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.