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

Saturday, September 25, 2021

More From Liberia

I've really been enjoying being busy helping with the MAF flight operations in Liberia. 

Shortly after I landed at a remote location one day, our other aircraft, piloted by Ulrich Müeller, also landed (below) at the same airstrip.

I was about to load up two medical patients into my aircraft. But since Uli had just arrived, he gratefully offered to help with the loading, so that I could take some photos. Don't worry... we had previously already acquired permissions from all involved to be photographed. Personally I do not like to 'stage' photos, and I don't like to ask people to slow down, or pose, or whatever. It just feels fake. So if I'm photographing, I like to do my best to blend into the background, or at least out of the way, and then just shoot whatever is truly happening, as it happens in real time. 

Practically speaking, that means that it's often very difficult or impossible for me to get good photos of the activities around a plane, when I'm the only pilot--because my first priority is of course always the safety and security of the plane/flight. So it's a rare but great opportunity when I have the chance to photograph another one of our pilots in action. And again, just in case you might think it would be awkward for a patient, or medical personnel to be photographed, I'll put your mind at ease by saying that we always explain that MAF is a not-for-profit mission, and there are many people who pray and give to help make these flights possible. It is important that we can also share with those folks how the aircraft are being used to bless people in remote locations. And most people are very understanding of that, and very thankful for the help, and very happy to be in the photographs. Even-so, I always try to be respectful and discreet in the way I photograph or show people (especially patients) and of course, that we always do have their permission first. So don't worry. ;-) 

There was an additional patient, already loaded, and seated in front of the stretcher patient. Here, Uli is carefully strapping in the 2nd patient for the 1.5 hour flight that I would make to take both patients and the medical personnel accompanying them, to the capital city for treatment.

Upon landing in Monrovia, I was met and assisted, as usual, by the very capable MAF team.

Most patients are very happy for us to pray with/for them, which we did both before and after this flight. Here, the serving MAF country director, Leon Prinsloo, prays with the two medical patients after they have been loaded into the ambulance, and before they go to the hospital. It's worth noting that I had previously asked some of the local people in the remote town where I had picked up these two patients, "how long would it take to drive from there to Monrovia?" They laughed at the question and told me that it is not even possible to do that--not at this time of year anyway--not during the rainy season. They said that sometimes it might be possible, but it would be many days of tough travel, but right now they said the jungle roads are totally impassible. And it's also worth noting that both of these patients were actually in quite serious condition. I was very glad that MAF was able to provide help to transport them!

Switching gears... here is a shot of downtown Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia.

And here's a shot from just nearby the above one, which shows markets along the roads where people are buying and selling stuff.

This is not at all an unusual scene on departure from our 'home' airport here. The rainy season offers some challenging flying!

But it has the potential to look like this!... although, in the past 5 weeks of flying here, I've only had about 2 days like this. 

Here's a few more shots from the air showing the remote and rugged terrain over which we fly...

And I'll end with a nice sunset after the rains cleared out a few nights ago...

Sunday, September 5, 2021

MAF Liberia

A few weeks ago I was asked to pop over to Liberia (on the west coast of Africa) to help with their flying for six weeks. Our Liberia program has been short on pilots and very busy with flying, so of course I was happy to help!

Above is a shot of a bunch of Covid vaccines and other medicines and medical supplies that I delivered to a remote hospital in a town at the very southeastern tip of Liberia. Below I'm unloading cargo before picking up two serious medical patients (you can see the stretcher behind me.)

This is one of the airstrips that we frequently fly to... as you can see it is very close to the ocean.

There are a number of towns/villages situated just along the coast, but frankly I've seen virtually no roads along the coast. Occasionally, near a town I'll see a few muddy narrow 'roads' branching out a few miles from the town, but then they seem to vanish. So, for the most part it's just rugged coastline that merges into jungle.

And I've also seen no large ships, though I'm sure they must come to/from the capital city from time to time. But up and down the coast I've seen nothing other than a few small canoes and very small wooden boats. And if you pan the camera just a few miles in from the coast, then it's nothing but dense, sopping wet jungle. In short, it's definitely a place with vast geological barriers where the need for the plane is obvious!

Now that I've shown you the 'nice' shots of what it can look like when the sun is shining (which in my short time here seems to almost never happen) now let me show you what it usually looks like...

Actually, even the above two shots are not really accurate, because most of the time I can't see the ground at all once I'm at an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) altitude. It's rainy season here right now and it's an understatement to say that it rains a lot. I've lived and flown/worked in a lot of places around the world, but I've never seen a place that can put out so much relentless, pounding rain day after day after day, most of which is not even tied to thunderstorms. It's just sopping wet atmospheric stuff. Incidentally, it seems that this is where the brewing begins for those storms that build into monster hurricanes that cross the Atlantic and eventually slam into the Americas this time of year. Fun fact: Monrovia (where MAF Liberia is based) is the wettest capital city in the world! They apparently get about 15 feet of rain a year, and I believe it!

It's obviously challenging weather to fly in, but frankly, I've been enjoying it. It reminds me a bit of some of the flying I used to do in Indonesia. I've definitely done quite a number of low-pass runway inspections before landing here, just to make sure of the condition of the surface--b/c of all the mud/rain. 

But if you maintain margins and are careful, it can still be done safely in the rain. And a little rain never hurt anyone, right? I've enjoyed seeing, and being a part of, the wide variety of strategic flights that MAF does here--from 'traditional' mission flying to critical medical transport flights, to humanitarian and community development etc. This past week I was the only MAF pilot in the country so I was flying every day and really enjoying it.

Earlier this week Henk Jan (below, right) who is the MAF-International Africa Regional Director, dropped in for a two-day program visit. He has an extensive and distinguished background/career in aviation, including (but not limited to) many years in MAF. I was privileged to have him join me for a flight interior, and I was glad that the weather cooperated that day--in fact it was the nicest day, by far, since I've been here. (Below, Henk Jan talks to missionary, Kim Smith, about his ministry while I was waiting for my return load/passengers back to Monrovia.)

One rare evening when the sun popped out for a few minutes before it set, I walked down the beach. No, I haven't jumped in yet, but I'm guessing I will before I leave in a month. That said, because of the nearly constant storms, the surf is really rough, and there are also many hidden rocks in the surf, and I'm told there are also strong undertows and rip currents in this area. Plus, the water is muddy brown and full of seaweed because of the winds/storms. So I need to wait for the right place/time so that I don't become shark or shrimp food.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

From the Flight Line

Here's some random shots from the flight line. First, one of our Cessna 208B Grand Caravans taking off from our home airstrip in Kajjansi, Uganda. This aircraft is now serving in Liberia.

I've always loved watching the sky and the weather. Last week I was out of the city and had a chance to see the milky way in all it's glory. Maybe sometime I'll share some of those pics too. But in the meantime, here are a few shots related to the sky/weather, from the flight line, as I was pre-flighting airplanes in Kajjansi. These first two are photos of the rising son, through fog. I obviously took (and am sharing) two versions of this, b/c as you can see, in the first one I focused on the sun and intentionally threw the MAF logo out of focus, whereas in the second one I made the focus the MAF logo itself. 

And here's one taken only a few weeks apart, and it is also in the morning, but this time it's obviously the moon.

Haze and smoke are quite common here in our part of Uganda, but fog in our area is not so common. Here's another shot of the flight line in some very thick morning fog.

And here's what it looks like on a more typical morning, with nice skies, and a dissipating thunderstorm out over Lake Victoria in the distance.

Here's a shot of the Karamojang landscape in Northeastern Uganda. 

And here's a shot of the steep, lush slopes of the eastern edge of East DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the western edge of Lake Albert which separates EDRC from Uganda.

And here's a young chap who was eager to have his photo taken in front of the plane... just like I'm sure I would have done if I had the chance at his age. :-)

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Recent Stuff

A few weeks ago we (fellow MAF pilot Andrew and I) landed at Amudat airstrip for the first time in a very long time (below).

Over the past year and a half quite a few of the upcountry airstrips in Uganda (especially in Karamoja) deteriorated so badly that we had to stop using them. There were several contributing factors, mostly related to the Covid lockdown and lack of flying for so long, but also due to various organizations and users  being short of staff and funding. The next two photos show the Amudat runway from the air (from both directions) during the time that it was closed. It actually got quite a bit worse than this later on, as these were taken soon after it was closed.

Our sending church in Oregon gave a very generous gift to help facilitate the reopening of several of the closed airstrips. MAF sent a work team to oversee the project in Amudat. Here is a photo of the cleaned/repaired/improved airstrip, just before we landed there a few weeks ago.

Here's a shot of Andrew and I with the MAF guys that oversaw the project. They also hired many locals to help with the work (which was also a great way to help the people during these very difficult times when it is SO hard for them to find a source of income), and purchased some tools that will be used for continued upkeep of the strip.

Anytime a plane lands, especially after it's been a long time, people will seemingly suddenly appear out of nowhere to watch. This time was no exception.

Here's some random shots from the air that I've taken in the past month or so. This first one captures sort of the classic northern Karamoja.

This is the very point where the Nile leaves Uganda and enters South Sudan. In this photo the water is flowing from the lower left corner to the bend on the right, and then continuing up towards the upper left corner, on its way South to North. The brown (left) side of the river is South Sudan, and the green (right) side of the photo is Uganda. Just behind/beyond the bend is the town of Nimule, South Sudan. It might strike you as odd that the brown and green are so distinct. It is not always like that. And it's certainly not normally that abrupt of a change between the two countries. It's true that parts of South Sudan can be much dryer than Uganda, but in this region it is generally a much more gradual transition. The reason it's like this here, in this photo, is because the Uganda side is very flat and swampy, hence the greenery, whereas the South Sudan side is the higher ground, and thus dryer, when this photo was taken. But for much of the year both sides are equally green.

Speaking of green, this was a very odd (algae?) green floating mass of something that was on top of the Lake Victoria water for several weeks, not far from the shore. I have no idea exactly what it was, or what caused it, but it was almost an iridescent green. It's gone now.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Subsistence Living, Way Back When

Well, it's been forever since I've posted and I won't even begin to make excuses. But before I try to start posting stuff from East Africa, I figured I'd finish that series I had started over a year ago about Way Back When we used to live just north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska.

In the small village where we lived, subsistence living was the way of life. There was a small store in the village, but it had very limited items--canned or pre-packaged stuff that had no shelf life, or at least a very long shelf life. There was rarely fresh produce available, or anything like fresh milk or stuff like that. And there was no fresh meat. Instead, we had to go find our own meat to eat. I realize that there are lots of strong opinions out there regarding hunting, but let me just say this--what I'm talking about in this village was not 'trophy hunting'. This was hunting for food. Below, a shot of me, on my snow machine, with my rifle, far out in the wilderness.

During the very short summer, folks stocked up on salmon, cleaning and drying/smoking it to put away in large quantities for the long winter. We were a very, very long way from the ocean, so the salmon were extremely tired by the time they got to us. What that means is that they were not as fat/rich/tasty as the salmon down on the Yukon, or other places closer to the sea, so often these salmon became the main source of food for the dog teams that require a lot of protein throughout the winter. Then, folks in our village would often trade other types of meat that we could get more easily, with friends/relatives further down river, or out near the coast, and in exchange they would be given the nice, fat salmon for eating.

In the winter I helped some men build a fish trap that was frozen into the river ice. Then we would go check it at least once (or often twice) a day and almost without fail we'd find a good number of large fish in there. Depending on how cold the temperatures were, we would have to chip away several inches to even a foot of ice from the hole, before we could peer into the fast moving water. And yes, that is me gaffing the fish, and no, it is not in the middle of the night--it's just dark most of the time there in the middle of winter since it's so far north.

A very big source of food there was moose. It basically served as the 'beef' of the far north.

And caribou was a real tasty treat when they came through the area.

We also hunted bear (which is what we are doing below)...

And trapped beaver (below) and other fur animals. The folks would sell the furs and/or tan the hides and prepare the furs themselves, which they would then turn into the best winter clothing, mittens, mukluks, etc.

Even though it was extremely cold, and often dark, I was blessed to often be out in very remote, rugged and beautiful wilderness, which had an astounding surreal beauty.

In the far distance  (in the picture below) you can see some snowcapped mountains. Those are the foothills the to Brooks Mountain Range and the Gates of the Arctic National Park... the most remote National Park in the U.S.

Well, that finally concludes my "Way Back When" series. Now I will try to post some much more current stuff soon...