Joey Martin in the left seat of the Caravan. A happy young man.
It has been great fun over the last few weeks to be checking Joey Martin out in the Caravan. He has already been flying in Congo for some years now so knows the area with it’s airstrips, operations, weather patterns, dealing with officials and even some of the Caravan limitations and flight planning since he has been doing scheduling. This made things goes much better than average.
Joey ties down a stretcher patient in the back of the Caravan as the curious crowd watches.
We had some good Medivac flights and opportunities to work with weather and mountains and check out new and improved airstrips never before used by a Caravan so that was also great. He will have over 50 hours in type after his next flight and will be off on his own. I know he looks very young. People are always asking “why the boy is wearing a pilot uniform” or “is he still in school” and I say he is already married with a child and is almost 30 years old and they shake their heads in disbelief. Maybe it is because they are used to looking at someone much older…and distinguished. (There has to be some advantage to this state.)
Martijn and Stan do an Indy pit crew tire change to help me through my day.
We got an emergency email from our home office in Nampa saying that there had been an accident in Irian with one of the Caravans there having a flat tire on landing. It was caused by a small “patch” inside the tire that, if not removed, would eventually cause a leak in the tube. We were to get this checked immediately so I had to add another couple of hours to my long flying day and go over to Uganda to our maintenance facility and get one of the tires changed. They were all ready for my arrival and quickly got the old tire off and the other one on just like a pit crew at the Indy 500.
A wall of young chimpanzees getting their morning milk supplement.
I was then off to Bukavu, Kama and Kipaka but could only fit in the one trip to Kipaka and had to stay overnight in Bukavu. The people at the Chimp Sanctuary were very kind to let me stay there again and I saw some of the many chimps I have brought there over the years.
We were up early the next day to get a planeload of medicine and supplies to the hospital in Kipaka and then take another planeload of people over to Kama for the anniversary celebration of the life of a pioneer missionary and now 7 generations of that family who have served the Lord there for more than 60 years. The extended Vinton Family still help to run the hospital in Kipaka and teach in Bukavu as well. It is quite a story.
The Vinton family celebrating some 60 years of serving Congo
One of the young girls was trying to pick a university and had to write a “story of my life” type of thing for scholarships but was puzzling over what to write about. She had just been telling me how they had to ride in the Russian Antinov’s for a while after MAF moved out of the area. She said that she had to lie on the top of a huge pile of un-tied down cargo with her face about 12 inches from the roof as they bounced over the mountains to their destination. No seat belt, or even a seat for that matter. She pointed out the wreckage of the latest Antinov crash along our route that had caused her dad to make the decision to have MAF come all the way from Bunia to provide a level of safety that was more acceptable. I told her that this would be a good part of the story of her life which she should write, and she did. She sent me her story and I was there later when she got some acceptance letters from a couple of universities, including Harvard.
Tuna trees blooming with white flowers over the Ituri forest signaling Butterfly season.
I had some passengers back to Epulu
Hundreds of butterflies still cluster on the walls after most took flight at my touch.
and as we flew over the forest we saw the Tuna trees flowering white in the normal green canopy. This is a sign that it is butterfly season and when we landed and drove to the station clouds of butterflies rose from the road as we passed. There were also many on the ground and buildings at the station. It is wonderful to put your hand into a group of hundreds of butterflies and watch them flutter by.