Well guys, I've been at this for 7 hours and I think it's time to wrap it up. An AMA is about asking and answering questions.. not about donations.. but you helped raise $2300 and the FMS team couldn't be more grateful. It's late and raining.. So I'm going to bed. From the bottom our hearts, Thank you!

Edit: Anyone with advice on how we might further try to get the word out about the IndieGoGo page.. please PM me. I'm new to fund-raising. tx    




   The purpose of this AMA

Hi, yesterday I was asked to do this AMA as a Pilot who crashed a plane in the African bush, you can see the resulting carnage,  HERE.   I'm here to answer questions, not only about the incident (story is below), but about the work that the Flying Medical Service team does. About being a volunteer bush pilot in the Serengeti, about the medicine, the stories, & the Maasai people we service. You can check out these photos of the good work they do

If you would like to help, You can visit FMS's IndieGoGo crowd-funding page attempt here

Otherwise, I'll try to answer as many questions as I can (just understand that power & internet are very unreliable here.. we have rolling blackouts). So if I stop answering for a bit, I'll be back and will post here when I'm actually finishing up.
Our founder is out right now finishing another clinic in a place called Ndutu with a friend's airplane, but I asked him to send a picture and say a few words. Full text is under the linked pic, but a quick abbreviation:
"I would like to thank you on behalf of the people who you will likely never see... this area is one of the most remote & spectacularly beautiful places in the world. The people who live here are are equally spectacular. But when someone is sick, and medical help is so far away, the vast distances can turn this beauty into a nightmare....Tanzania has the worst patient to doctor ratio in the world with only 1 doc for 125,000 people...That is why Flying Medical Service is here...The world gets smaller every day. We're all in this together"    -Thanks A lot!    

   Proof: Of Me & The Non-profit status of our Organization

   Before we get started, this is the story of our organization and it's mission

Flying Medical Service is a non-profit, strictly volunteer organization which provides regular preventive and curative health care, health education services, as well as air transport for medical emergencies. Based at the Arusha airport in Tanzania since 1983. FMS works to improve the quality of life throughout Tanzania regardless of religious affiliation, ethnic background, or ability to pay immediately. We mainly work in remote areas that are far from regular health care facilities.    
FMS has full-time volunteer staff, most of whom are pilots and paramedics. We also have volunteer doctors and nurses on stand-by from the surrounding hospitals and clinics. The government of Tanzania has granted us important exemptions which help us to provide our services as affordably as possible for the average Tanzanian citizen.    
Having treated almost 30,000 patients on clinics last year alone, FMS is a truly worthwhile cause that I have been honored to serve. If I can help my organization in any way, then the people of Tanzania will benefit as well. If you would like to learn more, take a moment and visit their website.


   The story of the accident

I have been a volunteer pilot with Flying Medical Service for two years. For the majority of my time here, we have been 2 pilots & the founder. Together we perform 17 days out of the month for clinics, and we are on call for emergency flights day & night.    
I want to start, though, with a quick word in apology to those few who feel I was light hearted about the incident. It was never my intention to downplay the seriousness of the situation. I truly feel terrible about all that has resulted from the accident & I'm just thankful that everyone is doing ok, back home, and recovering quickly. Now is the time for action in making things right.. but first, as promised, here's what happened:    

<I was told I got too long winded with this story, and I'm sure you guys will ask me more about it.. so I've cut it down a bit. I want to be completely open, so ask away>
    The crew and I had just finished packing up from a clinic at a place called Ilkiushi Oibor. After take-off It had become a common occurrence (because of the good time we have at this particular clinic) for me to give the attendees a "goodbye" flyby. I asked the crew beforehand if they would like to do it, and everyone agreed. Before the clinics, I tell them that regardless, there will be necessary low-pass maneuvers to check the runways for problems, or to chase zebras, sheep, donkeys, giraffe, etc off the strip.    
    On this day however, there were several changes in normal conditions (flight/weather).   <Lengthy details in comments>   My primary mistake was becoming too comfortable with how I flew the clinics. You do these clinics dozens of times over, and you get too familiar with how the plane reacts. This is a dangerous thing for when conditions change. Despite knowing this, and having been adjusting my flying accordingly prior, I failed to do so when it came to this maneuver.    
    So we took off, cleared the tree-tops, I "cleaned" up the plane, and came back around to perform the maneuver.   <details of maneuver in comments>   I noticed right away though that the plane wasn't responding normally and I immediately aborted the flyby and concentrated on getting us in a positive climb again. We almost made it too. My tires brushed thru the tops of the bushes as it started to climb again, but it wasn't enough to avoid the tree that caught our wing. I felt a quick downward motion and then nothing until I came to.   <details of the aftermath & rescue in comments>    
    I'm sure you'll ask more, and I'm at your disposal. Nevertheless, in conclusion, of course this was all avoidable and I wish I could take it back. This job already carries a lot of risk without me adding on to it. These are the facts of what happened, the pictures you saw were the result, and amazingly nobody was left with life-threatening injuries. I'm not asking for forgiveness. This isn't about me... it's about helping the organization, everyone involved, and the community at large.


   What I won't be responding to

Simply put, denigrating comments (unless there's a legitimate question). I don't think there is anyone out there who can beat up on me more than I already have myself, but I don't see it as being productive to engage with comments like that. Having learned much from my mistakes, all I can do is humbly apologize and focus on taking action to help make up for it.    


Comments: 484 • Responses: 94  • Date: 

twiddling_my_thumbs317 karma

Not sure people will see this, but OP is my brother.

He's an amazing person, an incredible pilot, and I miss him dearly. Please help his organization get another plane.

zambuka42154 karma

you know i was trying to schedule my visit while the folks were visiting you.. but it just wouldn't work out with everyone else's schedule here. :(

Apocza29 karma

My brother flies in Tanz, I miss him too.

zambuka4229 karma

Does he stay in the north or south mostly? If he's out of arusha I probably know him. You asked me below any advice I would have for him. It's hard for me to give advice because what we do is very different than the other Caravan tourist operators. It's just an experience I don't have. Former FMS members have gone on to do that sort of thing and would be better suited to answer. sorry

Apocza19 karma

He's based in Dar es Salaam but flies into Arusha regularly. Think he is with Coastal Aviation.

zambuka4229 karma

If he's with Coastal, then we've at least crossed paths :)

NotLostJustWanderin115 karma

Do the volunteers have jobs that allow them time off to volunteer? Or do they have odd jobs etc? I know that you said you fly 17 days out of the month, at what point does fatigue become a factor, if at all?

zambuka42137 karma

well, we do 17 days of clinics. There's also emergencies! but we try to dole it out evenly between pilots. These days, I was the only full time pilot while the founder was training another. If you need to, you can live at 'the mission' with the founder (there's a school for disabled people to learn skills). But I also have a side computer job that allows me to live in my own place.

As far as fatigue.. there are days man. And you have to do a serious self-diagnostic and be capable of saying you can't do it. Obviously (and to my discredit) decision making skills are important

twiddling_my_thumbs137 karma

I can't believe my brother is at the top of IAmA.

Miss you -- commented at the bottom.

And please, if you can, help my brother and his incredible organization raise money for a new plane.

zambuka4292 karma

miss you too.

Bombingofdresden49 karma

Now kith.

zambuka4264 karma

dude! He's my brother! Of course I'll give him a big smacker as soon as I see him :)

itoucheditforacookie-23 karma


zambuka4218 karma

dude, trust me, my brother is much cooler than me

kmja82 karma

What are some misconceptions people might have about Tanzania?

zambuka42121 karma

wow, that's a tough one because I've been traveling the world for about 10 years now and didn't know much of anything about Tanzania. So I can tell you what surprised me. First, they are few, but there are definitely more modern things here than you might expect. However, I would say it caters mostly to Mzungu (i suppose tourists is a good translation). A mall, movie theater, car dealership.. etc. And some big paved roads. However, much of the country is ALSO what you might expect. Maasai bomas (basically straw & dung huts).. very poor difficult to traverse dirt roads, vast stretches of uninhabited land. However, we have the Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Ngorogoro crater. Absolutely beautiful scenery and animals. If I think of some better answers to that, I'll edit it :)

A Misconception might be the danger. While like any impoverished country (and Tanzania is close to the bottom of the world GDP list), you will find higher rates of violence here.. I don't consider Tanzania like some of the surrounding places with conflicts happening. You have to be careful here, but overall people are friendly and warm if you engage with them. They just wanna live their lives like anyone else.

ThisDerpForSale16 karma

you will find higher rates of violence here

Hm, this caught my eye. Could you elaborate?

I ask because, in terms of ethnic or inter-tribal violence, Tanzania is one of the safer nations in Africa. Compared to Kenya, to the north, where there are ongoing simmering ethnic tensions that erupt into violence frequently, Tanzania is quite peaceful. And compared to the awful violence of the nations to the west (Rwanda and Burundi), well, there's no comparison to the genocides there. In terms of street crime, that is definitely a problem, to be sure, and muggings (especially in the big cities) are a real problem. However, from my experience in Tanzania (Dar, Arusha, Zanzibar), there is very little risk of violence as long as you stay smart and safe, the way you would in any big western city. Don't walk alone at night, avoid the high-crime areas, etc.

Is this different from your experience? Or did you mean something different from what I'm thinking of?

zambuka4226 karma

It absolutely is one of the safer nations in Africa.. it wasn't my intention to say otherwise. But it definitely has higher risks than say Japan. Also, as far as I know, Tanzania has never been involved in a war with a neighbor (although my knowledge of TZ history could be atrocious). I'd say street crime is more what I'm talking about. As long as you are smart, you can be safe without walling yourself off from everyone else.

However, I will say.. you yell Mwizi when someone tries to rob you.. and you may just witness the surrounding people beat him to death. I'd say that qualifies as well.

It's funny you bring up Rwanda. My boss was the first man in with a medical air transport after the genocide. The website has some of his stories on it

guimare19 karma


zambuka4232 karma

aaaannnd this is why I shouldn't comment on history.

Iwasinthatplane64 karma

Hey OP - I have flown with FMS have been in that exact plane assuming it was...when working with ALMC. Proof here. Hope everyone has recovered well.

Just wondering if I flew with you by answering how long you have been flying with that team.

zambuka4229 karma

Hi :) I see in the pic you are at Haydom so I imagine we've met at least. I've flown so many people you'll have to forgive me if I don't remember if we did. I've been with the team for 2 years now and everyone is recovering well (thankfully)

Iwasinthatplane18 karma

Yeah this was more than a few years ago! So probably we have not met but we host BBQs with the flight team a few times at one of the Seliani medical houses. Great times. Did the patients go to ALMC afterwards?

Edit: Yes! It was Haydom....the Norwegian hospital on the rift. CRAZY airport and we also had to buzz it a few times to get animals away. Also...earthquakes :/

zambuka4219 karma

Yes, us front two were out of the hospital the next day. The middle passengers followed a few days later, then the rear passenger a few after that. pretty amazing considering the destruction to the airplane.

currybomb54 karma

what caused the crash? were there any injuries?

zambuka4275 karma

I know I removed some details above that i'm happy to go in to if asked. But the cause of the crash was me doing a maneuver called a "flyby" to say goodbye to the patients we had just seen. Something I'd done dozens of times and that they had come to expect. I asked if everyone inside wanted to and they agreed.

However, on this day there were different conditions. Such as more humidity in the air, heat, a storm brewing nearby.. an extra person in the plane (and everyone pretty large) & with that weight load distributed differently. I had unloaded fuel to make up for this, and our "weight & balance" was well within the "envelope". But put simply, I made a mistake. The first one was doing the flyby in the first place. The second was becoming too comfortable with it and not making appropriate adjustments while flying to take the new conditions in to account. Something I had been doing anally throughout the clinic before hand. So, when entering a dive, I wasn't able to climb out of it high enough to avoid a tree :(

Injuries: I broke my foot and had stomach lacerations. The co-pilot crew member had a fractured scapula. The two in the middle passenger seats had fractures in their pelvises. And the man in one of the rear seats had facial wounds, but no internal injuries (THANKFULLY). Everyone has since been released from the hospital and most are home now.

*Edited: more details

lectroboy63 karma


zambuka4249 karma

You know, I'm not sure if that will happen, if it does.. that's the accountant's job unfortunately. I'll do what I can, but I don't know how to deal with legal eventualities. As for me, the Tanzanian inspector has already come out (I went with him to the crash site).. was completely honest.. and he wrote a fair report. I don't think my privileges will be taken away, and as long as my boss trusts me to make up for this and learn from the mistake.. i hope to keep flying

MrNewguy30 karma

So a hot, humid day, combined with a heavy plane resulted in you settling? That sucks I've experienced that before and it is the most uncomfortable feeling in the world, sorry it turned out sour for you this time. Just a quick question you didn't have in the original story was this clinic at a fairly high altitude (MSL) and when you say you cleaned up you mean your brought the gear and flaps up or just the flaps? The original aircraft in the pictures didn't look like it had retractable gear but then again it was a wreck, sorry if that's to personal I fly a lot and I like to talk to people who've walked away from crashes, for lessons learned and the like.

zambuka4228 karma

for me, cleaning up is flaps up. Rpm to 2500. EGT to 100deg. and at least 100mph indicated. The airstrip was fairly low for this region at about 3600'

MrNewguy18 karma

I assume you were in some sort of banked turn as you went overhead? Depending on how hot it was that day 3600' can be a pretty high density altitude, bad luck that it just happened to be the day it was a few degrees to hot or a few pounds to heavy. At least you walked away and have that one under your belt for the future.

zambuka4223 karma

a lot of our airstrips around 6000 - 7000'. so this is low for us :)

MrNewguy13 karma

7000' MSL is pretty high for airports the highest I've flown from in the US was just over 4k

zambuka4221 karma

one of our most hectic is about 6200 at the threshold of 24, and 6400 at the threshold of 06. very short, VERY STEEP (you need full power to taxi to the top). On the side of a mountain. You can't trust your eyes during your teardrop approach after inspecting the runway and then you probably have a quartering tailwind... but when you take off... you have negative "vertical speed" :) the ground is falling faster than you

MrNewguy15 karma

Holy shit that sounds awesome. I've seen pictures of airports like that but for the most part we don't get to fly to those. How do you navigate in the bush? Mostly GPS I assume because I can't imagine they have and VORs or even NDBs up there.

zambuka4224 karma

haha.. "airport". I like that. Yeah, we use GPS, but you have to turn it off every once in a while and dead-reckon so you don't lose your skills when the electronics fry

JoeDidcot7 karma

Understandibly, taking off is better down-hill. But what about landing? Is it better up-hill or down-hill (assuming headwind/tailwind isn't a factor on the day)?

zambuka4210 karma

i guess depends on the factor. We routinely land down-hill at a place called emboret because of the wind.. also better go around options. However, without the go around, and no wind.. uphill is a lot easier

TryAnotherUsername137 karma

You are flying with imperial units?! How does that work out for international communication?

zambuka427 karma

I know, it kinds of sucks that we get used to MPH.. and it's ONLY on the airspeed indicator. I routinely calculate my adjusted knots when i get close to landing.. so if there are no other indications of the wind (smoke, trees blowing.. etc) than i can compare my gps ground speed to the airspeed.

PolarAviator2 karma


MrNewguy4 karma

Had he had the available power of a twin or a turbine aircraft I doubt this would have happened in the first place so yes, maybe he should have been.

zambuka427 karma

While i appreciate that fact.. there were other obvious ways to avoid this. We've gone back and forth on the turbo.. ther are pros and cons to each in our line of work

yeahpretymuch50 karma

Will you be provided with a new plane? Are you going to have to pay for the losses?

zambuka4289 karma

There is no one to 'provide' a new plane. The whole reason I made that original post and am doing this AMA is hopefully to garner a few donations to our Indiegogo page (linked above). I need to help make that happen if possible. I personally wouldn't even have the money to pay for the losses, but unfortunately, based on the work we do, it is impossible to insure the planes.

theredfantastic41 karma

Can you explain more about why it is impossible to insure the planes?

zambuka4253 karma

Due to the difficult and risky flying, the cost to insure the airplanes is way too high. Honestly though, I'm not involved much with financial side of things, so I'll have limited info for you there. Flying for a while with only 1 airplane strained our ability to do the job and we couldn't do many emergencies.. now we have none

contaparaolixo45 karma


zambuka4277 karma

You know, he is an amazing man. He's been in 3 crashes in the 30 years of bush flying and is probably the most understanding man I know. Yet, once we FINALLY had a moment alone together after the accident.. it was hard to get the words out.. but I explained everything that had happened. I told him if he ever trusted me to fly for him again, I would like to continue and help with FMS's mission, and hopefully someday make up for this mess. He didn't hesitate in telling me yes.

*Edit: and thanks for the offer. I wish you were a millionaire too :)

sheeps_with_fish30 karma

How did you come into your current role?

Could a pilot donate time on a part time basis (i.e. a month a year or several weeks here and there)?

If so, what ratings, total time, etc. would I need?

Also, good on you for what you’re doing. You are definitely making lemonade out of this. Mistakes are common to everyone. Doing everything in your power to fix them are not.

zambuka4238 karma

How did you come into your current role?

That's a funny story. I was in Nice, France in a god-awful youth hostel running out of money. I was trying to find a boat going to make land-fall anywhere in Africa and choose a place. When I met a guy who had been to this place called 'Arusha'. So I went. And after working at an orphanage for a while, I met a woman in a coffee shop who knew my boss and knew I was a pilot. She just dialed him up and handed me the phone. I didn't know what to say when he picked up, so I just said.. "umm, I'm a pilot". He said great, why don't you come meet us for Xmas dinner. I did. The next day I accompanied them on clinics :)

Could a pilot donate time...

The issue here (and even more obvious considering my accident) is that it takes a lot of training and skill ON TOP of your current piloting skills to do this sort of work. So the organization generally asks that if you are going to fly with us, you need to commit to some years since the training will be so exhaustive and expensive. In fact, the two people who came before me never finished training because of the difficulty.


As long as you are private and instrument, you can fly... if you can make it thru training. I am CPL w/ twin & instrument. It helps

sheeps_with_fish15 karma

Were you able to get yourself and your passengers out of the wreck? Did another plane/crew have to respond to get you to a medical facility?

zambuka4227 karma

Basically, this is the aftermath portion of the story i took out:

After coming to, I saw fuel pouring down in front of me. I immediately began looking for a way to shut off the "master switch" and remove power from the battery to avoid a fire (the battery was no longer in the airplane). Once done, the front crew member had climbed out. I followed and came around to get the first of the middle passengers out, along with the Maasai helping. The rear passenger had already been carried away and I had to stop a Maasai from using his sword to get the last one out (he didn't know how to work a seatbelt). I crawled in to get it unbuckled and her removed. Then the Maasai helped to get everyone far away. At this point, it was a matter of getting phone numbers to some Maasai who could travel somewhere with cell coverage to call for help. During the time before the rescue, I did 'rounds' between the passengers to diagnose problems and help where I could. 2 hours later the Caravan tourist airplane arrived with room to take all of us to Arusha where we went directly to the hospital.

edited for more detail

callingfromthestars15 karma

Fellow pilot here. I am CPL with MEIR too. Just curious, what sort of training? I'm a little tempted.

zambuka4214 karma

Just learning to fly in these sometimes treacherous conditions at difficult airstrips. Doesn't matter how much experience you have. you have to train with us first.

zzyzxrd13 karma

I'm kind of surprised you guys don't have tail daggers, since they seem to be better suited as bush planes,

zambuka429 karma

from what I've heard speaking with others.. the C206 seems to be the quintessential bush plane.

defendors8615 karma

What went through your mind as you realized you were going to crash?

zambuka4240 karma

You don't think that way. If I had decided that there was no way to save it, I could have hard ruddered to the right to spin us in to a more open space. But that requires a firm DECISION that you are not going to make it and then INTENTIONALLY crash the plane in the hopes for a better result. For me, and I wasn't sure if i was lying to myself with the memory until I went back to the crash site, it felt like we were coming out of it. And we almost did :(

outspoken_mute11 karma

Also fellow pilot here. Glad you made it out of the landing to tell the tale! I just have a quick question about the aircraft. It looks like a Cessna U206 but what is that large compartment under the cabin?

zambuka4210 karma

that is a cargo pod we use for carrying around medicine boxes and tables and chairs for clinics

cteno46 karma

Could you go into a little bit more detail about what you mean when you say you could have spun the plane into a more open space? I'm imagining a plane spinning in a yaw motion, but I'm not sure how that's possible, or how that would be safer.

zambuka429 karma

I just meant that we were very close (to our right) to a less wooded area. If I had just hit the right rudder very hard, maybe I could have impacted on flatter ground with sparser trees.

LetItBeetus14 karma

How good is the availability of airstrips in rural Tanzania? Do you find that most areas are reasonably accessible by air?

zambuka4219 karma

It's funny.. there are tons of airstrips all over the country. Most people however don't use them.. only the bush pilots like us, MAF, and some private individuals. I've thought about it and it makes sense. In a place that didn't start building roads until recent history.. there must have been a great need for the airstrips. Most might be accessible.. but Tanzania is filled with differing terrain. Altitudes, mountains, gourges, volcanos.. etc. So there's always 'something' extra you have to consider. I once landed for the first time on a runway shaped pretty much like a roller coaster

VonRichterScale13 karma

Thanks for doing the AMA! I'm a college student planning to join the military as a pilot, and as my major focuses on Africa, and I'm studying Swahili as a part of that, this is an awesome AMA, as I've often wondered if this is something I could do once I retire from the military, however far away that may be. I have a few simple questions, if you don't mind:

  • Do you speak Swahili, Masai, or any other of the ethnic languages used in rural Tanzania?

  • Do you have any experiences with other NGOs working in Tanzania and what are your opinions of them?

  • What has been negative or frustrating about your work or experiences in Tanzania?

Thanks so much, both for the AMA and the wonderful work you do! : )

zambuka4217 karma

I speak swahili (it should be better considering the time I've been here, but I learned thru interaction and not thru books or school). I know a LITTLE Maasai, but basically for clinical use. Even though radio communications are in English.. the accents can be VERY DIFFICULT to navigate for the first while you work here.

There are many many ngo's here. Some doing great work, others trying to make money. You need to do your research if joining one.

the frustrating thing is that the people we service, in many ways, have started taking our service for granted. They've grown up with it for 30 years. The older Maasai still love us and appreciate the work we do.. but sometimes I'll land at an airstrip and tell them they need to fix a problem with it, and they'll just ask me how much I'll pay them. It's almost shameful. We say, keep the airstrip flyable and the examination hut in good condition, and we'll come. I've experienced a lot of that lately. It's not everywhere, but it is frustrating.

VonRichterScale10 karma

Shukrani sana, rubani, kwa majibu yake! Amenifurahisha :) Wikendi njema!

zambuka427 karma

asante bwana. wewe pia

VTmorrison3 karma

In case there happens to be anyone else on Reddit who doesn't speak Swahili...

Thanks a lot, pilot, for his answers! Amenifurahisha :) Good Weekends

Anyone who does speak Swahili care to translate "amenifurahisha?" As two words, Google Translate just says "amen refresh."

zambuka423 karma

should be "he has made me happy", or something close. My swahili is not great

SmilesFTW13 karma

What was your scariest journey/trip?

zambuka4226 karma

I'd have to say a night flight to bring a child with a piece of rice stuck in his throat. There are no lights at night. It's pitch black. We are the only guys that do this. The problem with the rice is that the moisture causes it to expand. The child was intubated and the doc on board had to preform CPR several times. The weather was choppy and the fuel gauges read like I was running out of gas. They can be notoriously unreliable, and there are things you can do to try to prove that you still have fuel (despite your calculations).. but there's always that worry. In swahili, we call it wasi-wasi. So final approach to land at one of the only airports with lights (Kilimanjaro airport) I was "slipping" the plane in the hopes of using the "unusable fuel" JUST IN CASE i actually was running out. Still had more than an hour left when i landed :)

Snistaken12 karma

How was the kid with the rice in his throat in the end?

zambuka4224 karma

he made it :) despite waiting 45min on the tarmac waiting for the ambulance to come!!!!! I have too many stories like that.

Snistaken6 karma

Awh well I'm glad he made it! I know you're not a doctor (at least from what I understand) but how would they go about getting the rice out exactly?

zambuka428 karma

I'm pretty sure they could do it non-surgically.. it was just that the tools weren't available where he was located. We took him to a hospital near Kilimanjaro called KCMC

pandasaurusrex8 karma

The way it's typically done in the US, if it's in the trachea, is with a bronchoscope. The tube goes down the trachea with it's fiberoptic cables, and you can feed in a little grabber looking thing to get the obstructing object, like rice. It's a stupidly simple procedure, but it involves skill, some sedative medications, and a very expensive tool.

zambuka4213 karma

you wouldn't believe the amount of times children die here because of rice or corn in this situation. It IS stupidly simple.. but not available in a lot of places.

zambuka4219 karma

I also want to give an honorable mention to an emergency flight we did to a place called (Karagwe? I think), on the Rwandan border. Had to go over Lake Victoria. We have a thing called a storm scope, and it was lit up like christmas ahead. The sky was so dark and gloomy. It was the rainy season and I wasn't sure that we would be able to go too far in to it. You don't want to enter bad weather and than get too deep to escape it as it moves in around you. It was just very Tim Burtonesque creepy maneuvering around cells and thru rain and clouds and the air was VERY choppy. Gave me the willies more than being scared. Just constantly trying to calculate your 'outs' and make sure you don't enter any situations you might not be able to get out of.

Shaboops12 karma

How has this affected you mentally? My uncle was in a plane crash two years ago and he's never been the same since then. Do you think you'll be flying again some time soon?

zambuka4228 karma

You know, it's almost scary the lack of trauma i feel. Guilt and shame, of course. But I was in an airplane the next two days after leaving the hospital (sitting front seat but not flying). If I was healed completely right now, and we had a plane.. i would fly. I'm not arrogant enough to think I might not have those feelings later on.. but i'm not gonna force it. For now, I'm eager to get going again and do some good!

SMTRodent11 karma

What are vaccination rates like? Do you give vaccinations?

Do you ever get to feel like you're making a real difference?

zambuka4230 karma

Absolutely it feels like we are making a difference. Emergencies aside. I once asked my boss if he ever got push-back at the beginning by the Maasai warriors. What are you doing here sticking us with needles and injecting stuff in to us? But there was a big measles outbreak, and many many children died... but not where my boss had been. That went a long way to gaining trust.

As for the vaccinations. We start with BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin Tuberculosis Vaccine) the first time a child comes to the clinic. After six weeks, we start a course of Polio, DPT (Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and whole-cell pertussis vaccine), PCV(Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine ), and Rota-virus vaccines. Then after 9months.. measles. We the pilots personally do all the children while the rest of the crew goes in to a little hut on the side of the 'runway' to see patients and pregnant mothers.

etaveras999 karma

What was the hardest part of the ordeal

zambuka4234 karma

Well first of all, the hardest part of the ordeal was felt by the passengers and the community we service. For me, the guilt is pretty difficult. You want to crawl in a hole. But the only proper way to approach it and to make sure it doesn't remain a black mark is to accept it and head it face on. I went to the hospital every day to see the patients. To apologize to them, to the family. To go down to the clinics we fly out of and look them all in the eye. Amazingly, they would try to comfort ME! The patients, the community... absolutely backwards. Now that they are doing better, it's dealing with the hecticness in trying to get things going again. There are people taking cars (where they can) to continue the clinics while we try to get a plane.. but knowing that there are people who are going without right now is very hard.

WorkOfArt12 karma

You know, at first I wanted to call you an idiot. Then arrogant. But now I am humbled. You made a mistake. And now you're owning up to it on a very grand scale. You're lucky to be working in a place, and with people who aren't asking for your head. But working through your guilt to quickly get your operation back up and running is very admirable, and I'm certain very difficult to do. So question: where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?

zambuka429 karma

First of all, thank you for the kind words. It's always been difficult to say where I'll be in that amount of time. I've been on the move for so long, and the destinations are usually random happenstance. I'm a big believer in love.. so I could see that halting my movements across the globe if things work out right... but it's hard to say if I'll still be here. The best answer I can give is who knows. Maybe still here, sailing around scandanavia could be nice.. federated islands of micronesia.... hmm

VDS6559 karma

It seem like planes are rather expensive, even old/used ones. Where did the plane involved in the accident come from originally? Was it donated? How long was it in service before the accident?

zambuka4211 karma

You know, I'm not sure and unfortunately we've had a pretty large blackout all day. I ran off batteries for as long as possible but I've got a generator running right now to keep this computer on. The reason I say this is if I could get ahold of my boss (who is out doing a clinic) I could give you a better answer. Over the years we have had large donors from time to time who helped with airplane costs and travel costs (there have been 6 crashes in the 30 years... which considering the type of work we do I think is pretty good... mine excluded). I believe this one was "ferry flight-ed" down thru Europe by my boss and a former FMS pilot.

pilot9673215 karma

I'm wondering why you made a low pass with the aircraft cleaned up. The wrecked airspeed indicator shows about 4-5 knots below the bottom of the green arch. Guaranteed stall at any weight or density altitude with no flaps. Did you consider 10 or 20 degrees?

zambuka4210 karma

well that indicator is in MPH, not knots. But you have to realize the airplane went 200 feet before stopping. The reading on the dial is unreliable. We were well over 100 mph (which we consider our save performance arc peak) when I realized something was wrong

*Edit: I don't mean to sound defensive, but if anything, we were too fast. Still my fault

surreality19 karma

Just wanted to say thank you for what you do. I wish I could give you more than the $10 I contributed, and I wish you and your team the best.

zambuka428 karma

hey, that was amazing. I know i'm not trying to insert !check out our indiegogo! in every comment because that is not what an AMA is about.. but it sure would be nice if I could help the organization raise some money :)

Moseiselybrothers8 karma

Hello, Glad you survived. Just wondering what your training background was? I.e. us flight school, military, euro, etc.? Also what was your TT when you started the job? Had you worked as a pilot before and where? Could you contrast flying jobs in other places vs. flying in TZ? Thanks alot.

zambuka426 karma

Thanks. I trained at a regular flight school.. no military background. My total time when starting was around 350 TT.. I had flown a bit in the Amazon, but as I traveled around the world I found it very difficult for a foreigner to get even a volunteer job flying in many places. I can only compare this flying to western country flying.. and that I'm not sure how easy it would be to assimilate back in to that culture. Things are very different here.. radio calls, available radio navs.. it's just rural, mountainous, and even volcanic area. Short hops between bush strips with barely any time to climb even if you wanted to. Makes for a good view of the animals though

xsailerx7 karma

What were the removed details of the flyby?

zambuka4210 karma

Basically, after "cleaning" up the plane, I turned around and flew back low over the runway, then about 3/4 of the way down climbed steep and turned to the left, then nosed over, and came back down while turning to the right. My intention was to go over empty space to a treetop height, climb back up and steep turn around the onlookers which would then put us right on course to our next location. It was pretty much an instant after the nose over that I noticed the response of the aircraft was different. That's when I aborted the flyby and tried to regain a climb

zzyzxrd7 karma

I don't have any questions, just want to say that everyone was damn lucky, and if one can walk away from a crash like that, it's a good day. I'm sure the fact that everyone survived is due in no small part to your skills.

zambuka4211 karma

I think cessna engineers played a major role too! Plus the window v-brace we use and dual shoulder strap seat belts

Indigoes6 karma

As a pilot and someone who does rural medical work, wow, those pictures are painful. But every landing where everyone lives is a good one, right? Also, those storms are incredible.

My questions:

How does the FMS hear when their services are needed? Is it integrated into the national health service, so that rural doctors can call for transport assistance for emergency cases? Do you transport doctors and nurses from the Tanzanian system to run the clinics, or is it separate?

What advantage is there to flying in patients? How much time is saved over ground transport?

What's your favorite plane to fly? Favorite place?

zambuka424 karma

Well, my boss has been here for 40 years. EVERYONE knows him. If an emergency is needed and they have cell coverage.. they can call directly. or a hospital/clinic calls on their behalf. We still have regular HF radio calls every day in case someone using a radio wants to contact us.. but these days it is more for the pilots out on clinics to check in and let everyone know they are safe.

Favorite plane.. while I like low wings in many ways.. N36MS was my favorite plane. And this is definitely my favorite place. I traveled the world looking for similar work and only found a couple small opportunities before i started flying here. So I don't have a lot to choose from other than my training.

Edit Just realized i didn't answer all your questions...

  • A method of calling us is NOT interated into the national health service.. just people know us and contact us.
  • We do "staff transfers" for doctors that are needed in remote places, and we will also sometimes call on them when we need someone to come along.
  • For the clinics, there is usually a place we will first fly to, and then conduct the bush clinics from there for a 3 day period. and we'll get our staff from there
  • The advantage of flying in a patient, is when either time truly matters for their life.. or if the road is just too bad for them to be able to make the journey. Try bouncing up and down in the air for 8 hours when you have a broken back.
  • The time saver can be huge. A flight to a place like singida can be an hour, whereas a car ride may be a full day.

Reddit_cctx6 karma

Seeing as how you are the emergency relief in the area, and the plane went down, how long was it after the crash that emergency services arrived? Were you all in the bush for an extended period of time waiting? Also great to hear that everybody is alive and in one piece, these things can go much much worse.

zambuka424 karma

I would say (thankfully) since on of the Tanzanians nearby had a piki-piki (motor bike), it took about 15 min for them to get the phone call made after I had given them the info. Maybe 20 min after the crash. I'd say total time after impact was 2 hours before the plane arrived

rocketwikkit6 karma

A doctor friend of mine flew with your group in 2009, and wrote about it on her blog: http://www.libbiford.blogspot.com/2009/03/flying-medical-squad.html It sounds like a really amazing service that you do for the region, I'll definitely contribute to the Indiegogo.

I'm a bit sad you took the interesting parts out of the story, though.

Have you had any scary encounters with wildlife, or do you mostly see them from the air?

zambuka425 karma

we definitely get to see them on the ground.. but more often from the air. That was definitely us that she came with (before my time). Don't stay sad though, I took your cue and added links in the removal notices to the answered questions.

as for scary encounters with wildlife... not really no. had it out with some angry cows and bulls when I'm in a bad mood.. couple scares with snakes.. but mainly i'm just looking out for the big cats while i walk up and down each runway clearing out the bones of old kills.

I did go jogging and get lost in the loliondo hills once. good thing I didn't get eaten by a panther. I had to jump over bones and the thought DID occur to me that THAT animal was probably running too :)

Koraine5 karma

What do you like most about your job?

zambuka4215 karma

You know.. i'd say that flying is actually a small part of it. Most of the long clinic days we spend jabbing babies with needles and trying to finish before the sun sets.. but dammit the flying is just beautiful in this region and very exciting (until it's not)

FawkesFire135 karma

I'd like to first thank you for all you and your team do for the people who so greatly need your care. All of you have such big hearts. Bless you all. Secondly, how did you get into the program? What made you start flying for these causes? Thanks again.

zambuka4211 karma

Well, I knew if I wanted to fly, I wanted to be in the service of something worthwhile.. not ferrying oil execs around. And bush flying appealed to my childhood hero Indian Jones :) as for how i ended up there, funny story that I explained here: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1xze2m/as_requested_i_am_the_pilot_who_crashed_in_the/cffzez9

FawkesFire133 karma

Thanks for answering. Yeah, Indy is pretty awesome. Do you have the Hat?

zambuka425 karma

nah.. i'm a geek, but not that bad. instead I have a LOTR/Star Trek/Firefly/DragonLance arm tattoo :)

FawkesFire134 karma

I wanna see that! I'm a LOTR nerd too

zambuka428 karma

Hey! Found an old picture: http://i.imgur.com/UjxuxGF.jpg

zambuka424 karma

All I've got right now is my shitty phone camera. I'll try... nah.. can't get a good angle myself. I'm alone here!

Nevermind, found an old picture, posted again

Androconus5 karma


(I've never had to write that. Forgive my spelling.)

I've just returned from Tanzania after spending five months there. This is entirely irrelevant - but it's nice to simply hear of it again. It's strange - after coming home it's like the existence of the country is something entirely in my own head. The word 'Tanzania' on reddit make me do a double take.

zambuka424 karma

total Peter-pan & Never-never land syndrome. I've had it myself in the past

JangoLegend4 karma

Did you fear for your life? If so, what were the thoughts that struck you most?

zambuka426 karma

I'd say no, you are too concentrated on what's happening. As for my thoughts.. for a while I wasn't sure if i was remembering events correctly and was lying to myself about almost saving it.. but after visiting the crash site I saw I wasn't imagining it. Otherwise my thoughts have been squarely on the patients and making this right. I said a little more about this here: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1xze2m/as_requested_i_am_the_pilot_who_crashed_in_the/cffzi7i

YUNORecycleUsernames4 karma

What kind of aircraft are you looking to get?

zambuka426 karma

We have some specifications we are looking for, and of course can customize ourselves if available, but basically a Normally aspirated Cessna U206 F or early G model.

deadlydimples4 karma

What are the main causes of crashes in your line of work?

zambuka426 karma

We have never had a single mechanical failure related accident. We do full inspections & maintenance every 50 hours. The last accident before mine was a training accident at an incredibly difficult airstrip. Very high, very short, and one threshold is about 160 feet higher than the other. One we believe was IFR conditions and a doc (unbeknownst) to the pilot had brought ether that spilled in the cargo pod (only crash I believe with fatalaties).

zxyxzz4 karma

How much side money do you need to make to be able to live comfortably? Every program I see that needs volunteers requires you to have your own income outside of volunteering. However I am getting really tired of school and would like to take a break and volunteer but I dont have any outside income.

How much money per month do you need to live comfortably? Is there anyway to live there with no money?

zambuka425 karma

If I wasn't paying bills I've made in other places, I would say for housing, food, gas, and entertainment.. I could live comfortable here for $700/mo. Our organization though does give you the option of living with them at their 'mission' with the school for disabled for free

major_tom384 karma

Do you fly professionally for your day job?

zambuka424 karma

FMS is my day job. I do the computer work in the mornings, at night, and when i'm not flying

major_tom380 karma

Computer work?

zambuka425 karma

yeah, FMS is a volunteer position. I maintain client's computers in the US remotely to make money for my daily life expenses :)

major_tom380 karma

How can you maintain computers remotely?

zambuka424 karma

remote control software. In the even those programs go down, as long as there is an internet connection, I've also written some software to follow directions I encrypt and post to an online server for them to follow and get me reconnected :) I once had to canoe daily up an amazonian river to a dial-up internet cafe in the town of Coca to do my client's work :)

Chupathingamajob4 karma

I know I'm pretty late to this party, but so you guys have any use for EMTs? I tried to ask this yesterday, but I was really late then as well.

zambuka425 karma

When we have an airplane, yes we do have use. Whenever we have an emergency, we usually need a doctor or someone to come along. It's rare for the pilot to be able to do both jobs at once (although it happens)

Thizzlebot3 karma

Someone took the ADM for granted. What are your flying hours? Are you going to receive any punishment for this clear lack of judgement? Since it took place on a different continent do you think you will have to deal with the FAA at all if you are American?

zambuka423 karma

I took a few things for granted. My total hours are about 850. I did not go the instructor route after getting my CPL. While we did report to the NTSB, it's generally not something they want to deal with internationally on this level. I hope i don't have any problems, but I'll have to deal with whatever comes my way.

bill-of-rights3 karma

Glad you and your passengers could walk away! Sounds scary. What kind of ratings do you need to fly these missions? Can it be done with only a PPL SEP?

zambuka423 karma

At FMS, you can start training with only a Private and an Instrument, but I personally thing a CPL can be very valuable. However, some of the best pilots I knew that flew with FMS started with only the Private and Inst.

JeanVanDeVelde3 karma

I've read about classic DC-3s being used for humanitarian missions in Africa because they are able to land on short, unpaved runways and are built for eternity. Is this still true?

zambuka426 karma

Wow, i'm not sure.. but we've got runways that are 450m long. We're talking short... and when it rains and there's mud.... whew

missmurrr3 karma

you said you've bounced around a lot work wise. do you think you will stick with your current jobs/location, or move on to something else?

zambuka425 karma

They generally ask that you stay for 3 years.. but i gave them no end date because I imagined that I would WANT to stay here for longer. There are plenty of past pilots (others who have crashed as well) that were here for as long as 8 or 12 years. If they still want me, I could be here for a while longer

Moretrone3 karma

What would you say is your favorite part about doing volunteer work in Africa? What is the most interesting/unexpected thing that has happened while doing said volunteer work(other than the accident)?

zambuka426 karma

Hmm.. well of course before I started I was excited to do the flying. The first time I sat with one of the FMS pilots as we took off from a bush strip and barely cleared the trees at the end was a thrill. But I also knew ambiguously that I wanted to do something helpful with the flying. So when I found that a majority of the time is spent putting on the clinics, doing maintenance, and the occasional emergency.. I became enamored with all those things as well. (I find maintenance work very cathartic). I love running a clinic, taking care of the patients and working with the medical crew

dhutch97023 karma

My question is how does one get involved in this organization, I am going for my EMT-B in the summer and I think this would be some real rewarding work. Also, do you guys work normal jobs in Tanzania (seeing this is volunteer) and if so what do you do? Do you pay for housing there or does FMS cover housing and basic things like food?

zambuka423 karma

If you choose to live at the FMS headquarters, then everything is provided for. Otherwise, you need to find a way to support yourself. I do that with a side computer job

HomerTheRoamer3 karma

What led you to become a pilot, and how much training did you do before you were prepared to fly in East Africa?

zambuka427 karma

I became a pilot because I wanted to travel the world and I thought this would be a good way. Turned out it was harder to find work than I thought so over the last 10 years I have done MANY different jobs. Bush flying is exactly the kind of flying i wanted.. so when FMS and I happened upon each other (kind of randomly), it just worked out.. kinda.

Kraeheb3 karma

Great AMA! My boyfriend's life dream has been to become a bush pilot. You mentioned in your other comments you did flight school on your own but found it hard to find work internationally. How should someone go about getting into the field? What are the biggest up/downs/surprises? What would your advice to a potential fellow bush pilot be?

zambuka426 karma

that's really hard to say since every job i've found and every place i've gone has been pretty unconventional. I find that if you just take things as they come and take chances.. things kind of fall in to place. either that or i've just been pretty lucky. I've gone many great places and done many cool things.. and it feels like they all just fell in my lap. But it's because i act on things alot. I lived on an island in greece because the first line in a book i read talked about an island in greece... the next day i was on my way to corfu. In ecuador, I just met someone and the next thing I know i'm living on the canoan beach or hiking thru the cloud forest mountains.. As far as finding a job like this, we don't really advertise so it's hard to say how to find the opportunities. For my part you just have to jump in feet first and go somewhere to look. but that's harder when you are in a relationship... hope that helps a bit

cecinestpasreddit3 karma

So I have a lot of respect for what you do, and I adore the technical aspects of being a bush pilot. So as an odd and off-kilter question:

-What's your shortest take-off distance? -Where is the roughest you've landed?

zambuka423 karma

Probably this place engovironi with an incredible incline. Threshold 06 is about 160 - 200 feet higher than 24. Up around 6500' elevation. So the field might be 300-400m long with an actually take-off around 200m. Shortest landed... there are so many, but if it wasn't that one, than a place called Narakawo.. about 450m around 4500' elevation.. with mud

JustRedd1t2 karma

Great work, hats go off to you. Just interested what is your background? Do you hail originally from tanzania? Hoe did you start flying commercially?

zambuka425 karma

I am not Tanzanian. I am Mzungu (kinda swahili for outsider). I got most of my training in the States but obviously the important bush training happened here.

phdpeabody2 karma

Do you realize your actions almost killed everyone on board? Do you believe you should continue flying in spite of your accident?

zambuka428 karma

I honestly do believe I should continue flying, if for no other reason than to try and do more good than any harm I've caused. As long as I can keep the trust and faith of my organization to continue on, safer and smarter after this.. then I will fly if they will let me.

nwvv1 karma


zambuka423 karma

having been on reddit for a long time, i know the concerns about releasing personal information. Not to be holding back, but i'd rather not answer that.