1000 Hours

A couple weeks ago I received an email congratulating me on 1000 hours flying with Mission Aviation Fellowship accident free. I received this commendation with mixed feelings. While I’ve worked hard over the last several years to fly safely, I’ve often felt that accomplishing that goal was a crazy mix of skill, caution, luck, Divine intervention, and excellent training. I’m honored to have reached this goal, but I look forward to the next flight and worry.

I’m not worried that I’ll decide not to be safe. I worry that I’ll let my guard down. I worry that I’ll start being just a little bit lazy. I worry that I’ll start to forget the lessons I’ve learned over the last 1000 hours.

So as an exercise of reminding myself, and as a way to share some hard earned lessons as a bush pilot, here is a list guidelines to remember.

  1. Take more fuel. You’ll never regret leaving behind that one bag to have another 20 minutes of fuel on board.
  2. Have about 3x more outs than you think you need.
  3. You can push fuel reserves, daylight, or weather, but never more one.
  4. Terrain is always closer than you think it is, unless you’re looking at it, then it’s farther away.
  5. If you can’t see due to low visibility, don’t go.
  6. If you think you can see in low visibility, you actually can’t, so don’t go.
  7. If can see, try it.
  8. Marginal weather in the mountains is really IFR weather.
  9. You can never check your airplane for damage too much.
  10. If something isn’t right, but you don’t know what, turn around and go home. Better to figure out what it was safe on the ground than on an accident report.
  11. Fridays are for mistakes. If it’s Friday you’re probably tired. Quit as soon as you catch yourself screwing up little things.
  12. Always fly a stable approach. This will be the hardest at your home base.
  13. Practice your emergency procedures, but do it safely. Touch drills are best.
  14. Passengers don’t know half of the danger they are in. Educate them if they can handle it, assure them if they can’t.
  15. Take-off performance isn’t a joke. Know your aircraft performance numbers for your altitude and add lots of margin.

What are some rules of thumb that you use?


Watch “Departure from Holuwon, a back country airstrip in Papua, Indonesia.” on YouTube

Flight Stats for Papua

As I get ready to leave Papua, I received a report of my flight stats from MAF. It’s cool to see numbers for my flight and cargo in the last two years. Here are some numbers to check out:

Flight time: 598.7 hours

Miles Flown: 73,166

Passengers: 2115

Cargo: 194,924 lbs.

The Depressed Missionary. Part 2.

The boxes are piling up around us as we sort through our stuff and pack things away. It’s sad to put our lives here on hold, but it’s a necessary move. That doesn’t make the blow of saying goodbye easier.

Because I’m a pilot, and the way I work in missions is flying, there are special considerations for me when depression sets in. A pilot on medication for depression is not longer allowed to fly. They are grounded by law until they have proven a history of stability after recovering from depression. Now, we don’t think I’m so bad that I need to take medication, but even so, it’s better to be cautious while dealing with this situation. That means we are moving home to the US.

Thankfully, MAF and we have reached an arrangement that is much better then my simply leaving the mission field and searching for a new career while working through my depression. We are moving back to the main offices in Nampa, Idaho, and I’ll be working in the hangar for MAF there while seeing a counselor in the Boise area. I’ll still be able to serve with MAF, while getting the help I need.

Even so, we are packing up our home and leaving Nabire. It’s incredibly sad leaving. We had such high hopes of staying here and serving for years to come. But for now, we place our memories into cardboard boxes. We’re storing away our lives here for a season. We hope that in time, perhaps a year, perhaps more or less, we will be able to return and pick up where we left off.

But for now, we need to be home. And we need time to heal.