1981 to 2011: SkyAfrica turns 30!
How quickly time flies…
I open my first logbook to see an entry written in November 1981:
ZS-IKA — Pa32-300 — Route: FAGM-HBV-FBMN — Flight time: 3h33min
In the „comments“ sections it says „Gert + Comp.“ One entry in a long line of entries recording those wonderful flights flown over open plains and bushveldt, and yet there is something that makes this entry special. It was the first flight that had a paying customer onboard. This flight was the beginning of what today is known as SkyAfrica. Since that day we have accumulated over 30.000 hours and over 100.000 landings, and are still having just as much fun as we did all those years ago with our beloved Cherokee Six.
From the Cape of Good Hope to Mount Kenya. From the Skeleton Coast in Namibia to the stunning coral reefs of Zanzibar. Africa: this is our backyard. This is where we belong, and the place we know best. As I sit back and reflect on years gone by, I realise that being around for 30 odd years is quite a feat, and when I think back on all of the aviation companies that have cropped up over the years attempting to do a similar thing, most are sadly no longer around.
Stats we are proud of
Of course we‘ve encountered a few challenges over the years. The usually quite reliable African weather sometimes plays tricks on us, and even with the regular and high quality servicing, mechanical issues can occur – but thankfully not very often. We can easily recall the amount of times we’ve had to be called out to fix a fault:
• 1 (client induced) ruined engine,
• 1 (client induced) broken undercarriage
• 1 broken throttle cable
• 3 broken V-belts
• 2 broken magnetos
• 1 broken alternator
When such things happen it is good to know that we have a well functioning network of competent workshops and maintenance companies further afield ready to jump to action and get things sorted out as quickly as possible.
Damage of the more adventurous kind has occurred when lions decided that their afternoon snack was going to be the tyres of our C172, or when aircraft wings mysteriously came into contact with trees. A few bad landings, rigorously denied and/or not reported by the relevant pilots due to false pride, required some larger panel beating work to be done. We’ve also experienced a couple of bird strikes, but none of them have yet caused us to ditch into the Zambezi River Capt. Sully-Style.
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” – Bill Gates.
We’ve also had a few of those, but we can still count the amount on one hand. Some of our guests once landed in the Kalahari to find the lodge unmanned, due to lodge crew being stuck out in the desert sand in their Unimog. A few times there were communication issues from our side that have prompted us to review the way we communicate our offerings and how we do things in order to avoid misunderstandings and disappointments. And we’ve also learnt that some people find complaining an amusing way to pass the time. We’ll continue to keep Bill’s words in mind and strive to keep our clients happy as best we can, for that is certainly in everybody’s interest.
To Freedom, Fun & Friendships
We owe a lot of our success to this wonderful continent we live on, where blue skies and sunshine reign supreme, and next to a bit of typical African turmoil you will also find an awful lot of freedom. Flying in Africa has not yet been restricted by copious amounts of senseless laws and restrictions. Not that they haven’t tried! But South Africans don’t take things lying down, and so when our CAA decides that they want to pass new regulations that makes sense only to the logically challenged, they get bombarded from all sides of the aviation community until they right their wrongs. Other countries still need a lesson on how this gets done. For e.g. I had to wait 6 months before obtaining my Australian validation – something you can complete on the first day you arrive in South Africa.
What truly matters
Last but not least, I wish to say that SkyAfrica isn’t really a place of work. To us it is actually a lifestyle! Watching the sun set over the fiery red sand dunes of the Namib desert, flying over the Serengeti in a hot air balloon, or flying low-level over the azure blue waters of the Indian ocean sure does beat sitting at a desk from 9 to 5.
This love of life and adventure is what we try to bestow on our guests from all across the globe, many of which have resulted in strong bonds and friendships that will continue for countless years to come. And that is what we are most proud of.
Wishing you all the best for 2012,
Karl Finatzer and the SkyAfrica Team