31 December 2018

Welcome to the Mercy Air blog . . . . . please scroll down for new posts

Let us introduce ourselves.

Mercy Air is a Christian, non-profit organisation based in South Africa. We operate two fixed wing aircraft (Cessna 310 and a Quest Kodiak) and a two Airbus Group AS350 helicopters.

We operate out of a 600m (2000 ft) airstrip near White River in the eastern part of South Africa.
This blog is a collection of news and trip updates designed to compliment the Mercy Air web page, Face Book group and other mailed newsletters. Click on a year and read from bottom to top and it should give you a good idea of what we do.

12 April 2018

Flying For Life - Dental Project

Mercy Air recently continued flying in support of Flying For life, this time taking a dental team up to a special needs centre in a very rural part of the Limpopo province in the north of South Africa.

Again, a very early start was required
Although the team was mainly dental Patrick, an artist also volunteered his time to work with the children.
Getting to know Patrick on the flight up
The team on landing at Tshikondeni

The centre was reached after a two hour flight and a 45 min drive through the drizzle and low cloud on muddy dirt roads in an old taxi. It still saved a three day round trip by road from Johannesburg though!
Parents bring their special needs children to the centre daily, while they are at work. Funding is being sought to upgrade the centre, which is barely large enough for the children they look after.

The dentists work through "Smile of Joy', an organisation founded to work with the underprivileged and special needs children.

First the children had a check-up to see what work needed to be done.

 Before the dentist saw them.
As the dentists were setting up, our resident artist Patrick started painting the outline sketch of the centre for the kids to 'colour in'.
 Meanwhile, in the dentists chair....
Eish, makes you shiver! But lasting relief is not far away

The waiting kids getting some colour on the wall
All the equipment was taken up in suitcases, which were then just opened out on a couple of chairs to work from.

A picture of the team with the kids and the wall painting at the end, perhaps giving some idea of the cramped conditions there was to work in.
We flew back at night to a local airport and collected the Kodiak the following day. This did allow for a photo-opp with our 310 showing the matching paint scheme.

Thank you.


For the Mercy Air team.

20 February 2018

Moz Medevac

After the big 16 hour day that was the cataract flight two days before (previous blog post), we were expecting a catch up in the office day on Monday.

That plan changed when the phone rang early on Monday morning with a request for a medevac out of Beira, Central Mozambique.

Brian, a mission doctor at a teaching hospital in Beira, said his daughter Eden had a suspected ruptured appendix and needed surgery in South Africa. Scheduled airlines couldn't take her and it was a two day drive on less than impressive roads. Could we help?

We've been flying to Mozambique for almost 30 years so we had the contacts to get the necessary permits. It didn't take too long before we were on our way. Even with the official paperwork, fueling and having to clear customs and immigration, we still managed to land in Beira by early afternoon.

On the descent we noticed quite a lot of flooding.
We met Brian and Eden and arranged for her transport out to the aircraft. We were on the ground less than an hour with the Moz paperwork and fueling done, before setting sail again back to South Africa.

Brian, being a doctor, took care of any medical needs Eden had during the flight.

There's always room for a pic of range and terrain information we have available to us during the flight.
500 miles later, Eden went straight to hospital for surgery after we landed in South Africa.
The following photos were taken in the hospital by Brian in the hospital.

And this one soon after Eden's discharge a few days later.
Thank you.


For the Mercy Air team.

18 February 2018

Sight Flight SA

Mercy Air recently resumed its association with MAF and Flying For Life.

MAF South Africa created Flying For Life in 2011 to meet the needs of isolated south Africans living in rural areas.

Today countless people in South Africa don’t just live in poverty but they are also cut off from the institutions that exist to address their needs, by difficult or dangerous terrain. It's not just that they are born into less-fortunate circumstances, but their location deprives them of the opportunity to change that.

Mercy Air and Flying for Life enable medical professionals, early childhood development trainers, social development specialists and other non-profit organisations to reach communities in need.

On this occasion we picked up a team of volunteer ophthalmologists in Johannesburg and flew them to a rural hospital in Thohoyandou in the Limpopo district of South Africa to perform cataract surgery on 18 patients. This saved them a 12 - 14 hour round trip drive over what would probably have been three days.

It still meant a very early start for us though to get to Jhb in the first place.
On landing on Thohoyandou a minibus was waiting to take us to the hospital 45 mins away.
On our arrival we 'trollied' all our equipment into the theater.
Out in the corridor the support staff prepped the patients...
... and did a few tests to work out what prescription implant lenses they needed.
In the theater each cataract procedure only took about 20-30 mins, but it made a lifetime of difference to each person involved.

Very interesting and quite a privilege to get this close to some life changing moments for many people.
We were even able to help a bit - under strict supervision!

A sobering sign on one of the noticeboards in the corridor. Please never let us need a black sticker for a very long time!
We left a little late in order to fit as many procedures in as possible.

The strip in Thohoyandou was tar but hasn't seen much regular use for a long time. The main activity it seems were the local kids who danced for us on the threshold as we prepared to take off. Health and safety - for who!
One of the guys who flew with us had his PPL and aspirations to use aviation in a mission context in the future. It was good to chat 'all things flying' on the way back.
We dropped the team off in Jhb just at sunset and therefore had to fly back to Nelspruit at night.
The bright lights of Jhb - soon gave way to the blackness of Mpumalanga
Thank you.


For the Mercy Air team.

29 November 2017

ASAM Mucombeze, Mosambique

Last week Mercy Air took a team up to the ASAM mission base just north of Chimoio, Mozambique. As we went in our Kodiak aircrat we were also able to offer a couple of seats to Hands@Work to enable some of their guys to visit their own projects.

The standard 'here's us on the way up' photo.
We do sometimes forget just how big Africa is at times - till we look out of the window on flights like these.

Landing at ASAM in the bush in the middle of almost nowhere.
Unpacking the aircraft. Its load carrying capacity is pretty impressive.
Sharp teeth, lethal sting, lightening reflexes and the appetite of a raging carnivore are all things the African Killer Snail does not have. Still flippin' big though.
There were various aspects to our visit but the main one was for some of our group to help with the twice yearly intensive pastor training that ASAM has been running for many years. There are only so many interesting 'action' photos one can take of a meeting so we will leave it at the introduction shot at the beginning of the course. Safe to say that Nigel and Erin delivered twelve talks during the week and were well received by the pastors, some who had travelled up to three days to attend.
Meanwhile, it was litchi harvest time! That meant for the rest of us picking and sorting about 10 tons of the fruit into various categories for sale. ASAM inherited a small litchi orchard when they moved onto the farm ten years ago and now harvest the fruit to raise some capital to fund their education and medical projects.
Some of us walked to the airstrip in the 'cool' of the morning one day and came upon this dung beetle with it's - well, dung I suppose! Fortunatley this wasn't the African Killer variety - just a normal one!
So, we were all happily beavering on with various jobs when one morning we got a call to say that a 70 year old Brazilian missionary, Josiah, had been taken ill and needed urgent transport to the capital Maputo for surgery. They knew ASAM had a small Cessna 182 and wondered if they could possibly help. As the patient needed to lie down and would also be accompanied by his wife and a translator this was obviously not an option.

But, it just so happened that we were there at just the right time in the Kodiak and had enough fuel to easily do the flight. When the patient arrived we had the aircraft ready and were able to get going almost straight away.
Loading Josiah at ASAM
Josiah holding his wife's hand during the flight.
We got to fly down the border of Zimbabwe on the day that political history was made.
Zimbabwe about 10 miles away.
Less than three hours later we were in the capital Maputo, a journey that would have taken up to three days by road.
Downtown Maputo and the harbour.
Cathy and I helping to unload Josiah on the apron at Maputo.

We were too late to fly back to ASAM the same day so we had to overnight in Maputo with a friend we hadn't seen since our Lesotho days - it was good to catch up.

The next day it was quite toasty on the ground in Maputo...
 ... but it soon cooled to a more manageable 10 deg C at 13000 ft.
While we are singing the praises of our Kodiak aircraft it might be worth mentioning its range. We tanked it up out of Maputo and this pic was taken just under an hour into the flight and shows its range and endurance - the dotted green circe with 45 mins fuel left and the solid green circle when it becomes a glider.
Back at ASAM, normal bush life continued. If you want internet, go and sit outside the office during the hours the generator is running.
Help feed the pets in the evening. I believe this is a Duiker - or something similar!
The week ended and we headed back in what ended up being rather inclement weather. This was the first we saw of the ground and the airport four miles away (about two minutes from landing) after over an hour of flying in a cloud.
Thank you.

Paul and Cathy, for the Mercy Air team.