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.

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