All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Few Shots From the Ugandan Archives

Did you know that we are the only U.S. family on our MAF Uganda team?  There is another U.S. couple who are based here (they are actually in the U.S. right now on home assignment, but will be back in a month or so,) but they are assigned to the MAF East DRC program, and they oversee the maintenance of the MAF Congo planes, which are brought over here to Uganda for inspections and maintenance. All that to say, since we're the only U.S. family on our team, holidays that are strictly American (like July 4th, Thanksgiving, etc.) are not celebrated by our team... well, not unless we invite them all over! :-)

So, the Saturday after U.S. Thanksgiving, we invited the entire MAF team, plus our friends from Every Village, and a few others, here to our home for a Thanksgiving meal. Joy did a LOT of work to prepare for the event. We had some volunteers who helped with the setup and tear down. We have some good Canadian friends on our team here, and Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving, although a bit earlier than the U.S. So we called it a combined U.S.-Canadian Thanksgiving, with all of our other friends from around the world giving it a nice international flare. I guess you could call it a World Thanksgiving. :-)

Everyone brought plenty of food to share, and it was great fun. Remember a few weeks ago when I showed you a picture (if you missed it go here and scroll to the last picture in the post) of when we hosted our team for Guy Fawkes Day? Well, as I said in that post, with an international team like we have here, we get to help celebrate holidays from each other's 'home' countries. So this was our turn. Who knows, maybe it will become a new tradition for the MAF team in Uganda?

And now, a few shots from my Uganda photo archives. The previous posts, which featured some shots from my Kalimantan archives, showed photos which had all been previously posted here in the distant past. However, all of these photos, although from the past, have not been previously posted on my blog.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

November News Letter

Those of you who subscribe to your letters by e-mail should have already received a copy of our latest November News Letter. If you get our letters by snail mail, they were mailed out this week, so you should be seeing it show up in your mailbox soon. In the meantime, here's a digital copy.

You can click on each 'page' (or photo) below to see a larger version (these are jpeg images, b/c Blogger doesn't let me put a pdf in the post.) If you would like to download a pdf copy you can go here, which will link you to this prayer letter (in pdf form) on our MAF staff page. If you want to find out more about our ministry with MAF, and/or how you can be involved, please check out our MAF staff page, where you can also download previous versions of our news letter.  Thanks so much!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

More From the Archives, Plus some Random Stuff

Seems I've been MIA from the blog for the past few weeks. More on that down below. First, a few more shots from the archives.

Above, the Quest Kodiak 100. This was the first of two Kodiaks that MAF began operating in Kalimantan, Indonesia a number of years ago. During the last couple of years that I served in Indonesia, I mostly flew the Kodiak, which was a lot of fun!

Above, the other type of aircraft we flew there, the Cessna Turbo 206. This is Long Pala, probably one of the toughest strips in the MAF world. All conditions (the grass, the wind, the plane, the pilot) had to be spot on, in order to make this work, within the margins that MAF requires. It usually took anywhere from at least three to five years before a 'new' pilot got checked out to fly into Long Pala.

And here is the Kodiak and 206, side by side in PaUpan.

The Kodiak was a great plane for the short, rugged, jungle strips into which we operated in Indonesia.

Do you notice a big difference between the Kodiak above, and the one below? When MAF took delivery of their first Kodiaks, the ECC (External Cargo Compartment) was not yet certified by the FAA. So in the picture above, we were operating it without the belly, or cargo pod. As soon as they became available, we installed that option. As you can see in the shot below, the 'pod' was extremely useful for our type of operation, not only allowing us to load hundreds of pounds of extra cargo into the pod, while still carrying passengers up top, but also helping to maintain a proper center of gravity.

In 2013 my family transitioned from Indonesia, to Africa, where I'm currently based with MAF Uganda.  Although many of our passengers from the U.S. and elsewhere, often think that the airstrips here are some of the craziest in the world, the truth is that these strips are nowhere near as marginal or challenging as those in Indonesia. Sure, these would be crazy compared to any you'd find in the U.S., but it's all relative. In fact, most of the ones here are rather benign, which is great! Because of that, and because of the larger loads and number of people that we carry here, we mostly operate Cessna Grand Caravans in this part of the world. Like the Kodiak, the Caravan excels in the environments where MAF uses it!

Above is a shot of one of our Grand Caravan aircraft that I frequently fly here in East Africa. It's pictured above the typical type of landscape that we traverse each day.

Below, is a shot I took about two weeks ago, from the window of an entirely different type of aircraft, a Boeing 777. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that we're not looking down upon the scorched landscape of northern South Sudan, or the savanna of northeastern Uganda. No, this happens to be the southwestern edge of Greenland, a place which I would very much love to explore some day.

But you guessed it, I was not exploring Greenland from the the window of a jet at 38,000 feet two weeks ago--no, I was actually on my way over to MAF U.S. headquarters, in Idaho, U.S.A. for some additional ground and flight training. In truth, it's been a VERY busy couple of weeks, before, during and after my time in the U.S.--and that's my excuse for not keeping up with the blog. In fact, it's still very busy, but I'm currently laid up in bed, with a strained back, which gives me a great opportunity to catch up on some stuff like this. :-)

The next three shots are courtesy of my good friend, and fellow MAF pilot, Tripp Flythe, who also happened to be doing the same training. The plane that I'm flying below is not a Caravan, or a Boeing 777... it's a Kodiak!

But not just any Kodiak, it's an amphibious Kodiak, slated to soon join the MAF program in Palangkaraya, Indonesia. I was not originally planning or thinking that I would fly the amphibious version of the Kodiak in Nampa. There was another, 'normal' Kodiak which was supposed to be at HQ while I was there. However, that one was sent down to Haiti, to help with the relief efforts after the recent, devastating hurricane there. Fortunately, this Kodiak happened to be there at HQ, awaiting it's ferry flight across the Pacific, and so we were able to get permission to use this plane for our training purposes. It was certainly fun, and different, to be sitting up so high above the ground!

We completed a week of intensive ground school, and some flight checks, required by the FAA, in order to allow us to pilot an aircraft under a new type of operating certificate that we'll be using in some locations.  This means that in the future, I'll be able to help out, as a short term (relief) pilot, in various places where there's a temporary need for a pilot, qualified under the new operating certificate... such as disaster response situations like in Haiti, and also elsewhere.

While I was gone, I missed my kids' fall break from school, which was a bummer. Usually we like to try to do something fun during that time, like go camping or something. But maybe we'll get to do that in the 'spring.'  In truth, it's not really a 'fall break' because there's obviously no autumn season here. If anything you could call it "rainy season" break. It's just that those of us who originate from colder climates in the Northern Hemisphere, still tend to associate this time of the year with fall or autumn. 

Anyway, that was a rabbit trail... the point is that after returning from their 'fall break,' the entire school puts on a 'Rain Festival,' and each class dresses up in character costumes that they make, related to something that they are studying in one of their classes.  They decorate their classroom, put on a parade, and have all kinds of activities. It's a good opportunity for parents and family to come see what's going on at the school, see their kids' classrooms, and generally have a good time on a Friday evening. I was glad to be back in time to see the rain festival. This year, because Britt (10th grade) and Hannah (9th grade) are in rather smallish classes, those classes decided to combine their efforts into one. Their theme revolved around Christian martyrs, and gladiators, under the Roman empire. Hannah was a martyr (lower right) while Britton was a gladiator (far right.)

And in other random news, last week we played host to most of our MAF team, (we have a large 'garden' or yard, which is conducive to outdoor events like this) who came over to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, a day which is significant for, and celebrated by, many British folks. Since our MAF team is very international, we often help each other celebrate various holidays from each other's countries. In fact, in two weeks, much of our team will be over here again, helping us to celebrate a combined U.S./Canadian Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

From the Archives

I'm often being asked by various MAF communications staff to dig up photos from a few weeks, or months, or years ago. Last week I was pulling out some shots, which included a handful from my time in Kalimantan, and I thought it would be fun to share a few of those again. Here's a classic--the Kodiak departing from Long Metun. 

But before we take a look at a few more shots from the 'old days' in Kalimantan, here's a few current shots from this past week...

On Monday I had the privilege of flying two friends from our home church in Oregon, Pastor Jonathan and Pastor Drew. That was fun! Also pictured is my friend Dr. Moses, a veterinarian serving in Karamoja.

On Wednesday I had another flight to Moroto, and upon arriving I needed to add a drum of Jet Fuel. We use a hand pump to transfer the fuel from the drums to the overhead wing tanks. But this time the pump totally jammed up and the handle wouldn't turn at all. Sometimes you have to get creative with your problem solving when you fly in places like this...

My good friend, Simon, was along--he was giving me an annual route check, which is one of the proficiency flight reviews that all the MAF pilots do on a regular basis. That's him up on the wing helping to hold the Mr. Funnel, while the other Simon, the local CAA representative, carefully pours the Jet Fuel from a metal bucket (no, we don't have any jerry cans there in Moroto) into the funnel. So, yes, we fueled the entire drum by carefully pouring it into a bucket (we only had one bucket), then lifting the bucket up to the wing, and then slowly pouring it into the funnel--one bucket at a time.

Here's a shot of a nice little rain shower in Northwestern Uganda last week.

A few weeks ago, while flying between Kotido and Adjumani, we looked down and saw several large herds of elephant. This is an area that is far from any national parks. But, although it's one of the largest, undeveloped areas in Uganda (no visible roads, or houses, or agriculture for many square miles) I've never seen any elephants, or any other large wildlife in this area. In Uganda, the large animals tend to stick pretty close to the parks. But there's been a lot of rain this year, and the herds are venturing out much further than normal. I mentioned this to a park ranger at Kidepo National Park the next week, and he said that there were rangers following the elephants closely, to "make sure nothing happens to them." I counted almost 100 in the groups that I photographed. This is just one of them. I imagine this is what it must have been like a hundred years or more ago--large herds of elephants and every other kind of large African mammal, roaming freely across the grasslands.

Ok, back to the archives. I leave you with four more shots from the Kalimantan archives. I think all of these have probably already appeared on my blog a number of years ago, but in case you missed them...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Flying in South Sudan

Last week I was based out of Juba, (the capital city of South Sudan,) flying for MAF South Sudan. Here’s a shot of Juba that I took last February, when it was still dry season. Now that it’s rainy season it’s actually quite green. The airstrip is in the upper left corner of the picture, running across the top from left to right.

South Sudan is the youngest country in the world, and has been struggling with fighting and unrest since December 2013. In July there was renewed fighting in Juba and elsewhere that left several hundred dead in the capital and hundreds of thousands fleeing throughout the country. Since then, the situation in Juba has returned to a tense ‘calm.’ But throughout the country many are in very desperate situations. MAF is serving a number of key missions and humanitarian agencies who are working in many of these remote locations where the needs are dire and the South Sudanese are suffering. Below is a picture of the plane (Lima Delta Romeo) that I flew up to South Sudan for the week... although this shot was actually taken over Karamoja, Uganda last February.

On Monday I flew first to Yei, about 80 miles southwest of Juba. The situation in Yei is quite desperate. There has been recent fighting here, and a very recent UNHCR report says that up to 100,000 people are trapped in Yei, unable to get out of the area, yet unable to get needed food and supplies. I was able to fly a group of teenage orphans out of Yei, up to Juba, for their safety and wellbeing. There’s more to this story, but we’ll just leave it there. Please keep praying for the people and situation in Yei, and throughout South Sudan.

Since 2013 more than one million refugees have fled South Sudan. In addition, more than 1.6 million are internally displaced within South Sudan, which means that approximately 20% of the entire population of the country have become homeless since the fighting began in December 2013.  Since the renewed fighting in July there has been an increase in people trying to leave, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to Uganda. Uganda hosts more South Sudanese Refugees than any other country. Adjumani, in northern Uganda, is right at the center of all of this activity. Refugees are being settled in large camps like the one pictured below. I’ve seen many other refugee camps around the world, and these are actually quite nice by comparison. Each family unit (mostly women and children) get a small plot of land for a garden surrounding their hut. You can see these in the photo, each one outlined by a footpath. There are plenty of bore holes provided (water wells with hand pumps) and schools and clinics. Most of the people who call these camps ‘home’ have suffered in unimaginable ways. Their future must seem bleak, without much to hope for. Yet, you can often see them smiling and thankful for the most basic of things in these camps—shelter, food, water, education, and healthcare, all without fearing for their lives. For them, that's a drastic improvement! There are many missions and aid agencies working with and among these dear people, helping them with everything from basic physical needs to trauma counseling.

You may remember that just over just over a year and a half ago (March 2015) I went up to Adjumani to survey the site of an old, long-overgrown airstrip there, that hadn't been used in decades and had totally vanished into the bush. MAF had been asked by a group of missions and NGOs to help assess the possibility of re-opening that old strip, because of the vast number of refugees entering the area, and the number of agencies working among them there. In December of that year (2015) I had the privilege of doing the first landing on that new and beautiful murram (red dirt) strip, and it officially opened one month later in January of this year. If you missed those pics, and that story, you can check it out here-- scroll down till you find the photo of me shaking hands with officials in front of the plane. Shortly thereafter I had the opportunity to accompany Tutapona, one of the fantastic organizations working among the refugees in Adjumani, on a visit to several of the camps. If you missed my posts related to that visit, you can check them out here: Adjumani 1 and Adjumani 2. Adjumani has quickly become one of the most frequently flown-to strips for MAF in Uganda. We typically fly there three to five times per week, serving a wide variety of agencies working directly with the hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese Refugees who have been settled in the camps there.

Among the other significant flights I did last week, I was able to pick up a young boy, who had broken his arm, quite severely, playing football (soccer). He needed to get to Juba for medical care. The trip overland, via 4x4 would have taken all day and been extremely painful--bumping and jolting non-stop. More significantly, it would have been fraught with risk and danger--a result of the current security situation. By comparison, the flight on MAF was a mere 30 minutes--safe, comfortable, and smooth. I was able to take along three of our MAF South Sudan employees, and they were all smiles the whole time, totally loving the opportunity to have a ride in the airplane, and to see the other side of the MAF operations. Just in case it's not totally obvious, they are the ones in the bright yellow safety vests below. It takes an extraordinary amount of paperwork, clearances, etc. to dispatch a plane in East Africa, but especially in Juba, so we are very thankful for the many MAF staff, like these, who work behind the scenes to make all of this happen.

The weather last week in South Sudan was often quite challenging. There were massive storms and widespread rain and low clouds much of the time. At times I wandered if we would be better of with a float plane, or even a boat. Haha.

But it wasn’t all nasty. There were a few days when we had gorgeous weather. When the skies did finally clear, they were beautiful and blue—the rain having cleaned all the dust out of the air.

I did a couple of flights for Tearfund and Medair, to some distant locations up North. One of those flights took me near the Southern end of the Sudd, where the White Nile's Bahr al-Jabal section turns the mighty river into a seemingly endless, wide, meandering maze of swamps and floating vegetation, with random pockets of open water. It’s beautiful from 10,000 feet above, but can you imagine trying to navigate through this mess in a boat? The passages are constantly shifting because much of the vegetation is floating. Still, when I looked down from this height I could see a few small huts here and there, where people are making their living and surviving here. In the shot below you can see some of these huts on the bend of the brownish rivulet snaking around at the lower, right corner.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Planes & Other Stuff from Chad

Here are a few final random shots from Chad. If you missed the other posts I did on Chad, just scroll down after this post to find the previous two, and also check out the Flying in Chad post from April, and the Flying in Chad 2 post from May.

First, some MAF airplanes-in-action shots, way out in the middle of the Chadian desert...

As I've mentioned before, it's difficult to get the proper sense of perspective in the vast, open desert. The photo below was taken from over a kilometer away, with a 200mm lens (the largest I had with me) and a 1.4x teleconverter, and then significantly cropped in post. The plane almost looks like it's being viewed through slightly distorted glass--the result of the shimmering heat waves rising from the sun-scorched gravel and sand airstrip in the foreground.

Here's a shot taken at 24mm. A wide angle lens will automatically tend to diminish the size of background objects. Still, that black hill just behind the plane appears deceptively smaller than it should, even with the wide angle lens, because of the immense, open sky and landscape beyond. In truth, it's an incredibly imposing, glistening-black cone, towering almost exactly 1,000 feet above the surrounding flat sands.

In case you doubt me, here's a telephoto shot of the MAF plane as it flies a circuit to land at the strip above, with the same black cone forming the backdrop. Crazy how distance, focal length of the lens, and objects in the foreground or background can change your perspective hugh?

Here's a shot of our parked MAF plane, appearing tiny against the vast yellow sands and deep blue sky of the Sarah Desert.  I took this shot as I was returning from what was supposed to be a 'short walk' to an intriguing rock I saw, not too far away.  We were waiting for some passengers to conduct meetings with local government officials, and decided to explore a bit. Well, the 'short walk' turned out to be a rather long walk, in the same way that the intriguing rock turned out to be a massive, towering, giant of a boulder (well over 100' high.) I guess its size had been disguised by its distance, which, incidentally, was much further away than the "not so far away" that I had initially thought. Although returning a bit tired and slightly dehydrated, it was actually a lot of fun! In some of the previous posts I included a few shots of some of the things I saw along the way, including some of the desert shots, and the shot of the owl, and of the camels.

We also came across the remnants of a battle, which took place here against the Libyan forces in the 1980's. It's amazing how the dry heat of the desert preserves everything.

If you want to travel long distances here, and you don't have access to a tank, or an airplane, or a camel, and you don't want to walk, your alternate method of transportation across these seemingly endless sands, is probably going to be by 4x4 truck. Traveling by truck through the desert is not just a difficult adventure, it's often an arduous battle against the elements, and can quickly become a fight for survival. Here's a shot from thousands of feet above, as a truck ambles along the deceptively benign looking tracks, meandering through the desolate desert sands.

And here's another, showing the all-to-common outcome. In this case it appears the truck followed the wrong tracks, or perhaps the sands shifted and the tracks changed. The sands are constantly changing with the blowing winds, so the path is constantly changing too. If you zoom in, you can see the people, appearing as tiny ants surrounding the truck, which is hopelessly stuck in a deep sand dune. Imagine digging and pushing and working for hours under the scorching sun, only to get stuck again a few minutes or hours later. And again. And again. That's what it's like to travel by vehicle through this desert. The trip by 4x4 truck from the capital city to the oasis town (where I was flying when I took this photo) can take between five to nine days depending on the conditions and the vehicle and its loading. The MAF flight takes only a few, comfortable hours, and is infinitely safer.

I mentioned above that the sands are constantly blowing and shifting. Here is a picture of a typical, small, remote village. You can see how the sands and dunes blow right through the village, and around the structures. Do you see the trees at the top of the picture? Those are date palms, which are very common wherever there is a water source, and people.

Here's a closer shot of the dates. I had never seen dates on a tree before. They were everywhere in the little villages and oasis towns. From what I came to gather, this region is famous for the quality of their dates. I can attest to the fact that they were delicious!

Over time, the sands can completely overtake a village, forcing the people to move their houses. Here's an example. As I've said so many times previously, life in the desert is difficult and unforgiving. But there are many people who call these places home. And there are those who have relocated to work and minister among these peoples. And they rely on MAF for their transportation.

I hope you've enjoyed my posts on Chad. I was privileged to be able to spend a short time there flying with MAF, where I got to meet some wonderful people who are doing some incredible ministries and works in some very difficult and remote places.