Friday, December 31, 2010

End of 2010

Today is the last day of 2010. At the end of the year I know many of us take time to reflect and think back upon the last year, considering what happened, what goals we achieved, and how God continued to work in our lives.

In January I had the Chicken pox, a very miserable time for a number of reasons. This was compounded by the fact that I had accidentally reported I had Small Pox, which caused mild manic until I finally stopped hallucinating and got my facts straight.

I enjoyed new friendships this year with other Missionaries from Switzerland and Germany. Proving that ethnicity is not that really important when you are chasing after a soccer ball or eating Swiss chocolate!

Two months in the USA during the summer spent visiting supporter and friends was encouraging and refreshing. The annual Oshkosh Airventure Fly-In was a highlight, as well as giving airplanes rides.

The challenge of living by myself after my house mate got married forced me to become more outgoing and pursue relationships with Peruvians and missionaries from other missions.

American Football games during the past 3 months have been a highlight and the impetus for gatherings at my house. This was made even sweater by the Detroit Lions winning more than 1 game during the 16 game season!

Finally, increased confidence and skill in my job as both a pilot and flight coordinator with SAMAIR has been satisfying. Of particular note were emergency flights which saved the lives of at least 3 people!

Thank you to the countless people who have made it possible for me to be serving in Peru this past year. Without your prayers and financial giving, it would not be possible for me to be here. For those of you wishing to make and end-of-the-year donation to this work, you may give online through the website On the homepage, click "Donate Now", and then select the pop-up menu on the left that allows you to choose a missionary and/or ministry to give to. Have a blessed New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Flowers

Flowers I found within 100 yards of my house.
Merry Christmas!

Fill 'er up!

There is only one distributor of aviation fuel here in Peru. I am told that every year one tanker ship comes from either Houston or Venezuela with enough fuel for the 40 piston powered airplanes that fly in Peru. At the SAMAIR hanger we have a 9000 gallons storage tank for aviation fuel, however our permit only allows us to buy 3000 gallons at a time. That is enough fuel to keep us flying for almost 2 months.

Fuel arrives from Lima, an 18 hour drive, by tanker truck. We then hook the truck up to our tank and using the electric pump that is used for filling up the airplanes, we throw some valves and are able to pump it off the big truck and into our 9000 gallon tank. It takes about an hour to offload all 3000 gallons at a time.

After checking the fuel level and making sure we did receive a full load, its time to drain a sample and check for water. If everything is ok, we are good to go for another 2 months.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bits and Pieces

The rebuild project on our 1980 Cessna 206, OB-1671, continues to move forward. This past week work was completed on a number of bits and pieces. The complete rudder pedal system was stripped of paint, repaired where needed, primed and painted a gloss black. All of the push rods and bell cranks for the aileron and flap systems were bead blasted to remove the old paint, had new bearing installed and shot with a green primer. they will be ready for installation with new hardware once the work on the wings has been completed.

Even the program manager, Craig, visited the bowels of the shop to check out the cowl flap I had just finished riveting together.

At the moment we are anxiously waiting for out latest parts shipment to arrive. It had been in Peru for a month now, but problems with some paint thinner have kept things from moving forward. In the end, we had to send the thinner back to the USA and are looking for other options! Scheduled completion time frame is April or May of 2011.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How to save a life.

This is a short story, one where God was the author, and I was his instrument.

On Thursday, I took off in the morning with a full load of cargo and roofing tin that was destined for the village community of Tsoroja. After dropping of the cargo, I had a short 20 minute flight to a city so that I could pick up a drum of fuel and bring that to the community as well. While in the air, I recieved a call from home base about a request for an emergency flight. I was told the patient was a child and would be at the very city I was landing at to pick up the fuel drum. Upon landing I coordinated with the people to have the child brought to the airport at 1pm so I could pick him up on the way back to Pucallpa.

After making the 20 minute flight back to Tsoroja and dropping off the fuel, my passengers from the Pioneer mission climbed aboard and we were on our way. Ten minutes after takeoff, home base called and said the weather was terrible back at home base! Winds of 30 mph and heavy rain had reduced visibility and the clouds we in the tops of the trees! I told home base to give me a call again in 20 minutes once I was on the ground picking up the sick boy.
Upon landing, I was very surprised to see a grown man with an IV waiting to get on the airplane! All 5 of my seats were already full! I had been planning on having the "child" share a seat with one of the children of the missionaries. After much discussion, we agreed to have one of the missionaries give up their seat for the sick patient. A second flight would have to be done the following day to pick up the missionary who stayed behind.

During this time I was also in contact with home base and was able to check the satilite imagery as well. We had to leave by 4pm or else plan on spending the night and risk not being able to evacuate the sick man. At 3:30, home base informed me that the weather was looking better, I could see there were still large rain showers but there appeared to be away around them. We loaded up and took off just before 4pm. The hour and 20 minute flight to Pucallpa was bumpy and rainy, but the weather held out and I was able to make a landing at the Pucallpa airport in the rain a little after 5pm.
The next morning I called a friend of a patient to inquire about his condition. He informed me that at 10:30pm the previous night, they had operated on the patient for appendicitis. He was in stable condition and recovering just fine. The friend of the patient thanked me up and down for doing the flight and getting him to the Hospital in time. It was a privilege to be part of God's perfect plan on a day when a flight "just happened" to be in the area and to when the weather was "just good enough" to get back home as well. To my supporters and pray partners, I in turn would like to that you for your support and prayers. It would not be possible without you behind me.

Nice wheels!

Wheel barrow wheel as spotted in a village community. Who needs an innner tube or spokes, just cut down a tree!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for... Meijer?

Yesterday was a rainy Thanksgiving day. It almost felt like fall temperatures as 2-3 inches came down during the afternoon and evening hours. I was celebrating out in Cashibo, with some friends from the mission. When it came time to go home, we all piled into our vehicles and headed back into town. That is where the fun started. My friend, Randall, managed to get stuck in the mud along the road. I whipped out my $20 tow strap that I had purchased from Meijer, and withing 5 minutes we were both slogging through the mud once again.

In the USA it would have been a classic, "Ford pulling Chevy" kind of thing, but in Peru it was "Kia pulling Toyota". In all fairness, the 4 wheel drive on the Toyota was not working as it should. Nonetheless, 4LOW in 1st gear was enough to liberate the Land Cruiser.

The soil here is namely clay. That makes for some VERY slippery traction. It also fills in the treads on even the most aggressive tires, and stick to shoes really well!. While driving, the key is to stay on the crown of the road and keep the momentum up!

This morning, my friend Randall called me and said that he was stuck yet again! This time it was off a side street in Pucallpa. The Landcruiser was buried up the axles and I was not sure if we were going to be able to free it from the clay ruts. Out came the Meijer tow strap as we first tried going forward, then backwards. All we managed was 2 feet of rearward progress. We then put rocks and chunks of cement in front of at the tires and tried one more time going forward. Sure enough, it came right out and I kept pulling until we were on solid ground! So this year Randall and I are thankful for 4 wheel drive... and a $20 tow strap from Meijer.

(Meijer is store just like Wal-Mart... only better)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Rebuild?

In a recent e-mail from one of my friends and supporters, this question was fielded...

It seems it would be less expensive to buy a whole new one considering how many man hours you're spending. There's no part of the plane you won't know intimately by the time your done.

The simple answer to that question is basically that it is cheaper to rebuild our airplane than buy a new one. For those of you who want the details, keep reading.

This Cessna is a model 206, it was built in 1980... a great year to be born as well. =) Back then, the airplane cost $75,000 new from the factory. Now a days you can pick up a 1980 Cessna 206 for $130,000 to $180,000 depending on condition, hours flown, etc. A brand new Cessna 206 costs about $570,000. If we were to sell our airplane, we would have to come up with an additional $400,000 of capital! Not only that, but we would need to modify the airplane for bush use. A list of some of the options would be, cargo belly pod $3000, crash-worthy seats with 4 point safety belts $2000, auxiliary fuel tanks $5000 and Short take-off and landing kit $8000, float plane reinforcement kits $2000. (Roughly $20,000 total, and that does not include labor!). Even if we purchased a used airplane, we would not come our ahead because of the cost of modifying it. So buying a new airplane, or a used one, and modifying it would not be the wisest use of the funds which God has given us at SAMAIR.

The complete budget for the rebuild project of our "old" airplane is $20,000. Since we are not paying for labor, all the mechanics and pilot/mechanics (like me) are supported by a whole host of churches and individuals, the only cost we have is for parts and shipping. Parts being $15,000 and shipping/import taxes making up the remaining $5000. Since aluminum structures (like airplanes) can continue to be built and repaired, there is no reason to believe that in another 30 years the same thing might take place again!

Oh Pete, your right, we really are getting to know the airplane very well!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Small places

This past week I was worked on fixing damage to the firewall of the airplane. The firewall is a piece of stainless steel that is designed to protect the cabin area from the engine compartment in case of an engine fire. Where the hangers (supports) for the exhaust stacks attached to the firewall and there were cracks in the firewall from the constant vibration. I stop drilled the cracks so that they would not continue to get longer, and then made a patch which was riveted to the firewall to give the strength and integrity back to that area.

To buck the rivets, I had to crawl into a small place which is normally where the pilots put their feet, on the rudder pedals. Of course the pedals have been taken out, but it was still hot (with a shop light right next to my head), loud, and camped working in that small space for 2 hours! But, the damage is fixed and now it is ready for another 10,000 hours.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bucking rivets

After removing all the paint from the airplane, we were able to begin with the major work of replacing some of the aluminum skins. In the rear of the cabin, we knew there was a problem with corrosion. Battery acid, soda pop, and other unmentionable fluids had found their way below the floor and into the belly of the aircraft. After drilling out the rivets that held the aluminum sheets in, we took a new sheet of 2024 T3 aluminum of the same thickness (0.032) and used the old skin as a pattern for holes, drilling and clecoing it to a table. The outline was then traced and cut with tin snips. After a phosphoric acid etch and a conversion coat of Alodine, all skins received a covering of green zinc chromate primer. Then they were fit into place on the airplane, and riveted back on. The same process was used for the flooring from the rear of the baggage compartment to under the pilot/copilot seats.

All of this took about 3 weeks of work but went quite smoothly as we had the help of Don, an aviation mechanic on loan from JAARS for three weeks. Don is a sheet metal wizard! I learned some new techniques working with him for a week. Nathan got in on the act as well helping to buck rivets. Those long arms come in handy! He may not be Rosie the riveter, but his wife thinks he is just as cute.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Removing Paint

After removing the wings, landing gear, engine, and tail feathers, the paint was the next thing to come off! Be careful, contact with bare skin really burns!
This plane was a wheel plane from the factory back in 1980. This there was no corrosion proofing (standard with the factory float plane) under the original paint! The only good thing about it was that is came off really easily! Not like the epoxy primer and Imron that will be going back on when we are finished.

The windshield was replaced withing a year, thus we are trying to save it. All other windows are being replaced. Which is good because you could not see a thing out the rear! (That is the window we look out of to avoid for bird strikes... thats a pilot joke)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Power Play part 2

When I got back to Peru a month ago, it did not take long before I experienced a power outage. It was a sunday morning and the last thing I wanted was to hear the sound of the fan coasting to a dead stop at 6am. Sure enough, it was another morning of for a "forced" green action day. However, I had an ace up my sleeve. The red Honda generator! Back in March I had hinted at getting one and since the purchase it has definitely paid for itself. Most notably on the day the World Cup Final was on, the power was out for that whole day!
I wired in a outlet box and made a "suicide" cord, with male terminals on both ends, and have the system down pat for switching between city and generator power. Sorry for not having any pictures but it seems as though in the shuffle of coming back to Peru my camera has disappeared. I know I had it in Peru because I took it on a flight, but unfortunately I have not seen it since then. =(

Anyways, part of the original plan was to put the Detroit Red Wings sticker on the generator... but it is pretty large and red on red just didn't go well. So I put the sticker on my flight knee board. I have my aviation charts, passenger manifest, calculator and E6B in one nice and tidy place. Guess it would work in the USA as well for those pilots out there, I am using the Redi-Rite model by Saunders. Some pieces of Velcro hold everything in place.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wacky Week

The week at SAMAIR started off just like most weeks. A Monday morning meeting that I manged to miss yet again. Believe it or not, I might be one of the only people who enjoys these team meetings on Mondays. I like getting a feel for the week ahead and we always close with prayer for each other. The reason I was not able to attend was because I was out flying.
Regional elections are taking place on October 3rd and we had been asked to fly a group of people who were trying to get a particular candidate elected. All of the commercial flights were sold out as a result of foul play by the other candidates There are 7 people running for governor of this one province! Unlike the USA that has a two party system, there are many political parties in Peru. This particular candidate we were helping is an Indigenious man who is known and respected by the missionaries who work in this area. That flight was almost 5 hours total but at the end of the day SAMAIR had help to bring about a little more democracy to the jungles of Peru!
On Tuesday we responded to an emergency flight request for a lady who was having complications with her pregnancy. One again SAMAIR was able to deliver (not in the airplane thankfully) and 2 hours later the lady was in the Pucallpa Hospital.

Thursday morning had me flying 1.5 hours out to the community of Tsoroja with 1000 pounds of roofing tin in the airplane. The weather was so hazy I was on instruments for almost the whole flight even though there were no clouds! Arriving at the village, I was invited to stay for lunch by the missionaries who work there. So, in the middle of the jungle, we had a nice lunch and I got to hear about their recent trip to Israel.
Friday was a flight in the float plane to bring two mechanics to the aid of a broken down logging tractor. The team of workers had been trying to fix an exhaust leak and even had resorted to making a gasket out of tin cans that were hammered flat! We were on the ground for 3 hours while the mechanics did their work and I enjoyed sitting on the river bank 50 feet above the river watching the occasional boat pass by on the brown and muddy waters of the Ucayali river.
Saturday was fun day. I was invited over to some friends house to pick mangos and grill chicken wings. We picked over 140 mangos, with me climbing the tree and doing my best impression of a monkey. The wings tasted great and the "special" hot wings sauce from the USA made it even better!

I was the official SAMAIR representative on Sunday for a special church service commemorating 8 years of work performed by nation Peruvians who are translating the Bible into their tribal languages. The service was 3 hours long and I even helped contribute to that length by speaking for 4 minutes on behalf of SAMAIR. During the closing song, I was one of a couple missionaries who were singled out to join in a Shipibo Indian dance! Thankfully no cameras were on scene to capture the moment.
All in all, it was a wacky week with many different experiences! I continue to be amazed at how the airplane can transport me to such far off places and then bring me back again the same day to the very house I left that morning.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Road trip

After 6 weeks in Michigan, I left the comforts of my aunt and uncles house in exchange for 7 different beds in 10 days worth of traveling. Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Alabama are all on the list of stopping points... although I never knew I was really so close to Peru!

While traveling between Nashville, TN and Charlotte, NC I took a scenic route through the Appalachian mountains. If you have ever hear of a road called "Tail of the Dragon" (see youtube for video) this scenic route was similar to that.

Being an expert packer for my day job of moving missionaries and their stuff around, I managed to fit an 8 foot counter top inside the car to bring down for a project my dad was working on in Tennessee.

This Piper J-3 Cub models get a lot of attention. While in aviation school, I made this from welding rod and to much extra time in the welding lab. It sits in the back window and makes it easy to find the car.

Monday, August 16, 2010


For those of you who do not know, I have been back in the USA for the past month an a short two month furlough. Basically enough time to have some vacation and touch base with supporting churches and individuals in the West Michigan area.
While back in the USA I have been taking care of some things that I can only do while here in the states, like changing the address on my drivers license. I went down to the DMV in Hudsonville, MI and the whole operation took 8 minutes.
When I was getting my drivers license in Peru, the whole process took 6 months! Having gone through both systems, in the USA and in Peru, I notice that the USA system is based on trust.

For example, I did not have to show proof of my changed address. I did not have to prove that I was who I said I was by having a 2nd piece of identification. The sticker that went on the back of my license is a simple affair, and if i wanted to I am sure I could peal it off and put something else on in its place. But the whole system is based on trust.
In Peru, I had to prove that I was a Peruvian Resident before applying for my license. I had to make 2 copies of my resident card, go to a Notary and have them stamp is saying that my copies were legitimate. I had to prove that I was medically fit to drive a car by going to the hospital and taking a vision, hearing, and psychological test. Legalized copies of those test results also had to be made. All of these things are in place because there is not a basis of trust within the government.
So the next time you are stuck in line at the DMV, just be thankful, it could be taking a whole lot longer... trust me!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I have this desk lamp that was given to me by a missionary leaving the field. Unfortunately it was not working. In the USA I imagine this would just be thrown out and you could pick up another one at Meijer or Ditto (its a Michigan thing). But in Peru, they fix things like this! Upon taking it apart, I discovered that the transformers was bad. No problem, I'll just go to the electronics store and buy another one. But I found out they don't sell transformers. However, they do REWIND them! This is a very slow process and something we would NEVER do in the USA, but in Peru labor is cheap. So I had a shop rewind the transformer for me. A couple solder joints later and now I have a working desk lamp!