While browsing YouTube early this morning (because I couldn’t sleep due to jetlag) I stumbled upon a fascinating video from VICE. As I’m sure you can imagine, I had to click when I saw the headline “Russian Pilots of the Congo.” The video is several years old, so I’m surprised I hadn’t seen it before.
Growing up I always wanted to be an airline pilot, and had dreamed of working for a foreign airline. To this day, I’m fascinated by the nationality of pilots on various airlines. There’s something cool about boarding a flight on Hainan Airlines or Fiji Airways and hearing a familiar American accent, for example.
In general the aviation industry is hot right now, and there are lots of opportunities for ex-pat pilots to work abroad. However, I don’t think I’ve seen a story on ex-pat pilots who are quite like these guys. Specifically, this story is about some Russian pilots flying ancient cargo planes around the Congo. They all fly every day, they all live together, and they seem to have very unusual lives.
As I often find to be the case with VICE, the story doesn’t get too deep into the question of why they chose these lives. The captain talks about how he has 26,000 flight hours. With the global demand for pilots, presumably they could get jobs in other parts of the world where they’d be making a lot of money and flying larger and (presumably) more well maintained planes. That makes me wonder why they’d choose this sort of arrangement.
It also makes me question if there’s maybe a reason for this. If these guys have so many hours, did they get in trouble somewhere at some point and maybe even lost their licenses, or how did they end up there?
Anyway, if you have ~18 minutes, this is an utterly fascinating look at their lives. Of course I wish there were more airport and airplane footage, though I’m impressed they even got as much as they did. I could barely get through my TAAG Angola first class flight without having the cops called on me. 😉
What do you make of this video/these pilots?