Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A-Flying We Will Go

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” ~Lord Kelvin

“Flying is hours and hours of boredom sprinkled with a few seconds of sheer terror.” ~Pappy Boyington

Here in Papua New Guinea, you can never quite be sure what you will encounter when traveling. I knew that in a theoretical sense, of course, but when we arrived in Port Moresby back in August, and our connection to Madang was cancelled, it was a surprise. Fortunately, we were booked on the next flight up and we only had about a 4-5 hour delay in the airport. They said the cancellation was due to “mechanical problems,” and maybe that was so, but it’s possible, too, that not enough people were booked on the flight, or even that someone was just having a bad day. Around here you never know for sure.

When I got the call last Friday that my flight from Ukarumpa to Port Moresby (via the aviation department of our mission agency) had been changed, I wasn’t too disturbed. In fact, it was good to know that I would not be picked up at 7:30AM. Instead, I could have a normal morning with the kids and my husband, and even run a few errands before it was time to go.

I managed to say goodbye to the kids as they left for school, but they were either embarrassed by my attempts at affection or eager to get to school (I’ll assume the latter), and they each shrugged me off with an annoyed “ok, bye Mom.” After checking off the things on my list, I came back to the house to wait for my ride to the airstrip. In the twenty minutes I sat waiting on the front porch, I got better quality time with the kittens than I’d had with the kids.

Other than an equipment change (the Kodiak was grounded for some mechanical work, so we rode on the King Air), we took off shortly after our (new) scheduled ETD of 1100 and about 50 minutes later were making our final approach into Port Moresby. The wind was whipping at, the pilot later told us, 25 knots, so it made the approach somewhat, shall we say, tremulous. The gal across the aisle from me was holding her stomach “so it wouldn’t move around so much.”

Well said.

Ukarumpa from the Air

When we arrived at the guest house (three of us were overnighting in Moresby and had been assigned to stay together), we ate lunch and then sat down to watch “real time TV” in the common room. We caught up on the news of the world for a while, but each of us at various times, helped along by the heat, dozed off in front of the broadcast. Gripping news day; what can I say?

I was determined not to stay up too late after dinner because, as I had just discovered, my Tuesday morning departure for Buka was scheduled for 5:20 … A.M. Now, we think we have it bad in the States, but here, even for domestic flights, you have to be at the airport two hours in advance. So, I was told I would be picked up by our mission shuttle at 0300 hours. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for, say, sleeping. (I got exactly three hours and forty-three minutes, but who’s counting?) Normally there is only one flight from Port Moresby to Buka (around 9:30AM), thus my surprise to find that the agent had made a reservation for oh-dark-twenty. But, these early flights do have one thing going for them – their on-time record – and I would eventually arrive in Buka, on time, at about 7:00AM.

I boarded the flight and found that there were only ten passengers on the Fokker 100 (seating capacity: 98). The journey was peaceful. Apple juice and cookies were served –yes, the breakfast of champions. I watched, in between cat naps, the breaking of dawn and took in the sight of West and East New Britain as we passed by to the South.

Bougainville Island on the Left, Buka Island on the Right, with Airstrip

For the next two and a half weeks, I would be grounded on a beautiful tropical island, serving out my days as the conference kitchen manager and meeting some fascinating Papua New Guineans. Should all go as has been arranged, my return flight schedule would take me through East New Britian, in and out of the Rabaul/Kokopo airport, hopefully within sight of the volcanoes so famous for destroying the city of Rabaul.

Currently that was scheduled for February 19.

Flying around here, though, you never know for sure.

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We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

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(Updated 13 April 2013)