Just like a car sees wear and tear the more it gets used, so too do aircraft, especially when working in dry, dusty and hot conditions like the African bush. Consistent aircraft maintenance is therefore a critical operational task that helps keep our pilots, animals and parks safe. Peace Parks Foundation’s Chief Pilot and Aviation Manager, Hannes van Wyk shows us what goes into keeping aircraft running smoothly.
Because they are complicated machines, aircraft maintenance is a team effort, and here the pilot, mechanic and Hannes are helping to ensure a helicopter is fit for service. Although pilots conduct compulsory pre-flight checks to ensure that their aircraft is ready for flight, it is important that thorough maintenance be carried out regularly. This includes checking all mechanical and flight systems and making sure that no corrosion or rusting is taking place. This is especially important when operating in coastal areas such as Maputo National Park.
Aircraft play a critical role in conservation by being the eyes in the sky. Counter-poaching teams can identify any illegal activity, and in vast wilderness areas like Limpopo National Park, the road network can be limited, so helicopters can quickly deploy rangers in difficult-to-reach areas.
Light aircraft are also often used for game counts, as it would be nearly impossible to cover large areas on foot in the same time that an aircraft can do it.
For tourism development, having an aircraft is incredibly useful as many tourists prefer to hop straight to their lodges instead of spending hours travelling through a park.
Due to the nature of all this work that both aeroplanes and helicopters carry out when in these harsh landscapes, Hannes explains that the aircraft parts tend not to last as long as they would when operating in and out of a tarred airport in the city.
Luckily, Peace Parks Foundation has an amazing team of mechanics that work on all aircraft involved in our operation to ensure that safety remains a priority, helping pilots, their passengers and all who depend on these machines in the sky to have peace of mind.