Thomas Pesquet flies to the Central African Republic in cooperation with the Association for Flying Without Borders

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Sibut runway in the Central African Republic during the delivery of medicines by the NGO Flying Without Borders in November 2015.

Under rainy skies, a Cessna took off from Le Bourget Airport on Wednesday, April 13 at 1:30 p.m., as planned in the flight plan. Heading south. After an evening stop in Palma de Mallorca (Spain), you should fly over the African coast the next day and land for the weekend in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. On board were two mechanics and three French pilots, one of whom had already spent nearly 400 days in space: Thomas Bisquet.

“I can’t wait to fly over the desert and stop on African soil, pledge to Globalism Astronaut. On the space station, I looked at Africa for a long time, I was impressed by its size. Dropping the ball on the map needs to reduce certain parts, the continent is actually larger than we think. I was also amazed at the diversity of the landscape, including the desert… »

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His flight this time is part of a connecting flight for Flying Without Borders. This was created by three pilots during the Biafran War (from 1967 to 1970). It now has 800 volunteers and provides logistical support to more than 120 NGOs and international organizations such as World Food Program (WFP), Handicap International, Action Against Hunger, French Red Cross, Cardiac Surgery Care, etc.

The association works in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in areas where only bush aviation provides access to populations to transport humanitarian aid or care for refugees and sick people.

“The main function of this aircraft will be to transport doctors or nurses to areas that only an aircraft can reach because the roads are inaccessible or too dangerous, Explains Gerard Feldzer, President of Flying Without Borders. Our association provides logistical support to NGOs in areas where United nations. » The United Nations is today the main source of funding for the association, which also works with about twenty partners (Air France, DGCA, Michelin, Paris Airport, etc.)

“We look forward to putting the Air Force at the service of humanitarian assistance.”

Through the Wings of the Future project, the Association for Flying Without Borders is also active in France, in priority neighborhoods or in rural areas. In 2020, 16 people, aged between 15 and 29, were allowed to fly aboard a device designed by students from Sup’Aéro Toulouse and acquire the first concepts of leadership.

The Cessna Grand Caravan EX, which took off from Le Bourget, is an “all-terrain aerial vehicle”, capable of accommodating 12 passengers and carrying one ton of cargo. Thanks to the wide tires and reinforced landing gear, it can land on fairly short runways. “These planes are very powerful, says Vadim Feldzer, Director of Flying Without Borders. They need a special qualification. »

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Thomas Pesquet, who started his career at Air France in 2006 and has 2,300 flying hours on an Airbus A320, had to undergo new training. “His coach told me his progress was meteoric, says Jean-Claude Cuisine-Etienne, who delivered the qualifications. The pilot analyzes and reacts very quickly, including engine failures. »

The United Nations requires pilots to have 50 flying hours before departing on a mission. Thomas Pesquet, despite his six extravehicular flights during his two stays on the International Space Station, will not be able to make his first flights into the Central African bush at the end of this first flight. “He will work his hours and will come later to help us, Gerard Feldzer says: We feel he wants to be useful and invest in this area. »

“I can’t wait to go on an adventure and put the Air Force at the service of humanitarian aid.” Thomas Pesquet who received as a final tribute to him concluded a water salutedrives his plane under water spray from airport firefighters, a few moments before takeoff.

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