Often commercial pilots become jaded by the repetitive flying they do and begin to hanker after more challenging flying. Working for MAF often means learning to handle a variety of roles and developing the ability to “wear many hats”. It’s seldom boring!
Since starting out in Tanzania as a pilot in 2005, Martin Zimmerman has worn a number of different MAF hats, including ground ops training, Flight Training (Crew Training Manager) and Chief Pilot. In 2014 he and his family moved to Uganda, where he is now a Senior Instructor pilot in the MAF International training department. However he still takes the opportunity when he can to keep current with programme flying, so in November 2020 he headed back to Tanzania to support the team for three weeks as a relief pilot.
“First I had to renew my license in Dar es Salaam,” Martin explains. “Then I needed a base check. As Tanzania doesn't have any quarantine requirements, I could get started there as soon as I arrived. In the second week I did a route check and then I flew the Kilimatinde Safari. In the third week, I flew the Haydom medical safari”.
Martin was familiar with all of the places and many of the people he met in Tanzania. “On both safaris I recognized some names of passengers on the manifest, and some people remembered me. It was really nice to catch up with people again. I normally go back to Tanzania once or twice a year, but I don’t often have the opportunity to connect with people as much as I would like”.
Martin continued, “Being well aware of the challenges of airstrip maintenance in Tanzania, especially the remote destinations I visited on the medical safaris, I was impressed with what I saw when I returned. The airstrips are looking pretty good,” he says. “Two or three had some ruts on the side due to rain, but overall the condition of most was really good. These improvements reflect the efforts of MAF Tanzania in developing their airstrip maintenance procedures. The team are also working hard to have consistency in reporting and follow up and have done a great job in improving communication after work on the strips.”
Martin was also encouraged to see the continuing impact of the medical flights, some of which have been operating now for over 30 years. “I could certainly tell that people really appreciate MAF coming in and bringing the medical services, as getting around is still difficult and they would not otherwise have access to the care.’‘
Martin had one more job to do for the Tanzania programme: to take one of the planes to Nairobi for an avionic upgrade. 5H-MWA (see photos) will hopefully be back in Tanzania in early 2021.