At the Airport at High Noon


At noon today, take a pause in what you’re doing or thinking about. Make a note of it, and write a post about it later.


I wrote this post on Sunday for the Daily Post Postaday Prompt: High Noon. As is the norm in these parts, when it rains electricity supply and the internet become unreliable, so it has taken me many frustrating attempts to get it published.

In fact, if our house had windows, there would be a computer-shaped hole in one of them by now!


 

Our nearest airport is not very busy. Only three international and two local flights arrive a day – most of the passengers are Bucket List People coming to visit Victoria Falls, adrenalin junkies seeking their next thrill and sometimes a handful of businessmen and investors.

Joe was supposed to have flown in yesterday from Johannesburg, but our  late rains put paid to that.

Piet got to the airport at mid-day to collect him and within minutes the plane could be heard circling above, hidden behind a heavy bank of clouds. It kept on circling for quite some time, round and round and round, once appearing for a brief moment before being sucked up again into the dull greyness. Then silence. No more circling plane and no announcements over the public address system. People started to get restless and then panicky, the low mumblings getting louder with each question.

“What’s going on?”,

“WHERE HAS IT GONE?”,

WHY AREN’T THEY TELLING US ANYTHING?

One of our friends who owns a helicopter touring company was also at the airport to collect his wife. Being in the business, he has all the passes necessary to get in to those areas the rest of us never see at an airport. So after about half an hour had passed and there had still been no announcement, he decided to nip up to the control tower to see if he could find out what had happened to the plane.

It turns out that when the plane made that brief appearance below the clouds it had been coming in for final approach to land. However, the constant driving rain and electrical storms had interfered with the navigation instruments on the ground and had the pilot continued with his downward trend the plane would have landed directly on top of the airport building! After hastily pulling back up above the clouds he continued circling while trying to establish a better connection with the people in the tower and continued doing this until an impromptu diversion to Lusaka Airport – an hour and a half away – was necessary for refuelling.

Refuelling took an hour, and by this time Joe, tired of being cooped up in such a small space – he is a large man and needed to stretch his legs – asked if he could disembark. Being told “if you get off you can’t get back on again” slightly annoyed him, so he asked if he could be served a drink instead. “It is against the airline’s policy to serve alcohol while on the ground” was the curt reply. There is a bus service which runs between Lusaka and Livingstone (it’s a six-hour journey) and Joe had started to seriously consider getting off the plane and catching that bus when the pilot announced that the tanks were full and they were going to head back to try to land again.

A bit more circling over the airport and three hours later they had landed. Back in Johannesburg.

Eight hours of flying later they were right where they had started!

Being Easter Weekend all the flights were fully booked, an extra plane was laid on and so today Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula Airport received four international flights. Joe arrived safely on one of them.

And that’s why today at noon I was at the airport.

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