Fearsome Flight in Guyana

May 18, 2013

in Airplane Stories

While living in Guyana in the late 70’s with my family on US government business, my father and I had to travel to Matthew’s Ridge. The trip out on Guyana Airways was fine despite a plane change as the first one had a mechanical issue and the second had to be fueled from 55 gal drums with a hand pump. But the return trip was an eye opener.

As we waited by the gravel airfield beside a shack that was laughingly called “The Terminal” (it housed the baggage scale and nothing else), I looked at my fellow travelers. There was an individual who had a macaw looking bird on his shoulder that tried to bite everyone within reach. Another passenger had 6 flats of eggs as there was an egg shortage in the capital city Georgetown. Another group of people was a family of 8 with the matriarch looking like a professional weightlifter, along with the usual gaggle of diamond and gold miners.

The plane, a de Havilland twin turboprop aircraft, was 3 hours late. It finally flew into view, circled and landed, rushing by and slinging gravel every which way as the props reversed. I taxied up and stopped and saw there was a massive surge of people to the boarding ladder that appeared at the rear of the aircraft. The captain hollered “Stop!” and proceeded to offload all the passengers from other airfields that he had picked up on the way to our location. He then stated at the top of the boarding ladder that he would call each passenger and they were to hand over their luggage, as he obviously had a weight and balance issue. Several passengers refused at which the captain tore their tickets up and abruptly dismissed them, which produced a fresh torrent of yelling between the now grounded passengers and the flight crew. During this my father and I discussed the possibility of traveling a different day since the plane was severely overcrowded. We decided to go on this trip since the herd of people had been thinned out somewhat.

The aircraft was finally stowed and we settled into what was laughingly our seat, more like being a pretzel. The engines started and the plane heaved itself ponderously to the end of the runway. It felt heavy and every bump jarred us as we trundled along. The captain brought the power levers up to maximum and the Rolls Royce Dart engines screamed at max power before the captain released the brakes. Slowly, painfully slowly, the aircraft moved down the runway picking up speed. My father and I glanced at each other and in that moment we both revisited the wisdom of being onboard at that particular time. Too late. The captain held the aircraft onto the runway until the runway ran out at the edge of a cliff. The aircraft plummeted, the bird squawked, eggs went flying, people were yelling and suddenly the flaps came out and we were squashed into our seats as extra lift was grabbed by the takeoff flaps. The descent arrested, the captain followed the valley bordered by two ridgelines until he was able to slowly climb out with the stall horn blaring non-stop and turn on his way back to Timehri Airport. From that day on, anytime any trips had to be made into the interior it was done by charted aircraft.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Des May 31, 2013 at 11:55 am

I would have certainly soiled my pants! O.o


Patricia Taylor June 10, 2013 at 7:09 am

I am a flight attendant …. unload all unnecessary baggage … the bird and the eggs go and if that pilot does not get us back … he goes to!


Pat Courtenay June 25, 2013 at 5:54 am

Great yarn, well told!


MatthewC April 11, 2016 at 8:15 am

de Havilland have never made ANY aircraft with Rolls Royce Darts. Otherwise a story of a normal day in paradise!


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