East Coast Survey with Michael McBride

Mar 30, 2008

Mission: East Coast Survey with Michael McBride
Date: 30 March 2008
Requesting organisation: The Bateleurs and Michael McBride
Location: KwaZulu Natal
Pilot: Paul Dutton

Paul Dutton flies Michael McBride

Report to The Bateleurs concerning flights from 26 to 29 March from Ballito, south to Port Grosvenor and north to St Lucia, in Paul Dutton’s Piper Super Cub, Spirit of the Wilderness, for open window photography of proposed mining to the south and ongoing mining to the north.

“Lucky the person who has the chance to fly over the vast grandiosity of Africa;  luckier still the one who finds himself flying with veteran Game Ranger, passionate environmentalist and Bateleurs pilot, Paul Dutton of Salt Rock, on a designated mission.  We flew to acquaint the passenger with an eagle’s eye view of an important situation below which deserves the attention of South Africa and the world.

Anyone who is in love with this great green and blue planet is immediately reminded that no map, drive in a car, or walk on a trail can give one the same spreading perspective as that generously given from the air.  Soaring midway between cloud and earth one is able to suspend the disbelief that these purposeful missions are anything but powerful and effective.  We may be rattled by the sound of the engine and wind rushing past, but we know intuitively the profoundness of the silence that surrounds us.  Using that metaphor, just as we know that we are surrounded by assaults on nature, we know also that we are all working together as conservationists and environmentalists, because we all need and cre about clean air and water and healthy land, for ourselves and our children.

There is a good deal more to flying a truly successful mission for Lighthawk, as I have been doing for many years in Alaska, or for The Bateleurs as I have been privileged to do on the Wild Coast and over St Lucia.  As important as is the preflight inspection and topping up the tanks is the preparation of the passenger and post -flight follow up.  It might be said that the flight itself is the bread in the sandwhich, while the meat is the before and after process.   

Flying the KwaZulu coast reminded me of the fact that the privilege we enjoy as pilots and passengers has with it a burden of responsibility, made lighter than air with the fun, the delight and the pure pleasure that comes with being in love with and sharing our affection for this great green and blue, loving and forgiving earth.”


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Paul and Mike flying over the proposed N2 route along the Wild coast

This is the Report from our pilot,  Paul Dutton

“Herewith the ‘meat’ of the sandwich that Mike McBride most eloquently refers to in his report on our mission of  26 to 29 March 2008, together with some insights into his polyvalent interests in the natural environment.

Raison d’être for the mission:  To provide an opportunity for visiting Alaskan pilot and advisor to LightHawk, Michael McBride, to experience two of South Africa’s most spectacular natural areas, the Wild Coast and iSimangaliso (formerly the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park).  This Bateleurs-supported mission gave Mike an insight into the potential and current impacts of opencast mining on ecologically sensitive coastal dunes along the Wild Coast and at Richard’s Bay.

Modus operandi and results:  Flying was accomplished in my PA-18 ZS-DLI Spirit of the Wilderness,  mainly at 500ft or lower altitudes, to obtain aerial images of the two contentious areas. Total flight time was 8 hours. The following e-mail was sent to the CEO of  iSimangaliso, Mr Andrew Zaloumis: 

‘Dear Andrew

I attach a few images of RBM which make it look like it’s operation is on finals for  iSimangaliso’s southern boundary. Can I ask you to send one of the images that shows  RBM on the crest of the dune forest above the sea to the Environmental Impact practitioner who should be monitoring the implementation of the Environmental Management Plan.  Furthermore, RBM should be putting aside a considerable percentage of its profits to cover the final rehabilitation programme once it has reached the end of its concession area. Please feel free to forward these observations under my name.’

Additional accomplishments resulting from Mike’s visit:  Mike gave a talk to members of the Ballito Microlight Club on general aviation and conservation issues in Alaska, as well as insightful observations on our mission over the Wild Coast and iSimangaliso. He also took up the cudgels in support of our concern for Bazaruto’s threatened Dugong, and has already alerted icons in  various fields of the natural sciences, asking for their assistance to try to save this species from imminent extinction.

As I write Mike is on a Wilderness Trail in the iMfolozi Game Reserve, with a group that includes our first participant from a local informal settlement characterised by a high crime rate. We are hoping this first intake will facilitate raising additional funds to sustain and expand the programme.”

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