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

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Airstrip Checkouts

Life is very, very busy here in Tarakan these days. Because both of our maintenance specialists are currently in the U.S., all of the maintenance falls on the shoulders of the pilot/mechanics. I’ll tell you, it sure will make us appreciate them even more when they come back!

Despite the fact that each of us is entirely responsible for maintaining our assigned aircraft right now, we’re still each flying four days per week usually, with the other day being reserved for maintenance. I’m really enjoying it! I count it such a privilege and blessing to be out here serving people that rely so heavily on, and are so thankful for the services of MAF.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to get a couple of new airstrip checkouts. These two strips are basically in a whole different category from all the others up to this point. They are VERY short, and have little to no slope (flat, short airstrips, although they don’t look nearly as impressive as steeply sloping strips, are actually far more challenging and marginal.) Both of these strips require very precisely flown approaches, with little to no room for error. Technically speaking, they are both challenging and exciting for a pilot. But what really gets me pumped is the new opportunities these strips represent—more chances for me to serve the people.

Already I’ve had the chance to go back into these villages and help people in a very tangible way. On my first flight back to Pujungan, I carried a body. It was a sad flight. But imagine how important it would be for you to have the chance to see your loved one for one last time here on earth. Without MAF, that would have been impossible, as it would have taken weeks to get the body to the village by river. The people were very thankful, and I believe that flight had an impact for Jesus!

In two weeks I’ll be joining a group of us MAFers here from Tarakan who will be going into the village of Long Alongo to encourage the people and hold some church services. I look forward to the opportunity, and am glad that I’ll be able to help ferry people into and out of the village.

This is Long Alongo (at left.) It's extremely short, flat, and can be very slippery if wet. The approach must be flown very precisely (below,) with little room for error in the touchdown zone. If landing from the north, you fly down the river, betwen the trees, and don't get a view of the strip until seconds before you touch down. It's a thrill! In the picture on the right you can see the airstrip coming into view just as the airplane rounds the bend in the river.