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The Browns – Tom, Ali, Crescena, Bez, & Ber
December 31, 2015 5:44 am
Published in: Uncategorized

1 airplane; 2 days; 24.5 duty hours; 15.5 flight hours; 12 landings; 2081 miles; 3 tons; 2 hours bush maintenance…success!

15 rolls of chain link fence, 1 generator, a 50 gal drum of fuel among other things...

15 rolls of chain link fence, 1 generator, a 50 gal drum of fuel among other things…

I wiped my sweat and dirt-caked forehead after unloading the last box of fist sized handheld radios into a missionary’s waiting arms. These particular missionaries who work with the un-reached people of this region distribute small single-channel radios tuned to a station that broadcasts a message of hope and truth in a land that has been ravaged in recent years by civil war, famine, and death.  Their old four-door, white Land Cruiser, commonly prized in Africa for its off-road capability, backed it’s way to the large opening in the rear of my Cessna Grand Caravan.  They had a half-ton of cargo bound for another village fifty minutes away.  I looked over the incoming cargo with the other pilot to determine the best way to load the generator, rolls of fencing, and other miscellaneous items essential to life in the bush and gave a quick glance at my watch to see how the day was progressing.

We were half-way through the second day of a tightly packed trip, and I was pleased to see that we were right on track with the planned schedule.  That morning, six am had come early as we prepared to depart from Entebbe, Uganda, where we had spent the night after a long first day. Due to some weather in the area and birds on the runway, our projected 13.5-hour day looked like it might stretch to fourteen before we had even made it off the ground. And, as we had seen yesterday, when we spent two hours doing engine troubleshooting and repair for another organization’s injured airplane blocking our takeoff path, there is plenty of potential for delays.  The remaining 5 stops of this 2-day trip all needed to go just right in order for us to get back to Nairobi today as planned. Normally, we’d be limited by sunset, but since Nairobi has a night airport, we just had to be airborne on the last leg before nightfall. Today’s limitation was our duty time – the maximum number of hours that an aircrew can be on duty at one stretch. With two of us as pilots on this trip together, our limit was fourteen hours and we were going to cut it close.

After pulling the last knot tight on the array of ropes that were threaded through karabiners to pull the cargo net snug over our load, we said our goodbyes and hopped in the two seats up front. With heart rates still elevated from transferring almost two tons of cargo, we closed ourselves inside the hot cockpit for the few minutes it takes to get the engine running and the air flowing, which took my sweat pores to fire-hose status. I looked out over the blue-nosed cowling and through the spinning propeller and scanned the airstrip and surrounding area to look for goats, people, bikes or anything else that might hinder a smooth take off. IMG_2672The low green shrubs from recent rains stood in contrast with the red compacted earth of a bush airstrip in remote South Sudan, making it easy to see the runway layout as the cloudless blue sky above beckoned with the promise of cooler air.

Finally, after completing our last checks and radio call back to AIM AIR, I wrapped my hand around the black handle of the power lever and smoothly pushed it forward. The sound of the accelerating turbine blades in the engine, the pressure of my back against the seat, and the read-out on my gauges all confirmed a normal acceleration and take off roll. We reached that magical speed where invisible air that you can pass your hand through lifts a 4-ton hunk of aluminum, steel, and wires and we left the ground. As the vibration of wheels on dirt stopped, I saw out of the corner of my eye the hut that we had expected to become airborne at zip past my window, and I felt the satisfaction of seeing the numbers of theory meet the practicality of real life just as expected. We continued to accelerate upward until we reached our stabilized climb rate and eased into a gentle right turn to point the nose southeast toward our next destination.

What a day!

3 Responses to “Cargo”

  1. Wayne Boyd Says:

    Tommy, Ali, Crescena, and Bez,

    Each take-off is a faith exercise. Charts confirm sufficient runway….Faith places your hand on the throttle. God creates lift during acceleration. It never fails.

    May the Good Lord continue to “lift” the Browns.

  2. Jeremy Morris Says:

    Love you guys!

  3. Larry Wiens Says:

    Tom,

    If you stop flying, become a writer. Or better, fly and write about it, which you are doing. I enjoy your stories.

    God’s Best.

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