Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mooney Miles

After my adventures walking between villages in south eastern Guyana I caught a flight back to Georgetown with Gary Lewis, one of the GMI pilots in Guyana. From Georgetown I continued on to Puerta Rico. I had to go into the big international airport at San Juan because I was going to landing at 7pm, the closing time for customs at the smaller airports. It was my first time clearing US customs by myself and I was quite nervous. It didn't help when the tower called me on final and notified me that they didn't "have a visual" on my landing light. I didn't reply because I had known my light was burnt out since I left Bolivia. God certainly blessed my time there in San Juan and I was able to clear customs with no hassle and the two officers helping me were quite friendly. Actually paying the landing fee took me as long as clearing customs, but the airport authority to whom I owed the money let me use their computer to file a flight plan on the internet. I had no desire to spend the night in a big international airport, and I wanted to get as close to Tennessee as possible to assure a non-stop flight the next day. I landed at Boringuin, PR late and got the FBO to fill the Mooney as full as possible. Jeff had warned me that the people there had a language chip on their shoulder so I tried to speak only Spanish. I was quite pleased with the results. I didn't speak any English till the helpful worker said goodnight and left me to sleep in the small lounge above the hangar. The truth is, aviation terms and asking for things for my airplane are my strong point with Spanish and I can't hold a normal conversation yet. The next morning I was up and waiting for the worker to unlock the door and let me out to the airplane. After some confusion over US Dept of Agriculture requirements, which wasted 30 mins, I was on my way. Ten hours and thirty minutes later I was circling over the Collegedale airport looking for familiar cars in the parking lot. I owe a great deal of thanks to Becky Gates for loaning me her IPod. Sermons and recorded books are unbeatable for staying awake for long hours with good old Oto doing the flying (the autopilot), I even got some pics of the Kennedy Space Center. David was at Collegedale to meet me with a crew of GMI volunteers and Jodi came a few minutes later : ) I spent a wonderful weekend with the Snyders and even got in a trip to Michigan on Sunday. For the return trip to Guyana I had the company of Kyle Kennedy, GMIs head mechanic and inspector. He was on his way down to Guyana to do an inspection on Adventist World Aviation's Cessna 182. I was more than grateful for his help, in fact I wouldn't have made it without him. We stayed up pretty late Tuesday night working on the Mooney and I came down with a fever on Wednesday. We had the airplane loaded but every thought of water spurred Kyle on to more maintenance. By the time all was ready and all our packages and intructions had been received the weather had cut off the route to Miami, FL. There was nothing to do but find a way around because my permission to enter Bolivia expired Friday and we had no more time to spare. We landing in Miami, FL at 11:30pm fueled the plane and got a little more than an hour of sleep on the grass beside the plane. At 2:15 I was calling in a flight plan and we started up at 3am. I knew we were running a little late so we pushed the speed up a little. The whole day was a race against the Sun and we touched down in Georgetown, Guyana with about 5 min to spare. Later we found out that David had been watching our progress and had obtained special permission for us to land after sunset in Guyana, an unheard of thing. One piece of advise I would offer is watch out for these Lockheed flight service weather briefing people. They love to talk. I would guess we wasted 10min that day on helpful weather briefers who would not stop talking.....
I spent the night in Georgetown with the AWA mission pilot family there and I was back in the air by 10am on my way to Bolivia. Thankfully I was more rested so I was able to stay awake for the 7 hour trip. I know God was looking out for me and I felt very much at His mercy especially if I started imagining a forced landing in all the Amazon jungle I was flying over. I was very grateful to Him when I landed safely in Bolivia and even remembered my Spanish on the radio. It was Friday afternoon so I went out to the GMI school for the weekend. Monday I finished the trip by flying to Santa Cruz and delivering all the TV equipment and one passenger to RedADvenir.
International flying is stressful but for me I wasn't too bad because David was available on the phone to help me whenever I needed it. Still I have no desire to do that trip again any time soon without two engines.

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