In this entertaining autobiographical account, veteran South African pilot Simon Van Garderen recalls his days as a bush pilot during the 1980s and 90s, flying the length and breadth of sub-Saharan Africa on secret missions for a clandestine air transport company dubbed 'Savimbi Air' by its employees.
A former SAAF jet fighter pilot, Simon had retired from military flying when he secured a job with a supposedly civilian air transport company operating from Wonderboom airport in Pretoria. It was, in reality, a covert operation of the South African government of the day, set up to secretly assist the UNITA terrorists in Angola, led by Dr Jonas Savimbi, who were waging a protracted civil war against the Communist-backed MPLA.
Simon flew Jonas Savimbi on many occasions ~ to secret meetings in various African countries and even as far afield as Munich in Bavaria. In the process they developed a mutual respect and affection that continued until Savimbi’s untimely death in 2002, when he was assassinated by his former allies for reasons of political expediency.
Simon’s abiding affection for his old friend Savimbi, his love of Africa and his passion for flying are the three main themes that run through this book.
Readers are offered a co-pilot’s seat in Simon’s aircraft, from where they will marvel at the spectacular African scenery and wildlife, learn first-hand about the continent’s bizarre and troubled recent history and meet some of its wacky kleptocrat leaders whose excesses have inflicted such misery on their own peoples.
They will also experience the thrill of flying in some incredible aircraft, such as the C47 Turbo-Dakota, the Lear 35 and 23 and a turboprop Cessna 310 … and to laugh at the crazy antics of those who fly them.
Simon’s enthusiastic and descriptive writing brings all these to life in vivid Technicolor and does the same for his old, dear friend Jonas Savimbi, a giant of a man who Simon believes to be much maligned and misunderstood and whose memory has, he claims, been besmirched by his political enemies.