Sunday, January 3, 2010

2nd Arrival at Bongolo Airstrip

After taking Dr. Chris L. (opthomology) and Shawn A. (project specialist) back to Libreville, Tim K. (Bongolo Station Teammate) kept me company for the trip back to Bongolo. No doubt I'll have solo flights in the future, but for the first few legs back and forth, I like the idea of having at least one other in the aircraft with me. I was happy Tim was able to come.

As we lined up for final approach, we noticed that the center of the runway was dotted with something white! Had someone nicely painted a centerline for us!?! At about 2 miles out, we could tell that someone had moved one set of runway side markers to the center of the runway! As you can see, they are tires painted white. This made our 30 meter wide runway 15 meters wide. As you can see, there was enough room, and plenty to spare, for me to land. So... why were these markers moved? Read on to find out...

On this trip, we thought it would be fun to do some pizza delivery. Over 14 pizzas were delivered to the team in Bongolo!

More importantly, the 5th and last piece of equipment came for the eye clinic. On the first flight down, we brought about 200 pounds (4 boxes) of equipment for the eye clinic. It was laser equipment that was quickly assembled and put to work on the patients. This equipment is very fragile and would not have been able to make the bumpy ride down by car to the hospital. This is the type of thing we are thrilled to be a part of. How cool.

So, what were these tires doing in the middle of the runway? Well, today (Sunday) we woke up early and went out to move them back in place. We came to the end of the runway and, as we progressed down to the first tire, we noticed, at the far end of the runway, a pickup was "slaloming" around the tires! As they approached, I motioned them to stop. They were Chinese, of all things. Most likely, they are associated with the road crew and appeared to be using their free day to learn how to drive clutch on the runway. I said (in French), "This is not for a car. This is for the airplane", while motioning to the airplane. They both said "Ok, ok" while smiling. I'm not sure if they got it. We got all the tires in place and then noticed that they were at the other end of the runway, practicing backing up. Oh well.

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