Cowboy of the sky

Sitting at Majunga airport, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the flight was early, contrary to what we were told about the unreliability of flights to outlying areas.

The scream of the turbo prop drowned the entire bustle in the humid airport building, our enforced sauna. The plane taxied up to the departure door and depowered the props that gave a sigh of relief and a groan as they quietly spun to a standstill.

With out any pre-empting everyone got up and started to board, it was all free seating. We were still finding out seats, getting our baggage stowed and the plane sprung into life, seemed a bit odd, but none of the other passengers seemed to be too fazed except the guy opposite to me.

Looking around rather perturbed he said. “This would never happen in Germany” No one seemed to take any notice.

Within a few seconds the safety brief started, so did the plane begin its scurry down the runway at pace? So did the speed and tempo of the safety brief? The air hostess had just got to the lifejacket part of the brief and the plane braked and turned around to begin its accelerated charge down the runway for take off.

The hostess was flung off balance sideways, in a graceful collapse managed to get the inflation toggle to her mouth in sync with the commentary. With the other hand desperately trying to remove the life jacket, half strangling herself, now lying sprawled over my German friend she gracefully untangled herself and in a pirouette managed to point out the emergency exit. The nose of the plane had now started to lift and it was full throttle, flaps down as the aircraft shot up at one of the steepest ascents I have experienced, pulling a few G’s. I heard a click just in front of me as the hostess came to a graceful landing and fastened her belt to the sound of a now quite estranged voice over the intercom, enjoy your flight.

It was sharp banks to the left and right as we rocketed skywards, my buddy across the way was not happy, knuckles white as he clung to the seat, finally we reached cruising altitude and for a while things were smoother.

Suddenly we depowered and the nose dropped steeply and we banked left screaming down. You can imagine the delight of Clause next to me. I looked out of my window and shat myself this massive grey shadow shot underneath us. A huge grey military transporter banked to the right below us, climbing up past our wing in what looked like an avoiding manoeuvre. Our cowboy was unperturbed as he maintained his angle of decent, and down he went. The radio crackled into life, a brief “Take 5 crew”.

What seemed like 2 minutes later we flattened out and there was the runway?

With what seemed like a mid air engine reverse , the props screamed and the whole plane shuddered as we hit the deck nose wheel first with a smoking wheelie we slid into Antananarivo, baggage sliding forward in the overhead lockers. Clause seemed to be winded as we hit the deck, all the air in his lungs expelled with one massive belch. In one grace full move, the hostess tossed Clause a belly bag steadied her and welcomed us to Tana, Looking at Clause she enquired “Should you need assistance to disembark, please remain in your seat and a member of the crew will assist you”.

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