Saturday, September 11, 2010


Acronyms are great for all those who know what they mean. The thing I find is that even common acronyms end up meaning different things to different people, as in the case of TBO. In aircraft terms it is an expensive word, regardless of how you translate it. Some refer to it as “time before overhaul,” others as “time between overhauls,” and for others I think it means “too busy to overhaul!”
But TBO is hard to ignore…kind of like death and taxes! Because if you do you will be dead and won’t have to worry about taxes :).
It is that time for our trusty old (well 36 years old anyway) Cessna 182 to have her engine overhauled (although we will be getting a factory re-manufactured engine which is like new) and the timing worked out well. Although we had been running the trusty bird “on condition,” meaning that although TBO had come and gone, our specialized engineers had determined that it was safe for her to run a few more hours based on compressions and oil analysis etc. Well a fair amount of liters per flight were being burned up now and it simply made sense to say enough is enough.
Charlie Bravo Kilo awaiting fuel in Vilanculos on the way for a new engine
The mission plane has served us amazingly and really has been a story of faith and God’s faithfulness and provision. Bob Guzak a very good friend of mine called me from Canada in 1996 and said he felt strongly that this aircraft we were able to purchase, needed to be in Africa! I agreed but had no way or resources to do this, so Bob took on the challenge single handedly. He drummed up support from a number of different people and donated a significant amount himself. Then along with the strong support of his wife Sharon(also a dear friend of ours) , he got into the plane with a ferry pilot and flew this plane the 95 hours through 9 odd countries all the way to Zimbabwe.
As I stood alone at the little airstrip in Mutare, I could hardly believe my eyes when the little plane came into sight. There were some tears as we celebrated their safe arrival and the realization of a dream I had for many years (that will wait for another time).
And now C-GCBK or Charlie Bravo Kilo as she is known by those who have flown her, has flown more than 1500 hours on this engine with never an incident (only a little fire on the ground once :), and is ready for a new engine. I have to say however that this last flight down to South Africa did have me thinking some. Andrew Herbert, a good friend of ours and son of John and Ann Herbert who work with Mercy Air (John has worked hard with Gary Hillman of Hillman Air to keep our aircraft in excellent shape), was flying a Cessna 206 owned by Iris Ministries to South Africa last Friday for its engine change. As he passed Quilimane the aircraft was running smoothly and although it was getting dark he had taken all the precautions and the weather was clear, so he pushed on to Beira where he would rest for the night. Thirty miles or so out of Beira as he prepared to descend, his engine gave a shudder. He quickly checked the fuel, changed tanks, turned on fuel pumps etc., but then a sudden jerk and roll as the aircraft propeller tore it-self free and slammed into one of the wings! Andrew could barely get the wings level again and now was speeding toward the ground at 2000 foot per minute in pitch black conditions. “Beira, I have an engine problem and have to do an emergency landing,” says Andew. “Cleared to land runway 12” says Beira tower. “Negative Beira, I have an engine out and going down,” says Andrew. ..hessitation… “Cleared to land runway 30,” says Beira control. “Negative, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY,” says Andrew in desperation, but now with little time to say anymore. “Give your coordinates…” says Beira Tower. Andrew tries to give them to them but they misunderstand. “Too late, going down, “ says Andrew. He only has time to breathe a prayer, “God, thanks for having a chance to be a part of your Kingdom and for the time you have given me. I only now ask for your grace…” He turns on his landing light at the last second only to see trees. He pulls up hard to flair and either try to clear the trees or mush into them. Next thing he knows he is clear of trees and landing in an empty patch of ground. One bounce, lands and then crashes headlong into trees. The next thing he knows he is feeling his face to see if he is okay. Hardly a scratch but a long way from help in the middle of the Mozambican bush. His survival and the next 7 hours waiting to be rescued were traumatic, but God answered his prayer….”grace” That is all we all need right?
As we took off three days later to bring our bird down for the engine change, it was pretty hard to not think of Andrew’s experience. Thankfully we were flying in daylight (albeit instrument conditions), and the new autopilot and GPS made the flight a relaxed enjoyable experience. As I chatted with Andrew and we talked about safety in Mozambique, I mentioned to him how many times I have almost been killed on the highways driving. In fact one of these experiences is told in my last blog! Flying in a light aircraft saves literally days of travel on each trip, it prevents tons of damage to perfectly good vehicles due to the horrific road conditions, and it is certainly safer than the roads in Mozambique. We have been soo blessed to have been able to fly these past 14 years in support of our lives and ministry along with many others we have helped.
The timing worked well as well since Bero had to come down for his second surgery. He has been waiting for a few months for his TBO, “time between operations”. His first surgery was in February and the release of his first arm from burn strictures he got due to being badly burned as a baby during the war has given him a new lease on life. This second one on his right arm has already allowed the arm to stretch out normally! He may yet need a final surgery to get a skin graft on his left arm to fully allow that one to extend normally, but that will be up to the good graces of the surgeon who has offered all of his work for free. Grace :)

Joao and I in front of the University he attends
So yesterday I took the day to drive to Maputo, Mozambique, from Nelspruit, South Africa, to meet with the Civil Aviation authorities. Laws have changed in Mozambique and the license our aircraft was under was lost, so we will now need to try and apply for a private operators license to be able to continue our flying in Mozambique after the engine change and annual inspection. The meeting with the two guys at civil aviation went well (I think I was able to start making friends…an important step). After an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) audit, the entire department in Mozambique was revamped with new people. I guess it was their TBO but that has left us with no one we know there and so the rebuilding of trust and relationship starts. They will study the steps we need to take to be able to get a new operating license so right now we are praying for …you got it…grace.
Since I was visiting Maputo, I called Joao (our sponsored student in university there) and he met me and just spent the day with me. What an awesome time to talk about the vision for the future with him joining the mission later in December after he has completed his university studies. He will have a business degree and his and our dream is for him to work with the pastors and their associations as they work at developing projects to feed the orphans, the widows, the elderly and themselves in very difficult rural conditions. For him this is his “time before overtime!” Knowing him he has put in overtime at school as well, but anyone who has been to the mission knows that Joao spends most nights working in the office until the generator goes off and he is forced to his tent. He is so thankful for the grace he has been given and is living it out. Keep him in your prayers so he can finish well.


ruth said...

Praying all goes well with the new licencing process. We love you guys!!

CWW said...

Wonderful. Really miss you guys. Hope you are blessed, knowing you are doing good work of the Lord. Love y'all. Charles & Diane

Russell said...

You've already told me about all these new developments, but the pictures were a welcome addition.