By Patience Nyangove and Marianne Nghidengwa
IT was our first and what an unforgettable experience it was!
As embarrassing as it might seem, we were probably the only journalists in this country that had never flown in a helicopter and we had to pinch ourselves once or twice when we got an opportunity to be flown in a Namibian police helicopter by none other than one of the country’s few female helicopter pilots, Deputy Commissioner Florentina Dumbu.
Our maiden helicopter ride was to be in an AS350b3 helicopter popularly known as the ‘Squirrel’ which Nampol uses to fight crime across the country. Nampol also has the Eurocopter EC145, known as the Airbus Helicopter H145 that is mostly used for transportation.
Our flight across Windhoek with Dumbu took about 25 minutes. We were in deep awe to the fact that such a petite, beautiful lady with her neatly manicured nails could fly so flawlessly unassisted by anyone save for the control tower she was in consistent touch with. Throughout our careers we have encountered hundreds of women all equipped to the brim with exceptional talents and skills but truth be told we had not come across a 27-year-old Deputy Commissioner in the uniformed forces with such skill.
We have to confess though, before we took off, we were so nervous to trust such a young lady with our lives. So many times we wanted to cancel the flying part due to our fear of the unknown, however that journalistic kick kept us grounded. Upon our landing back at Eros Airport where the Nampol Air wing directorate is based, we had new found respect and understanding of how the six pilots -three of them being women- who navigate the police’s three helicopters on different missions that include, crime fighting, rescue missions and transportation of people and equipment operate.
The air wing is also made up of two helicopter engineers, two flight engineers and other office supporting staff and on average makes 10 flights a month that sees them flying as far as the Etosha National Park searching for suspected poachers, patrolling the Zambezi River or chasing after suspected armed robbers in Windhoek.
The air wing also helps farmers to track down poachers and do medical evacuations. The air wing is led by Commissioner Flip Blaauw who has been part of the police force since 1980 and has been a pilot for the past 21 years who with an infectious smile explained to us how despite their job being risky they are all adrenaline junkies, who for the thrill of it will remain loyal to their calling. “We do policing from the air what they call airborne law enforcement. We work alongside our colleagues on the ground to combat crime.” Blaauw, describes how the air wing assists Nampol’s ground force to fight crime.
“Recently a bank in Okakarara was robbed and we had to quickly fly there to assist the force’s ground crew to apprehend the suspects. Our role is to spot suspects who are fleeing from the ground force or have hid in bushes, thickets or animal holes. We had to pull one of the suspects from a warthog hole. What happens usually is that once suspects realise that there is a police helicopter pursuing them they tend to concentrate more on hiding from us and this is good because it gives time to our ground forces to catch up with them and subsequently arrest them. After 45 minutes we managed to arrest all the suspects involved in the robbing of the Okakarara bank,” he said. Blaauw also contentedly describes how for his team despite being bombarded with lucrative countless job offers from private aviation companies they remain loyal to the Namibian police force because of their love to serve their country. “We like the adrenaline rush because the pressure makes us do it again. When we come back from successful rescue missions that feeling one has after helping save a life is priceless for us. One time we had to fly to an area between Usakos and Spitzkop to search for an old lady and her two grandchildren who had got lost and the look on their faces when we found them dehydrated from the heat made us happy. We also rescued tourists that were lost and from the moment we found them until we landed back here, they could not stop crying tears of joy and for us that means a lot,” he said.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015