Category Archives: Aerials and bush pilots

Whenever I can find some free time I will write about some of the pilots I flew with.

Bush pilot: Tex Palmer in Venezuela.

Flying over the rainforest can be dangerous: the pilot can get lost, you can suddenly hit bad weather, the plane can have mechanical failure… So you need an experienced pilot. I like to fly with older pilots, who have 20 years or more of experience flying to placer gold or diamond mines, which can be distant in the forest, and have short dirt airstrips, often irregular or muddy, and surrounded by trees. If after 20 years or more of this kind of flying a pilot is still alive, he must be good… Planes going to placer mines are often poorly maintained, overloaded, and younger pilots may get lost and run out of fuel or think they can get through bad weather.

I did not choose my first bush pilot; Tex Palmer, he had been hired by an anthropologist with whom I was traveling to an Indian tribe in Venezuela.

Tex Palmer, being Texan was a real cowboy bush pilot, working the diamond mines in the rainforest. He was the only one who could land at a small mine airstrip between mountains in cloudy weather. Others tried and killed themselves. I did only one flight with him, going from Caicara (where he lived) to San Juan de Manapiare with an anthropologist and his wife. For such classy passengers he put back the safety belts and did a complete check-up of his plane. After leaving us in San Juan de Manapiare he did some acrobatics over the small town, to the enjoyment of the local people. A few years later I was told that during his annual checkup it was founTex Palmer_72ppi_300pixels_ 36751_1511724118790_7642852_nd that he had high blood pressure, and he was prohibited to fly. I visited him once in the small town on the Orinoco River where he lived a simple life. I didn´t hear about him for several years, but I learned later that he had died.

Quite a character…

Photo courtesy of his son, © Jack Palmer. He was much younger than when I met him.

Aerial photography and bush pilots (1)

Short flights
This post won´t be about a specific pilots, but about some flights I took on small planes, during which I took pictures. All happened to be in Africa.
Aeria; view of Agadez, Niger, Africa. Tower at center left is mosque.

The first of these occurred in 1962 in Niger, where I went after finishing botanical field work In Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta). A mining company offered me a plane ride from In Abangarit in the Sahara desert, which I had reached by truck,  back to Niamey. We flew over the medieval Islamic Tuareg city of Agadez, a caravan passage center notable for its mosque (center left on photograph).
People of Africa

Another flight was offered by missionaries in Liberia after I had photographed Kpelle tribal life for a textbook company. I photographed two Kpelle villages, one village next to the Saint Paul River.

Deforestation: Timber at harbor at Owendo, Libreville harbor, Gabon, AfricaThe third occasional flight was in Gabon, where I took a short flight around the capital Libreville. On this flight I photographed floating logs ready for export in the harbor, witnesses to the destruction of the African rainforest.