Monday, June 25, 2018

Back in Chad, plane fixed, test flights complete

After several months out of Chad, we returned in March 2018. Our time away was useful for resting and recovering from symptoms of burnout and a torn ACL in my knee. We also enjoyed the longer stay in Canada which allowed us a chance to connect with family and friends on a deeper level and experience more than just one season at a time in Canada.

Due to the disruption which MAF faced in Chad at the end of 2016 the flying had really dropped off over 2017. We returned to a program with much needed new staff families having recently arrived but a real need to make the services of MAF known to the mission, humanitarian and NGO communities.

As we were getting things rolling, shortly after returning, our larger Cessna Caravan was accidentally run into from behind by a towing tractor. The damage to the rear elevator (small wing at the back of the plane) took 2 months to repair. Most of that time was waiting for the elevator to arrive. The first elevator to arrive was the wrong size so we were stuck waiting for another one. The actual repair was eventually completed in a matter of a few days.

Crunch! While unfortunate, many lessons were learned from this mishap.
The return to service test flights were fun to carry out. The first 'flight' consisted of rolling down the runway and getting just airborne - 5 to 10 feet in the air - and then landing again. The hardest part of that flight was trying to get the tower controllers to understand what I wanted to do. A normal flight around the circuit was next followed by a good inspection to ensure all was good with the repair. Finally I took the plane into the practice area and put it through its paces. I carried out the more strenuous maneuvers from one of our 6-monthly pilot base checks. No flutter or vibration was noticed from the new elevator during 60 degree bank turns or a steep descent approaching the Vne speed (never exceed speed on these Caravans is 175 knots).

So we are at this 'much-looked-forward-to' point where we are all ready to go flying again! This week we have 4 flights scheduled so I'm looking forward to getting back in the air and helping people get where they need to go.