My next contract took me to the so- called idyllic setting of the Comoros islands flying the Embraer 120. We were based on the main island, Maroni from where we had to fly a schedule to Mayotte, Moheli and Anjuan. And once every 2 weeks we flew to the spectacular Nosy Be and other places in Madagascar.
One of the regular schedules was from Maroni to Anjuan. The side of the island where the runway is located is in the shape of a large sickle. You had to decide 5 miles out if you were committing to the landing or not. The rather short runway had huge mountains on the other side and you and no change of a go around. As a very green GUFUSU (Gear Up Flap Up Shut Up) or otherwise known as the First Officer on the E120, I let the much more experience captains do the landings.
We would skim over the beach, scrape across the fence followed by a very quick, short field landing with full reverse thrust and determined braking to stop the aircraft before the end of the runway.
The runway itself was very rough and shook loose which was not, and off which was.
After landing the Captain and I stayed in the cockpit to complete the documents for the next flight while the Flight Engineer supervised the off-loading and loading of the luggage.
While sitting in the cockpit I looked up and took a double take at the view. I turned to the captain and said: "Hey why are we sitting so high all of a sudden?" He looked at me. I looked at him and he gingerly got up out of his seat and out the door. I contemplated if I should stay put or not but figured that my weight will not make such a big difference in the nose in any case so I inched out the door as well.
Me, being short, normally the last step onto the ground would be a bit of a step down but this time around I had to jump to get down to the ground. I turned around and looked at the nose wheel. It was actually a couple of inches off the ground. I heard him before I saw him. As I walked around the wing, I saw the engineer standing in the cargo bay, red in the face, yelling and screaming at the local baggage handlers. The handlers figured they could load until the hold was full. Did not quite work that way.
While all this was going on, the familiar sound of four Allison engines caught my attention.
Over the mountain, from the inland side of the runway, the C130 from the South African Airforce came thundering over the top of the mountain. Under the guidance of their skilled hands, the C130 gracefully flew down the steep mountain slopes and did a perfect short field landing.
By then our own aircraft was back within safe weight and balance limits and we departed for Maroni.
Our next adventure will take us back into the South African Bushveld and all the interesting characters which charter brings.