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Africa

Notebook 4: 'He's lost his mojo'

Text by Marie Sophie JOUBERT

Latest update : 2009-03-04

FRANCE 24's Marie-Sophie Joubert is embedded with the French Navy in the Gulf of Aden. Today, her notebook tells the story of Sebastian, a helicopter pilot who looses his mojo when his "bird" is on the ground.

Deprived of his "better half", he wanders around aimlessly. Sebastian D. is a helicopter pilot without a helicopter: under the Top Gun uniform, the mojo is gone. His Panther B 6452 helicopter is broken. It’s an oil leak, nothing too serious, but serious enough to keep it on the ground for five days. In other words, forever.

Every day, Sebastien hopes to hear from the chief mechanic of the Hyères military base, the “panther doctor”, if you will. Every night, he tells the others: “He should be in Mombasa any day now.” But every day the expected day of arrival changes.

This afternoon, my colleague Lucas and I were watching the video of the arrest of Somalian pirates by the Floréal’s crew. The soundtrack is crude: just the noise of a chopper in the background. Sebastian joins us almost instantly: “Did I hear a helicopter?”, he asks. He’s joking, but only half-heartedly. He sits down to watch the air footage with us, his face a picture of longing.

He’s got the blues. He should be having fun instead: de-facto off duty, he is now allowed to drink as opposed to fellow crewmembers. He could drink his sorrows away… But no, he remains fairly sober and fairly miserable.

During the daytime, he stays next to his broken “toy”, as he likes to call it. Stuck in the oven (editor’s note: a hangar), the “bird” (its nickname) continues to roast, as French rock group Louise Attack plays in the background. You wouldn't blame Sebastian for not taking care of it. It could just lie there and rust. In fact, it is taken apart, cleaned, polished, fussed over and put back together again.

Just a few more days to go. “Let’s say it's resting to bounce back stronger,” muses Sebastian philosophically. To cheer him up, I offer to watch the videos of him hunting drug traffickers with his “bird”.

He feels better already.

Date created : 2009-03-04

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