Over Africa…


Low and Slow with the Kenya Wildlife Service

dsc_0226They are risky missions with an important purpose. The brave, committed game wardens who fly for the Kenya Wildlife Service routinely fly low and slow in small single engine airplanes over the spectacular parks of Kenya to protect their endangered inhabitants from the threat of poachers and human encroachment.

The flying is demanding and the caliber of training required to do it safely is hard to come by in that part of the world. Over the years, KWS pilots have crashed or made emergency landings with alarming frequency.

dsc_0559But air show superstar and environmentalist Patty Wagstaff has changed that. Acting on a invitation from KWS advisor and supporter Bill Clark, this year marked her 6th trip to Kenya to put these pilots through their paces – making them much safer doing their risky business saving the elephants, the rhinos and a host of other animals on the brink of extinction.

Funded this year by the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, Patty’s expedition was the most ambitious and successful ever. In the air, she was joined by airshow performer, vintage airplane owner and backcountry flying virtuoso Rich Sugden. The airwork was buttressed with intensive classes from the foremost ground school instructors in the world, John and Martha King (Chairman and Secretary of the Lindbergh Foundation respectively).

My wife Sandy and I documented this remarkable mission every step of the way. Viewers of “Over Africa!” will be treated to the remarkable stories of these determined pilots – some of them from nomadic tribes – who pursued their dream to fly against steep odds – and who consider it a great privilege to receive the best training available anywhere in the world. We also captured great interviews with Wagstaff, Sugden and the Kings – who have tremendous fondness and respect for their pupils – and whose enthusiasm for the mission is infectious.

Their insights are set against  stunning High Definition images of Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park – replete with all manner of wildlife – including elephants which are mercilessly hunted by poachers for the ivory.dsc_0059

Sandy and I  flew with the KWS pilots on patrols – and installed cameras on the Super Cub, Husky, 180 and Decathlon used during training.

The Lindbergh Foundation funds endeavors that attempt to find technological solutions to environmental problems. It honors Charles Linbergh’s philosophy of stewardship of the planet which was forged as he flew the world over in small airplanes. The Foundation heartily supports this effort to train the KWS pilots – with the certainty Lindbergh would embrace it as the case in point for his “balanced” approach to environmentalism.

“Charles Lindbergh is up there somewhere smiling on this project,” said Lindbergh Foundation President Knox Bridges.

“Over Africa!” is a wild, fun ride – with a serious purpose – filled with some larger than life characters who, in their own small way, are helping save the planet.

It will premiere at the “Sun ‘n’ Fun” Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida on April 21, 2009.


All Photos By Sandy O’Brien


12 Responses to “Over Africa…”

  1. Jessie Says:

    Miles, this is wonderful. I was recently in Tanzania and got to talk with rangers and guides in the national parks about their jobs. Many see it as a duty and lifestyle, not just a job. Africa is an amazing place, and those who step up to the plate to protect its beautiful flora and fauna against difficult odds should be commended. The rangers in Virunga in Eastern Congo and their mission to protect the mountain gorillas in the midst of war, for example. However, in the quest for conservation, it is also important to keep in mind the humans that live or migrate through these spaces too. They can do a lot with the appropriate resources to maintain a sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship with the environment. Great work!

  2. Willy Says:

    Miles –
    This is a great story! I like the intersection of technology and conservation, and it is great to know that stories based on your piloting skills and interests are still going to be part of our lives. I look forward to many fascinating stories from you in the future!

  3. Matt Johnson Says:

    Miles —

    SO impressed with how you’re choosing to spend your time post-CNN! Over Africa looks to be amazing, hope those of us not attending Sun n Fun have an opportunity to view it.

  4. Doug Says:

    Missed you Miles
    Welcome back Miles and congratulation to you and Sandy. What a wonderful experience you must have had. I look forward to viewing “Over Africa” with aniticipation. When and where will it air?
    With all the aircraft mishaps recently, The old network must be wishing they had never let you go. No problem, as CNN (Certainly Not News) sold it soul to Satan many moons ago…contract states Larry King must interview Joy Behar at least 10 more times before the impending apocalypse.
    Still, the The WorldWideWeb will have to suffice for my OB fix for now.
    I’ll stay tuned and thanks for all your future efforts. We all appreciate you Miles.
    Best regards,
    Doug Moyle

  5. Ed Says:


    Good to hear you are safe and sound. Through some investigative surfing, I heard you were also mountain climbing as well? When are we going to hear about that?

    Can’t wait to see the video, +1 on Matt’s comments. Hopefully you can shop it around and get it distributed. CurrentTV?

  6. John Palfrey Says:

    Wow Miles. This is going to be a great. I can’t wait for my kids to see it. Please keep doing this good work. Today’s world needs it. The offer still stands to trade jobs for a year. Cheers.

    John Palfrey

  7. Kirk Garreans Says:

    Miles, sorry I missed seeing you at Sun N Fun… I was on a show in Dallas while you were here in Florida. I’d still love to see “Over Africa”, so let us know when / where we can view it.

    I grew up as a missionary kid in the wilds of South America – those mission pilots risk their lives on a daily basis, but they are still doing everything they can to keep things safe for themselves and the people and cargo they transport. They do an amazing job with a very low rate of problems, considering the hazards they encounter.

    I’d still love to hook up with you someday on your coverage of a launch – we still try to get to as many as we can, but now can’t afford to get on site… so we watch from some of our secret viewing sites near KSC.

    Keep up the great work!

  8. Michael Young Says:

    This is great. For those of us not lucky enough to be at Sun ‘n Fun how can we get a chance to view the film?

  9. Eideard Says:

    Glad to see your work on PBS. Thought you might end up teaching alongside Aaron Brown. :-]

    There’s no shortage of extended families like mine who miss science-grounded journalism. Too bad TV news continues on its entertainment death spiral.

    Looking forward to seeing more and more of your independent work.

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