Badakshan airstrip

Roads and security in Afghanistan being what they are, to get from Kabul to our field sites we usually have to fly.

I’m not a great fan of planes, not least for their environmental impact, but I have to admit there is something quite fun about commuting to work in a light aircraft.

For the first dozen times anyway, and when they show up on time, and when the hour long flight isn’t spent bumping and fluttering around the sky like a paper aeroplane, or with a pilot with a penchant for stunt flying.

When it’s relatively smooth, and you can see the Hindu Kush mountains spread out below (and occasionally besides) you, it can be wonderful.

With nothing to separate the passengers from the pilots in the small eight seat planes, I feel I’ve picked up quite a lot about how to fly the things. It looks quite easy you know. One day I’m going to ask to have a go.

The downside is when a large red light suddenly starts flashing on the control panel, or when the co-pilot nervously starts tapping the fuel gauge. Sometimes it’s best not to know.

For the perspective of someone responsible enough to be in the cockpit, flying relief flights in Africa, check out this blog.

Landing back in Chagcharan invariably brings a smile to my face. In part it’s relief, but there’s also something in the desolately fresh air that makes it a pleasure to return.

And then there are the NATO soldiers from the nearby base who come to meet some flights. As the plane taxis off the gravel runway, they nonchalantly fan out to ‘cover’ the plane, weighed down with scary looking guns and a scary array of pockets.

It adds an extra element of excitement, as if something really important is happening instead of it just being the end of another commute.

At least it would if they didn’t look quite so bored, but seeing them scratch their arses with their rifle butts slightly spoils the scene. Does make me laugh though.


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