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!

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