July 26, 2011

From the Road...

Okay, I apologize to all of you who aren't that overly interested in kiddie pictures...But, I am a Dad and the camera seems to gravitate towards family when they're around. These quick periods of time recently have been a lot about family, as we're getting down to our last visits with some of them for some time. Don't complain, or next week it'll be pictures of the inside of an aircraft engine!

 Levi - master huckleberry picker! The bears will starve this summer, Levi is systematically removing their food supply (that's of course if the bears don't start eating the berry pickers).

Gabe, master huckleberry eater! 

Helena...master cookie dough eater! 

 Poppy & Dad


One of Helena's favourite things to do - wear other peoples' shoes. Also the reason she often has skinned knees. 

Mom's flowers - we're so thankful for the beautiful back yard...she put so much work into it making it beautiful and quite kid proof.

 Papa & Poppy

 Okay, this is on the road after leaving Revelstoke, having supper somewhere in Northern Idaho. The kids sat there all sweet without getting nasty with each other for about as long as it took me to point and click.

 Getting back into the van & off to Post Falls.

 Day 2, a cute state park near a truly "Northern Idaho" town a little ways off the state highway called Winchester, population 308...which I think was a joke (get it, 308 Winchester)

 Lil' Taco is getting so big!

See, no joke. In Southern Idaho they make jokes about Northern Idaho and their guns. We stopped at one gas station, and it had a sign on the store door: "PLEASE leave your guns in the car, don't bring them in the store." I wanted a picture but the kids were getting fussy and the locals were staring (as they shined their guns, clean the barrels, and packed bullets). If I ever saw anyone trying to bring a gun into a gas station in Canada I'd freak out and run like the wind (of course, I'm not 19 anymore, so I'd stretch first and start out slow to warm up).

We're now settling into our 'home' here in Nampa, Idaho and are into our first round of classes. It was 38 degrees C yesterday, and all the southern folks here were enjoying the 'comfortably cool' weather...whereas we're still 'adjusting' from Prince George weather. A good half-way prep for Indonesia!

More pic's and posts to come...

July 14, 2011


 Fireworks from the "4th of Ju-ly !!!" I bled red, white, & blue for one day down here, but I kept looking over my shoulder because it felt like Stevie Harper was staring at me with those cold, steely eyes.  So, on the 5th it was back to just red & white. At church on the 3rd we sang a 'patriotic package'  that included classics like 'God bless America'. We also pledged our allegiance to the flag...I didn't know it, and I guess it would have been weird if I did (Mom, you should be proud!).

 This is the test stand engine at STC. It allows students to become familiar with running a PT6, and allows us to become familiar with adjustments you don't do very often in the field. If you're going to make a molten mess out of an engine...this is the place to do it!

A training aid in class, this old PT6 is cut away so one can see the guts. I looked and looked, but I couldn't find the giant rubber band.

More engines / training aids used during the engine portion of schooling. It is so beneficial to have a missions focused organization like Spokane Turbine Centre with these facilities to help prep pilots & mechanics for operations in the field. During my time in Prince George I spent time working on these type of engines & some similar aircraft, and here at STC I've been able to gain a lot knowledge & info that I can put to use in Indonesia.

July 3, 2011

Fun with Planes! (The Quest Kodiak)

WARNING: If airplanes bore you, you might just want to scroll down to the very last picture...it's not of an airplane :)

I (Ben) am down in lovely Spokane, WA taking a some more aircraft maintenance courses at Spokane Turbine Centre. Amy and the kiddies are on the Sunshine coast spending time with family (I miss you guys!). Yes, I did take a course earlier this year in Wichita, but that course was focused on a different aircraft - the Cessna Caravan. The courses I am taking here at STC are geared towards the Quest Kodiak (both planes are utilized by MAF in Indonesia). Let me show you pictorially the vast differences between the Kodiak and the Caravan:

Quest Kodiak 100

Cessna Grand Caravan  'Grand' meaning a stretch version compared to a regular Caravan. It has extra trunk space like the Dodge Grand Caravan, but when you're flying over tree tops, thankfully it's a little more reliable than a Dodge!

Yes, at first glance they look almost the same.  Maybe the most noticeable difference in these two pic's is the cargo pod on the belly of the Caravan. But soon, most Kodiak's will also have their own cargo pods as they have just been approved by the FAA and are being installed in basically all new planes rolling out of the factory, and retrofitted to most of the ones out there already flying. It makes the plane much more useful (not to mention more front heavy which is a biggie with the Kodiak).

Now, you might wonder what the point is of operating two different aircraft that almost look identical? So glad you asked! As the Caravan has been around for about 25 yrs now, MAF has been utilizing it for quite some time, and it has proven its usefulness. Both the Caravan and the Kodiak have a turboprop PT6A engine, which is a jet fuel burning turbine engine (the same technology and fuel used by commercial jetliners). 

Piston type aircraft burn a leaded gasoline called AVGAS, and in recent years this fuel has become extremely expensive, or just down right non-existent in a lot of developing countries. This has proven to be a large issue for MAF since the large portion of their fleet has been traditionally piston type aircraft like the Cessna 206. Not being able to fly because of weather or political situation is one thing, but missing out on helping when you're needed just because there's no fuel isn't cool.
MAF Cessna 206, the traditional workhorse of MAF. Due to high fuel prices, it is becoming (or will become) an endangered species in the MAF fleet.

Problem: A Cessna Caravan cannot fly into a lot of the places a Cessna 206 can. Another issue is that the different "bush plane" aircraft types that traditionally flew into hard-to-get-to places with short runways (like Beavers, Otters, Helio Couriers, etc.) are quite old. Some of them have been out of production for 20 - 30 years.

This is the main reason for the Quest Kodiak. Quest Aircraft wanted to develop a single engine aircraft that was jet fuel burning, economic, hardy, useful (like a pickup truck), modern, and had STOL (short take off & landing) capabilities. And the ultimate goal was to produce an aircraft well suited for missions and humanitarian work.

On Canada day I was able to drive over to Sandpoint Idaho where Quest Aircraft produces the Kodiak and get a tour of the production line. To say the least, it was very neat to see!

Early on in the production process, this is the floor of the fuselage. You can see the seat rails where the passenger seats will be mounted. Almost all the sheet metal parts (all painted green with aluminum primer) are produced right in the plant. Along with that, basically all machined aluminum alloy parts are also produced on sight using giant computer controlled milling machines, they were about half the size of my house. Some larger aircraft companies sub-contract out a lot of parts & sub assemblies to be made somewhere other than the main assembly plant, so it was neat to see how much is made on sight at Quest.

 Looking down the line, this aircraft is serial number 56. A couple of planes on this line are future MAF aircraft, and I think one of them is headed to Indonesia...maybe this one!

 Wings on, and starting to resemble an airplane! Now it needs an engine and some landing gear, and maybe a few other things :)  What do they say...measure twice, cut once?

 This is a Pratt & Witney PT6A turbo-prop engine, a Canadian product! This particular one used in the Kodiak is rated to put out 750 shaft horsepower on take off. A really rough guess is that a brand new engine like this costs around $400,000 to $600,000 (depending whether or not you get dinged with the HST tax in BC). Notice the four bladed propeller, four blades instead of three allows for shorter blades, meaning the blades are farther off the ground and as a result (good for the mechanic) less damage to the prop from rocks and such. There are a lot of little 'off road' considerations like this in the Kodiak.

Driving back to Spokane...I thought Amy would like this picture. We both grew fond of Canola fields while living in Dawson Creek, BC.