Cameroon Air Transport
Memories by Hans Beunk on Cameroon Air Transport and DH Dove PH-MAD
In August 1965 I started my civilian flying career with an air company named Cameroon Air Transport (CAT).
And I stayed there until November 1967.
The company was founded by an organisation whch traded in large bananas, rubber and palm oil. They had farms in Cameroon and the name of the company was Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC). It was meant to provide efficient transport from the farms as well as other destination in a country which had no infrastructure of roads or rail to speak off.
Later scheduled flights were established between Yahoude, Bamenda, Mamfe, Douala and Ebolowa.
CAT was led by Mr Patient, from England and a former RAF Mosquito WW2 pilot. He had also been employed by Schreiner Aero Contractors in Nigeria.
A 3rd pilot was Roel Tonsbeek (former Dutch Air Force fighter pilot on the Gloster Meteor and Hawker Hunter at Soesterberg Air Base and Leeuwarden AB). He'd also been employed by Schreiner Aero Contracters.
A 4th pilot was Bill Bond, also from the UK and ex RAF WW 2 Bomber Pilot.
CAT was started with one Piper Apache and had amassed four aircraft when I joined them: two DH Doves, a Dornier 28 and a Piper Aztec.
Some time after my arrival in Cameroon another DH Dove was acquired. This must have been in 1966, I think.
The ferry flight from Europe to Cameroon was done by an Englishman.
I was present upon arrival at the airport Tiko aanwezig and was surprised to see that this aeroplane had the livery of Martin’s Air Charter! It had been used at Amsterdam for scenic flights in the area.
The photo shows former PH-MAD at a landingstrip of Bamenda, with myself in front of the aircraft
At one time I had been offered a job by Director Martin Schröder, flying this same DH Dove PH-MAD in Holland for a salary of, I believe, 400 guilders a month, which would have included flying for free during the weekend, flying advertisement banners behind a Tiger Moth. I had declined this offer and was amused to find I'd be flying this DH Dove for quite a larger salary! My pay was to be five times of what had been offered by Martin Schröder!
At first there wasn't much flying to be done and I was put to work by Mr Patient at the office of Air Afrique in Douala.
CAT had good connections with Air Afrique, because CAT flew many veel expats of West Cameroon to Douala, which connected with Air Afrique to Paris.
I would find myself flying in the morning our small line service from Douala, as pilot/trainee (under the instruction of one of the other pilots; and in the evening I'd do the same thing again.
My logbook at the time showed some 400 Hours. I had 100 hours with the Dutch Air Force on a Fokker S.11 and the North American T-6 Harvard; the rest was done on a Piper Cub and similar aircraft from Hilversum Airfield with family and friends. I had also made some hours on the Tiger Moth towing advertisement banners for Martin Schröder and on some at the Glider Centre at St, Hubert, Belgium.
The flight Tiko-Douala only took 12 minutes, which compared well to the travelling time on the ground: a 12 hour trip by car around the estuary of the Wurri River, the partition between West- and East Cameroon (the English speaking part and the French speaking part).
There was a sudden change when Roel Tonsbeek wasn’t satisfied with the proceedings in CAT. He expressed his dissatisfaction to the Prime Minister of West Cameroon, in particular about Jo Patient as Managing Director.
As a result the Prime Minister assigned Roel as Managing Director and dismissed Jo Patient.
Then Bill Bond, in a gesture of solidarity, handed in his resignation. We were down to two pilots for five aeroplanes!
My office work for Air Afrique was terminated abruptly and I was assigned as pilot to the DH Doves. This meant for me performing twin-engine flight operations with only 400 uur single engine experience, flying in an unpredictable and treacherous weather environment over inhospitable terrain.
Fortunately I mostly flew the familiar routing between Tiko and Douala at first, over terrain that is mostly flat (except for Mount Cameroon nearby Tiko, a volcano as high as 14.000 feet).
I quickly gained experience and soon found myself flying to all destinations.
With Roel as Manager tied to the office, I flew over 100 hours a month and on average only had one day off in the entire month.
Other pilots were hard to find. In Europe the airlines with larger aircraft offered plenty of employment and new airlines were starting up everywhere.
In 1974 I found employment with Transavia Holland, as captain on the Sud Aviation Caravelle. I was sent to West Africa a few times, flying a Transavia Caravelle for Air Afrique. Just me, a co-pilot and one stewardess. We were based in Dakar and flew along the coast from Dakar to Douala and all the major cities on that route.
During a stopover in Douala I rented a car and together with my co-pilot and the stewardess, we drove to Tiko and Victoria, to visit my old CAT homebase.
Cameroon Air Transport operations had ceased at least 5 years by that time. We found TJ-ACE, as seen on the photos. The tropical sun and rain had made the Dutch registration PH-MAD visible.
My co-pilot, Willem van Duin, who later started Polder Aviation in Lelystad, made the pictures of PH-MAD in Tiko at the time. I think these images were soon after published in a Dutch aviation magazine.
I suspect that PH-MAD never made it out of Tiko.
The photos taken during from a low altitude were all taken from TJ-ACE. One is an aerial photo of Tiko Airfield. On one I am wearing green coloured clothing (above).
These were the memories I wanted to share upon seeing ‘PH-MAD’ on your website.
The stewardess and Willem van Duin with part of the MAC titles: one can read ‘ AC’ on the top tailfin.
Van Duin is the one holding a camera in his hand, on the right
|I received the following response in july 2011:
I think that I probably replaced Hans Beunk at CAT in 1968...
I also delivered a DC-3 ex British Midland which I flew, as Chief Pilot, in Cameroon throughout 1969.
Joe Patient, to whom he refers, was also an earlier colleague of mine in Libya where we both flew Beavers and the extraordinary EP9 in support of oil company operations in the deep Sahara through 1958-60.
I went on to fly 27 types, from Tiger Moth to B737's.
DC-4, Carvair, all the turboprops, F-28, B1-11 were flown in the bush (Africa, Caribbean, South America), as well as in scheduled airline operations.
I formed three airlines, managed four and at 75 am still active as a Consultant!"
Updates & comments welcomed.