Friday, December 23, 2011

Spreading Christmas Cheer

This morning, Tom, the SAMAIR program manager and I, spent the morning delivering a little bit of Christmas Cheer. During this past year, there have been many people and organizations that have helped SAMAIR either with paperwork, licenses, maintenance, hanger space, and government paperwork. To show our appreciate, we set off like Santa's elves to make our rounds.

It is cultural at Christmas time to give gifts of appreciation such as a "Paneton". This is a bread which has raisins and little chewy gummy bear bits inside of it and seems to have an indefinite shelf life. At every stop we were well received and of course spent additional time "hamming it up".

"Paneton" is the gift that keeps on giving! Notice the fancy red bags with Christmas trees on them with snow. Quite a contrast to beads of sweat forming on our brows in the 95 degree weather!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

There's your problem!

Rainy season has started here in Bolivia and that means water and mud on the roads. Since I do not have a vehicle here, I have been bumming rides with my roommate, Greg. He has a 1987 Dodge Raider which is a small 2 door SUV, also known as a "JEEP". Pretty much anything that has 2 doors and is a truck they call a Jeep. Anyways, we had noticed that there was some daylight coming through the area over the rear wheel well. Upon further investigation we found a LARGE hole where the top of the wheel well used to be.

After removing the carpeting the damage was obvious.

An angle grinder with a thin cutting disk made quick work of removing the damage.

A paper template made from a manila folder was used as a pattern for the steel patch.

Aviation clecoes were used to hold everything in place while drilling the holes for pop rivets.

Some silicon under the patch and black uncoating were brush on for "corrosion protection".

With the carpet re-installed I pronounced it road worthy for the next 24 years.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fruit vs. Tupperware

Thought it would be interesting to visually show how far $8 goes here in Bolivia. Each Tupperware costs about $4. The Pineapple, bananas, apples, peaches, and passion fruit can also be purchased for $8. I know which one I would rather eat...

More than just fixing airplanes.

This past month at the hanger has been slow from a flying perspective, but the SAMAIR team has repaired 4 cars for other missionaries. Be it automatic door locks, leaking shocks, worn out universal joints, mushy brakes, or radio installations, we have done them all over the past few weeks. It is hard to finding a good mechanic who is not only trust worthy but actually knows what he is doing. Not sure if us SAMAIR guys are any better but our price is definetly right... FREE!

Wiring that was previously "fixed" with electrical tape.

Worn out roller bearing from a universal joint. (they are not supposed to be broken into tiny pieces!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Repair job.

The Cessna 206, while a great airplane, does seem to have a couple of week spots. Yes I know, let the jokes begin... The cylinders, nose wheel drag link, gear boxes, horizontal attach, door switch, and slow flap motor are all gripes of mechanics and pilots to one degree or another. Add to that list, exhaust hangers on the firewall. This is the third airplane that I have worked on fixing this problem. For those who want to look at the pictures and don't care about the details, skip the next paragraphs.

The exhaust tube is supported by a hanger which attaches to the firewall. Vibration is transferred from the engine, to the exhaust, to the hanger and to two small AN365-1032 screw which are held in by nutplates and 2 small AN426-3 rivets through the firewall and a .040 bulkhead. The vibration causes everything to flex which eventually creates cracks in the firewall and bulkhead. The material is not strong enough to take the vibration. Interestingly enough, I have only over seen cracks on the pilot side, although I know cracks have been found on the co-pilot side exhaust hanger as well. This airplane had a patch at one time, but it was not enough to transfer the loads and vibration without failing.

The repair one can effect, is to either replace the bulkhead or make a sandwich patch. Since a bulkhead is $400 and a long ways away in the USA, we decided to make a patch. I cut out the damage with a cut-off wheel, stop drilled one crack that went even farther outside of the affected area, and began working on making a patch.

Some .030 stainless was used on the firewall, then a smaller piece of stainless and a piece of .040 aluminum were used to "fill the hole", then on the backside of everything (inside of the airplane, behind the rudder pedals) another piece of .032 aluminum was used for the back of the sandwich patch. A 90 degree angle drill comes in real handy for drilling out rivets and making new holes for the patch.

Some fuel tank sealer goes behind the stainless patch and is riveted "wet" so that a good seal is made and no exhaust gasses would have the chance to enter the cabin area. The rivet spacing was as close to uniform as could be, given the other ribs, nut plates, and form of the bulkhead. Also the front patch is slightly larger than the rear patch to help eliminate stress points. Total time spent on this repair was about 3-4 days. Just getting at the area can be a chore as it involved removing the rudder pedals, brake master cylinders, and also bleeding the brakes once completed. I was quite happy how it came out in the end.

Its what's for dinner.

No, not beef, chicken! While on a two day trip in eastern Bolivia, we were vising a pastor and his wife who run an after school program for the kids of a small community called Santo Corazon. Every school day, after morning classes, about 30 kids spend 1-2 hours memorizing bible verses, singing, learning about hygene, and sharing a meal together.

As "honored guests" pilots are always given the best portions of the meal, in this case chicken soup. As you can see, my soup truly was extra special. I was gracious and offer the chewy appendage to one of the kids who accepted the delicacy and wolfed it down with aplomb.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Installing things.

Being relatively mechanically inclined, I find that my mechanical skills are put to use quite often in areas other than aviation. On one 3 day trip to far eastern part of Bolivia, I helped to install a screen door on a church. The hardest part of getting the sun to come out and recharge our drill batteries via the solar panels.

More recently, I completed my 3rd air conditioner installation. Living in the tropics has made me an expert, along with moving every year, I am averaging one installation per year! As I joked with some of my friends, my life motto should be, Making the world a cooler place, one A/C at a time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The truck.

While spending the night in a remote town in Bolivia last week, some fellow North Americans let us borrow their "truck" for the afternoon. I think it used to be a Suzuki Samari, but its hard to say. The gas tank is a 3 gallon plastic jug which as on the floor, there are not doors, no exhaust, and no brakes. Stopping was accomplished by turning off the ignition and letting the clutch out in first gear. Needless to say, neither OSHA nor the DOT are know entities in these parts of Bolivia.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Medical Evacuation from a ranch?

Over the past two weeks, I have had the chance to accompany the other SAMAIR pilot on five flights. The last one was quite interesting as we received a call from the owner of a cattle ranch to come and pickup his elderly wife who had fallen and hurt her hip quite severely. The ranch was only 55 miles away from the SAMAIR airstrip, but the idea of riding for 3 hours on rough roads between the city and the ranch made flying the best transportation option. Like many of the ranches around Santa Cruz, this ranch has a 1,800 foot airstrip which made for easy transport between the house and the airplane.

While we were at the ranch, I took a few pictures of the ranch house architecture and a tree that had very large thorns growing on it. Both were strange sights for someone who is used to flying in the jungles of Peru.

The owners of the ranch are originally from England, 27 years ago they came for a short visit and never left! One of the ranch hands, along with his son, came to help load up the wheel chair and bags inside of the Cessna 206.

Thirty minutes after takeoff, we were back in Santa Cruz where the couple was whisked away to the hospital. I am thankful for the opportunity to use something I enjoy (flying), to serve people in such a tangible way.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Greetings from Bolivia! I have been in country for almost one week and am finally getting some things under control. My first taste of Bolivia was walking off the plane in Santa Cruz, my new home, and being greeted by winds of 40 miles per hour and a temperature of 50 degrees! Evidently a southern cold front, from Antarctica, had arrived just before me and brought with with rain, wind, and cold air. This phenomenon of a "sur" happens occasionally during the "winter" down here and lasts for about 3-4 days. Since I was hot and sticky at the hanger today, I officially pronounced the "sur" to have ended.

Speaking of the hanger, I wasted no time in showing up for work on Monday. I have already had the chance to go on 3 flights and am beginning to get "checked out" on some of the flight routes and airstrips. I guess I have been to busy flying because I was only able to take a few pictures of the SAMAIR hanger before an early morning flight. Stay tuned for more pictures and updates coming shortly.

Monday, July 4, 2011

June Jobs Jaunts and Jingles

June was a crazy month. I received information from the mission that plans for going to Bolivia would be moving a head. Basically this meant extending a one week vacation that I had planned in the USA for the last week of June and staying through the first week of August so I could spend time with family, friends, and supporters before heading straight to Bolivia.

Before leaving Peru I did have the change to work on a few more projects. The floatplane was looking a little worn out since we had finished working on the wheel plane. So I took a few days to do some 'wish list" things that the pilots has wanted to get done. I installed some headphone jacks for the middle and rear seat passengers. That involved some wiring and soldering.

Then it was on to an new engine gauge that had been donated by Electronics International. That also took some wiring and a few hours on my back behind the instrument panel getting all cramped and calling into question the genealogy of some engineers at Cessna. In the end it turned out very nice. Here are the BEFORE and AFTER shots.

A finishing touch was standardizing the Push-To-Talk radio switch and Flap Dump (retracts the flaps after landing) switch locations on the control yoke.

During this whole process the old Cessna boat anchor (aka Nav-0-matic 300 autopilot) was removed as well. We gained 4 more pounds of useful load!

My fellow pilots Nathan has begun his wheel plane checkout and standardization flying. I was able to shoot some pictures and even get a neat video shot as well from my motorcycle.

Since I will be taking over for another pilot in Bolivia for 12-16 months, I ended up selling quite a few things that I had at my house. A fellow missionary came over to help me make deliveries which was much appreciated. As poetic justice would have it, I sold my trusty Honda generator to my neighbor and the very next day after I left, the power went out. He wrote me saying it was the best purchase he made all year!

Traveling to the USA was an adventure, 23 hours without sleep and changed flight schedules had me spending hours on end in both the Miami and Chicago airports.

But, once I was back in Michigan I had the joy of being in my cousin's wedding.

I should be in the USA until the first week on August... then it will be time to change the to blog to SPEYERS IN BOLIVIA!