Editor’s note: Missionary pilots fly into some of the most difficult airstrips in remote parts of the world, facing unique challenges in their daily flights. We solicited a few tips from MAF pilots that highlight some of the interesting situations they face each day on the field. Enjoy!
No. 10: Always let your ducks go to the restroom before boarding.
I was asked to do a duck project flight from Manokwari to an airstrip on a lake at 6,000 feet. I ended up loading my Cessna 206 with 60 ducks that were in several cages. As I was closing up the cargo doors, one of the ducks relieved himself through the slats in the cage, dousing my pants. The flight was only 24 minutes long, but that was the smelliest 24 minutes of flight time I can remember. I flew with my head up in the air vent the whole time. – Mike Brown
No. 9: Make sure your pig really is “hog-tied.”
One time a pig got loose in flight, kicking off the cargo pod door and making a dramatic exit at 2,000 feet. The owner wanted compensation for the pig, but we held him responsible for the missing pod door. We called it even. – Brian Shepson
No. 8: When working on an engine, don’t leave your donuts near a manifold drain.
While draining the preservative oil from a new engine that had just arrived from Haiti, I placed a box of donuts near the manifold drain. As the morning progressed and the donuts dwindled, I grabbed the next to last one and bit into it. There was a strange taste that accompanied this one, an unfamiliar flavor to me. But I still kept eating, until I looked at the other half. The bottom half of the donut was green. At first, I thought it was mold, so I tossed it and grabbed a Coke to wash it down. Then I went to toss the container in the trash, and that’s when I noticed it – a light trace of preservative oil on the corner of the donut container. Now that strange taste made sense.
I made a call to Nampa and asked them to contact Continental motors and inquire as to “What if someone ingested the intake manifold preservative oil?” The response we received back was, “If conscious, do not induce vomiting. Seek immediate medical attention.” By this point I was on my third Coke and wasn’t vomiting, so I figured “time heals all things.” I continued tasting this for the next 5 hours, but the aftertaste eventually subsided by the evening. – Mike Broyles
No. 7: Don’t let the owner carry his large monkey on his lap, even if he insists.
Against my better judgment, the owner of a monkey insisted on letting it sit in his lap during the flight. On start-up the monkey began screeching horribly. Startled by the engine noise, the monkey began hugging his owner aggressively. When I looked toward the backseat, the owner gave the thumbs up that all was OK to continue. During the full-power takeoff roll, much more monkey commotion was heard accompanied by a horrific smell. After the trees were cleared, a glance back revealed that the monkey had panicked, scrambled atop his master’s head and released his bowels. Mercifully, the flight was a short one. – Brian Shepson
No. 6: Witch doctor flags make great wind socks.
Witch doctors often adorn their huts with a tall pole sticking out of the middle that has a little flag on top. Many evil ceremonies are conducted inside, and we know that many people are misdirected. However, we also know that God can take bad circumstances and use them for good. Those little flags have helped me know what the wind is doing on that side of the airstrip and has increased our safety margin. Those flags have also been a reminder to pray, and remember why we are here. – David Carwell
No. 5: Never try to throw up out an open window of an unpressurized aircraft while in flight.
Higher pressure outside, lower pressure inside: guess where the vomit goes! – Brian Shepson
No. 4: Never sit behind someone trying to throw up out an open window of an unpressurized aircraft while in flight.
No explanation necessary. – Brian Shepson
No. 3: Make it very clear that there is no lavatory on board a small airplane.
In a pre-flight briefing I was giving to locals, one of them interrupted and asked if there was a bathroom on board. We had already pulled out to center-line at the busy international airport we fly out of. I told him, “No, but you can feel free to step outside any time you need to go.” Everyone laughed including the gentleman, so I thought he understood. We had a long flight that day (about 2.5 hours).
As we climbed out over the mountains that surround the city, I felt a tap on my shoulder. The gentleman asked me in earnest this time, “No—I really need to use the bathroom now.”
I said, “Do you have a bottle?”
“No,” he replied.
“Do you have anything?”
“I’ll try to find something,” he said, disappearing toward the back of the airplane.
A few minutes later he came back, relieved, and settled in for the rest of the flight and I didn’t think anything of it.
After we landed at our destination I opened the cargo door and was surprised to find a full sick sack of urine tied neatly at the back of the airplane. Fortunately it was not a very turbulent flight at all—the results could have been quite messy.
I handed the plastic bag to our passenger and said, “Please take your souvenir.”
He laughed as he grabbed his luggage and his sick sack and headed for the car that was waiting for him. – Christopher H.
No. 2: Make sure your seat belts are properly positioned before loading the plane.
After loading 900 pounds of bagged corn into a Cessna 185 and dutifully tying it all down with a net and several cargo straps, the pilot jumped in his seat only to find that his seat belt was under the load! After unloading 900 pounds of bagged corn the seat belt became available. After reloading 900 pounds of bagged corn again and dutifully tying it all down, the pilot landed one minute after sunset and got into trouble. Not a good day. – Brian Shepson
No. 1: Don’t load live crocodiles (with big sharp teeth) in front of the tow bar.
We occasionally carry live crocodiles (destined for the stew pot) in our pods beneath the aircraft. After making one such flight, I realized (too late) upon opening the pod that the croc was standing in front of the tow bar, the device used to help move the aircraft after landing. Since I don’t exactly trust the vines croc handlers use to bind the crocs’ jaws, I took a pass on getting the tow bar out until everything was unloaded! – David Francis