Taking the land border crossing between Rwanda and Congo is a bit like what I imagine crossing between West and East Berlin was like in the 80s. Night and day. On the Rwanda side, the city of Gisenyi hugs the DRC border. On the shores of Lake Kivu, it hosts a resort and a few hotels. The atmosphere is laid back, people drinking and enjoying the beach life. Then, you cross over into the much larger city of Goma on the Congolese side, and the relaxed atmosphere gives way to the hustle and bustle of this war-ravaged city that has seen widespread destruction from volcanic eruptions.
My driver from Virunga National Park met me at the border and drove me to Virunga's offices in Goma. You can just make out the gorilla logo of Virunga above the doorway on the rightmost building. What I found a bit more interesting, and perhaps amusing, was the sign for Stellar Airways. I had never heard of it before, but, given the horrible reputation of Congolese airlines, I could only chuckle at the "Fly Safe" tagline. Most Congolese airlines are banned from flying over EU airspace due to their severely lagging safety standards, and is probably one of the reasons Virunga recommends its visitors fly into neighboring Rwanda and then cross by land, even when Goma airport would be much closer.
I did a quick search on the airline just to see what I could find, and sure enough, the airline was founded in 2011 at which time it was promptly added to the EU list of banned carriers. Stellar Airways and its sole Airbus A320 managed to operate for a few years before shuttering in 2015. I can only imagine the difficulties of trying to operate any airline in a country with rampant corruption and one of the absolute lowest GDPs in the world. Who could afford to fly it besides NGO workers and brave tourists?