Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Protecting Kenya’s National Parks
Training the Kenya Wildlife Service Airwing
Maintenance also is an issue because of the bush nature of the airstrips. When flying patrols, perhaps the only thing that KWS pilots don’t have to worry about is other traffic.
I’ve been going to Kenya as a CFI since 2000, when Dr. Bill Clark, a wildlife expert, pilot, member of the Israeli Wildlife Service and long-time contributor to the efforts of the KWS Airwing, organized the first of an ongoing program of recurrency training for the KWS. Recently, we completed our sixth session at Kilaguni Airstrip in Tsavo West, training each of the 12 KWS Airwing pilots. The idea behind Dr. Clark’s efforts has been that if we can teach discipline and precision, through aerobatics and unusual attitude training, then the accident rate will drop, benefitting this group of gifted, dedicated pilots, the airplanes and the park’s great resources—i.e., the animals.
After training at Amboseli (at the base of Mt. Kilamanjaro) for the first two years, the program has moved to Kilaguni, where there’s a Serena Lodge adjacent to the airstrip, giving us more time to train and a quicker walk to the showers at the end of the day. Over the years, we’ve trained pilots in a variety of aircraft—from a Zenair with a giraffe paint scheme to Cessna 180s and 182s, Super Cubs and Huskys. We’ve given specialized aerobatic and unusual attitude training in a Cessna 150 Aerobat and, more recently (thanks to the generous contributions of friends), a Super Decathlon dedicated to training.
Through the combined efforts of the KWS, Dr. Clark, the volunteer CFIs, the KWS Airwing pilots and the sponsors of the training program, the KWS Airwing’s safety record has dramatically improved since 2000. I’m hopeful that the recurrency training, which is necessary for all pilots on an ongoing basis, and the unusual attitude and aerobatic training have contributed to the cause of safety.
This year, Dr. Rich Sugden of Jackson, Wyo., joined the program. Dr. Sugden, who shared the pilot training with me, spent hours in a Husky’s backseat, while I focused on Super Cub and Decathlon training.
Additionally, for the first time, we had a formalized ground school focusing on risk management, which was provided by John and Martha King of King Schools, and it was very well-received.
Thanks to the generous support of the Lindbergh Foundation, we had one of the best and most comprehensive training sessions ever. The foundation’s mission is “to improve the quality of life through a balance between technology and nature.” It’s a perfect match and a great combination of efforts to help save some of Earth’s most precious natural resources. Learn more at www.kws.go.ke, www.lindberghfoundation.org and www.pattywagstaff.com.
Patty Wagstaff is a three-time U.S. National Aerobatic Champion and six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team. She currently flies air shows nationally and internationally. In addition to her need for speed, she enjoys flying her Cirrus SR22 Turbo for both business and pleasure.
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