After their amazing success in both China and here in Africa Team X-treme were approached to display at a private function in the Bulge of Africa, after the initial planning was done, the team decided to take up the challenge and make the 4400nm round journey.
A few days before their planned departure Mark “Bugs” Hensman ferried an XtremeAir Sbach 342 (XA42) to Lanseria Airport from Cape Town to join the rest of the team. Now that the team’s aircraft were all together but one of the team members, Mark “Sammy” Sampson, would only be able to join the team in Luanda due to work commitments. Kayle Wooll was asked to ferry Sammy’s Sbach XA41 single seater to Luanda and then back again. Nigel Hopkins in his Extra 330sc and Jason beamish, who was to fly the Sbach XA42 joined the group at Lanseria, Bugs would make the trip in his trusty MX2.
The father and son team of Apie & Frederick Kotze made their Cessna 208B Caravan available to be used an airborne bowser as Avgas is in very short supply in Africa north of Angola. A 1300 litre tank was mounted in the Caravan with a pump system to fill the Aerobatics aircraft. Apie and Frederick are avid aviation enthusiasts and are currently rebuilding a Douglas A-1 Skyraider at Benoni airfield.
The Tank in the Caravan
Derek Hopkins father of team leader was asked to assist in the flying of the Caravan Derek has a wealth of knowledge flying in Africa due to his many years of service as a medical evacuation pilot.
The entire route had to be planned according to the endurance of the aerobatic aircraft which is pretty limited to say the least.
The Proposed Route
Day one saw the team leaving from Lanseria and making their way to the "tourism capital" of Botswana, Maun. Maun is the headquarters of numerous safari and air-charter operations that run trips into the Okavango Delta. All the aircraft were fuelled up and the tank in the Caravan was also filled as the next stop along the way didn’t have Avgas.
Fueling up at Lanseria
Early morning on day two saw the team leaving Maun overflying Norther Namibia for Ondjiva in Southern Angola. The Aerobatic aircraft were filled from the tank in the Caravan and The Van was filled up as JetA1 was available.
Filling from the Caravan
After clearing customs the team made their way North to Luanda where they would spend the night. Fortunately this leg of the trip was blessed with strong tailwinds but all the gained time was negated as the team had to hold before landing in Luanda due to heavy traffic. Prior arrangements were made with "Best Fly" a local handling agent to supply Avgas for both the aircraft and the tank. The guys at Best Fly also offered the team hangar space for all five aircraft which was graciously accepted.
Aircraft in Bset Fly's Hangar
After breakfast on day three the team took off for Pointe-Noire but unfortunately had to turn back due to torrential rain about 100nm from Luanda. After a very long wait at Luanda they once again took off and manged to skirt the inclement weather which added a bit of time to the leg as they went over the rich oilfields offshore near Cabinda. Cabinda is an exclave and province of Angola and is separated from the rest of Angola by a narrow strip of territory belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Bad Weather North of Luanda
Ready to Depart Luanda after the Diversion
offshore near CabindaOil-rigs
After a hasty refuel from the Caravans tank they took off from Pointe-Noire for their final destination which was reached just before darkness set in.
The return journey took much the same route with their first fuel stop in Pointe-Noire and then on to Luanda for the night. On this leg they flew over some of the most amazing scenery in the Gabon area, the lakes and rain forests are really something to be seen.
Rain Forrest's in the Gabon Region
Early the next morning it was off to Ondjiva where the aircraft were once again filled for the run to Maun, when they reached Maun they hastily refuelled the aerobatic aircraft as they decided to make the last leg to Lanseria the same day.
The team landed at Lanseria just before darkness descended followed by the caravan which landed about 30 minutes later in the black of night. This brought to an end a truly epic journey of over 2,200 nautical miles each way through Africa with some challenging logistics, flight planning, weather conditions and long over-water crossings stretching the range and endurance of both Aircraft and Pilot and using the maximum daylight to complete the task.
Team over the Okavango Delta
This was the perfect opportunity for the team to make use of the new Garmin G3X equipment in the XA41 and MX2, sponsored by Century Avionics and they certainly made full use of the sponsored Bose A20 headsets which provided much relief, with Pilots often seen bobbing to tunes on the long stretches.
Bose A20 Headset at Work
A special thanks to everyone involved including the Kotze family, Capital Sounds, Absolute Aviation Group for handling all the logistics and clearances.
A very special Thank You to Derek Hopkins for the Amazing Photos