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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Down - but not out!

Submitted By Jonathan Porter
Thursday 24th June - up early, checking the satellite images and forecasts as Audry was coming up from the city to meet with the ladies of Battorkope by Amphibian and to set up a series of health education events.

ll looked good, but there was a growing breeze. Whilst waiting for Audry the crew set about some additional engineering works we had decided on for the aircraft (3kgs of lead on the tail and some other tweeks). Once fitted and checked I took AD to the skies with Morgan Thomas, a French Survey pilot. As soon as we got airborne it was clear that the 'breeze' was more than that at altitude. Undaunted we set out to the practice area for splash downs.... and did we splash.... the chop on the water was more than expected and we got a lot of buffet as we touched down in the Volta River near Senchi. It was not a dry experience.... As we added power to get airborne the bow waves grew and the chop broke rhythmically against the rapidly accelerating floats. It was even more wet in the cockpit... We waited for flying speed and was glad to be separated from the wet stuff.

Landing back at Kpong Field, the test flight was a success - the machine was much less heavy in flight and more controllable in the, albeit shallow, flare - but now I had to brief Audry that we would not be landing in Battorkope - safety measures such that if the chop were to increase, the flight would be outside what I would accept for a first time passenger to go into a remote area.

Disappointedly, she accepted that we should carry out a land plane flight over the area - and at least encourage the community on its work on the landing area for the land planes. We crossed the ridge and Audry could not stop smiling (pictures to follow)... as we flew around the village the people were excited, but we were disappointed on two counts; 1) we could not land with the float plane due to choppy water - which was far worse now and 2) the community had done no more work on the land landing area.

We flew back and landed, using the remaining time to carry out valuable planning for forthcoming events.
Rosina and Patricia both spoke to the senior people at Battorkope, explaining that just because we COULD land on water - we would still prefer a land plane for operations. We wondered whether we had made a false start.
Then, on Saturday during the GFT for Marcel (who passed, congratulations) we routed over Battorkope, with him unaware that I would simulate an engine failure to see where he would choose... As we descended I started to see people on the runway area - over 100 of the village folk were clearing and cleaning that strip. Marcel carried out a good 'alternate' selection and we flew on with the Test. My heart felt as though it was smiling as we climbed back over the hostile terrain. The people of Battorkope did not let us or themselves down. The 'non-event' due to weather sparked the enthusiasm to clear more areas and prepare for regular land plane visits. It may sound tiny - but this no small thing - this is real progress of a whole community.

On Sunday Paul J and I flew over - to see people washing their clothes on the sides of the runway bisected peninsular. As they saw the plane they waved the clothes in their hands - as if they were Marshalling us down to help them with their lakeside activity!

Let us hope for better weather for float plane operations, and speedy approvals for the use of the landing area at Battorkope! Another mission is planed for later this week - taking in some children's library books - probably to start the library!

Well done Audry (who even came with a change of clothes in case she got wet wading ashore - NOW THAT'S THE SPIRIT!!!)

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