Cockpit: "Slight problem approaching Kinshasa"

I have flown so much in my life that if God considers climate change in his ultimate call “heaven or hell”, I will have little chance of paradise. There used to be a time when flying was extremely mysterious and fascinating to me, when the taking off and (less so) landing of an aircraft was an experience I would be looking forward to. Now, I really only fly when strictly necessary, despise the security lines and transit halls.

My coping mechanism to the waiting times or boredom that may come with flying:

a) Listening to music on Ipod
b) Working on the extension of my anatomy called Sony Vaio
c) Sleeping in airplanes, like a baby nowadays

I just came back from a trip to advocate for things we care about, such as protection of civilians, with UN security council members and key government representatives in capitals. Six or seven countries in three weeks or so. On my last flight from Nairobi, where I had spent the night in transit, to Kinshasa, I was so much into my a/m coping mechanisms that I almost did not take note of anything going on in the aircraft. We landed on a normal stop in Brazzaville, just a short hop from Kinshasa (where Brazza and Stanley met and divided the Congos amongst each other). When we took off, I only looked with 1.5 eyes from time to time into the quite thick clouds, which unfortunately blocked the view from the Congo river.

I continued to listen to the Ipod, Fly Modus of course. When more than half an hour passed, I was wondering why we had not landed yet. The Public Announcements (PA) had escaped me. Then the plane goes through the clouds, and I started seeing the houses on the ground. All ok. Stop Ipod. We are landing.

Not really. We were on our way, but the pilot pulled the plane back into the clouds and then above the clouds. We circulated there for 30-45 minutes. There can’t be so heavy traffic in Kinshasa.

Then comes a PA:

Ladies and gentlemen, we had a slight problem approaching Kinshasa. Nothing to be alarmed about. We have solved the problem, and we will now be approaching Kinshasa again“.

So we did, and landed safely.

On the ground, some Congolese, who had seen the plane approaching and going up again, had started discussing what this could be about, some had prayed.

No one seemed particularly worried in the plane. One does remember the recent crash of a MONUSCO airplane in Kinshasa in a situation like this, but the weather was better today.

This was probably just a measure of precaution for a small technical problem either on the ground or in the air. Or indeed a weather problem. Anyway, a slight problem, which they have fixed, as they said…

People clapped when the plane landed. That’s their habit.

This time, I clapped as well.

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