Never getting on a plane again

The other night, halfway through dinner in Johannesburg’s really rather nice Melville district, I nipped out and did a quick interview for Monocle radio.

I’ve been writing for Monocle since it launched in early 2007. It’s a little like a trendy Economist: there’ll be a fascinating report on Turkmenistan, followed by a feature on the 10 best Norwegian chair designs.

Unlike most media operations, Monocle still has money and isn’t afraid to spend it. In the past two years they’ve sent me to Angola, Tanzania, Sudan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and now South Africa, as well as several stories in Kenya. Again, unlike most other publications, they always send a photographer too.

Monocle’s latest foray is into radio. Since the start of the year they’ve produced an hour-long weekly radio show which has a similar sort of mix to the magazine. This week it was Lebanese food, aviation, luxury watches and about five minutes of me rambling on about coups, the global economic crisis and football.

But the most interesting Africa-related part in this week’s issue came after I hung up and went back to dinner. It was from a former pilot, Donat Etienne, whose description of aeroplanes scared the bejeezus out of me:

“It’s metal, it’s fire, it’s combustible…”

He then goes on to describe where his hairiest landings have been. Unsurprisingly, it’s Africa, particularly during “very severe storms” when it would have been much safer not to land.

“But you get no choice. You have to do it because fuel is running out.”




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