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?

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

The Depressed Missionary. Part 3: Recovery

A couple months ago I posted about how Joy and I have been having an incredibly difficult time while overseas. I shared how we had finally “arrived” at what I believed to be God’s calling on my life. Somehow in the process of arriving there however, we had become so damaged and hurt that we, specifically I, could not actually fulfill our role there in Nabire. During perhaps the most difficult few months of our lives, we came to the realization that I was experiencing a depressive episode and that we needed some serious help.

In a previous post, I shared how we were moving back to the US for a year. The plan was for Joy and I to return to the MAF headquarters where I would continue working, and we would be seeking professional help as we worked through our brokenness.

The best way to describe this summer is to compare it to a roller coaster. If you’ve walked through a depressive episode, diagnosed or not, you understand that even during recovery, you have good days and bad days. There are moments when you feel the darkness creeping back in around the corners of your world. There are moments when you take a deep breath, look around, and realize that you are happy, not because of a drug, or something you ate, or something someone said, but just because you are. And then the day comes when you realize that you haven’t been actively trying to hide for days.

It happened just a couple weeks ago. I was working in the hangar at MAF, up to my elbows in project when I paused and looked around me. A sudden thought had come to me. I was content. It was an unlooked for epiphany. The darkness was gone.

The path to this point has been long, expensive, and uncomfortable. It’s been hard on my family, especially my wife. But we are doing so much better now.

When people ask us if we want to go back to Nabire, our answer has become a “Yes, but not yet.” Part of recovery for us has been learning to recognize our own needs, call them what they are, and choosing to be unashamed of them. Something we have to see that we need is time to be stable. Time to be home. And time to be with our friends and family.

That’s what this year is about. It’s about time to recover. Have you experienced depression and recovery? What helped you?

The Long Road

This is a post we meant to put up about three months ago. But life happened, and we got busy.

Since travelling across the world sounds pretty cool to most folks, I thought I’d dump a bucket of icy wet reality on that thought. Here is a photo journal of our trip back to the US. We tried to take a picture every hour, but there are a few that got missed either during our overnight in a hotel in Jakarta, or while sleeping on one of the airplanes.

We left Nabire at about 8 am on Monday, and arrived in Boise on Tuesday at dinner time. However, our actual travel time was about 49 hours door to door. Here are some of the pictures of our trip.

Getting ready to head out the MAF airplane.

Getting ready to head out the MAF airplane.

Saying goodbye to friends.

Saying goodbye to friends.

Zoe loves flying!

Zoe loves flying!

Last view of Nabire.

Last view of Nabire.

In Timika, we got off the MAF airplane, and waited for our airline.

In Timika, we got off the MAF airplane, and waited for our airline.

We visited some friends in Timika, and Ariella got a nap.

We visited some friends in Timika, and Ariella got a nap.

2014-05-26 14.16.29

Waiting at the airport in Timika.

Waiting at the airport in Timika.

Boarding the airline in Timika.

Boarding the airline in Timika.

And away we go! First stop, Jakarta. 8 hours of flying the wrong way just to catch an international flight.

And away we go! First stop, Jakarta. 8 hours of flying the wrong way just to catch an international flight.

Zoe caught a nap on this leg.

Zoe caught a nap on this leg.

Ariella trying to swipe Zoe's goody bag.

Ariella trying to swipe Zoe’s goody bag.

Yes... it's still the same flight.

Yes… it’s still the same flight.

We made it to Jakarta. We had a long overnight lay over so we slept at a hotel. Zoe sacked out almost immediately. On our bed. Not hers.

We made it to Jakarta. We had a long overnight lay over so we slept at a hotel. Zoe sacked out almost immediately. On our bed. Not hers.

Why hello 4am. It's a great time to leave the hotel!

Why hello 4am. It’s a great time to leave the hotel!

All that extra baggage.

All that extra baggage.

On the way to Tokyo.

On the way to Tokyo.

And still on the way to Tokyo.

And still on the way to Tokyo.

Still on the way to Tokyo.

Still on the way to Tokyo.

Ok, I'm even getting bored of this. On the way to Japan.

Ok, I’m even getting bored of this. On the way to Japan.

Food. And a princess movie.

Food. And a princess movie.

Tokyo!

Tokyo!

Ready to go to the US.

Ready to go to the US.

From Tokyo to Denver.

From Tokyo to Denver.

Ariella loves that cup. It's soooo awesome.

Ariella loves that cup. It’s soooo awesome.

Not really sure when this happened, but we did eat at some point.

Not really sure when this happened, but we did eat at some point.

This one just gets long.

This one just gets long.

I can't believe Ariella didn't completely go nuts after all these hours. Oh look! A free toy!

I can’t believe Ariella didn’t completely go nuts after all these hours. Oh look! A free toy!

Ok, so she did go a little nuts.

Ok, so she did go a little nuts.

Ariella gave the safety briefing for the last leg.

Ariella gave the safety briefing for the last leg.

Almost done now.

Almost done now.

And Joy is still smiling. That's good.

And Joy is still smiling. That’s good.

The essential dad bag. Complete with diaper, tablet, travel mug, and magazine.

The essential dad bag. Complete with diaper, tablet, travel mug, and magazine.