Friday, March 27, 2020

Lot's of Flying = More Maintenance!

(Picture:  Steve, in the Bongolo hangar, next to the engine- a 300hp, Continental IO-550F)
We had more flying in January and February than originally thought... which took the airplane up to the time of needing the "100-hour Inspection" sooner.  It came just as the pandemic restrictions came to Gabon which led to the cancelation of all of our flights.  So, a mixed blessing of grieving the loss of flights, but a more relaxed schedule meant a more measured pace of completion.  

(Picture: the spark plugs and fuel injectors just after removal)
This aircraft inspection event was to have been done in Cameroon (2 hour flight north), but, due to a lot more flying in January/February, we found ourselves up to the inspection time.  I was a bit hesitant on doing the inspection at Bongolo, where our supplies and tooling are a bit limited, but, through the help of technology (mainly WhatsApp), I’ve been in regular contact with the team in Cameroon and Rob Peterson, in North Carolina, and they’ve provided excellent help.
(Picture: Dr. Drew Huang)
Another reason for a great inspection event was a couple of days of a helping hand from Dr. Drew Huang, one of the surgeon's who helps train other doctors at Bongolo Hospital through the PAACS program.  Drew was also a key teammate back in September, when the aircraft finished up the annual inspection. 
(Picture: Fuel Strainer- inside the "plunger hole", you see the culprit- a broken o-ring)
It seems that each inspection unearths at least one issue that poses a bigger challenge than you were expecting.  This time, it was a leaky fuel strainer.  During the inspection, we did all the normal things- with the strainer mounted in place (accessed by laying on your back near the nose wheel), we pulled the lower portion off, inspected, cleaned, replaced some o-rings and a gasket and then reinstalled.  However, once we turned the fuel back on, there was leakage.  So, I opened it back up, double checked everything, reinstalled, and, yet, the leak continued.  Further inspection showed it was actually coming from an o-ring that is hardly ever considered (at least in my experience), from the top of the strainer which is VERY hard to reach!  So... we pulled the whole unit out, and took a look- yep... bad o-ring.  We had only one new o-ring in stock, so I very carefully installed.  Thankfully, all said and done, the leak is gone!  Phew!
(Picture: Our aging, Bongolo hangar- built circa 2000- lots of wood that termites have not been kind too!)
With the work at the hangar complete, along with a successful engine run-up and leak check, now it's time for the paperwork!  None of this can happen without your strong, dedicated teamwork.  Would you please take a moment to pray for these critical efforts and consider partnering with us in other ways?

Thank you everyone!


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pandemic in the Jungle

Some are asking how the pandemic of Covid-19 is affecting life here.
TP multi-pack and some bananas... we're all good!

Even though there has only been a hand-full of confirmed cases in Gabon and one death (as of Friday 20 March, the gov’t has wasted no time in shutting down schools, etc. and asking that there be no group gatherings of more than 10 people.  So, Gabon is going after this pretty hard!  All passenger transport (boat, ground, air) are prohibited, except for medical or cargo reasons.

Cancelled Flights

All of the foreign visitors to the Bongolo Hospital have had to cancel their trips.  They are a vital part of the life of the hospital, many of them bringing needed medical materials as well as expertise in some of the training programs, plus needed relief and help for the team that serves here full time.  Also- we transport them with our aircraft, so that means a lot of flights are canceled.  So, please pray for our team as we will definitely be feeling these losses.
"Snow Fence" in Africa?!?  Yes! The fence to control foot traffic to a check-in station at the Bongolo Hospital.
Emergency Needs

The hospital is doing a bit of scrambling to ensure that we have enough stock, especially personal protective gear for our team, so that we can get through this time.  Just last evening, there was a bit of a race to reach out and find someone that lives in the Allentown, PA area to pick up some emergency supplies from a ministry there.  Thanks to the Eastern PA C&MA District Leadership (thanks Pastor Nate Howard!), we were able to find a friend in Allentown (Thanks Dr. Paul K.!) to make a connection with the generous people at Through These Hands ministries so that Bongolo Hospital will get the medical material they need.  Through the blessing of technology, this all came together in about 30 minutes!!!  Please pray that we can find a way to get it to the Hospital... likely DHL to Gabon, then perhaps our mission aircraft from the capital city to the jungle. 

Will We Fly?!?

So, some other flights may pick up as the country will be looking for Covid-19 tests to be transported from the various collection points around the country to the main testing center in the far east of the country.  Although we are not happy about a pandemic, if our aviation services can be used to bless this region of the world, then that’s why we’re here.  We're praying that many can sense God's love and comfort for our broken world, through our words and deeds.

New Protocols- New Normal

The hospital has already changed it’s protocols and has roped off a lot of the property to control foot traffic- all people pass by a check-in station where they get temperature checked as well as other symptoms checked.  A portion of the hospital that was just emptied out when the new eye clinic was opened (what timing!), so that has become our quarantine area.  We are also discussing/implementing enhanced protocols for any medical flights that are requested- the last thing we want is to transport sicknesses that are contagious.
Down time = Good time for some aircraft TLC!

Return to the US?

Some have asked if it would be better for us to return to the US.  The simple answer is "no".  Traveling all that way would expose us so much more than staying put and riding it out.  Additionally, as we travel, we could unwittingly become carriers and make life a lot more challenging for others, especially those we love most.  So, we're in a great place, even though, in times like this, you'd really rather be with your whole family.  We do keep regular touch with family as the internet allows, which has been more and more difficult, but still possible.

We were set to return to the US for our son, Sam's, graduation from San Diego State Univ. graduation, however, that event, like all others, has been called off for the time being.  So, our plans for being in the US in May and a bit of June, followed by an organizational conference in Spain, are all looking like they will need to be postponed.  That's a big loss and we'll be doing a bit of grieving... we were really looking forward to seeing our kids, family, friends, and connecting with others.  On May 30th, we were to lead a regional cross-cultural training event, hosted at our home church, York Alliance, but that is also likely to be postponed or cancelled.  So... lots of losses.

However... Treasure Hunt!

However, during this time, we're doing a lot of reflection.  Psalm 91 and 23 are great places to go for some meditation.  Our "plan A" may be going down the tubes, but, as I have told many others, the reality of what is before us, each day, has been God's plan A for today.  There are "hidden treasures" to be discovered.  Our dear friends, Sam and Ashley, once gave us this picture of keeping our eyes open, always, for these treasures, which makes everyday a "Treasure Hunt"! 

So... Enjoy your Treasure Hunt everyone!


Steve and Alace