The MAF Blog: Worldwide Pulse

Plane Maintenance When Every Minute Counts

Posted on: April 17th, 2014 by MAF  |  Leave a comment

MAF pilots wear two hats—that of pilot and mechanic—and they come in handy when it comes to problem solving their aircraft.

A man was working on a roof in the northern Congolese town of Karawa when it suddenly collapsed from under him. His sternum broke and breathing became difficult and painful for him. He desperately needed a medical evacuation to get to a hospital. MAF could do the flight, but because of the distance, it would take two flight days and an overnighter for the pilot.

Kevin praying with passengers before takeoff.

Kevin praying with passengers before takeoff.

MAF pilot Kevin Spann took off on a Tuesday morning, intending to make it to Karawa before sunset. He would have to stop after three hours at Mbandaka to refuel and fill out paperwork and such. He was almost at his first stop when he smelled fuel.

The engine was running fine and there were no abnormal gauge readings, so he proceeded on while remaining alert to any changes.

The mental checklist

“I thought about where each fuel line was, where it came from, where it went, and was there anything I could do about it? Then I asked myself where the fuel system components on the engine were. If they were leaking, could I do anything about it in the air? Could the fuel be coming from a leaky tank, or sump drain? I didn’t see any fuel streaming from either wing or sump, so that was ruled out quickly.”

Once on the ground, Kevin quickly checked the aircraft to see if anything was amiss. He noticed drips coming from the cowl flap. He sniffed, and sure enough, it was fuel. The storm he just beat to the airstrip was about to let loose, so he turned off the fuel and made a mad dash into the hangar.

Once the rain let up, Kevin tightened up the filter; however it was still leaking after a test run.

Time to call for reinforcements

At this point in the day, it was too late for another MAF plane to reach him before sundown. Making it to Karawa was definitely out of the question. That would have to wait until tomorrow. Kevin made plans to spend the night in Mbandaka and called for another MAF plane to be dispatched in the morning.

A crowd greets Kevin after he lands at a remote village.

A crowd greets Kevin after he lands at a remote village.

The MAF Caravan arrived at MBandaka the next day and dropped off an MAF maintenance specialist and a Congolese staff member, plus some extra tools. Because time was of the essence, the Caravan continued on to Karawa to pick up the patient and get him to the hospital. Kevin and the other two men switched out the old filter and put in the new one. They ran it quickly with the cowling off to make sure there was no more leakage, then they put the cowl back on and gave it full power for about a minute and confirmed there was no more leak. Kevin filed the flight plan and they were ready to head for home.

“MAF pilot training and standard operating procedures, especially the electronic and yoke mounted checklists, really helped,” said Kevin. “Running the checklists, if you do them properly and consistently, can become second nature and ensures that nothing critical is forgotten, especially when something else is occupying your mind—like troubleshooting a fuel leak.”

Careful plane maintenance training allows MAF pilots to handle “detours” like this one, and be ready for just about anything—with a little flexibility. We’re grateful that the man made it to a hospital and pray that he will have a complete recovery.


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The Added Dimension

Posted on: April 16th, 2014 by Jim Manley  |  Leave a comment

We’re all flat-landers stuck in two dimensions. Doesn’t matter if we live in the mountains. We’re glued to Earth’s undulating surface, meticulously following its ups and downs. That restraint does grant security. We need concern ourselves only with the challenges of moving left or right, forward or back. Vertical decisions fade to choosing stairs or elevator.

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Between Two Worlds, Part 2

Posted on: April 15th, 2014 by MAF  |  Leave a comment

…. continued from an earlier post.

Q: How in the world do you condense your life down to a dozen or so packing bins? Can you describe your process?

As we walk through Target or IKEA, I find myself unconsciously picking things up and… [Read full post.]

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The Tears I’ve Cried

Posted on: April 14th, 2014 by Natalie Holsten  |  Leave a comment

Recently I shed happy tears. I love happy tears, especially since I usually shed sad, hormonal, frustrated, or angry tears.

We traveled from our home in Papua across the country of Indonesia to Kalimantan, where we served for 10 years, and had… [Read full post.]

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Four Things I Learned from an MAF Mechanic

Posted on: April 11th, 2014 by Jennifer Wolf  |  2 Comments

In talking with one of our aviation maintenance instructors here at MAF headquarters, I discovered that some tips could be applied to life as well. Here are four things I’ve learned about life via plane maintenance.

#1 The Tootsie Roll Theory. Talk to the guys in the maintenance or safety divisions here at MAF… [Read full post.]