Thursday, December 31, 2009

1st Flight to Bongolo!!!

Loaded and ready!

Passing Lamberene.


Incredible... truly amazing. God is so good. 1 hour and 50 minutes... unbelievable to so quickly travel to a place that takes 10 hours to drive to.

At the start of the day, I had a lot of leg work to hunt down the final document that I needed for the flight. The challenge was that my cell phone was nearly out of battery power because we left the airplane partially packed up from yesterday's attempt to fly- that was where my charger was. So, I had to hunt down that document (2 hours), then, while filing my flight plan, I was again asked for an additional document. Can you believe it!?! Incredible. They said that I needed a document stating the airplane was inspected and in good shape for African flying. Well... I had the reciept from the 2 guys that did my aircraft inspection a week or so ago, so I flashed that and told him that it is all good.

There's so much happening very quickly... I'm going to do some flying in the area of the airport today to verify the topography for mapping out a GPS arrival to the airport.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The "Almost" flight crew

Faced with the bad news of a canceled flight... this crew did great!

The "Almost" first flight to Bongolo

Hey ya'all!
So sorry for today's postponement. You can't imagine the flash of anger and disbelief that I had as I was told that there was a document missing! UGH!

The aircraft was fueled, loaded, and the passengers (my family and Aunt Leanne) were patiently waiting as I went to file the flight plan. When the folks at the desk asked me where I was headed, I got the french version of "huh???" So, I happily told them that I was headed to the Bongolo Hospital where the airport was recently certified and open for landing. Then began the shuffle from office to office until I arrived at an office where they said that I had permission to fly over the hospital, but not to land. That's when I gave them the english version of "huh???"

It turns out that, a few weeks ago, when I drove the government official down to make the inspection, he had told me to take care of a few things, give him a document stating this, and then we'd be good to go. I heard him say all that, except the part about needing a document... I should know better, by now, that I need to make a document (complete with "flowery" french, scribbled signature, and a stamp). So.... miscommunication. C'est la vie!

Pastor Sangoye and I quickly created the document and a runner for the civil aviation office just picked it up. They will have the document ready for the morning... so... we'll try again! Stay tuned!!!

Monday, December 28, 2009


All cleaned up and ready to go!

The African skies are beckoning!

After waiting a full weekend and most of today, Civil Aviation finally came through with the signed documents giving us permission to fly anywhere in Gabon for the next 6 months! These documents represent over $1000 in fees.

Without wasting anytime, I swung by our pastor's house (Pastor Laurent of the Okala Alliance Church) and had him join Joey and I for the inaugural flight. As you can see, he was thrilled.

The picture is a little dark, but here I am with Pastor Laurent, smiling and thanking the Lord for this great blessing- an airplane in Central Africa to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What a day! In a few weeks, we will have a big celebration and invite friends, family, hospital workers, church leaders, government leaders, and media.

Tomorrow... our first flight to Bongolo Hospital!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Now what!?! Getting our bird into the air...

So... we have an airplane... CHECK! We have an open runway at the hospital... CHECK! So, now what? We must pass a government "Ramp Check" and then pay for 6 months worth of flight permits. AND??? The phone call came this morning- the inspectors could look at the airplane and were wondering if we were ready. Were we ready!?! Uh... YEAH!

From 10am to 11am, we reviewed the documents, logbooks, interior, exterior, and more. There were a few things that we were asked to take care of (see below), but when all was said and done, it passed a the "Ramp Check"! The paperwork was processed and, one hour later, I returned to their offices and found that all is in order- we just need the signature of the director, pay our fees, and we'll be good to go for 6 months of operations in Gabon! Every 6 months, we'll have to pay for another round of flight permits.

We're hoping to get some flying done next week- down to the hospital and back a couple of times.

Brian (the ferry pilot) and I worked to get the auxilary tanks out yesterday. Today, we got the seats in and then, after the inspection, we hustled to satisfy their requests, as follows:

> Life jackets: This was a surprise. First time I had heard they wanted this. Since we aren't doing extended flights over open water, we didn't plan on that. Thankfully, Egmont had extra, airline quallity, life vests at his house that we're borrowing for the time being. Cool how that worked out, huh?

> Flashlight: I keep one in my flight bag, but they prefer that one is kept in the airplane.

> Fire extinguisher info: There is a fire extinguisher, however, the inpsection tag had not been filled out. So, I took it home, weighed it, and started the log on the tag. That satisfied them.

> Radio License: This is another thing that caught me off guard. In the US, the FCC doesn't require this license as of 1996 or so, UNLESS... you are flying an aircraft internationally! So... we logged on to the FCC website, registered, and filled out the application. We printed off the application and the civil aviation office was pleased to see us doing our "due diligence".

So, civil aviation has given us the "green light" and, after the signature on Monday morning, we'll have permission to fly over Gabon for the next 6 months- in and out of whatever aerodromes we'd like.

So, with the seats inside, the airplane is really taking on a great look! The people at Afrijet have been allowing us to keep it in one of their hangars that stays relatively empty most of the time. This is saving us from being out in the blazing heat. We're very thankful for that.

So, that's the update for now.

Oh... you may have seen in the photos that the cargo pod is all messy. This is due to the mess caused by the overboard oil breather tube outlet and the exhaust. We'll be cleaning the belly often, but it was something that Brian didn't have time to do during the ferry

We have plenty of fuel, for the time being, but we'll be hammering out the details of fuel with the agricultural company that said we could order fuel with them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Airplane Arrival in Libreville!

A great day! We are so thankful!

See all the photos HERE.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bamako Pictures

Our ferry pilot, Brian, sent along these pictures of the refueling this morning in Bamako, Mali. The refuelers are quite photogenic!

In the PRESS!!!

York Daily Record, our home newspaper, has been keeping up with our progress and is publishing an update in today's paper. Here is a link to the on-line article: READ IT HERE

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Home Stretch

Just got word on the final flights...

Next flight: Canary Islands to Bamako (MALI) to Accra (GHANA)
Depart: 2am Libreville time / 8pm East coast time

Final flight: Accra to Libreville
Depart: Early Tuesday morning Libreville time / Middle of the night East Coast time

So... arrival time in LBV set for... (drum roll please)... TUESDAY AROUND NOON (local) / 6am East coast time!!!

Can't tell you how excited we all are!

Wish you all were here to party with us!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Photos from Azores

I think Brian snapped a couple of pics on his cell phone prior to his departure this morning.

Island Hopping

Two team members (Joseph & Pastor Jacob) teach
the village about HIV-AIDS. They educate as
well as dispel myths. All are challenge to care
and love for those with this terrible disease.

It's just past 2pm this Saturday afternoon, here in Gabon. The kids and Alace have just returned from participating with the mobile medical clinic with the social outreach program of the local C&MA churches. They set up shop in a village outside of the capital city of Libreville and were busy from start to finish! The clinics focus on health education, basic checkups (blood pressure, height/weight check, eye check, etc.), consultations, and pharmacy. Pastor Jacob is typically there to provide spiritual counseling.

I greeted them over at our house and then returned to do a couple projects, here in my office, when I noticed that.... BRIAN IS BACK IN THE SKIES OVER THE ATLANTIC!!! Today's flight will take him from the Azores Islands to the Canary Islands. We hope that tomorrow he will make it to African soil (perhaps Bamako, Mali?) if they can get flight permissions and assurance that 100 low lead (aviation fuel) is on hand there. Please pray that this works out.

Again if you want to track the progress of the airplane, you can do by CLICKING HERE.

Monday is Joey's birthday, so we're thinking that perhaps the airplane will be his gift!

We'll keep the updates coming as we get word of progress.

Friday, December 18, 2009

AZORES... check!

Here's how the trip looked like on the SPOT website. That's 13 hours worth of position updates that came about every 15 minutes.

At this rate, it won't be long before we're loading up the car and driving 7 minutes to the LBV Int'l airport to meet Brian and N207FD! Joey thinks that we can start thinking that this is HIS birthday gift (Monday the 21st) instead of a Christmas present!

SIDE NOTE: We'll also have a SPOT unit giving position updates on our flights, here in Gabon, as well. It will be doing its' work while most of you are sleeping, however!


Here I am, at my desk, caught off guard when I logged on the internet to find Brian flying through the night! (Please note the expression of surprise)

Incredibly, Brian has allowed now grass (or snow) to grow under his feet and has made incredible progress!!! Not only has he made it to Sydney, Nova Scotia, but he saw good flight conditions over the Atlantic and has pressed on!!! As I write this, he is just minutes from touching down in Santa Maria, AZORES! Simply incredible. Here is what one of our consultants wrote:

"What he (Brian) is doing at this moment (flying over the North Atlantic) in a single engine, non-pressurized aircraft, takes a lot of guts. What a brave soul indeed. My prayers are with him."

And this from Brock, Air Calvary director:

"The intensity of the mission and the commensurate courage of the pilot, is mind-bending. God sustain Brian and 7FD through the night."

We are blessed to have such a veteran pilot at the controls, who is doing such a great service.

God bless you, Brian.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Some "FYI" about my photo, above:
> Plastic bag- pistachios compliments of mom & dad! Thanks!
> HP Computer- recently resurrected by Andy W. in the states. Thanks Andy!
> Small Photo- Graduation pic of nephew, Phil, with family. Way to go Phil!
> Handsome man- well, that's me...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


From pilot, Brian Q.:
"The snow was forecast to be gone by now in VT. Currently (however), 1/2 mile visibility, snow and freezing fog- and Canada is no better. Tomorrow's forecast is good, though. So, all can rest tonight, as I will. We will try again tomorrow. One day delay in the winter here is not bad, though. Blessings, Brian."

Our Fearless Pilot- Brian Q.

Here's Brian just before leaving Kansas, eastbound to Africa, yesterday.

Currently, he is in Burlington, VT and is having the ground crew pre-heat the engine prior to start up there. He'll be back in the air in no time, so log on to "" and enter "N207FD" in the space on the left column where you see "Flight/Tail #".


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Brian just departed (at 11:00 AM local time) on the first leg. You can track him on Flight Aware (, using the tail number "N207FD" until he arrives in St. John's. From that point he will be on the Spot Tracker. The web address is:

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I'll post a full story soon, but wanted to get a post about the good news! Yesterday AM, while the Western world slept (mostly), the Gabonese civil aviation director of airports proclaimed that the Lebamba/Bongolo Aerodrome is ready for business!

Dr. Keir T., Pastor Serge B., Mr. S (civil aviation), and myself walked the full length of the runway, discussing mostly the few "tweaks" that still need done, but, in the end, he said that these things were of minor consequence and that the airport was good to go!

Praise God! Thanks to all those who have been praying and supporting this effort. Things are moving along!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Aircraft Arrives in Kansas

Next step... Prep for the flight to Africa!
Here are some pictures from the folks in Kansas that will be making some modifications necessary to fly our Cessna 207 to Gabon.

To see all the pics, check out our PICASAWEB ALBUM.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

VIDEO: Creative Runway Marking

Aircraft Arrival... Christmas Gift!?!

The piece of equipment pictured here, a transponder, has proven faulty in our aircraft. It's the instrument that tells air traffic controllers about your position and direction while in the air. A replacement has been ordered for overnight delivery, will be installed and tested ASAP, and then the aircraft will move from Oklahoma to Kansas, where it will be readied for the ferry flight to Africa. The irony is that no air control facility in central Africa, that I know of, has the equipment (functioning) to receive the signal from transponders! C'est la vie.

So, the trip to KS is projected for Tuesday. The prep for the ferry flight should be about 3 days, and the flight itself 8 days (give or take a day), so... perhaps the week of the 20th the aircraft might arrive! A great Christmas gift!

So, if you're wondering what happened to Santa... it may have something to do with a mid-aid collision over the Atlantic Ocean with our airplane!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Final Runway Upgrades

Tuesday morning, at 6am, our crew (Gustave, Romaric, & myself) set out from Libreville for the 9.5 hour, bone-jarring, drive to the Bongolo Hospital. Our goal was to put some finishing touches on the airstrip prior to the government inspection next week.

The Gabonese civil aviation provided us with a diagram of what they will be looking for on their evaluation of the airstrip. One item is the marking of the end of the runway with these "L" shaped brackets. As you can see, they're cement, flush with the terrain. Paul D., the Hospital's physical plant director, had all the tools and material ready for us when we arrived (Thanks PAUL!).

Every 50 meters, the civil aviation folks request that you have a marker at each side of the runway. So, this is how we do it in Africa... a 1-liter bottle, staked under the ground with re-bar material, and then painted white. After receiving expensive quotes from the professionals, this was my solution. It turned out quite nice. The idea is to have a marker that, should the aircraft deviate off the runway, will not damage tires or spinning propellers. The tape measure (and a few other tools) was borrowed from Bongolo team mate, Tim Kelly. Tim & Amanda were, once again, terrific hosts for our stay. THANKS GUYS!

Here's our crew deconstructing the old windsock and putting the new one on the old frame. From left to right it's, Mass (local friend), Romaric (my language partner), and Gustave (a team mate from LBV). The old wind sock had been knock down, stored in the hanger, and eventually chewed through by mice. By the way, "Manche A Vent" means "wind sleeve" in French... that's really a better description, n'est pas?

When I saw the guys putting the wind sock in place, I couldn't help but have them pose with me for the following picture...

...I just couldn't help myself!

Here's the airport entrance from the national route. It's a beautiful drive past a row of palm trees.

Our sign maker in LBV was careful to get all 13 stripes and all 50 stars on the US flag! It really looks great as you approach.

We also added a sign to the front of the hangar with the "Aviation M├ędicale de Bongolo" logo on it.

At the end of our two days of work, things are ready for the government inspectors. Here, you can see the runway end markers in their finished state- painted white and the earth leveled out around it.

A beautiful jungle sunset... soon the aircraft will be landing on this well maintained, well marked airstrip. We are so grateful to God for all He is doing and the large team that makes it all possible.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Aircraft Purchased!!! Prep for Africa in days!!!

Yesterday, I received word that the purchase funds for the aircraft were moved from the escrow account to the seller and that all documentation had come through. The aircraft is finally owned by Air Calvary! What a milestone! Praise God! This is truly amazing.

This morning, the word came that everything is in order for the aircraft to be flown from Oklahoma to Kansas, where it will be outfitted for the long ferry flight to Africa. That should be done by the middle of next week and, 8 days or so after that, the airplane should be setting down in Africa!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fasten Your Seatbelts

This pilot in Tanzania has little time to attend to his passengers... or to realize that he's being video taped!!!

Thanksgiving - African Style

How was your Thanksgiving?

We had a 30+ hour power outage, here in LBV. It was very hot without any fans and we had a couple of rough nights. Wednesday evening, after an amazing lasagna dinner, we were enjoying a movie with many people in our living room (including Dr. & Mrs. T., their daughter R, and the STMO crew) when the power went out around 10pm.

So we were without electricity all of Thanksgiving! Thankfully, our oven is gas powered and Alace, Becki T., and Rachel T. were able to bake 4 pies!!! We were also thankful that we slated our gathering for the STMO center (Brokopp's house), that hadn't been effected by the power outage. So, other people on our team supplied other things... yams/marshmallows, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, turkey legs/breasts, stuffing, etc. There were over 25 of us for the celebration of God's blessings. It was a great day. We gathered around 2pm and the place didn't totally clear out until after 9pm. We enjoyed the meal, dessert and coffee, board games, video games, and conversations. Pretty nice for central Africa!

Without power, the nights really come alive! We started to hear all the noises that we usually miss due to our noisy fans buzzing away. Screaming children, people noisily conversing in the road about 15 feet away from our bedroom, dogs barking, roosters crowing, and the occasional passing rain. Plus, without fans, I simply sweat lying in bed. It's so uncomfortable, but, eventually, I drift off to sleep.

I woke up early this morning (5am) to see Dr. & Mrs. T. off- they are driving down to Bongolo today and like to get a REAL early start. As I walked back into the house, I was talking to the Lord, explaining that, if it was OK with Him, we'd like the power to come back on.... and right at that moment (I'm not kidding), THE POWER CAME BACK ON!!! YESSSS!!! I knew this because, all of the sudden, everything that we had had turned on the evening before cranked up to life! An air conditioning unit, lights, fans, etc.

So, after making a tour of the place and turning things off, I climbed back in bed. A moment later our guardian, Gari, called for me from outside the house. He explained that there was water running in the annex building. So, it was back out to fix a toilet that had emptied during the power outage and, now, with the power back on and the electric pump pushing water back through the system, Gari heard water running. Good thing, too, because when water runs like this with no one knowing, it will continue to use more and more water from our reservoirs until they are empty! It doesn't take long before 1,000 liters is gone in this scenario.

So, NOW I could get back to sleep, right? NOPE... Just as I was finishing the toilet repair, the power went out again!!! Gari let out a "yelp" of surprise and all I could do was laugh. This Is Africa ("T.I.A." as some say). C'est la vie. This is not suprising. Often when the power has been out for a time, it will come on for a period of time, then click off, and then click back on for good moments later. It's an "electricity restoration aftershock" of sorts. I was glad that I had kept my flashlight in hand.

Toilet repair finished, I headed back to the house and, as I had done before, I reminded the Lord that having electricity was our preference, in case He had forgotten. And... right at that moment (I'm not kidding this time either), THE POWER CAME BACK ON ONCE MORE!!! I laughed again... I think the Lord was messing with me!

So, it's noon on Friday (Black Friday!?!) and we continue to enjoy uninterupted power at this time. We are happy the internet jumped back on line as well so that we can communicate! Lot's to be thankful for here. Christ continues to be our Saviour, Peace-giver, and Redeemer!

Love you all!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Aircraft Update & Pics

Here's today's email from Mickey at the refurbishment shop in OK.

"The engine is running fine with no problems, the new fuel pressure gauge that was furnished with the engine mod. is stuck on 12 lbs. so will be contacting Donna at Davis to see if they can get us another one shipped in here tomorrow.

The IFR certification has been completed OK, the altimeter needle was dragging so we had another altimeter installed. The avionics shop in Mena replaced a static line because of a leak and did not do an IFR certification but the avionics shop in Wichita still found a static leak that had to be repaired."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Human Trafficking close to home

The country of Gabon has been stepping up efforts to crack down on human trafficking, but that doesn't stop people trying to continue this horrific act. We have some friends that work with UNICEF here. They have informed us that Gabon is increasingly responding in positive ways, as was the case with a recent boat intercepted near the coast. Here is a story on the topic:

Gabon grapples with fight against child trafficking

2009-11-21 16:39:07

By Ren Yaqiu

LIBREVILLE, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Whereas the entire humanity was on Friday marking the 20th anniversary of the convention on children's rights, in Gabon, a number of children, illegally brought into the country from West Africa, continue to be exploited by the West African nationals living in Gabon.

Child trafficking and exploitation dates back to the 1970s. Because of its small population, Gabon was in need of workers from abroad for construction and other projects. Massive entry to Gabon was reported during the period from Togo, Benin and Nigeria in search for employment.

The years that followed saw a lot of prosperity for these immigrants who discovered a country where some sectors were abandoned by the local population who had been changed by the easy gains from the enormous oil revenues.

Very quickly, these immigrants started bringing into Gabon children to do tasks which are traditionally reserved for adults.

In the subsequent years, it was children who roamed the roads of the capital as well as the major urban centers of the country with a basin full of merchandise on the head. Under the rain or under other bad tropical weather, these modern day slaves could be seen running behind clients because in the evening they were to return to the house with some good profits for their masters.

The opposite was fatal for the child. He was beaten in public, sometimes burned by an iron bar or put in the sun in order to make him commercially more aggressive. Many of these children were selling in markets. The young girls prepared cakes and other candies.

In 2000, a boat called Etireno was found carrying tens of children sounding the alarm of trafficking, which had been going on for years. The international community was mobilized against this trafficking and exploitation of children.

Symposia and seminars were held one after another in Gabon. The country adopted in 2004 a repressive law against child traffickers and exploiters who enslaved them.

"Thanks to this law, we have recently repatriated to Benin and Togo close to 300 children," affirmed Nyalendo, one of the Gabonese experts in charge of the issue.

The Gabonese police organized "abductions" in markets, streets and even in homes. This was "a necessary evil," said Baba Apoujac, president of an NGO called Iledo ("help us" in a Togolese language). This Togolese who is approaching fifties has participated in the fight against trafficking.

"Since then, we no longer see children working in markets or on the streets," he said, noting that "the phenomenon has not been completely eradicated."

"Children are still being exploited, abused and martyrized in homes," he said.

"Before, they were in the streets and they could gaze upon the universe and talk to the passers-bye. But now, they are enclosed within the homes and scared of ever being seen. They work hard and suffer seriously," the administrator of a home for children in difficulties "arc-en-ciel", Theo disclosed.

A number of children taking refuge in this center came because they escaped or due to police actions.

In the circle of child exploitation and trafficking, Gabon has the status of a receiving country. The children come from Togo, Benin and Nigeria. They are sold at a low price, but in the hope of getting a better life. They are transported in canoes or boats which are not fit for human transportation. The very last such occurrence was on Oct. 18, when a boat was spotted along Gabon's coast, carrying more than 200 adults and 34 children.

"This is an irrefutable proof that this shameful trade in children is still going on," Apoujac concluded.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Safety First!

Subtitle: A Visit from Missions Safety International

A few months ago I received an email from Steve Quigg with Missions Safety International (MSI) saying that he and some colleagues were heading to Africa and asking if they could stop by. Our program has joined MSI knowing that they are the pro's when it comes to assisting aviation programs to make safety a way of life in their organization. Flying around equatorial Africa brings it's share of dangers, and we need to do all we can to minimize the variables.

So, when I got the email, I responded enthusiastically that we'd love them to come and that we expected that their visit would be right on the heels of the arrival of our aircraft- perfect timing! The details were planned and...

Steve and Jon Egeler arrived last Friday night and we spent the next few days getting to know one another, chatting about life in Christ, and how we can serve the Lord with excellence. I'm
thankful for their input and our program will be the better for it. They encouraged our whole family on this journey- this means so much.

So, even though I didn't have our HOT Cessna 207 to show off to them, it turned out that having this time to sit down and really think through our program's approach to safety in a comprehensive way has come at just the right time.

I am continually amazed at God's timing. I have a tendency on getting "tunnel vision" on the STUFF of ministry and forget that He cares about developing PEOPLE more! He reminds me that he cares about CHARACTER over my COMFORT.

Before bed last night, my kids and I looked at the Gospel of Matthew and Jesus' words- "Seek first the Kingdom of God and HIS righteousness". Nowhere in there is reference to the pursuit of comfort, convenience, or stuff. Simply seeking Him. May it be so.