Return to Wax Creek
I stared intently at the spot where the airstrip was supposed to be. I could see that light rain was falling directly over the patch of savannah where Wax Creek airstrip was located. Only two days earlier I had landed at the same same airstrip under beautiful weather conditions, but now the grey clouds were boiling over, and rain was starting to fall. Was there enough time and visibility to make a safe approach and landing? This is a frequent dilemma I face during the rainy season, and sometimes when the weather is especially bad, we have to divert to another airstrip where we can land.
After making a approach over the airstrip I looked straight down to try and gage what the visibility was. It didn’t look too bad, but I knew that this wouldn’t last. Bad weather was rolling in and I needed to get on the ground right away. On the the final approach to touchdown I kept reminding myself that the rain droplets on the windshield would create an optical illusion that I was flying higher than I actually was. The moment the tundra tires touched down, twin rooster tails of muddy water and sand kicked up, spraying the back half of the airplane with mud and sand. I quickly raised the flaps and braked the airplane to a complete stop. Turning the airplane around on a short tight slippery strip is very tricky too. Usually you end up mowing some stray weeds on either side.
Welcome back to Wax Creek!
There was a small little group of people to meet me, and were they ever happy to see the airplane.
As if on cue the sky opened up and everyone quickly found shelter under the wings of the airplane. I unloaded the bibles, and bible lessons for brother Angus (the bible worker). Next came the big bag of produce for him and his family.
Angus had forgotten to ask me a couple days earlier if there was was an extra GAMAS sewing machine that his wife could use. The children of the village desperately needed new clothes, but evidently there’s no sewing machine in the entire village. His words triggered a memory of watching some Wax Creek children three years ago. I had landed on a sunny afternoon and was quietly waiting for a medivac patient to arrive. As I was watching some kids play near the airstrip, it dawned on me that virtually all the kids were hardly wearing any clothing at all! And the clothes that they were wearing were absolutely filthy!
Now I’ve traveled around Guyana for seven years, and seen a lot of poor people, but this one stuck in my head. So when Angus told me about the need to have a sewing machine to sew clothes, I knew exactly what he was talking about!
Next came the medivac patient. This lady was having intense stomach pain for about a week and the health worker of the neighbouring village was concerned about her condition. The son and daughter quietly watched as their parents climbed into the airplane. This is usually an emotional affair because they know that there is a possibility that they may never see them again. It tears my heart to watch them say goodbye with tears in their eyes.
With everyone safely buckled up I fired up the engine and taxiied down to the end of the airstrip for take off. With a soggy airstrip you have to make wide turns so you don’t slide too much on the mud and dirt. You inevitably chop tall grass when you turn again, but you can’t do much about that. As I did the pre-takeoff engine check, I wanted to make absolutely sure that the engine was producing maximum power. With a short wet airstrip like this, we would need every available pony pulling us skyward.
As I pushed in the throttle, the airplane ploughed sluggishly forward, taking what seemed like an eternity to build up speed. Usually I start with 20 degrees of flaps to transfer the weight of the airplane from the wheels to the wings. But this wasn’t working fast enough, so I reached for the flap handle and pulled 30 degrees, and then finally 40 degrees to get my tires out of the muck. Finally with about 100 feet of runway left the airplane wobbled off the airstrip and hung suspended in ground effect. Because of the intense aerodynamic drag of full flaps, I couldn’t continue to fly the airplane in this configuration. As the airspeed began to creep upwards I slowly milked off the flaps while using the yoke control to hold the airplane in ground effect. Once the airplane was back to 20 degrees, I was able to safely climb out and clean up the airplane.
I praise the Lord that some missionaries here in Guyana have sacrificed and are sending out their personal felt set out to Wax Creek. I should have all the supplies out to them by the end of the week or the first part of next week. Please keep praying for Brother Angus and Basilia Simeon and the work that they’re doing.