Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The first week of February we had a team visiting from North Carolina. David Markoff is an eye surgeon who lives and NC and comes to Bolivia every year to do surgeries in a clinic near Santa Cruz. He attended Collegedale Academy with David Gates and through that contact he had the opportunity to make a quick tour of northern Bolivia this year. After visiting Rurrenabaque (see previous post), the team came to Guayaramerin with plans to visit some remote villages. They spent their first night at the Richard Gates school were I live when I am not flying and the next morning they screened El Yata, our neighboring village. Thursday morning we left early and headed to Blanca Flor VFR with low clouds and rain. About halfway there the weather suddenly closed in and I had to make a quick decision between filing IFR or landing. I looked down at the GPS and noticed I was within a mile or two of a really nice runway I had marked during a previous overflight. I turned towards it and arrived overhead within about 30 secs. I immidiately noticed that there was a soccer goal on the runway and that it was wet grass with little chance of braking. I made a quick pattern and discovered I was too high and fast for the combination of the soccer goal shortening the available runway and the grass being wet. I made a second approach at minimum speed and set the airplane down as close to the end as I could. It was raining so hard I only had a fuzzy picture of the runway. The airplane was right at gross because I had planned on landing in Blanca Flor which has a 3500ft hard gravel runway. I got on the brakes and was decelerating decently when suddenly the airplane started slowing down really fast. I was afraid that I had hit a mud hole and we were about to get stuck so I brought the yoke full aft and added a bunch of power. Then I looked out the window and saw what was going on. There was water spraying everywhere, we were hydroplaning across a large puddle. Thankfully the ground was hard so there was no danger of getting stuck. I think I only used 300 meters because the puddle killed all my speed. We taxied up into the middle of the village past the soccer goal which had been speedily removed, and shut down in the pouring rain. We were met by an American who spoke English. He invited us in to his house and proceeded to tell us about the place we had just landed at. It is an Indigenous village and his family has been there 25 years. The people don´t speak Spanish so he has translated the New Testament and Genesis into their language. We were all very impressed and happy to have made a contact. Soon the weather cleared and we continued on to Blanca Flor where the doctor found plenty of work. More than 50 people recieved glasses and when away very happy. When we ran out of time and patients we headed back to Riberalta, bought gas and took off for Santa Cruz for a night landing at one of the five lighted airports in the country. The next morning I went back to move the airplane over to El Trompillo airport where there is avgas but the weather was bad and I had to sit and wait for 2 hours. By the time I flew to Trompillo, bought gas and took the bus back to the TV station it was noon and I was running out of time. I needed a fire extinguisher to comply with Bolivian regulations and there was none to be found. I decided to postpone my flight till Sunday rather than fly to Rurrenabaque without it. I have already been ramp checked there three times and let go on the promise that I would by a fire extinguisher the next time I went to Santa Cruz (you can´t buy them anywhere else).
Sunday, with a borrowed extinguisher I took a load of missionary luggage and a volunteer to Rurrenabaque then hopped down to Trinidad to pick up more luggage for Guayaramerin. Monday I was back in the Mooney bringing two men from El Yata down to Santa Cruz for Dr. Markoff to do cataract surgery for them. Sight is a wonderful thing. Jesus didn´t have electricity, expensive instruments, huge suitcases of eyeglasses and an airplane for transportation, imagine how exciting for him to give sight with just a word or a touch. Praise God for that and praise God for doctors who can and will do something to help people see better even now.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Thank you for sharing with us. I pray for you regularly and look forward to reading your posts.