouring 60 astounding aviators who excelled in daring and leadership. What is so special about these fellows? You won’t believe it, but each man was three times decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Each man’s life is carefully summarized by historian Franks, and the various gallantry citations are reproduced. Altogether a lovely book for summer reading, it’s also one that you will treasure for years. Such outstanding Canadians as Johnny Caine (Mosquito), Dave Fairbanks (Tempest) and aces George Hill and Buck McNair (Spitfire) are included. 220 pages, hardcover, photos, index. A wonderful book for your library, so jump in with your order. Canadian orders $43.00 all-in. USA or International CDN $48.00: Order on line here, or, PayPal to email@example.com, or, cheque (on any Canadian or USA bank) to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E3B6
It has arrived in Canada! With “Propliner 2019” the creators of this magnificent classic journal have outdone themselves. I’ve gone through this year’s stunning edition and must admit that I haven’t seen such a Propliner since the great Stephen Piercey started it all in the early 1980s. Editor Tony Merton Jones receives a medal for “2019”.
If the photo on the cover doesn’t crank you up, I fear that you must have died years ago and your friends have forgotten to bury you. Start turning the pages of “2019” and you’ll see page after page of this sort of visual content packed in around the best writing about the state in recent times of the old propeller-driven airliners. For example …
Arctic pilot Tony Jarvis’ detailed story about his current favourite propliner — the Buffalo Airways Lockheed Electra that he and his lucky pals get to fly all around the Arctic (as we speak) from Yellowknife
– the great Peter Marsen’s history of the Skyways Lockheed Constellation fleet
– Eamon Power’s history of the Aer Lingus Viscount fleet
– a story about the woes encountered by the propliners of the Fifties — it sure wasn’t all rosy
– a fellow looking back on his boyhood infatuation with the airliners of the Fifties
– a history of the HS 748 in the USA (little known while the 748 excelled in Canada for decades)
– two important articles about water bombers (P2Vs and DC-7s)
– stories about South African DC-4s and Australian and New Zealand airlines of years gone by
– galleries of glorious photos, a year’s resumé of crashes, much other news and gossip. 142 pages that will keep you enthralled for months of enjoyable reading (this is a journal that you’ll be loath to lend to your best pal). Canadian orders $40.00 all-in. USA or International CDN $43.00: Order on line here, or, PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org, or, cheque to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E3B6