As early as 0400hrs we woke up welcomed by the heavy rain and cold winds in Liege Airport. That was a start of an exciting and fulfilling day when TNT airlifted more than 45 metric tonnes of Supplementary Plumpy to Nairobi. Though final destination is Somalia, same product will also be distributed in the Dadab Refugee camp in Kenya.
A total of 15 aircraft pallets were built up by the SwissCargo team, ready and waiting at the runway to be shipped on board Gestair flight to Nairobi.
As this was my first trip in jump seats on board a cargo flight, I was more than excited and at the same time clueless as I didn't know what to expect. We spent the morning labelling the cargo. When the cargoes were loaded into the aircraft, Riccardo and myself made our entry into the cockpit. We we astonished at the little space in the cockpit and the small seats where we would be spending more than 8hrs 50 mins in.
At half an hour before 1000hrs the pilots entered the cockpit and started preparing their paperwork for the flight. They were very friendly and apologetic that they had to leave us alone as they prepare for the flight. Then the aircraft engineer walked in as the man who is there to "service the plane if there are any technical problem". That really didn't help comfort us at all.
The thrill to be in the cockpit and experience the flight take off in heavy rain and poor vision was both exhilerating and scary. It was then that the pilots realised our uneasiness and began talking to us and joking with us. This happened only when the plane was finally in the sky and the auto-pilot was activated. Then began our long flight, no service staff and no entertainment system to keep us nusy throughout the flight.
A flight that seemed to be a long one in our heads, turned out to be our best flight ever. The stories, the chats, the discussions and their never ending praises for TNT for our willingness to provide this support to the UN WFP in times of need. Providing support where we have the assets and the expertise earned their respect.
They were very proud to be selected to be the pilots for this airlift to Nairobi. Apparently, they volunteered for this flight and according to them, there were many pilots in Gestair who really wanted this to be their first flight carrying humanitarian aid. However, the 2 pilots were the ones selected. As we explained to them that the food we carried could feed approximately 6,000 children for a period of 2 months, it filled their hearts with pride to be the 2 pilots to bring these Supplementary Plumpy to Nairobi.
Arriving at the airport in Nairobi, we were greeted by enthusiatic colleagues from TNT Kenya who came to show their support for the airlift. It warms my heart to see so much support coming from our colleagues who have already started their fund-raising activities after receiving the email from Marie-Christine Lombard. They wanted to be sure that they were there to witness this historic event in Nairobi. They were proud to work with TNT who willingly shared our logistical expertise to assist in this unfortunate situation in the Horn of Africa. In fact, they had more than 30 staff wanting to see the flight but we not allowed to enter the location where the plane was parked.
It was 2200hrs, when we completed the offloading of the aircraft. In out exhaustion, we shared our feelings about the whole trip and is looking forward to the next few days as we monitor and document the movement of the Supplementary Plumpy to the beneficiaries.
Looking back at the day's events, despite the long hours, the heavy rain and the delay in uplift and offloading, this trip was totally worth it.
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