About a month ago, I got an email from someone telling me that a friend of theirs was coming to Libreville to fly for a regional airline. I got in touch with this guy, Chad, and we started to email. Turns out his parents were international workers in Irian Jaya (now called West Paupau, Indonesia) a while back. Times are tough for pilots in the states, and, after doing an internet search, he found the job here, in Gabon.
So, we got his email that he was in town and that he had a cell phone number. As we were leaving for dinner over at Tim and Meredith's, we decided to give him a call. Turns out that he was less than a mile away at a grocery store. We went there, picked him up, and had a great night getting to know him over dinner. Small world, huh?
It gets better!
While chatting at dinner, Chad told me that he was doing some training flights in a Saab 340 turbo prop (Yep! Saab makes airplanes too!) and all 33 seats would be empty. Of course, I asked it he thought I could take a ride! He said that it wouldn't hurt to ask. So, this morning, I conveniently found myself at the airport in my pilot get-up and, after getting permission, I found myself on board the airplane, sitting in the "jump seat" up front!
And now... for the part the YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE!!!
So, I got to chatting a little with Chad's training pilot, Dave. Dave asked a little about what I was doing here, so I gave him a brief overview and then told him about the airplane we were bringing over. When I mentioned that our airplane was coming from Alaska, he said "oh yeah? I used to do some bush flying up there." Then I told him our airplane used to be operated by "Smythe Air" (I pronounced it "smith"), to which he said with a smile, "It's not 'Smith', it's 'Smythe' (pronounced with a "eye" sound) and I used to fly for them... (pause)... I've flown your airplane!" WHA? WHOA!!! WOW! You gotta be kidding me!
I had printed out some photos to show people the progression of the aircraft refurbishment (see the old photos at picasaweb.google.com/gabon.pilot) and one of them was the aicraft parked on a ramp in Alaska. I pulled it out and he goes- "there it is!"
So... when people say "It's a small world"... you really can't argue with them. Just think of the number of things that must have aligned just right for me to meet up with this guy, Dave. Incredible. While you ponder these things, and work at closing your jaw that has dropped onto your chest, check out these photos: