Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pilot's Prayer

My very good friend, Stephanie S., sent me this prayer. I had never seen it before.

Lord of sea and earth and air,
Listen to the pilots prayer-
Send him wind that's steady and strong
Grant that his engine sing the song
Of flawless tone, by which he knows
It shall not fail him where he goes;
Landing, gliding, in curve, half-roll-
Grant him, O Lord, full control,
That he may learn the heights of heaven
The rapture altitude has given,
That he may know the joy they feel
Who hide Thy realms on birds of steel
- Cecil Roberts

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"I Need to Read My Bible"

Wendy Hofman, the ophthalmologist at the Bongolo Hospital, wrote a great story the was featured on the Hospital's website. It mentions our aviation program and, as a team, how we are working together to be a blessing in the heart of Africa.

CLICK HERE to read the story of one man's desire to have his eye sight restored for the Glory of God.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chasing Jungle Buffalo

We had 4 cancellations for this weeks' flight, so it was just my team mate Lisa Nicky and myself for the flight to the Bongolo Hospital. We made things a little more interesting by descending above the Ngounie river to spot hippos. Seeing none, we passed the town of Mouila (with a low pass at their airport) and then turned our attention to the savannah.

Not much was going on there, either, until... wait... what was that? We spotted a momma and baby jungle buffalo that were spooked by the airplane and were hightailing it across one of the fields! It was exciting to finally see some wildlife. Most of the elephants in Gabon are jungle-dwelling, so it will be a challenge to spot them.

Lisa was up in Libreville renewing her residence card ("Carte de Sejour") for another 2 years. We're glad she'll be around for a while longer! On the previous flight, we had made the trip to Libreville in a record time of one hour and 33 minutes!!!

Pre-Flight Briefing

(More on Fidele from team mate Renee Valach)

Fidele. He is in the photo with Missionary Pilot Steve Straw. Fidele had been one of the workers who cut the grass on the mission station until a heart problem stopped him from working. In February, I plan to accompany Fidele to a hospital in Kenya, where he can undergo surgery to fix his heart valve. He has small children, and his heart problem is serious so this is a wonderful opportunity for him. There are still a number of obstacles to over come before the surgery, including obtaining passport and exit visa from Libreville. Recently, Fidele flew up to Libreville for part of his passport application. This is his first trip in a plane and Steve explained the important safety issues like the seat belts.

There were a few local men standing near the plane, and while Steve spoke they clarified each thing. Steve pointed out the operation of the seat belt and door handle, and the men explained to Fidele that he must not open the door in flight. (One of the men had been on a flight in Africa, where a man had tried to open the door to relieve himself! I had never considered this possibility or thought to mention it specifically.) I am sure travel and surgery with Fidele will be an adventure. While I am in Kenya, I will also attend a continuing medical education conference which I am looking forward to.

(thanks for the additional story, Renee!)

V.I.P. Treatment

Remember Fidele? He's the one that had washed my car and taught me a lesson on priorities and perspective (read the story HERE). Here is Fidele just before his trip from the Bongolo Hospital to Libreville, where he needed to go to have his travel documents prepared for his trip to Kenya for his heart surgery.

The flight went really well. If Fidele was nervous, I couldn't tell. This was his first flight on an airplane! He would occasionally point out the window and ask me to please identify the villages that we were flying over. He also made many comments about the river the was below our flight path for much of the journey- the Ngoungie. He said it was very big! During the leg of the flight that passes over the city of Lamberene, I identified the city and told him to look below. He said, "Yes- I see it. Here- let me open my window so that you can see also." I told him that I was familiar with the town and didn't need to see it today.
As we approached Libreville, he asked repeatedly where the ocean was- it was also the first time he had ever seen that. Upon landing he thanked God repeatedly and said "Dieu est Grand" (God is Great). Then, on the drive to our home, he saw a high rise apartment and asked, "What shop is that?" I explained that this was not a shop but a house with many levels. Again, Fidele was seeing many firsts this day.

Thanks to a charity fund at the Bongolo Hospital called "Operation Heart Send", Fidele is getting the operation he needs and, with it, will have many added years to his life to continue to support his family and influence his community for the Gospel. It was a joy to be a part of.

We want to continue flights that help those in need, like Fidele. Pray with us that many will join the effort to build a charity fund to pay for the medical evacuations they need. If you would like to give, please visit "" and follow the directions for an online gift. Enter "Gabon Charity" when prompted.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No Room in the Inn

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!