Pilot. Patriot. Rebel.
Had we been carrying a technician in the cockpit, he would have taken a bullet up his backside-a round had burst straight through the jump seat. Another bullet grazed the back of my seat, missing me by inches.
In Headwind: An African Air Odyssey, veteran aviator, Ian Rodwell, recounts his remarkable twin lives as a decorated rebel air force pilot and an international sanctions buster.
His story begins on a Northern Rhodesian (now Zambian) farm and ends with his departure from the newly independent Zimbabwe in 1982. He writes with gripping honesty of a childhood of mixed joy and injustice, and of Southern Rhodesia's Universal Declaration of Independence (UDI) and its shocking consequences.
They propelled him into a successful African aviation career, one which took him from testing other pilots, to cloud-seeding, to leading flying accident investigations. But as the Rhodesian bush war escalated in the 1970s he embarked on parallel flying roles. Piloting Rhodesian Air Force DC-3 Dakotas, he was decorated for his part in countless fireforce sorties and support and rescue missions for the country's fabled airborne counter insurgency units.
At the same time, he became a crucial cog in secretive international air transport operations, smuggling arms, undercutting trade sanctions, and helping the nation to survive a brutal, bloody, and costly guerrilla war. At its end, he looked on in sorrow as the world powers enforced a peace built on cynical betrayal.