Monday, January 25, 2010

The Logistical Aspect of Mark's Haiti Adventures

I copied this from Mark's blog. I am the [editor] and he is the "I". I asked him to blog about his adventure going to Haiti last week. He is one of Agape Flight's pilots. He been flying to Haiti for over 8 years (the first 6 as a volunteer the last 2 as a missionary on staff) This is what he came up with.... I'll ask him to blog again in a few days and share the stories that I have been hearing...

I must say that I have done a bit of flying in the last few days. On, Thursday, January 14th, I flew out to a small grass strip to pick up a Cessna 401 (twin engine,7 passenger airplane) then swung north to pick up my passengers.

The group I was picking up were a group of disaster relief experts that were to organize the relief efforts in Haiti. I arrived at 10am and the amount of cargo they had was surprising. Were they expecting a military transport? How was I going to fit all this gear in the plane and become airborne? After much figuring and head scratching by my co-pilot Paul, we were ready to depart. We received our clearance and we took off into the bright blue Florida sky.

As we neared our refueling stop of Exuma, the chatter on the frequency was that no flights were being allowed into Port Au Prince. We informed the passengers and they asked, "How close can you get us?" "Can you get us to Las Americas?" So off to to the south of the Dominican Republic went. After another refueling stop in Proveceales, we took off into the setting sun which then gave way to night.

Flying at night in the Caribbean is especially dark. It was so dark that for all intents and purposes I could have been on board the international space station. The only way we knew we were moving was because the instruments said so.

When we arrived in Las Americas it was clear that the staging for a massive influx of aid from all over the world was being staged. I saw aircraft from Russia, China, Italy, and Japan. Here I was in my little Cessna 401. Our passengers got off and they proceeded to rent an SUV and drove the rest of the way to Port Au Prince. I hope they made it.

On Monday I hopped in an Aztec (small twin) to act as a shuttle between Santiago and Port Au Prince. On Tuesday we woke and off we went, or so we thought. The Dominican flight plan office had not filed our flight plan, and now we were not going to make our 8am slot time in Port Au Prince; I was furious! I had flown five and a half hours on Monday, and made it to the airport three hours early to make sure all went smoothly and for all of that to be undone by a bureaucrat! I spoke with his supervisor [editor's note: good thing he speaks Spanish!!] and explained that that I had to make my slot time. We got out an hour late start and praying that by some miracle we would make it into Port.

We climbed up over the 10,000' mountains and all along the way I was expecting someone to tell us to turn back, but that call never came. When we arrived in Port Au Prince The frequency was a buzz with military traffic. There were all sorts of aircraft flying around,helicopters,big transports,and small aircraft were all coming and going smoothly. Praise God! We off loaded our 800 pounds of medical supplies and saw them whisked away in a caged truck by one of the missionaries that we serve. As thy drove away, I started to see the scope of the quake. There were tents on the airport and pallet and pallets of supplies of stuff that wasn't moving. Why is all this stuff her, I wondered? [Editor's note, again... I think they were the impounded stuff that Mark talked about on Facebook or in an email. The stuff didn't have the right paperwork.] All the missionaries that Agape had in Port were now a perfect distribution network, and our supplies were getting out right away as fast as we could unload them.

As we got ready to deport, I met other pilots that I had flown with in the past. It was as though we had all come together to fight against a common foe. That enemy was death, and it felt glorious; I had never been a part of something so big. Thank you God for using me!

We continued with our supply runs, two slots a day, and side runs to surrounding areas as was needed. We carried mostly food and water. We had the opportunity to pick up and drop off doctors and other folks. We carried four guys from Barahona [Dominican Republic] that were there to set up a massive tent as a MASH unit.

All in all, it was quite the adventure. Makes you wish you were a missionary, huh? I'm loving it! [Editor's note: Stay tuned for some amazing stories! This was his "logistics" post. Next will be a sights and sounds post!]

1 comment:

Prachar family said...

Can't wait for more!!! Thanks for sharing!