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Generation Wanderlust goes to Mahango Game ParkApril 23, 2015
Text Marita van Rooyen | Photographs Mike Bottger
“Flying, to me, is spiritual healing.” It was this sensation, paired with “the sense of absolute freedom and the opportunity to experience a bird’s-eye view of our beautiful country” that made Mike Böttger hang up his robes as a lawyer and make his life-long passion for flying his prime business joining up with Christa Van Wyk, who has been in the aviation game in Namibia for over 20 years.
As managing director of Scenic Air, Mike admits that he has been interested in flying from the word go. What sets him apart from other flying fanatics, however, is that he took the more serious route to obtain his wings. With a Master’s in Aviation Law he knows how important safety management and quality insurance are in the aviation industry. “My days as a lawyer provided the perfect backbone for managing a company built around charter flights and sky shuttle services.”
Mike takes his business seriously. In the process of replacing the company’s older fleet with the latest, high-tech models, he recently acquired the best bush aircraft currently gracing the skies: the Quest Kodiak 100. Initially designed for missionaries who needed to access hard-to-get-to places with short landing strips, it is no secret that this model is ideal for Namibian conditions. With landing strips literally everywhere, whether in towns, near lodges, or on farms, the Kodiak has no problem landing wherever the wind takes it. And make no mistake, this 10-seater aircraft is not your everyday bush explorer. It boasts state-of-the-art avionics, including terrain awareness, Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) radar and a glass cockpit, and is even air-conditioned. Underlying the company’s commitment to tourism and showcasing the region’s prime, the second Kodiak is on its way, and a newly acquired 14-seater Cessna 208B Grand Caravan also forms part of the new fleet. “Scenic Air is motivated to provide a top-notch service for all safari guests, one that is extremely reliable and safe. We fly scenic routes to various destinations, because the journey to the lodge is an inevitable part of the adventure!” he enthused.
As part of ensuring an A-Grade experience, Scenic Air is in the process of introducing an automated narrative to enhance the flying experience. With automated storyboards, information is conveyed to passengers as they pass over noteworthy landmarks. As Mike explains, “flying – especially in a breathtaking place like Namibia – is not only about the visual impact, but it should also highlight the stories that make the country so intriguing.” Mike’s main mission is to let his love for flying, tourism, conservation and his country rub off on his passengers.
“Namibia is now on everyone’s radar, which gives us the perfect opportunity to raise the level of service, and this includes the aviation industry. The quality of aircraft and the crew plays a very important role. Pilots should be more than that, they should have a broad knowledge of the terrain they are flying over, being guides that sell the country by word of mouth, and so cultivate repeat visitors.”
Flying is not only safer than driving, but it saves precious time and provides an interesting perspective on the country’s diverse landscapes. With good weather, ample landing strips and long travelling distances that make flying the ideal travelling option, the country is “flying paradise”.
But, flying in Namibia can also be a demanding task, as it is hot, high above sea level and has challenging landing strips. This is why safety, reliability, and efficiency are some of Scenic Air’s core values. Furthermore, meticulous maintenance and risk management are top priority. Pilots go through a serious vetting stage where they are – among other tests and trials – required to do a technical exam pass a validation check ride with a DCA designated examiner and fly at least 50 hours with a senior captain prior to going on-line, and subject themselves to a comprehensive psychometric evaluation. “Scenic Air aims to be the initial training ground for tomorrow’s airline captain.”
Scenic Air has offices in Swakopmund and Windhoek, and offers fly-in services all over southern Africa. With a vibrant, cosmopolitan mix of pilots and staff from all walks of life, Scenic Air is a happy company with happy clients, all ably co-ordinated by Christa Van Wyk. So sit back, relax, and breathe in the spectacular space. TNN
Tel: +264 61 249 268
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This article was first published in the Autumn 2015 issue of Travel News Namibia.