Mammoth Flight for Intrepid Crew

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A DAREDEVIL pilot from Selby will take part in a mammoth biplane rally across the length of Africa.

The Vintage Air Rally looks to replicate aviation from the 1920s and will depart from Crete on November 12 before arriving in Cape Town five weeks later.

Amongst their number taking to the sky will be Martyn Wiseman, from Selby, his wife Julia, and crew members Stasys Naujalis from South Africa and Liutaur Dziuzas.

Mr Wiseman, managing director of Condor Projects, in Hull, was born in Zambia and learned to fly in his homeland before moving to the UK to study.

He is flying the historic route in his Antonov biplane – a five tonne former Russian paratroop aeroplane first built in 1976 – and is under no illusions of the risks he is facing along the way, including the prospect of being shot at by poachers with AK-47s, and guerilla fighters.

He said: “The condition of the aeroplane is all right, but aeroplanes breakdown all the time and if that happens I will have to phone someone in Russia to find out how to fix it.

“It’s a huge risk and when I bought the plane it was painted in camouflage, so if we had flown like that over Africa it would have been shot down.”

The route re-creates the 1931 Imperial Airways “Africa Route” from the Nile to the highlands of Ethiopia, past the Serengeti over the Victoria Falls to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.

The final days of the journey takes them into Botswana and South Africa, to the Cape, journey’s end.

He said: “An awful lot of people have been shot at flying over Africa, so this is a risk, but there are always going to be risks in life.”

Among the aircrafts taking part will be the G-AAMY plane flown in the 1985 Oscar-winning film Out Of Africa, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep about a Danish couple who turn to a new life plantation farming in Africa.

Pilots and their crews taking part in the Africa biplane rally are using the trek to raise money for UNICEF, Seed Bombing and Bird Life International.

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