January 20, 2013

From The Phone (No.2)

More hangar excitement!!

Two of our piston powered airplanes (Cessna 206's) are currently playing musical cylinders. The reason being, one of these planes will be taking a one-way trip to Papua where it will be dis-mantled, put in a shipping container, and sent back to the US of A. In exchange, we will be receiving a different 206 from the MAF Papua program, whom I understand are in the process of reducing their # of Cessna 206's to "0". Over there, they are trying to quit pistons cold turkey, kind of like all of us quit turkey when we move here :)

Because the Continental engines in the 206 run on avgas (good ol' leaded gasoline), their usefulness is directly related to the availability & price of avgas, which is continually in shorter supply in areas outside of North America & Europe. That said, here in Tarakan we can still get avgas somewhat consistently, and these planes still play a important role in the program, and probably will continue to do so for at least the near future.

So, why take the engines all apart just to swap parts? Unlike a car/truck engine, aircraft engines generally are legally allowed to be used for only a certain number of hours of flying time. Once those hours are up, off comes the engine, no matter how nice & happily it is still running. There are also a lot of other components that also have a pre-destined life span (kind of a Calvinistic way to ensure safety) - that's if they stay happily running for that time period. Everything breaks eventually, and in aviation the idea is to replace things before they brake.

One of the management decisions that then needs to be made is, if a plane is going bye-bye, do you want brand new engine components on it with lots of useable time left, or do you want components on it that have less useable time? I should reiterate that the components with "less useable time" still meet all the requirements of an airworthy part, operate quite nicely, and are still legally fit for an airplane. When you consider the large aviation-esk price tags that come with the components, it is sometimes more than worth it to put the maintenance time & effort into swapping things around, and get your $$$ worth out of your airplane parts.
Thus, musical cylinders! Time to get the right cylinders going to the right destination on the right airplane...in between other jobs. lately, we have actually had only two pilots available  to fly (that means 3 airplanes not flying on a given day), yet our hangar has been full and there certainly has been plenty of wrenching to go around.

Above is Pak Nelson and below is Pak Luhut getting the one 206 all prepped to start pulling cylinders or "jugs" off. Pak Luhut has been helping with this type of work in this hangar since I was goofing off in grade school. Although not schooled in aviation maintenance, or licensed to sign out the work, some of our Indonesian staff know specific tasks very well, and the work done here would slow to a crawl (at best) without them. The large part of my aviation experience has not been with piston engines, so jobs like these have been great learning experiences for me. As I get to know some of these guys, I also find myself looking up to them in the way they carry themselves as Godly men and believers in Christ, something that can certainly transcend culture.

 Cylinders off & on the work bench! This is the part where we inspect & clean them, give them a few new components, a word of encouragement (we value positive re-enforcement here), and then it's back to the engine. Of course, if they are showing signs of age, anxiety or stress, they get to collect dust in a junk bin or are returned to sender, never fly again.

...and the vicious cycle of aviation continues.

Above is a scene that seems to happen fairly often out front of the hangar - people being unloaded that have been medivac'd from the interior. This young girl looked like she was in her teens and I found out later she was the victim of someone else's poor decisions on a motorcycle. She was still unconscious here coming out of the airplane. Some weeks it seems our pilots are making medivac flights everyday.

Since I am in the hangar all day, I don't often see all the people & stuff that goes to and fro in MAF planes, so it is a great reminder to me what type of role our planes can play, and how all of our efforts make this type of transportation possible. What a way to pour back out some of Christ's love on others as He has on us. Our family is truly blessed to be apart of this and see it happen!

January 11, 2013

From the Phone...

Finding the time to intentionally pack around the ol' camera bag has been a little sparse of late. But hey, I always have my phone on me, so why not use it! Better than nothing. So hear goes the first exciting installment of...."From - the - Phone!!!"

Door seals and FCU's...
One job we recently did in the hangar was the installation of inflatable door seals on our first Kodiak.This allows the Kodiak's doors to double as life rafts if the plane happens to find itself suddenly in a large body of water...Just don't role down the window in that situation. 

No, not really. Actually they are used to seal up the doors a bit better than the older type seals, keeping rain, noise, & exhaust smell on the outside of the airplane. Above and below is my fellow co-worker and neighbour Tim Maynard applying bubble gum to the bottom of the new door sill (the manual calls for 87 pre-chewed pieces of DubbleBubble original). Who ever thought being an aircraft mechanic was easy!? My jaw is still sore.

Above is the two Kodiak's having a little chat as they get some TLC in the hangar. This was when we had to ground both planes for a couple days as we pulled the fuel control units (both fcu's shown below) off of each of them. Long story short, we were trying to pin point a symptom in one of them, and one way to do that is to see if the symptom goes away if a different unit is used on the same aircraft. These units are each individually worth about the price of a brand new minivan, and they are also the 'brians' behind what makes the aircraft's engine go 'put put'.
Our work yeilded some good information, but the next task is to find the needed replacement part, and then get it 1/3 way around the world! Fortunately, lots of MAF folks know the routine pretty good, and are on it. Pray that we can get both of these planes up and flying sooner than later! Right now, to say that there is plenty of work out there for them to do is an understatement.
Ah yes, a toolbox that is dirty on top is a toolbox that is being used...or just maybe owned by a guy who likes lotsa junk in his way. I like mine clean, but some guys role with a different style and have their boxes looking like part of the archeological record. You could peal back piles of tools, old aircraft parts, & dirty rags like they were strata - layers of time, revealing long forgotten secrets and stories of intrigue. But I could ask a guy like that to borrow a pair of pliers and he'd certainly know right where they were...or at least what pile they were in. I'll have to take some pic's of dirty or not-so-dirty tool boxes for future posts along with their proud owners. That's right, you're on the edge of your seat now!
Ahhh, clean on top, at least for now.
I most certainly must follow up pictures of a tool box with a cute kid (you are only as good as your last picture). Charlotte is pointing out the Indonesian Spitting Cobra we almost stepped on as we were taking a little stroll. No, not really. I haven't seen a snake yet since coming to Tarakan. I think she was pointing at a chicken or something.

January 5, 2013

Christmas & into the New Year

A very (belated) merry Christmas and happy new year to all of you!

We had our 2nd Indonesian Christmas right here in cozy, humid Tarakan. All that was missing was the snow, and of course all of our family back home...And let us not forget a delicious turkey with all the fixin's. Well, to be honest Amy made one exceptionally delicious Christmas dinner highlighted with an Indonesian turkey.

(Indonesian turkey's enjoying a pickup game of soccer - a quality that makes them easier to distinguish from other similar domesticated fowl)

Indonesian turkey's are like regular turkey's except they are smaller, look different, and, well, they don't quite taste the same either. And they don't say "gobble gobble", but rather they say "buck buck" or "cockle-doddle-doo", or a Southeast Asian variation thereof. (Please see this previous post for a more in depth look at the international cultural differences between common farm animals).

The fact that Christmas is not a super hyped up commercialized part of the culture over here is probably no surprise to anyone. But, for us it certainly causes the season to come and go a little less dramatically. That said, Christmas is certainly celebrated by the church here, as it is more specifically a religious holiday for Christians.

New Year's came with some serious fireworks. Not big 'symphony of fire' type fireworks, but approx. ten thousand of the type of fireworks widely available for purchase on the side of the road. No fireworks license needed here! Just a lighter, and some desire for excitement. I once desired such excitement (back in Salatiga), and it ended with Amy and the kids scared out of their wits, a burnt cloth diaper that was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and myself in serious contemplation of the importance to properly secure fireworks when in use. But hey! Live and learn. I'm sure that if they were actually dangerous, some level of Indonesian government would regulate them like back home in Canada...right!?

Fireowrks woke Amy and I up around 12am, as for about a 1/2 hour they were constant all over town. Yes, we were woken up at 12am on New Year's eve/morning. Sure we know how to PAR-TAY, but only till 10pm and then we're tuckered and crawl into bed. And guess what - all you childless people out there - it'll happen to you too one day soon!
Christmas morning!!! Waiting to open presents. As you can see, Helena has already begun a delicious & nutritious breakfast of Smarties, a truly Canadian / European snack.

What!? No more pictures? Sorry! I'm fresh out, "habis" as they say here. More to come, I promise. I have lots of ideas for pictures and posts, I just have to find the time!

From our family, we thank all of you who pray for us, MAF & the people of Indonesia, for your financial support, and the way you have been such an important part of MAF's ministry in Kalimantan in 2012. May God bless you and bless others through you in 2013!

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
Psalm 67:1-3