Interview with Daniel Rundström 2009

We had decided to go on a trip. It was Onni, Mary, Ingvar Aspliden, Ingvar ”Lasse” Larsson and me. We had arranged for permission to fly. We did not have a radio but got permission to fly from Ethiopia. We could not fly direct to Nairobi. There was not a chance to do that because we had to land twice on the way to fill up with fuel. There was no fuel in Ethiopia so we went to Air Force outside Addis. They flew to all sorts of places. We asked them to dump a tank of fuel for us the day before we were to take off, so we could land there and fill up. They did that and it worked very well.

I think it was a few days before we set off that we were invited to Haile Selassie at the palace … it was a heck of a party! They served alcohol. I don’t know how long it was between… I don’t think we flew the day after, he-he. We had to be in good shape when we left.

We knew that it was rather a challenge to fly over the mountains there, but in Ethiopia I had flown earlier so there it was not a problem. We flew in pairs so we were in contact with each other all the time. Eye contact, that is. We had decided that earlier so we would not lose contact, since we did not have any radio contact.

Marsabit

The first landing was planned for Marsabit in northern Kenya. It was a very special site, I will never forget it, that place… It was situated out in the terrain… there was only one family. He was District Commissioner, Police Colonel, and was from South Africa but of British descent. Mr Griffith was his name. I will never forget him. There was a small airport and that is where we were headed. That was the first stop on the journey, Marsabit in Kenya.

Then it happened… we used to take turns flying. Lasse did one distance and then Onni took over for another distance and now I had flown my distance in Ethiopia. Aspliden was a pilot, too, but he did not have a lot of experience. Lasse and I had the most flight experience so we were so to say ”in command”, the ones who were in charge should anything happen. There has to be someone in charge. I was sitting in the back and Asplind was a teacher in navigation, so I was convinced that he would do OK. There were no problems so I relaxed.

Then suddenly Onni and Lasse disappeared. We could not see them, but there was not point in searching because we only had enough fuel to make it to Marsabit. We had to go on, so we did. But Aspliden could not find the airport, he just could not find it! We found out why. It happens that, on the map, there is s special sign for mountain that looks like a moon on top of a mountain, but when it is a crater it is a crescent and we had missed that. We saw the crescent but thought it was a mountain. It was a crater where we should have landed but we flew past that airport without seeing it and Aspliden was getting nervous. He wasn’t so experienced and now he thought we had to do an emergency landing. We could not fly until we ran out of fuel. We had to land while we had fuel left.

”You have to do this” said Aspliden. ”Well”, said I, ”it’s not so easy from back here”. Of course I sat in the back and you can’t do any emergency landings from there. ”Well, what do we do now then? Can’t we change places?” In that cramped cockpit. ”Let us try” I said. So I crawled up front and sat on the side. I was folded over in 90 degrees and got hold of the control stick so that Aspliden could crawl over to the back seat. When he got out of the seat, I could sit down and buckle up. then I thought that ”now we have to find somewhere to land”.

I was rather experienced at ”bush landings”. I knew the L5. I knew that even when the fuel gauge went down to red you could still fly for a good while. Well, at least for another 10 minutes. I could not find a good place and realised I had to find somewhere. Then I saw a road. We got to the road and I thought it had to go to the airport. And sure enough it did, so after a short while I saw the airport. I had found it. I just dived down and landed, without checking wind or anything. I did that because I knew that the engine would cut out any second. And when we had landed and taxed in, the engine cut out. We had just made it!

We had been so occupied with our troubles so we had not had time to think about Onni and Lasse, but now that we had arrived at Marsabit and landed, we started getting worried. They were not there! What on earth had happened to them, we thought. The Mr Griffith came out and picked us up. It was the first time we met. He invited us to dinner but we were so down in the mouth, thinking that Onni and Lassa had crashed somewhere. The terrain around was very rough with volcanoes and such.

I don’t think I slept at all that night. The Griffith family were very nice and hospitable, but we could not appreciate that when our friends were gone.

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Mr. Griffit to the left and Daniel Rundström to the right

Early next morning we reported to the British Air Force in Nairobi that one of our aircrafts was missing. They immediately sent out a plane to search for our friends. Aspliden and I also started combing the area systematically. We thought that they could not be so darn far away. We kept searching all day. Nothing! ”What the heck has happened” we wondered. But during the evening Onni and Lasse arrived by lorry and we were of course incredibly happy! But where on earth was the plane?

to be continued…

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