Risking it all – The daredevil pilots of Colombia

This 25 minutes documentary takes a deeper look at the risks that Colombian pilots are exposed to, on a daily basis, as they navigate huge chunks of metal in the form of airplanes through the harsh climatic conditions present over the Colombian rainforests. The film was shot and directed by the Aljazeera English film crew. It was shot in the month of May 2011, and was included in the Aljazeera Documentaries film compilation. Basically, the documentary was shot in Colombia, specifically in a Colombian DC-3 flight as it navigated over the Colombian rainforests ferrying passengers and heavy goods. Captain Raul is the pilot of the plane together with a female co-pilot whose name has not been specified. The plane has a mechanic by the name Tito. There are also a couple of passengers who give their comments on the situation.

The documentary tries to show the very harsh and risky conditions that Colombian pilots work in as well as the high level of risk, the passengers of the flights are exposed to. The DC-3 shown in the documentary is what many might refer to as “ancient technology” as it is relatively old in terms of technology hence making it even harder for the pilots to navigate through the harsh tropical climates of the Colombian rainforests. The harsh climate is seen to bring about aspects such as poor visibility, poor communication to the mainland via the radios and rough navigation through the clouds. At the end of the day, the whole ordeal is very risky as the chances of crashing or landing safely lie at about 50/50. This is why in the documentary; the Colombian pilots are referred to as ‘daredevils’.

The documentary however goes on to explain that normally, the mechanical faults or the tropical storms are not the major concerns. The major concern in this case is the tropical green jungle that lies 2000 meters below. The jungle is in fact referred to as a “green jungle”. With no emergency landing space and dense vegetation, several planes have disappeared into this jungle after crashing and never to be found again. This route (from Villavicencio to Indian villages in the jungle) is ranked as one of the most dangerous airways.

On landing, it is shown that there is no form of modern technology to help, as the Indian villages are nowhere near civilization. Captain Raul has to rely on his experience, professionalism and intuition to land the plane. In addition to all these, there are several other problems. Generally, the documentary shows the kind of courage shown by the Colombian pilots in this particular route.