This unique project involved setting up a base camp in the heart of the Congo jungle. From tents, a water filtration unit and power sources, to mining equipment, cooking facilities and medication – literally everything that was needed for 30 men to explore new diamond mines in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.
Sending in our own team from the UK we rose to the challenge. Consolidating all the equipment from worldwide collection points, we arranged packing & loading at Johannesburg airport for the flight across Africa in 2 chartered Ilushian 76 cargo planes.
The only way to land in the heart of the unexplored Congo Jungle was on a disused runway with no lights, communication or navigation aids. It took months of logistical planning in Johannesburg and Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But finally, we got the airspace clearance we needed from multiple African countries. And just to add to the drama of all the legislation and delicate negotiations, aircraft of this size had never landed on the 1.5km runway and certainly not with 20,000 litres of highly flammable AV-Gas on board.
Our team travelled, on the first flight. Flying at just 6,000ft over the Congo jungle and using rivers as a navigation tool, the landing as expected was rougher than usual. It took 3 days to carefully pack our cargo, accounting for this very fact. On arrival we had just 2 hours to unload in intense heat, having chartered a small private aircraft to fly in a customs official. We were soon saying goodbye to the local villagers and were back in the air. All in all, a near-impossible job well done.