25 December 2009

Happy happy and all that!

It’s hard to believe that we are nearly at the end of 2009. Looking back this year started with a flurry of flights including medivacs, mission trips and shed loads of office work.

The year has ended with a week of remembering and celebrating 20 years of Mercy Air’s existence. It’s interesting that when you remember the things that God has done in the past His future plans somehow become more clear and exciting! Mercy Air has some exciting plans for next year with at least 12 funded mission trips and possibly a new aircraft.

Thank you again to those who pray for, and support us.

You really do make a difference. Merry Christmas.

Mercy Air team

30 November 2009

Mercy Air no longer a teenager!

Wow, what a week that was.

Numerous times in the Bible the Israelite's were told to remember what God had done for them. If they couldn't remember they were to ask their fathers and the old people - but they weren't to forget. Looking back is more than just nostalgia. Cathy and I get as much encouragement from relating our testimony of how we got to where we are, as the people we tell it to.

As part of Mercy Air's 20th celebration we decided that we too should also look back, as much to share and understand our corporate identity with people, like us, who have joined Mercy Air comparatively recently.

We set aside a week and invited many of the people who were instrumental in Mercy Air's birth from Europe and the US as well as missions that have joined us in our work and people that have benefited from our ministry over the years.

Everybody got a chance to tell their story of how God led them to be involved with Mercy Air.

Some of the staff prepared audio visual presentations from old scanned photos to help us remember how each aircraft came our way, how the hospitality ministry started and how the farm came to be ours.

Some evenings we finished with a meal together outside which left plenty of time to catch up with each other and those visitors we hadn't seen for a while.

At the end of the week we had an open day ...

and offered flights to people from the local community as well as some of the Africans and their families that work on the farm with us.

We finished off with a short service in one of the hangers.

Thank you to everyone who helped make it such a memorable and very worthwhile week. Here's to 20 more years.

Mercy Air team

18 November 2009

The Long and Short of it

We did a long short trip last week.
The flight only took two days but covered 1700 miles (2700 km).

We were up there to collect a family who had worked in Cuamba, N. Moz for the past eight years, but who were now returning to Australia.

Having Mercy Air pick them up saved them a 10 hr Land Rover trip, a border crossing, two nights in a 'hotel', and numerous internal domestic flights - all for about the same cost.

They also spent five nights staying with us on the farm and were able to go to Kruger Park for a day - during which they saw loads of stuff apparently.

We had been to Cuamba in 2005 and, being a military airfield, were kept waiting over an hour after landing whilst officials 'checked' the paperwork. This time however, there were no such problems and the military didn't bother us at all - except for the payment of over inflated landing and parking fees as well as navigation fees, despite there not having been anyone in the tower for years.

The weather was good on the way up, and back down the next day, which was just as well as it's been really grim ever since.

Praying before leaving.

Well on our way.

Mercy Air team

09 October 2009

Back in Black

Just in case you think life here is all play and no work, this is just to let you know that last week ended up being quite busy.

We did two last minute flights to Mozambique. The request for the one was very late in the afternoon and we ended up coming back in the dark. There was no moon and in that part of Moz there are no towns, so just like AC/DC we spent two hours coming 'Back in Black'. Very black as it happens so the only notable view until the approach lights at the end, was of the cockpit.

Mercy Air team

20 August 2009

The other side of the coin

As we detailed recently with the landing gear incident, things don’t always go as planned.

We like to tell of how we make a difference in southern Africa and of how peoples lives are changed for the good because of the work Mercy Air does.

I was mentally formulating another blog after the phone rang last night, asking whether we were available to transfer a man with a broken leg from Beira to Maputo in Mozambique.

I went back to the office to do a quote and fax it off to the medical company in Maputo. I also had to apply for an emergency flight permit to enter Moz as well as Air Force authority to fly in South Africa, as we are in the middle of a test week for flight restrictions around the stadia that will be used for next years footy World Cup.

A whole bunch of other things needed to be sorted out. Headsets, GPS, airport fees money, sat phone, food and drinks, blankets, survival kit, check the weather etc. I did the flight planning at home whilst having my dinner.

At nine o clock we got a call that the quote had been accepted and that the flight was definitely on. That meant bigger alterations to the plane. Seats had to be removed and a stretcher fitted but all this by torch light as the hanger has no lights. All that took time but we were in bed by 11:00.

Half past five this morning I was up again – breakfast, check the weather, when just as I was leaving the house the phone rang. It was the paramedic in Maputo saying that the patient had died during the night so the flight was off. Apparently he had two broken femurs and internal bleeding. I had expected someone with a badly broken ankle so this came as quite a shock.

All dressed up with no-where to go. The 210 this morning before taking the stretcher out.

So, no dramatic story or photos of another successful mercy mission accomplished against the odds. Just a tired head and another hour spent this morning returning the plane to normal passenger use.

You get quite psyched and focused when preparing for these last minute emergency requests. But when they are called off at the last minute you can feel very flat, especially when time hasn’t even given you a chance to help. Although uncommon, it’s just another aspect of the job that usually doesn’t usually get told.

Mercy Air team

18 August 2009

Ministry play time

We would admit that we do get to have a fair amount of fun and last week saw another opportunity for frivolity when Julian and Annie and two of their friends visited us. They are missionaries currently living in Angoche, way up in Mozambique working with the Koti people, but have to leave the country every three months to renew their visas.

This is where Mercy Air really comes in handy for many missionaries as we are an ideal place to stay whilst paperwork, meical visits, vehicles etc are sorted out. We are also in a good area to chill out and partake in some serious R n' R, which can be as refreshing as staying in bed all morning - we're told!

So, we chilled in the evenings, had some meals together, chatted, prayed a little... and then we turned our eyes to the hills.

We have a friend at a church in White River who runs the local adrenalin spot called Induna Adventures, and we arranged with him for a two hour blat around the forests on quad bikes. Considering the lifestyle in Mozambique this was a real opportunity for Julian and Annie to let their heir down.

So, ministry? - of course. Every one needs their battery's charging somehow. Fun? - need we say more!

Mercy Air team

06 August 2009

Big Enough For a Boeing

A Boeing landed at Mercy Air the other day.

We all rushed out to watch and it was quite an event, especially considering our airstrip is only 600m (1970 ft) long.

It managed with no problem at all in the end and actually only used less than 200m to land, stop and turn round. All this was possible due to the fact that it was a Boeing Stearman with a top speed of 120 mph and a landing speed of only 50 mph.

It is here for some maintenance - so we took it apart...

Mercy Air team

01 August 2009

African winter

Africa is normally hot, and often very hot.

Every now and then small parts of it get quite cool - almost cold.

When that happens where we live we have to take appropriate action, usually in the form of a pickup full of wood - or two, from the local sawmill.

What doesn't get consumed by the fire in an effort to keep us toasty in the evenings, often runs a danger of getting turned into something else useful.

Mercy Air team

Similar in a very different way

A recent BBC article:


and a interestingly similar one from this blog:


One of 14 that escaped - but he was one of almost 4000.

Mercy Air team

21 July 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the airport…

Through prayer and the hard work of the maintenance staff we at Mercy Air enjoy many hours of hassle free flying. Aircraft are however machines, and are not immune from the odd mechanical wobbly every now and then. One such example that happened a short while ago is detailed below:

Here’s a pic we took sitting on the runway of our local international airport.

Coming down the runway towards us are two fire trucks and a support vehicle. Not normally a good sign! We have to back up a few minutes to find out why.
What’s wrong with this picture?

Not too hard to spot that the blades of the propeller are usually supposed to be going round whilst you’re flying.
So, we're landing with one engine shut down and the reason for this is detailed in the next picture.

When you select gear down you are supposed to get three greens (lower left) to indicate that each wheel is down and locked. Meatloaf might believe that ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’, but in aviation, three out of three is immeasurably better. We don’t have a green for the left main gear and despite flying past the tower a couple of times for them to look at it through binoculars, and the gear looking safe, we decide not to take a chance of a gear collapse and subsequent prop strike by landing with the left engine stopped.

As you can tell by the level horizon in the first picture, the landing went well and we stopped and got out to find that the gear was in fact solidly down. It was then no major hassle to fly back to Mercy Air with the gear down and have the boys in the hanger look at it.

Ten minutes later the plane was in our hanger and up on jacks whilst men with huge toolboxes (and a dog) descended on it.

Didn’t take long to find that a wire on a small squat switch connected to the gear leg, had broken off. The very same wire that is supposed to send a bit of electric through a green light bulb in the cockpit to tell us that things in the gear department are good.

A spot of solder and a few test gear swings and we were on our way again to fuel up at the start of our 10 day missions’ trip.

As it turned out, safety was never an issue in this case, but it just goes to show how something so small can close an international airport for ten minutes and cause a minor emergency. We were thankful that it didn’t happen later on the flight to Jo’burg, Botswana, Zim or Mozambique. We were also thankful for the level of maintenance we get from the staff at Mercy Air that inevitably helps avoid far more consequential adventures.

Mercy Air team

15 July 2009

A Testing Time

On Monday morning, two Mercy Air pilots shot off to Johannesburg to renew their instrument ratings.

This is likely the one flight in any given year that you don't really look forward to. Flying with an examiner who puts you through your paces to assess whether you're still capable of flying safely in inclement weather - or not!

The flight had been arranged at short notice (the night before in fact) to fit in with other Mercy Air flights and the examiners schedule, so there wasn't much time to prep for it.

Below is the ground track from the GPS that shows what the test looked like - steep turns left and right, inbound/outbound tracking of radials on and NDB and VOR, and an approach to an airport.

It took the best part of the whole day - in fact we returned to Nelspruit after dark, but the good news is that they both passed, and are legally allowed to fly around with their heads in the clouds for another year.

Mercy Air team

14 July 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to wind down for the weekend…

We got a call at 12:00 on Friday asking if we were available to do a medevac out of Mozambique. Our Beech 18 was already in Moz on a mission’s trip but we had the 310 and someone to fly it so yes, I guess we were available.
Half an hour later they called back to say that the flight was on, so we hurriedly prepared the plane to carry a stretcher, after which we set off for the local international airport to fuel up and clear customs and immigration.

First was a quick stop in Maputo for fuel and then a two and a half hour flight to land in Beira just after dark, for more fuel. We had rung up before to verify, but it turns out that had only got fuel in Beira that morning! From there it was another hour up to Quelimane to collect the patient and his parents.
Turns out he had been in a bad car accident and had a complicated compound fracture of his femur (broke his leg – but in a very bad way).
It took a while to load him but at 21:00 we were on our way for the three and a half hour flight back to S.A.
The weather was about as good as it gets for night flying. We landed in SA at half past twelve and met the ambulance and officials.
Again, thank you for your support that makes help like this possible to those who need it.

Mercy Air team

26 June 2009

Mission Holiday

Most mission groups we fly find a couple of days after they return to South Africa from their outreach to go and visit the Kruger National Park. It's only 40 minutes drive from where we live and it would be crime not to take advantage of the opportunity.

Yesterday we flew a group who are doing things the other way round - a bit like having pudding before your main course. They are spending a short time at a lodge before we fly them to the north of Mozambique next week (the longer route to the north and west below).

This involved flying into Jo'burg Int. to meet them from their flight from Spain and then take them to a remote dirt strip in the very north of the Kruger Park (the smaller triangle to the left in the pic above but still 5 hours flying).

With the Confederations Cup still on, the red tape involved in flying anywhere near Johannesburg was a bit of a headache but towing the line is always better than arguing with a jet fighter!

We go to Jhb Int only a few times a year but you always feel slightly more important when you're around bigger planes.

This 777 was right behind us in the taxi out to the holding point for take off.

We always take it as a compliment when your passengers sleep - even if they have just come off a 10 hr flight from Europe!

Finally to our dirt strip in the N of Kruger.

The passengers shot off for drinks while we unloaded the luggage.

We will pick them up again this Monday for their Mozambique leg.


Mercy Air team

24 June 2009

Sugar Water

We have just got back from a ten day missions trip to Zimbabwe and Mozambique with a group from Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.

We picked them up in Jo’burg and flew them to Bulawayo where they worked with an orphan programe run by African Outreach Ministries. In particular they worked with the ladies who look after the orphans by giving health talks and helping with the food distribution programe.

Then we flew on to Inhambane in Mozambique where they met five more people from another church in Houston. Now, being from Houston, a number of the group knew a thing or two about drilling wells. Enough in fact that some of them were also members of a ministry called Living Water International (www.water.cc) who demonstrate the love of God by providing desperately needed clean water and medical attention in third word countries, and who have sunk over seven thousand wells around the world. They had raised money to get drilling equipment driven in from Maputo and we helped with the drilling of a well in the village of Masavane just south of Inhambane. Whilst the lads did this the ladies gave health promotion talks and in the evenings we showed the Jesus Film to over 400 people on a big screen under the stars at the well site.

Cathy doing a talk to a group of care givers in Bulawayo.
While that was going on the lads played games with the orphans.
Then the food arrived. Each bag weighed 50 Kg.
The group with the food.
Cathy helping to share it out.
Then we flew 3 hours to Vilanculos, Moz. Lots of space in Africa.
And then 1 hour down the coast to Inhambane.
We flew in formation for a while.
Even the drive to the village was a bit of an adventure.
The next day we started helping with the drilling.
And found water at about 36 metres.
Paul went in search of coconuts.
And we had a dedication service on the last day.
And a night baptism in the sea to finish off.


Mercy Air team

05 June 2009

A long way home

Recently one of the Mercy Air pilots did his longest ever flight.

Monday morning he was up before dawn to eat breakfast and pre-flight the plane for the days journey. A short five minute flight later he was at the local international airport just before it opened to fuel up and clear customs and immigration. His first destination was two and a half hours away in the coastal town of Beira where he met a Canadian film crew who had been in Mozambique for two weeks and now wanted to go to Malawi to complete their work.

The crew were part of a church in Toronto that has a media ministry (www.livingtruth.ca). They film the work of local churches working in needy areas around the globe and then broadcast it on commercial channels worldwide, helping to raise awareness and money.

On this occasion they were on a follow up trip to assess and document the impact that their visit a year earlier had had. Then they had helped raise money for Hands@Work, an organisation that Mercy Air knows well as we have flown them many times in the past.

Their schedule was very tight and the cost in time and money of using a regular airline to get from Beira to Lilongwe would mean that they would have to change planes numerous times and lose a whole day and a night in transit. All this was made harder by the fact that they had a huge amount of film equipment. Using Mercy Air enabled them to get where they wanted in 2 ½ hours, save that day and a whole load of hassle - all for about the same price.

Not much of a hands on action mission shot, but the best we could come up with is this photo of us all at 11,000ft somewhere over northern Mozambique on our way to Lilongwe.

The two guys in the back are the cameramen and Charles Price is the pastor/presenter on the right.

Unfortunately the pilot only stayed one night with them in Malawi otherwise it would of been good to have gone with them to see the work first hand. He departed the next morning on his own for South Africa. We have recently upgraded the aircraft he was flying and one of the benefits is more payload and greater endurance – the latter enabling him to fly for over five hours, 1500km, and still land with 1 ½ hours fuel left in the tanks.
The bottom right hand figure is the flight timer in the plane when he landed, 5h 06m.

Thank you.

Mercy Air team