There are many many people, missions, churches, hospitals, and humanitarian organizations we serve here in Congo. But, every now and then, I not only fly with MAF, I fly for them. This usually coincides with trips to Uganda for maintenance on the airplane. We just completed another inspection on our 206 and flew back to Congo Thursday afternoon. Here's the story:
It's Tuesday morning, and I'm looking forward to the next few days. It's bittersweet (at least right now) to be heading out to Uganda for maintenance again. I like it because it's a change of pace, something different from flying, and they speak English! I don't like it because I leave my family behind for several days at a time. And, invariably, something always goes wrong with the house, the electricity, the generator, the plumbing. It pains me enough to be away from my family, but when I'm not there to put my finger in the leak or hit the generator with a hammer, it makes things even worse.
Nonetheless, I'm excited to be heading out. Maintenance is something I've grown to love, there's always something new to learn, and it gives me a great chance to get more familiar with the airplane I fly around every day. I have a few stops to make before heading to Uganda, and it's early afternoon before I takeoff. Rodney (our most recent addition to the flight line/hangar floor...yes! I'm not the new guy anymore!) is coming along this time, so I have someone to talk to. Even though I'm not a flight instructor, teaching is also something I really enjoy. So I take this opportunity to familiarize Rodney with the route, the radios, some paperwork, and the airplane. It's late afternoon by the time we land and taxi up to the hangar, but we stay a little later than usual and get a jump start on the inspection, draining the engine oil and checking the compression on all six cylinders.
Wednesday is more of the same, and by the end of the day, we are finished with the inspection. All that's left is to put everything back together, do an engine run up and a flight test, and head for home. I run Rodney through the post-maintenance run up tests and the flight test and everything checks out fine. Now it's on to loading.
We'll be returning to Bunia with one 55 gallon drum of avgas, two propane gas bottles, two monstrous batteries, and a whole bunch of groceries. That's right, I said groceries. Here's how it works: the MAF wives in Bunia write an email shopping list to Pam, the maintenance specialist's wife, flight follower, hostess, and shopper extraordinaire. Pam goes shopping for the Bunia wives in Kampala, where things are much more readily available. And, by the time we are done with our maintenance, we load up the airplane with all the requests and fly it back to Bunia. Today we have a drum of avgas (for the airplane of course), the gas bottles fuel our stoves, the batteries power our houses when there is no electricity, and the groceries, well, who wouldn't smile after getting Cheerios and decent toilet paper from the "civilized" world. As we were flying back to Bunia, I was thinking of all the people we are an encouragement to, but I never stopped to think that sometimes, we are even an encouragement to each other.