Captain’s Log-January 8 2017- Return Service


Took 3 trips to South Africa to take planes for paint and bring them back to return to service. Each trip is about 15 hours of flying over beautiful country. More on this later, but got to see a lot of our old stomping grounds as well as see many good friends. Cher even got to go along a couple times. That was a treat!

It is hard to believe it has been 7 months since I have written. Since it has been such a long time between blogs I will just catch you up with a few pix and then give you lots of fun stories over the next few weeks to bring you up to speed. It is not that nothing has been happening, but more too much has been happening to have time to write. But as Christmas has wound down and I have a chance to breathe, it seems more fun to get going again telling some of the fascinating things that happen around us in Congo. I may even get the bush pilots wife to tell a few stories. That would be fun. So, here are some pix.


While I was gone on one trip, Cher was brought a snake in a sack. She didn’t know what it was till she dumped it out into a bucket and found a very poisonous Puff adder. They are beautiful and fast striking but slow moving across the ground and will often wait along paths to catch rats. So people step on them in the dark and get bit. Puff adders probably kill more people than any other snake in Africa. The snake was so beautiful that she kept it to show me upon my return. Although we love snakes and always have them around, we do not usually keep deadly snakes.


Very ingenious home made bicycle in the village of Tchabi where we landed to drop off a doctor for his work and pick up a pastor and patient for the hospital in Nyankunde. Kids will be creative to have fun all over the world. This is great.


Dave Jacobsson had his appendix out in the Nykankunde Hospital under a local anesthetic. His wife Donna assisted and Dr. Warren Cooper did the deed. He shows us the offending part as Dave gives the thumbs up in the background. I took the pictures. Ya can’t do that in America.


Kids in Epulu love to come to the plane to welcome me. They will chant, “Mazhee, Mazhee, Mazhee” (Magic), to get me to do some tricks. When we leave they all run to the end of the airstrip and stand behind the plane to get blown away by the prop blast as I power up to take off. There was only a small group this time.


Weighing out gold at Bungamuzi’s store. It is a serious process and men will work for days for $5, if they are lucky. Well, if they are really lucky they might find a nugget, but that is really rare. Bungamuzi, the shop keeper, was shot in a robbery months ago. It sparked more violence and four more people were killed before it was all over. This is the biggest store in our village, and you can see most of it in this picture. We shop here for much of our everyday things but get vegetables, beans, rice, meat etc. at an open air market.


Shiny new MAF paint scheme on the day I returned from the ferry flight from South Africa.


Posted in Amazing Africa, Life in Africa, Pilot | 10 Comments

Captain’s Log-28 May 2016- Searching for Downed Aircraft

The calls started coming in on Tuesday morning saying that a plane was lost and suspected down in the huge Ituri rain forest about 130 nautical miles west of Kisangani. Would we send a plane to the area to look for the downed plane? Of course, we will start getting ready but it will take a while and even we are so far away. Lots of calls to our brothers in Kinshasa to see if they are closer but, we are definitely willing to go.

Imagine looking for an aircraft in this kind of forest for and area of 850 square nautical miles.  It is a daunting task.

Imagine looking for an aircraft in this kind of forest for an area of 850 square nautical miles. It is a daunting task.

It is a Turbo Thrush, crop duster on a ferry flight from Kenya to Cameroon. The pilot had just fueled up in Kisangani and had over 2000 liters of Jet fuel on board for the 8 hour flight. The plane had just installed spider tracks, which is a satellite tracking system that shows where the plane is every 2 minutes. It also has a feature where the pilot can push a button alerting that there is an emergency but this had not been done. Along with the tracking stopping, the Emergency Locater Transmitter (ELT) was not sending a signal. This radio is set off by a sudden stop and transmits an alarm that other pilots can hear on the emergency frequency, 121.5. These signs were not hopeful but the MAF guys got our 206 fueled and loaded with survival stuff to drop to the pilot and our search and rescue kit ready. With all this done, Dave Jacobsson and I flew off to find the missing plane. It was over 3 hours just to get into the search area from where we were, but we took some extra fuel so we could do as much searching as possible and for the trip back.

Kids at the Lokutu airstrip happy to play with me as we waited to get permission to leave after landing.

Kids at the Lokutu airstrip happy to play with me as we waited to get permission to leave after landing.

As we got into the area we descended down to a good search altitude, about 1000 feet due to the thickness of the trees. It was a bit high, (800 might have been better), but we only had the two of us and I had to fly the plane first. I have done a bunch of game counting and 300 feet is best for that, but that is in clearer areas without 100 foot high trees and thick undergrowth. We went to the last known co-ordinates and set up an expanding square search pattern. We were asked to search out to 5 miles, which we did with nothing seen. We spaced out 1 mile squares which is normal but doesn’t take into account the thickness of this forest. We finished the first run and then went back to the last transmitted site and started again. This time we slanted the transects 45 degrees with the hope of covering any gaps we might have had on our first search pattern and to give us different light and angles of looking.   Still we found nothing. There was an airstrip for a palm nut plantation about 27 miles away, so we headed there to refuel and see what we should do from there. We fueled but it was getting late, so Dave went to town while I looked after the plane. He didn’t come back for 2 hours. And it was all due to the bureaucracy of Congo, with immigration, police, security, chiefs and all the people hoping to make a buck from someone else’s bad fortune. We finally stayed the night at the Catholic mission guesthouse and hoped to get started early in the morning. People were there before 6:30 to “help us with paperwork…and payment”. First we had to check into the country just as if we had come internationally, pay for a first entry information form and then go to meet with the all other government offices to pay. We finally got in the air at 9:00 a.m. to start the search again. The night before we had gotten word of an unconfirmed report that villagers had seen the plane on the ground about 29 miles from us, almost 10 miles from the last spider track site. It didn’t make sense but we went there to start the second day’s search. We were told the plane was close to a river south of the village of Yahuma. We flew up and down the two streams south of town and then flew patterns across the streams. Then we flew over the village and people in front of the government building all pointed in the direction of the area we had flown. The forest is so thick all around but in this area people were clearing fields, cutting down trees and burning, which really threw us off as we had to check each clearing and fire to see if it was the plane. We were running out of fuel for searching but thought we would fly the route between this new area and the last sited coordinates again so headed off in that direction. It was just a tenth of a mile short of 10 miles and we searched in river areas as we went with no joy. We circled the last sited coordinates one more time but were thinking that since the people had already found the plane on the ground it was a waste of time and fuel to continue. As we were now running short of fuel, we flew the 3+ hours back to Nyankunde with a huge respect for the size of the forest and the thickness of the trees.

Trees for as far as the eye can see, right off the horizon.  and one little airplane is somewhere out there.  And what if we had no idea where to start.  But we had a last known position and that make all the difference.

An ocean of trees for as far as the eye can see, right off the horizon, and one little airplane is somewhere out there. What if we had no idea where to start looking. But we had a last known position and that make all the difference. I know it is a boring picture but that is what we were seeing for hours as we searched.

The team from Kenya was coming in by Caravan and would be in Kisangani by noon to walk in to the crash. Emmanuel was also flying up from Virunga in his Cessna 182. That was great because he should have better results with the government people because of his position with parks. We wished we could be a part and finish what we started, but we were out of fuel and it appeared that the situation was under control. As it turned out, it was not. There was still much government red tape to work through for the Kenya team and when they got to Lokutu and drove to the area where people had supposedly seen the plane they were told that people had heard it increase in pitch and then go quickly silent. They only had a general direction of the sound!

So the Caravan that had brought the people from Kenya got in the air and went to the initial area where contact was lost and started a search. They worked a very tight segment search and after 2 hours saw something. They could see an area of burn and a hole in the ground. A few scraps of stainless steel and that was about it. As they circled and the light changed, they made the comment that it would have been difficult to see the area from any other angle. The plane had gone almost straight in and exploded on impact. So no ELT, no more sat tracker and no more aircraft. All was lost, most tragically the pilot.

It is very sad to think that a husband and father will not come back to his wife and kids ever.   We want to learn from this and hopefully we can be safer at the end of the day.   The first thing is that we need to get Satellite trackers in ALL our aircraft as soon as we can. Not next year!   They had just installed the Spider Tracks unit in this plane for this flight. This was the first trip it had been on and if it had not been in the plane the company said they probably wouldn’t have even done a search. The search area would have been somewhere between Kisangani and Cameroon, a search area of almost 850 nautical miles. The fact that we were right over the sight of the crash at least twice but did not find it highlights the impossible task of an 850 square mile search area of thick forest like this. Because of the speed a Caravan goes, even with our standard HF radio calls done twice an hour, in a situation like this if our last call was a half hour ago we could have a search area of 75 nautical miles. That is a huge area. If we can get these trackers in all our aircraft we could be turning a search and rescue into a rescue.

The second thing we learned is that in thick forest the search patterns need to be very tight and we need to have more observers in the plane, at least 2 besides the pilots. This is in our SAR manual but we were going such a long distance to the search area and needed to take as much fuel as we could that we were limited to 2 people. We could not take our guys from Nyankunde all the way for the search. And stopping to pick up others in Lokutu would have, as we found out, stopped or put off the search.

We pray for the family of the pilot and plan to do all in our power to not need to use the experience we have gained from this event.

Posted in Aircraft, Pilot Technique | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Captain’s Log-May 15, 2016-Chimp Rescue-More Fun Than A Plane Full of Chimpanzees

Chimps all tied down....just before the great escape.

Chimps all tied down….just before the great escape.

It is always interesting to be reminded of things that I should have written down, but didn’t, so when an NBC crew recently reminded me of a very interesting day I had back in 2009 I decided it was worth relating. We were called to pick up a load of cargo in the middle of the forest, five chimpanzees that had been rescued from the pot by some very nice people, and we were to take them to the ICCN (Congo government national parks) sanctuary in Bukavu. It meant a lot of flying with no real place to fuel along the way, so Joey Lincoln and I filled the Caravan as full of fuel as we could and then put a couple more drums in the plane to refuel from when we got to Akethi.

A little dazed but ready for the big safari to the sactuary.

A little dazed but ready for the big safari to the sanctuary.

We landed to find a bit of a battle going on between a local “official” and the people we were picking up. He wanted thousands of dollars from them for the right to move the chimps. All their paperwork was already in order, but it was from the capital and we were not in the capital.   Some might wonder why our mission is flying wild animals, but MAF looks for opportunities to work with the country in ways that promote stability so we will fly teachers’ salaries and medical people and sometimes ballots for elections and even do wildlife conservation flying. I love this part of the work and meet many interesting people who I get to interact with.

Adam and Laura very happy to be up and away from the struggle. You can see the net over all the crates in the background.

Laura and Adam, very happy to be up and away from the struggle. You can see the net over all the crates in the background.

Anyway, we had a very long day and could not waste a lot of time so I told Joey to fill the plane with fuel while I loaded the chimps. We require animals to be in cages in the plane, and these were in cages, but they were hand made out of small boards and local materials from the bush so, even as we were loading, chimps were getting out. It was pretty hectic and the biggest chimp was very strong. It was a mission to get it back in the box even though the chimp was partially sedated. When she was finally back inside, I secured the cargo net over the whole lot and got everything else ready. While I was wrapping up, the “official” was “discussing” the movement permit validity closely with Laura, one of the rescuers. Like at a 2 inch distance from her nose. We decided to just leave our empty fuel drums there to be collected at a later time and, when the arguing seemed fairly finished we loaded the people and the last baby chimp. But just as we started to close the last door the officious man came back to say we were actually not done because he still wanted money. Joey told him we had to go due to time limitations, turned the master on and yelled, “Clear Prop”, hitting the starter for just a second. The men quickly got out of the way and we then truly started up and left. It was great to break ground and be on our way and Laura and Adam were visibly relieved to be out of there.

crowd of people with ICCN rangers greet the new arrivals for the sanctuary at Luero in Bukavu.

Crowd of curious people with ICCN rangers greet the new arrivals for the sanctuary at Luero in Bukavu.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. We were greeted by the ICCN Parks people at the destination airport and the chimps were safe. It was good to help these animals and be a part of helping Congo to succeed. The story is supposed to air on the early morning Sunday edition of the NBC Today show for those who would like to have a look. I have not seen it so I hope it is accurate. Check it out.  There are some beautiful shots of Congo in there and of our plane landing over the camera crew. It was an interesting and unusual day at the office.

I say goodbye to our new little friends  and wish them a great life.

I say goodbye to our new little friends and wish them a great life.

Posted in Adventure, Amazing Africa, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Captain’s Log-20 March 2016-Ndruna New Testament Dedication in Geti

The crowd was amazing. Over a thousand people packed together. Hard to get a good count in the churning mass but the chanting was wonderful to hear. They were very excited to receive the New Testament in their heart language.

The crowd was amazing. Over a thousand people packed together. Hard to get a good count in the churning mass but the chanting was wonderful to hear. They were very excited to receive the New Testament in their heart language.

It was an exciting day! We pilots are usually in the plane and see things from that perspective, so it was great to be on the dusty dirt road and on our way to Geti where the big celebration to dedicate the brand new Ndruna New Testament was scheduled to start at 9:00 AM. Dave, Donna and Andrew Jacobsson, as well as Drs. Warren and Lindsey Cooper and their little son Emmanuel, were in the Land Cruiser as we drove to meet up with the big bus load of SIL workers and translators along with other special guests. We were to meet at the intersection out of Bunia and join up for a UN escort into the area, as only Monday there had been a bandit attack on the road and 2 people had been killed. As we bumped down the road at 6:00 I got a call from Maryanne saying that the bus had not showed up yet. The driver had a hard Saturday and the bus company was looking for a new one. So we carried on past our planned rendezvous point enroute to Bogoro. It is a lovely, climbing road into the mountains that fall away into the Albertine Rift and we slowed to enjoy all the sights. Someone had put up a new cement signpost marking a place where Stanley had camped in his trek across the continent. We got to Bogoro and went to the old German Daguna mission station, which is now the UN camp, where we were to pick up our escort. We walked around the camp to the old mission guesthouse overlooking the valley below and then were invited in to the Bangaladeshi officers’ hut for some coffee and biscuits while we waited for the escort to assemble themselves. By that time the bus had showed up and we set off. We were only 2 hours and a bit late by the time we got there and the crowd was huge. They began chanting out a song for the occasion as we were carried away by the throng to the front. People were dancing and singing and celebrating wonderfully.

Unpacking the new boxes and presenting the first Ndruna Bibles to the people.

Unpacking the new boxes and presenting the first Ndruna Bibles to the people.

There was special singing and preaching and then the first box of Ndruna New Testaments was brought up to be dedicated. All the pastors prayed over them and then the first box was opened with great ceremony. People groups were called forward to receive a copy; a representative of the women, the youth, the police, politicians and so on, and they went away celebrating. After these presentations different people would read a portion of scripture and, with great excitement, hear the words in their heart language. It was a fine moment to be a part of.

groups who received the first New Testaments read from them with great joy.

Groups who received the first New Testaments read from them with great joy.

It doesn’t take much time under plastic tarps before one is way too hot!   I could feel myself becoming dehydrated so I slipped out for a bit and went to our vehicle where I had some water in a cooler box. Dr. Warren and Emmanuel followed with the idea of getting Emmanuel a bit of rest. But that was out of the question with 100’s of kids crowding around the car to see the little blonde boy who was unafraid and willing to jump into the pile of them.

Emmanuel Cooper enjoys playing with a hundred kids. He is fearless, so everyone has a good time.

Emmanuel Cooper enjoys playing with a hundred kids. He is fearless, so everyone has a good time.

There was also a group beside the car with traditional drums, animal horn bugles, spears and sticks. Most were the elders of the community. One of the SIL people had told us to bring our dancing shoes as the WanGiti love to dance. And dance they did, all wanting their picture taken. I had thought this was to be part of the dedication, but it was not. I love African drums and their dancing reminded me of the Tonga people along the lake shore of Kariba in Zimbabwe.

Old women from the village wanted their picture as they rushed at me with their sticks held like spears pointed at my chest.

Old women from the village wanted their picture as they rushed at me with their sticks held like spears pointed at my chest.

A huge swirling mass of people stomping up dust as they chant with their spears and sticks in the air. I imagine in the old days it would have all been spears and very intimidating warriors instead of the elders. But it was still a bit spooky to watch the old women come at me with their sticks held like spears aimed at my chest and them back away into the crowd to be followed by another group coming up with spears poised to puncture me. The present day “warriors” were still in the hills around us and we had to get home through their area before dark.

The elders from the village performing traditional dances in the dust. Incredible.

The elders from the village performing traditional dances in the dust. Incredible.  A step back in time.

We had a nice meal and, as we all know, “Everything takes longer than it takes,” so the UN convoy vehicles were late and we started out without them, passing them on the road about 15 minutes outside of the village. We told them to go there to get the bus that was still loading up and we carried on in the Land Cruiser. As we got back over the hills to Bogoro it was as if we could breathe freely again, being safely out of the most dangerous area. We made it back home before dark having thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Traditional Drums of wonderful quality and Roam antelope horns to blow as they dance.

Traditional Drums of wonderful quality and Roan antelope horns to blow as they dance.

It was great to remember that MAF had been a part of this 20+ year project from its very beginning and right through the hard times of the fighting.   MAF men before us had started and we got to be part of the finishing. In many ways it did not seem fair for us to get to be at the very satisfying and enjoyable end instead of them. But it was a good reminder that we don’t always get to see the end result of the role we play in God’s plans. There is a bigger picture and we might get to write a few lines in the story, doing our job as best we can with maybe the end not even in sight, knowing that we may hand the baton on to another who gets to cross the finish line. That is enough. None of this is for our glory anyway. Every one of us wanted to turn it back onto God.   But, I would love to make him smile.

Posted in Adventure, Cuture, Life in Africa, Mission | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Captain’s Log-18-3-2016-Plane Rescue at Chiondo


Emmanuel flying to Chiondo to fix the Virunga Cessna 206. Antony is resting in the back.

It was a great day. Emmanuel and Antony showed up in the Parks Cessna 182 at 7:15, which meant they had left at first light. I jumped aboard and we flew off to the new Virunga airstrip at Chiondo, on the south shore of Lake Edward where weeks before the Parks Cessna 206 had a prop strike which grounded the plane there. This area is unlike the rainforest which we are usually flying over here and is more savannah with elephant, buffalo and hippo. It reminds me of Zimbabwe and I love coming here. But this wasn’t just a sentimental journey. After the prop strike occurred the Mai Mai militia had attacked the position in heavy numbers and the base had been overrun. Three Rangers were captured and summarily executed. It was a terrible time. The army and Parks Rangers retook the position, but the militia was never far away. Leaving the 206 sitting there was an invitation to another attack, so a new prop was acquired and I was asked to help install it. Our goal was just getting the plane out of the area so that it would not be destroyed. It was amazing that the plane had only sustained minor damage. As it was, the militia had broken out windows, forced open doors and ripped off parts of the cowling, as well as stealing all the headsets and some other things in the plane. We originally thought there was some sabotage as the oil cap had been left off after they removed and then replaced the cowling. After inspecting closely, there was no sign of gravel or other sign of anything put in.


Propeller blade bent after the nose wheel sank into the soft dirt of a termite mound on the newly build airstrip.

We got the old prop off quickly and the army guys helped bring out the new prop crate and we readied the new prop for installation. I had brought a gauge to check the run-out on the crankshaft after the strike and you are allowed .005 out of perfect. We had .001. This was good news. The strip was very soft, the engine had been running a idle when the prop hit and it had not stopped too suddenly so all of this indicated it was good for the 15minute ferry flight to Rumangabo. We went to start up and the battery, although running a few instruments, was not strong enough to even engage the fuel pump, let alone the starter.   I then tried hand propping the plane for quite a while with no success.


Windows and door handle broken out by militia. Quite amazing that there was not more damage.

Emmanuel and I flew off to Rumangabo to get the spare 12volt battery and another 12volt jump-start cart thing to see if that would help. After dropping the Section Warden off at Rwindi we were soon back at Chiondo and ready to go again. We had some good jumper cables so when we got back we got everything ready to jump-start. But we could not even get fuel pressure to pump up to normal, let alone turn the engine over. We figured there must be some over-voltage protection in the start cart, so got the battery out of the C182 for the jump. Because we were trying to make 24 volts out of two 12volt batteries, we had to jump between the positive and negative posts of the batteries and then jump from the positive post of one battery and the negative of the other to get the 24 volts we needed. We didn’t have enough cables so Anthony went over to the security fence and cut a length of razor wire and I Vise-gripped it to the positive post of one battery and negative of the other. It worked to get the fuel pump up to the proper speed and get fuel to the engine, but it still would not turn to engine over. There was a problem with wiring or the starter solenoid. So we took the whole jumper setup to the other side of the plane and started over, connecting it all directly to the starter. It flung the prop at a rapid speed, but still the engine would not start. We had lost the prime. We had to move the whole setup back to the other side of the plane again and re-prime the engine, this time flooding it on purpose and giving us time to get back around to the other side of the plane to set up for a start. The engine turned over great but even though I leaned the mixture and advanced the throttle it still didn’t start before I became concerned that we might burn up the starter from running it too long. I got out and asked Antony to try, as he had been flying this plane and knew its particular traits. He got in and I connected the jumper to the starter and within two turns the engine fired up and ran beautifully. It had only needed to get rid of a bit more fuel from its system. Now we had the cowling off and the engine running and we didn’t want to shut down after all of this so, against every common practice, I very carefully put the cowl back on with Emmanuel, standing in line with the running prop, giving me hand signals as to how much space was between the spinning prop and my hand.   There was always a good 8 inches or more and I hung onto the handle at the back of the firewall so I was as safe as I could be. Not something I would want to repeat often, but under the circumstances, it had to be done. We cleaned everything up and Anthony took off down the airstrip to fly the short 15minute trip back to safety in Rumangabo. As I put the battery back in the C182 and got it all ready to go, I noticed Antony had come to a stop sideways at the far end of the runway. Not good.   We thought the worst, that the prop had sunk in again, so Emmanuel and some of the guys headed down to see what the problem was. He had bogged down in some of the soft soil, which is what had caused the prop strike in the first place, and was afraid to power out of it. The guys helped push him out and got him going. It was great to see him get off the ground and on the way. We then started up quickly and got on the radio to make sure Antony was doing well…and he was. By the time we were off, had climbed to altitude and crossed Lake Edward, he was on the ground safely at Rumangabo.


Emmanuel, Antony and myself with some of the soldiers at Chiondo after we got the prop installed but before we tried to start it. A bit early on the celebration.

We had a nice flight back to Nyankunde and, although it had taken 3-4 more hours than expected, it was a wonderful day for me. After dropping me at home, Emmanuel still had the hour and a half flight back to Rwindi for a parade with his Parks staff there before returning to Rumangabo. It was a very long day for him. He is a strong man and has recovered wonderfully after being shot in the stomach, liver and lungs just over a year ago. You can see some of that story on “Virunga, the Movie” on Netflix. It was nominated for an Oscar last year.


Antony finally taking off for Rumangabo after a long day of working on the plane. It was great see it airborne.

These guys are all so generous and they thanked me over and over for “saving their airplane” from certain destruction.   But they are the real heroes of conservation and my hat is off to them. In the end, it was another beautiful day at the office.

Posted in Adventure, Aircraft, Life in Africa | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Captain’s Log-8 March 2016-Gorilla Family and Me

Flying with Gordan Buckanan on shots for Gorilla Family and Me.

Flying with Gordan Buckanan for “Gorilla Family and Me”.  Smile, he’s taking your picture.

Last year I flew Gordon Buchanon and a BBC film crew into Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to shoot a series on a gorilla family there. It is always great to meet these guys who are very gifted at capturing the hidden life of animals that people just don’t usually get the chance to see. We had the crew up at our house for a nice evening under the stars and supper with friends. We did some aerial photography the next day and managed to get some great shots of the plane in the process.

Morning mist over the forest.

Morning mist over the forest.

The clips I have seen on line of the show on BBC Two are amazing and I can’t want to see the rest of the series. It really captures some of the beauty of Congo. You should check it out.

The team recently came back for a few more shots in the park and they shared a few pix of the plane with me. I like them. What do you think?

Over the forest in 9Q-CUI

Above the Ituri in 9Q-CUI

Coming back in to land at Nyankunde.

Coming back in to land at Nyankunde.

Posted in Adventure, Amazing Africa, Pilot stuff, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Captain’s Log-31December 2015-Barn Raising African Style

Many people working to make this all come together.  Great to be a part of the community.

Many people working together to make a home. Great to be a part of the community.

Some of our family friends and co-workers here in Nyankunde are Kazi and Leoni. They have been building their house, a lovely woven reed structure with a proper tin roof, for a while now and Tuesday it was time for the whole community to come together and “mud the house”. This is much like a barn-raising in the old days in the States. The church, community, friends and family all take part in the labor and festivity.

Jon and Josh in the background throwing mud.  Gabe is there but not in the picture.

Jon and Josh in the background throwing mud. Gabe is in there somewhere but not in the picture.

Gabe with other kids were having a great day.  full permission to be as muddy as they like!  What fun.

Here’s Gabe with other kids having a great day. Full permission to be as dirty as they like! FUN.

Kazi shows Cher some of what is goiong on inside the house.  It is the men's area for the most part as mud is flying.  Women bring a continual stream of water for keeping the mud at the right mixture.  They stop at the door.

Kazi explains to Cher what each different room inside the house will be used for. Men are doing the work in here for the most part as mud is flying freely. Women bring a continual stream of water for keeping the mud at the right mixture. They stop at the door. But my sister Lu was there to take pix.

When we arrived mid-morning the work was already well under way with hundreds of people of all ages involved. The noise level was high with laughter and loud conversations competing with the sounds of people working strenuously. Men and boys were mixing, stuffing and slinging mud into every crack and crevasse, both inside and out, of the house’s woven hollow walls and calling loudly, “Leta maji!” (Bring water!) Women carried water to be added to achieve the right mud consistency or chatted in large groups on the ground. There is never a shortage of children in an African village and no self-respecting child would pass up a day of sanctioned mud wallowing. Groups of kids hovered everywhere, sometimes working, sometimes watching or playing in the wide, low water tank made for the occasion. Our family came along with us and other MAFers took part as well. Sandals and flip flops were discarded as a hindrance because the mud just built up on the bottoms turning them into platform shoes. I suspect the whole throwing mud thing between us may not have been a normal part of the usual work day, but everybody sure laughed and joined in when we weren’t looking. There were great opportunities for mud wrestling but we let those slide by. The littlest MAF baby, Caleb Hensen, was very popular with the ladies and got passed around quite a bit.

Women bringing water for mixing mud and cleaning.

Women bringing buckets of water for mixing mud and cleaning.

Raeleigh working on the outside of the house and having a great time.

Raeleigh working on the outside of the house and having a great time.

The ladies are all enjoying little Caleb and he was passed around liberally.

The ladies all enjoyed little Caleb and he was passed around liberally.

Jon, Kazi and Lioni in front of the house at a tea break.  Wow, clean hands!

Jon, Kazi and Leoni in front of the house at a tea break. Wow, clean hands!

One of our MAF wives getting into the day and somehow managing not to get any mod on the flower in her hair or her sunglasses.  way to go Hayley Hensen.

One of our MAF wives getting into the day and somehow managing not to get any mud on the flower in her hair or her sunglasses. Way to go Hayley Hensen.  Guess who was throwing the mud.

A community happening always includes a real feast at the end of the day and we supplied a pig for our part. The women had prepared masses of beans, rice, sombe and lots of piri piri sauce in tremendous great pots over open fires. Amazingly the whole, huge house was completely mudded by 2 PM and everyone joined together for the meal. It was truly wonderful to be part of such a joyful community happening like this. It’s just another example of why we love living in the village.

Josh and Jon enjoy some wonderful good after the work is finished.

Josh and I enjoy some wonderful food after the work is finished.

Jipe, kazi's son, enjoying the feast at the end of the day. Pork, beans, rice and sombe.  Ah, how wonderful.

JP, Kazi’s son, enjoying the feast at the end of the day. Pork, beans, rice and sombe. Ah, how wonderful.

Kazi's family in front of their home at the end of a hard day of work.  It was great to  be a part of it.

Kazi’s happy family in front of their mudded home at the end of a long hard day of work. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and it was great to be a part of the  community.



Posted in Cuture, Family, Life in Africa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Captain’s Log-25-12-2015-Christmas Joy With Family


The Family on Christmas morning with Duiker, Dogs, Chameleon, Parrot and people.

LUC_1440 (1024x684)

Gabe flying the remote control helicopter.

LUC_1453 (684x1024)

Tess trying to eat the helicopter. This was a gift from our friend Scott Canfield before we left the states. Not totally focused but there was lots of action going on.

We have some of our family with us in Congo this Christmas holiday and it is great! Josh and Audra and their kids Raeleigh and Gabriel, as well as my sister LuAnne, are here and we have had such fun. We have been showing them some of the beautiful surroundings, going on hikes in the hills behind the house, bird watching, having great things to eat, (the chocolate supplies have gone up radically since they came), Christmas carols, carving gifts out of lovely Congolese wood, trips to the village, flying little remote control helicopters, and even helping build a local house with mud.

LUC_2950 (1024x684)

Some of the Christmas cookies we decorated.

LUC_3130 (1024x684)

Cher, the love of my life. Still crazy after all these years…about each other.

Probably the most fun for me is taking the grandkids on flights and showing them what I have been doing for the last 30+ years as a bush pilot in Africa. We have had some great opportunities to help people together and I have been able to let them sit up front and teach them some things about flying. They are both quite good and we might have a future pilot or two on our hands.

LUC_1729 (1024x684)

The flaps are looking good. This preflight inspection is going well.

LUC_1754-2 (1024x684)

Gabe and I check the fuel on the preflight before taking off for Boga.

LUC_1745 (1024x684)

Yes, all is good up here. Just about ready to fly.

LUC_1778 (1024x684)

My co-pilot and I on the way to Boga in the Cessna 206. Unfortunately the weather got bad and we had to return to our base. We went in the afternoon in the Caravan. Gabe is very clever and figured out the GPS very quickly. Also very good with the flaps for landing and takeoff.

It has been a great Christmas season that we will remember for a long time to come.

LUC_3178 (1024x684)

Raeleigh and I fly the Caravan to Burasi to pick up a sick person. My sister Lu is along and taking the brilliant photos.

LUC_3402 (1024x684)

Raeleigh’s hands on the controls. 

LUC_3297 (1024x684)

Landing at Burasi over the Semliki River. We saw so big killer crocs.

LUC_3313 (1024x684)

Raeleigh sits in the doorway as she waits for me to brief pax and make sure everyone is in their seats.

LUC_3375 (1024x684)

Over the escarpment to the Semliki River. Reminds me of the Zambezi valley but a bit more water and sadly, the wildlife has been gone for some years with the fighting.

Posted in Amazing Africa, Family, Holiday, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

iPad Falls from Aircraft Over Congo and Survives!

Dawson Tanner reunited with his skydiving iPad. He was very happy.

Dawson reunited with his skydiving iPad. He was very happy.

Pilots these days are really depending more on technology these days and iPads are becoming norm with EFB’s or Electronic Flight Bags installed.  They have everything from flight logs and  weight and balance sheets to strip charts and Pilot operating handbooks.  My friend Dawson Tanner was checking out the MAF airstrip at Nyankunde and taking a picture from the opened window in the pilot’s door with his iPad Mini and flew calmly back to Bunia where his plane is based some of the time. As he got out of the Twin Otter, he noticed that the iPad was not in the case and he quickly called me to ask if I could send out search parties to look for it. It was night by then but I told people the next morning and I guess there were a lot of people looking. About 10 days later and after lots of rain, a guy came to me and said he had found it. He said it was still working and we talked a long time about a reward and the whole group of searchers got involved. Dawson and I texted back and forth and finally we all settled on $75 and everyone was very happy. It was amazing that after falling from 1000 feet and landing in the forest and being rained on it was not only working but there was not a crack or scratch on it. I was flying around the country the next day and one of the times through Bunia I saw the Twin Otter sitting on the ramp so I called Dawson to come and pick up his iPad. He was very happy and kept saying “Wow. I can’t believe it!”

iPad Mini still working great after falling from 1000 feet to the ground from overhead Nyankunde, East Congo.

iPad Mini clearly working great, although disabled, after falling from 1000 feet to the ground overhead Nyankunde, East Congo.

Posted in Humor, Life in Africa, Pilot stuff | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Captain’s Log-November 28, 2015-Thanksgiving Day in Congo


Nice big turkeys that we picked up in Beni with the help of friends.

We were excited to see that there were turkeys for sale in Beni and since we had a trip down there the week before Thanksgiving some of the guys ordered a bunch. Joel Hensen and I picked them up and brought them back to Nyankunde. But, in the end, it was thought that they needed a bit of fattening up before they became dinner. I don’t know, they seemed pretty heavy to me. Maybe a little muscular. I guess fat is more tender!


Turkeys in the pod of the plane, ready to go and get fat.

Our MAF team and guests gathered together at our house and shared lots of food. Chickens worked well in place of turkeys and it felt very much like a traditional Thanksgiving. We truly have so much to be thankful for: a beautiful place to live and work, relative peace and calm, fellowship with family and friends, food and shelter. We don’t have to look far to see the bounty God has blessed us with. We sang praises to our Lord and told him we were grateful. It was a lovely day.


We had the MAF East Congo team from Nyankunde for dinner as well as some friends, new and old. We had a great time together being thankful to our Lord.


A bit non-traditional Thanksgiving but Cher made elephant cookies along with pumpkin pies for dessert. Love elephants.  Very nice the next day in the plane.

Posted in Holiday | Tagged , , | 3 Comments