So... we were kindly shown the door at our previous home. It was nice while it lasted. Our newly refurbished aircraft had a home in a MASSIVE hangar shared only with a helicopter. It was the size of about 3 or 4 basketball courts- really big! ... the deal is that it sits empty almost always.
Here's how we were booted from this home...
It was a Sunday afternoon and I made a jaunt out to the airplane to make sure that it was ready for it's flight the next morning. As I was cleaning it, a man claiming to be the "chief pilot" asked me what I was still doing in the hangar. I asked him if there was someone coming to use the hangar- if so, I would move, as I understood this was our agreement with the company that owned the hangar. He said that I misunderstood the agreement. I understood the agreement to be that, unless someone else needed the hangar, we could stay there free of charge. This gentlemen cleared things up.
He asked me if I realized that someone has to pay for the hangar- the taxes, the security, the maintenance. I said that I was indeed aware that there were costs associated with property ownership- it's this way in the country that I come from also. I told him that I know they were making quite a kind gesture to our non-profit, humanitarian organization by letting me stay there for free- or so I thought. He told me that the agreement was that I could stay there for free just until the work was done removing the extra fuel tanks from the ferry flight and until the civil aviation had done it's inspection of the aircraft. However, he was pretty sure that we have stayed 2 to 3 weeks beyond that time. I confirmed that his estimate was correct and inquired if we should come pay a bill. He said that I should come to the office and chat during the upcoming week.
I arrived the next morning, filed my flight plan, met the passengers (visitors and patients of Bongolo Hospital), and then had a quick moment left to head inside and deposit a document that requested a quote for how much it would cost to keep the airplane in the hangar like a proper, civilized client. I had written it quickly the night before and was hoping my written French could be deciphered. I went inside and found the man that I had originally met weeks ago, who I thought told me we were permitted to stay free of charge. His tone with me was decidedly different than weeks ago. I presented the document to him while explaining that I met the other chief pilot who said we must change the program here. He launched into a similar speech regarding our aircraft not being where it should be and he mentioned a list of "what if's". In the end, he would not take my document, stating that a contract was impossible because the hangar I was staying in was shared with another entity and the other entity could not entertain the request and neither could they. Hmmm....
So, I asked him if we would need to make payment on our use to this point but he said it would not be necessary but that I should park somewhere else. He suggested where would be a better place and also gave me a phone number of someone that may be able to help (later I would find that this phone number was out of service). So, I thanked him and the others that were within earshot for their kindness in hosting us in the month of January and that we would see them later.
I took off that day, a little verklempt (melancholy), knowing that hangar space at the airport is at a premium and very expensive when you find it.
Case in point... today I inquired at another business that has an empty hangar that will fit my airplane but is too small for their aircraft to fit in. So... it sits empty. Their quote was $3135.00 a month! I told them that this was simply too much for us to consider and asked what it would be if I just spent one night in their hangar- the night before a flight. The quote for one night was $443.00 a night- a jaw-dropper. So... the woman there told me not to give up hope- when we get the written response, we can respond with a request for a discounted price. Something tells me they'll laugh when I tell them what we have budgeted for hangar expense. However... you never know!
Tomorrow I will go back on the hunt. There's rumor of some other non-used hangars on the complete opposite end of the airport. We will also put in a request to the airport for permission to build our own hangar. Other mission organizations have built very simple hangars using two shipping containers and some trusses. As we like to say here "on va voir"... "we will see". God loves to do the impossible through His children. We'd love to prove it in this case!