And alas started the second week of the internship: I had to sail away from the Seychelles Coast Guard and I found myself landing at the Seychelles Air force. I arrived at the Air force very early in the morning whereupon I reached the gate, my supervisor was called to greet me.
After having a small breakfast, I had the chance to visit the different facilities of the army base and to meet with Lt. Col Pouponneau –the Commanding Officer of SAF. I also met with the second in command Captain Rodney Zarine, who is also a pilot and an aviation enthusiast who has had the unique chance to visit almost all of our islands. I also got acquainted to Lieutenant Jean who turned out to be quiet and funny man who spent the rest of the week trying to keep me busy. I also got introduced to several other air force personnel who are mainly a group of young, disciplined and well qualified soldiers.
The peak of the morning though, came minutes later when I was announced that I would be going on a military training flight with the Airforce –I was immediately thrilled.
To get ready for the flight I had to go through a briefing process where I was informed on what was going to happen during the flight. My nerves got me, when I was told that it happens quite occasionally that one or two personnel do regurgitate and get quite dizzy while on those flights. I suddenly wanted to turn back. Was I going to let my nerve get the best of me? I convinced myself that a little adventure and scare wouldn’t kill anyone.
Few minutes later, I learned that this one flight did not involve any G-force or swift movement that could make me sick. So here I was all brave and daring once again!
After putting my life jacket on and getting a bottle of water, I boarded the plane and watched the two pilot officers do a series of checks which took about one hour. After few minutes I was completely distracted by a Zil-Air helicopter which was landing then it took off nearby almost immediately. Suddenly I heard a loud bang, some weird noise I could not process and something got locked –the engineer on the tarmac had locked the door close from the outside – and there was no getting out! The propeller started and the plane moved…
At 10:52 am we took off and up and away we went!
Seconds later I was above the sea…the view down below was breathtaking, I was in awe.
While we got up to cruising altitude, I could not help but notice how our ocean was indeed a very busy place. I saw a fisherman pushing his boat to sea trying to earn his daily bread. Just after that I spotted a bigger fishing vessel carrying on its task after the crew on board got slightly distracted from the passing plane. Further and further away there was a privately owned boat going away from Mahe. There was also what I thought look like a cruise ship navigating our ocean.
It was not only on that particular day that I realised how lively our EEZ was. Because two days later I did go on another training flight. This time we were flying over Praslin. As we near Praslin Island and got to a lower altitude to land the plane; I could see tourist in the sea swimming. On the other side I could once again see fisherman fishing and leisure boats with the crew probably a Seychellois trying to run his boat tour business. After the end of the one and a half hour flight we went back towards Mahe. Down below I could see more ocean based economic activities in the ocean and on the port as we flew really closed by.
While the pilot did their magic and we landed at Pointe Larue Airport, my thoughts process was well away thinking about how much of a vital resource is our ocean. How lucky we are to be surrounded by nothing but the sea. Once in a while we have a relaxing swimming session, snorkel or diving.
We even transform ourselves into photographer or artist trying to capture the beauty of this God-given heritage.
We become poets, writers and biologist trying to express what goes on down below sea level.
Some of us even become interns, affirming to our young self that from now on and for the rest of our future we will invest ourselves in securing a job that will preserve and sustain the ocean.
And as the aircraft door unlocked from the outside, I climbed out reluctantly and gave one last look at the plane with the Seychelles Air force logo boldly embedded on it-what would our large EEZ be without the Seychelles Air force keeping an eagle’s view on our blue treasure?
Written by Shantana Barbe