The Last four weeks have been really short and long at the same time if that makes sense. Short because of how busy we have been, long because it was the longest time that Laura and I have been away from Each other.
Laura departed Dunlap TN on the morning of September 18th to drive down to Miami and fly out on the 20th to Georgetown Guyana. They would be on the same flight as Joy Ash and their two girls. The plan was for me to join James Ash in the Cessna 182 that Todd Anderson had purchased for the work in Guyana. We thought that the plane would be ready, and we would leave really close to the same time as the ladies. Well… it didn’t happen that way. I received word that Laura and Kathryn had arrived safely in Guyana. The next morning I got a call from James…the plane is no where near ready to leave and the mechanic is going on vacation for two weeks and he says he has about 4-6 weeks worth of work to do on it when he gets back. That means that 6-8 weeks before the plane is ready to fly south!!! WHAT!?!?!?! My heart sank. My sweet heart is in another country and I haven’t even been to that country. I took comfort knowing that she was at least with Joy Ash who has lived in Guyana for the last 10 years. I knew that Laura and Kathryn would be ok. That Wednesday afternoon James called me and said “Can you get over here to Collegedale and help us. "I Spoke with Steve Wilson (our A&P/IA mechanic and pilot from Bolivia) and he is spending time with family in Atlanta. He can be here in the morning to do the annual inspection.” I grabbed my things an stuffed them in the back of my GMC Jimmy and headed out. As soon as I got my stuff dumped in a room at the GMI quarters, I raced over to the hanger to help open up inspection panels on the plane so Steven could start with everything open. Steven worked in earnest the Thursday Morning. By Friday he had most of the inspection complete. Many things needed to be done. Darren Lea (a mechanic from AWA) and Tom Meigan came and helped resolve issues. We worked hard 10-12 hour days trying to get all the fine details ironed out and the plane ready to go. Interior panels needed to be put back on the walls and ceiling. new Vinyl lettering on the wings and pilot's door. the plane had to be weighed to get an accurate picture of the weight and balance. The next Friday we pulled the plane out of the hanger and Cas Anderson fired up the engine. It ran!!! But the oil pressure didn’t look right.
I told them our situation he said “get it over here and we’ll work it in today” Praise the Lord!!! It also meant we wouldn’t be flying the plane for the day like we had planned on but we would have that check done. Monday afternoon they called… “there is a leak in the static system and we are having a hard time locating it and your transponder is…dead. The transponder would be expensive if not impossible to repair due to the age of the unit, a good used one would be the next option but it would likely have the same issue soon and that would be $1000. The next option would be a new install of a much newer unit $1500 the next option was a brand new unit with the New ADS-B options that are required by 2020… $6500 we opted for the on in the middle that is a very good Garmin GTX 327 that can have the ADS-B added to it later. They finally got it installed and the static system fixed by Wednesday. All said and done after all the work of locating and fixing the leak in the static system and the certification of both systems and the install of the new transponder $2500. We weren't sure how we were going to pay for it and have money to put gas in the plane to take it south. We prayed about what to do. The Lord provided through a donor who asked what the bill was and stated that she would cover the bill. "We need to get you boys on your way to your families." We got the plane and flew down to Cobb County airport where we were met by a rep from Stophungernow.org.
We arrived in Port-a-Prince Haiti about 10:15.
We finally got to move over to the GA ramp and found the MAF Hanger where we could try and make contact with ADRA personel. The MAF personel were very helpful and shared their Airconditioned shipping container office with us while we worked. We took on fuel so we could make the trip to Puerto Rico as soon as ADRA was able to collect the food supplies. Finally we figured out that they were at the airport but couldn’t figure out where we were. Once that was resolved and they made it through with a van to pick up our load, James went a filed our flight plan. He was gone for quite some time while I stayed with the plane. Marshallers on the ram kept asking me
planes coming in. Finally a dejected looking James returned to the plane. “eAPIS has not cleared us to re-enter the US. I have tried two more times to file another eAPIS. Still nothing, all we can do is wait. It will be best if we can park over at the GA ramp to wait. Back at the MAF base we kept checking the email hoping and praying for a response from eAPIS. Eventually the time came when single engine night operations were not allowed. We were officially stuck for Sabbath. We tried to make contact with ADRA again to see if they had any suggestions. While we waited for a response a field director was on the phone. When he hung up he was almost in tears. He had 14 people in a certain valley that were in need of serious medical help. There was no runway near them. The only way to get to them was with a helicopter, and he couldn't find one that was available.
Soon they went home and closed the office. There went our method of trying to contact anybody in Haiti. Now where to sleep… with the folding seats in the back we thought that would work. As we were piling everything in the front seats with flash lights an man came out and asked what we were planning to do since they were expecting us to leave right away. We told him the story with the eAPIS. “you can’t sleep here.” He said. “come inside you can sleep on the seats in the terminal” Well that is better than nothing and might work quite well so we grabbed out backpacks and headed into the terminal. We made ourselves comfortable. I was almost out when a security guard came in yelling something in French. I started and sat up, he motioned for me to lay back down as he kept yelling and continued on around the corner. I re-positioned. About an hour or so later someone else was yelling and clapping his hands. I sat up. There was another security guard with a man in a suit. The man in the suit had an ADRA pin on his lapel. “we can’t let you sleep here when you have come to help us. Come with me.” “What happened? We lost contact with you” he said. We told him how we had been over at the MAF Flight base but they had closed for the evening. And we had no other options for internet. “You come sleep comfortable” he put us up in a hotel within walking distance to the airport.