27 February 2013

Kodiak Ferry Update 8 - on their way.

At last the journey begins.

The last few days have seen us rushing around trying to get the last few details taken care of, some things like Spidertracks and Jeppesen Flight Charts still remain a challenge, but the hangar so graciously made available by GenTex of Holland Michigan, is now empty, the floors have been cleaned and all the tools and equipment have been removed. The plane is on it's way to a new home and new avenues of service.

Some close friends and family came on a cold blustery morning to see us off. An extremely large winter storm was moving in from the south and the signs were already at the airfield when we got there. Overcast skies and blustery icy winds kept everyone wrapped in coats and gloves. The kindness and warmth of faithful Mercy Air supporters was a real blessing and showed when they made the effort to come and see us off. The plane was refueled and preflighted before we all gathered together to pray. It was amazing that Ron's flight test happened a day early and we managed to get the chip detector problem repaired a day earlier and far quicker than getting it to Grand Rapids. The bad weather was moving in very rapidly and here was a window of opportunity to get things going earlier than schedule. As I write this now, the winds have started here and the rain has arrived. We are not sure if it will snow here, but this place is definitely warmer than Michigan!
 
 
The flight was uneventful, a little bumpy in places and a 45 kt headwind after departure made the controller at Grand Rapids ask if we were dragging floats! Gradually as we climbed and as the flight progressed, the headwinds slowly swung around to the south and we started making better time. 

Enjoy a few pictures of the Detroit Skyline vaguely in the distance and the frozen Lake Sinclair on the eastern side of Detroit.
 
 
 
An otherwise uneventful flight was made a bit more interesting when we were given a sudden change in routing into a small airfield in New Jersey for the Ferry Tank installation. We were given the routing and descent with the miles sliding by rapidly while we tried to figure out where these places were. It all worked out fine and another possible delay resulted in us finding out that the tank installation could be carried out a day earlier than planned due to another aircraft not arriving for a ferry tank installation.

Ron and I were kindly given a lift by another pilot to a car rental company and we drove to a place where we found a Holiday Inn with place for us. Initially we did not know where we were, but for those of you who are interested, it is a little town called East Windsor, in New Jersey, about 11km from the airport. We have no idea how long the approval for the ferry tank installation will take, but we are hopeful that we can be on our way by Thursday to Bangor, Maine for the survival equipment and HF installation.

Enjoy the pictures.

Blessings,

John

26 February 2013

Kodiak Ferry Update 7 - Depatrure Today

By the time you get this, it is actually "Departure Today".
Yesterday morning we went to church again, this time the pastor had asked to pray for Ron and Barbara to come forward for prayer before we leave. You may remember Frank and his wife who drove to Chimoio with Ron and Barbara a few years ago. They had the privilege of flying back to White River and remembered it clearly.

The weather is forecast to turn bad here tomorrow afternoon and we want to get out while the weather still is good, if we wait for it to clear we will have to fly through it on our way east. Today we had clear skies after some fog in the morning. It is amazing how colour comes back into the world when the sun shines. Despite the clear skies, it was still bitterly cold this morning with about minus 4, but the day warmed up very nicely. We test flew the plane again today and I had the opportunity to practice some instrument flying "on the computer". Ron managed to get his Instrument check ride out of the way on Sunday, making way for us to get the chip detector light sorted out today. Unfortunately the appointment for the plane was for tomorrow at Grand Rapids. In the end, we borrowed the special tools from the shop in Grand Rapids, Barbara very graciously drove through to get it for us. I tacked the job under the instrument panel and 3 hours later we tested the annunciator, and it worked!!

By getting this repaired today, we are a day ahead of schedule and are able to fly out tomorrow to Trenton/Robbinville in New Jersey for the ferry tank final installation. This is scheduled for wednesday, but we hope to be able to get it done ahead of schedule. We will only know for sure once we get there and find out how far the paperwork process has gone.

There are still a few hiccups with the Jeppesen Flight Charts, but I got a step further today, only to find that another "Jeppesen" obstacle is in my way. I hope to solve this problem while in New Jersey while we are waiting for the plane.

Spidertracks was ordered and shipped last week, but storms and bad weather have slowed delivery, so we are expecting delivery tomorrow, but unlikely before we leave here. The plan is for Barbara to ship it on to us in New Jersey. Unfortunately this will not allow you to track our flight to the East Coast, but we will keep you updated.

All of us have run ourselves a little ragged today finalising the last many details before we leave. barbara leaves on Wednesday and has one more silly day of running round with lots of nitpicking details.

Thanks again for all your prayers and please continue to pray for good weather windows. There has been a spate of very bad weather in places all over the country.

Blessings,

John

Kodiak Ferry Update 6

The 100hr on the Kodiak is now completed and we are almost ready to set out on our journey.
The 100hr inspection brought out one problem which may have been with the aircraft from new or may have occurred during the extensive refit of the aircraft while at Mid Continent aviation. While the problem is a minor one, and will not legally prevent us from flying the aircraft, the problem does need to be addressed under warranty. The chip detector annunciation for the engine was not working and turns out to be faulty wiring behind the avionics stack. Quest has referred us to Mayday avionics in Grand Rapids and we have an appointment to have the aircraft looked at on Tuesday. Hopefully this will not take too long, as we are scheduled to take the plane to New Jersey for the final installation of the Ferry Tank. As you can see from the picture, the plane is loaded and ready to fly right now
We had hoped to fly the plane today but it snowed (again) all day and we were not able to get in the air, but hopefully we will get a window of opportunity tomorrow. Ron needs to have an Instrument Competency check ride which is scheduled for Monday. Tuseday sees us getting the Avionics warranty work carried out. Barbara leaves for South Africa on Wednesday while Ron and I plan to make our way to Trenton/Robbinsville in New Jersey for the Ferry Tank installation.

Items that still need to fall into place for us are:
1. Suitable weather windows for our flights as there is bad weather forecast for Tuseday and Wednesday here in Michigan.
2. Jeppesen Flight Charts. I have had difficulty with this and need to deal with the UK office to get this sorted out. They have not replied to my emails and I am somewhat frustrated by the huge lumbering inflexible company.
3. Survival equipment is being arranged at a facility in Bangor, Maine. We are renting some stuff and buying other stuff.

So far with the uncertainties, it is very difficult to pin down and exact departure date from Maine, but at best we will be able to depart Maine by Saturday this week, and at worst Monday or Tuesday the week after. Our departure from St John's will also be weather dependent due to North Atlantic Storms, but after we arrive in the Azores, delays due to weather are less likely.

Blessings,

John

Kodiak Ferry Update 5

Today better weather allowed West Michigan to regain some sense of normality again, although Kansas is being hit very hard right now with very heavy snow falls. They don't often have snow so things are rather chaotic as I tried to phone Garmin in Kansas for some assistance with out G1000 databases. An answering machine answered and said that they were unable to help due to "inclement weather". What they really meant was that nobody was able to get to work!

We got a full days work in and the 100 hr inspection has been completed according to the Quest maintenance manual!! We just have engine runs to do and 2 or 3 small inspections for tomorrow. We did come across a problem with the chip detector, which seems to have been wired incorrectly and will not annunciate in the cockpit. Not a serious problem, but it does mean that somehow we need to get it fixed under warranty, otherwise we need to pay someone to do it in SA. We did get excellent help trouble shooting this problem from Quest, and we now know where the problem lies. We had the cowlings on and had to remove them all when the Quest avionics guy phoned, so they all had to come off again. All part of the job!

We completed the day with 2 passenger seats installed, the ferry tank installed behind them and basically ready to do engine runs tomorrow and hopefully fly it again this weekend. Our plan is to fly to New Jersey to a place where the ferry tank installation will be completed and then on to Bangor Maine, where we will have the HF radio installed. Weather permitting we will most likely be on our way sometime next week from Maine!

Enjoy this Laurel and Hardy movie with no sound.

John

Kodiak Ferry Update 4

Hi all,

Apologies, no interesting pictures today. I forgot my camera in the hangar.

The snow has eased up a bit but bitterly cold temperatures are forecast for tomorrow, probably by the time you open this email. Ron and I managed to get to the hangar early and we really managed to get into the 100 hr inspection properly today. We think we can complete the inspection by Friday, after which we need to get the HF radio installed.

I could send some pictures or videos of lots of snow from my phone, but I wont bore you with more of that today.

Regards,

John

Kodiak Ferry Update 3

Hi All,

Western Michigan is again in the grip of a large winter storm again. Today this storm caused massive disruption all across the western parts of the state. Rain prior to the snow falls caused very icy roads, accidents were plentiful, schools were closed all over the place and just moving from A to B became a major challenge.

Ron left early this morning for a trip to Grand Rapids for an oral exam with the FAA to renew his IA. He drove all the way in this weather on treacherous roads. He passed the test and made the trip safely. I did not go to the hangar this morning to start the 100hr inspection simply because of the weather. Ron and I drove ithe 20 miles to the airport shortly after lunch when the snow had abated a little. We just had time to go through some paperwork and get our planning for tomorrow's work.
 
The picture above is of our drive home where virtually all the roads are almost not visible despite snow ploughs working overtime today. Visibility is limited and driving is dangerous. All this very new to me, but it all becomes very tiring just to get simple things done.
For Ron, getting his IA renewed was another major job ticked off. I spent the time today arranging all the correct navigation databases and approach plates for our route of flight, purchased and downloaded read for installation in the Kodiak.

Hopefully we can get some better weather tomorrow to get the 100 hr properly under way.

John

22 February 2013

Chimoio hangar progress

In case you thought the Kodiak was all we had on our minds at the moment, we should just point out that a lot of work still continues at Mercy Air's remote base up in Chimoio, Mozambique.

Mercy Air is co-locating with SAM Ministries and has jointly built a house, airstrip and hangar on the property.

In 2011 the airstrip looked like this.
Then, last year, a team from the USA constructed a hangar.
 
This week a Swiss team flew up from South Africa to join 16 strong Mozambican workers and one Canadian, to pour the concrete floor.
It took 137 bags of cement and 13 hrs non stop work to complete just half of the floor.


Now the scene looks like this and it won't be too long before the paperwork is completed and the first aircraft is allowed to land there.
Thank you.

Mercy Air team

Kodiak Ferry Update 2

Today better weather allowed West Michigan to regain some sense of normality again, although Kansas is being hit very hard right now with very heavy snow falls. They don't often have snow so things are rather chaotic as I tried to phone Garmin in Kansas for some assistance with out G1000 databases. An answering machine answered and said that they were unable to help due to "inclement weather". What they really meant was that nobody was able to get to work!

We got a full days work in and the 100 hr inspection has been completed according to the Quest maintenance manual!!  We just have engine runs to do and 2 or 3 small inspections for tomorrow. We did come across a problem with the chip detector, which seems to have been wired incorrectly and will not annunciate in the cockpit. Not a serious problem, but it does mean that somehow we need to get it fixed under warranty, otherwise we need to pay someone to do it in SA. We did get excellent help trouble shooting this problem from Quest, and we now know where the problem lies. We had the cowlings on and had to remove them all when the Quest avionics guy phoned, so they all had to come off again. All part of the job!


 How to do a 100 hr inspection in 26 seconds!

We completed the day with 2 passenger seats installed, the ferry tank installed behind them and basically ready to do engine runs tomorrow and hopefully fly it again this weekend. Our plan is to fly to New Jersey to a place where the ferry tank installation will be completed and then on to Bangor Maine, where we will have the HF radio installed. Weather permitting we will most likely be on our way sometime next week from Maine!

Regards

John

19 February 2013

Kodiak Ferry Update - The Long Road to Freedom

Not quite the right title but Mercy Air's new Kodiak will begin it's 'Long Flight to Africa' very soon.
Technically the journey started a year ago when the aircraft was flown from Germany to the USA for a refit and upgrades, but now the final preparations are being made to fly it across the Atlantic to it's new home in South Africa.

Ron has recently been working on fitting ferry fuel tanks whilst John flew out last week from South Africa to assist him. Yesterday (18th Feb) they managed to get the autopilot hold problems sorted out and took it for a test flight and today (19th Feb) they started the 100 hour inspection.

Here's a pic of the plane being worked on in the hanger in Michigan.
We'll keep you updated on this blog.

Thank you

Mercy Air team

12 February 2013

Flood Survey

Whilst the Mercy Air helicopter was busy in the south of Mozambique, a consortium of aid organisations asked us to survey a large area in the north of the country.
 
We had to wait a few days till a weather system passed but we finally made it up to Quelimane to pick members of the survey team up.

The loop we flew at the top of the map may not look like much but it was 500 miles (800 km) long and took three hours to complete. The flight up itself was about the length of the UK.

As a lot of the survey area was inaccessible and the situation was thought to be quite bad, the Governor of the Province also wanted to come along and see for himself the extent of the flooding.

The area to the north east of Quelimane was extensively affected.

Where as the Zambezi River, although full, wasn't an immediate threat.
On the way back we had to request left of track due to weather and landed at Beira just after a heavy shower.
There is more rain predicted this coming week so we might find ourselves up there again soon for another survey.

Thank you.

Mercy Air Team

Water water everywhere

During January Southern Africa had some pretty grim weather and as a result Mozambique seemed to bear the brunt and had flooding throughout the country.

The worst hit area was in the south and so Matthias and Mickey went with the helicopter to give assistance. Here is their report:


We landed the helicopter during late dusk as the city of Maputo was already lighting up.

What Mickey and I saw today, is only very slowly sinking in as actual reality.


The Limpopo flooding is as bad if not worse than the 2000 floods. Places we used to land in back then, are now under water. People report that Chockwe town was 2 meters under flood waters. Roads cut. Water as far as the eye can see.


Throughout the country, over the past years, Mozambique's national disaster management agency, the INGC, has done a commendable job of relocating thousands and thousands people away from the more flood prone risk areas to higher grounds.


But the amount of water present during this flood, is simply unimaginable.


Herds of animals trapped on smallest high grounds cuddle together. So many people, children, grannies, goats, chickens, cooking pots, plastic chairs, capolanos, beds, blankets and buckets, basically everything what people own and hold valuable, rescued to the roof top of their houses.
People in trees! People wading through strong current waters!


First we started with assessment flights with staff from Save the Children, WFP and Oxfam, but then ended up spotting first survivors in the waters!


As I heard a South African Air-Force Oryx helicopter on the same radio-frequency, I asked him if they were winch equipped and able to come to our GPS position? The first rescue was two women we found trying to swim thru the brown strong current, holding on for dear life to a closed plastic bucket with their belongings.

The helicopter winch operation was a success and their lives were saved.


Now we continued scouting for more surviving groups of people and directing the SAAF helicopter to the exact locations to rescue them. Some families we found had even climbed into trees! How long had they been there?


Continuing the search, we hovered slow and low over the brown flood waters, not wanting to miss any one of them, but the hard fact for me is realising, that I know we must have missed people, who could have been rescued. I feel guilty about that. I pray they are found tomorrow. Government boats are continuing as well.

In this short op together, we saved probably over 20 women with children on their backs, men, weak and old people- this afternoon alone.
A Save the Children team drove to help people a couple days ago at Barragem, but now got stuck themselves. During a 1 hour round trip heli flight we evacuated the staff off the high grounds, back to Xai-Xai. During the 30 second turnaround time on the ground, many children came with waving hands, asking to be flown away too!

As I think of those families on the rooftops I ask my self, what do they eat tonight? All the food got destroyed by the surprising floodwaters during the night. How do they go to the toilet, on a roof top? How long will they remain healthy, if they drink only the brown flood waters around them? Do the people of Chilaulani on top of their hoses know people in far away countries care about them? Do they still keep hope?

It was overwhelming to see, we were not prepared for that.

We all need wisdom for tomorrow's work and flights.

Matthias Reuter and Michael Aebi

Crewing the Mercy Air helicopter

Stormy Monday Blues

We were recently asked by the South African Police Service to help transport, Erol, an officer who had been shot whilst on duty eleven years ago.

He had undergone surgery a number of times with limited sucess but needed taking from his home in Kwa Zulu Natal to the hospital in Pretoria. This would usually be a slow eight hour drive but we could fly him there in just over an hour. As he finds sitting very uncomfortable, the only realistic option was lying down in our aircraft.
The little red triangle on the map above doesn't look like much but it still took four hours to navigate and actually gives an idea of the scale of South Africa.
We knew that getting Erol in and out of the plane would be hard work so he got some help in the shape of Roger, the Mercy Air US Board Chairman, who was in SA and who just hapens to be an ER Doctor - handy.
  
The transfer from car to plane and back took six people.
 
But once on board he could travel in relative comfort.
 
The weather wasn't completely compliant and we had to do quite a bit of storm dodging on the way.
 
This did allow us some impressive views between cloud layers though towards the end.
Thank you,

Mercy Air Team