Captains and cockpits

Some years ago, I worked on a project in Mali, where we built a power-station for a new gold mine. I would fly out to Mali, from Johannesburg in South Africa, via Brazzaville in the Congo, then Abidjan in the Ivory Coast to reach Bamako, the capital of Mali. The company always booked us on fights with Air Afrique. Air Afrique was partly owned by the French as far as I know. The aircraft it used were always in great shape, food more or less OK and the hostesses very helpful.

The one bad thing about the airline was that the concept of being on time, passed it by, by around 175,34567 years. In fact, I cannot remember even one of the 20 or so flights I did with it, being on time. My wife would not even leave our house to collect me, unless I phoned and told her that I reached Johannesburg.

Inside a modern passenger aircraft.
Ready to go

On one flight back to Johannesburg, I had the pleasure of sitting next to an engineer from Senegal. As both of us were doing project work and were in related fields, we had a really nice conversation, which made the flight from Brazzaville to Johannesburg feel very short. Even the crying of about 13 babies and the smell of several soiled nappies was somewhat more bearable than was normally the case.

About an hour before we were due to land, the captain walked down the aisle, greeting passengers while also engaging in some friendly banter. As he got to us, the Senegali engineer greeted him friendly and then said only one thing more:

“Captain, the flight was great, but I would prefer it if you were in the cockpit”

I just hoped that my wife would feel the same after being without her captain for three and a half months.

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