Friday, July 17, 2015

Pilot Technical Evaluation

New Tribes Mission Aviation Base
Dear Family and Friends,

On July 6, I arrived in Tucson, Arizona!  It was sunny and hot.  From Tucson I drove a couple hours south to a little town called McNeal!  That is where I spent the week with my new friends from New Tribes Mission Aviation (NTMA)!  I was there to be evaluated as a pilot by NTMA, who would send an unbiased opinion of my pilot skills to Helimission (no pressure)! :)  Needless to say, I was pretty nervous.  I was about to fly a type of helicopter that I had never flown, in an area I had never been in, and with a guy I had never met!  Well, John Mark (my check pilot) met me at the guest house and gave me a quick tour of the base!  He is a very neat guy that loves Jesus and flying!  Just meeting him calmed a lot of nerves.  He left me to look over the helicopter on my own as I requested so I could familiarize myself with this new machine.  After a good "preflight inspection" I felt comfortable at the maintenance of NTMA!  That evening I was on my own for dinner so I hopped in my little rental car and went to find food.  On the road I saw something big and black in front of me, and it was moving.  I soon realized it was a tarantula and that if I didn't swerve to miss it soon, it was going to dent the little tin can of a car I was in.  I was so fascinated by the size of that spider that when I got to town I was asking the locals all kinds of questions!  Comes to find out, they are pretty friendly spiders and it is safe to pick them up.  I knew what I was going to be doing in my spare time!

This is the R44 I flew!
The next morning came quickly and I met John Mark by the helicopter at 7 am.  We briefed the flight and then we pushed the Robinson R44 Ravine I out for our first flight together.  We went through the checklist and fired up the engine, engaged the blades and did our pre-takeoff checks.  Then it was time to pick up and see how this baby was in a hover.  Left skid came up then the right and we were in the air. I was working hard to figure out how to hold it still and after what seemed like minutes, I was able to hold her steady.  From there we hovered to the helipad and practiced pedal turns, pick ups and set downs.  Then we flew to an airport south of us and did our normal, steep and shallow approaches, hover autorotations (engine failures), straight in autorotations and all the normal procedures.  We flew back to NTMA and landed for fuel, got out and debriefed the flight.  9 am is break time so we grabbed more coffee and conversation.  Then it was back to the helicopter for all the emergency practice, confined area landings off airport, and pinnacle approaches off the airport.  We were pushing lunch time so when we got back we pushed the helicopter back in and decided to eat then meet up again in the morning.

Planning my short cross country flight!
My homework was to get through some ground training and to plan both flights for the next day.  That took most of my afternoon that day and a family was having me over for dinner that night!  Every night I was with a different family and every night I made new friends!  The New Tribes people are very friendly and they seem like a great team!  I look forward to working along side NTM in the field in the very near future!

The next morning we flew the two flights I had planned and did a few off airport landings at high altitude and high gross weight.  It was really fun flying with John Mark and his experience as a missionary helicopter pilot was fun to learn from!  He gave me some very cool and useful tips and it was good to have an experienced guy speak into my flying on the strengths and weaknesses he sees in my flying.  He also gave great tips on how to always improve my flying skills!

My time in Arizona was very profitable in many ways!  The flying evaluation helps Helimission know where I am as a pilot so they can prepare my orientation once I get on the field.  Also, meeting other families that are back from the field, on the field or going to the field was very encouraging.  Everyone I met spoke encouragement into my life and made me feel at home!

My potential 8 eyed friend!
Just to show you size!
My evenings were spent chatting with a couple from Kansas that were sharing the guest house with me!  We really hit it off and enjoyed swapping stories as we got to know each other.  Also, back to the spiders, I would head out after dark to find these "gentle giants" as the locals call them.  The first night I had my flashlight and flip flops on.  I was creeping myself out and at one point a cricket jumped on my foot and I'm sure I could have jumped over the moon at that point!  Haha  Well, I found one and I worked my way up to it carefully.  As I knelt down next to it with intent of making it my new friend, I realized just how creepy it was.  I stared at it with two eyes and he stared back with eight.  After being lost in each others eyes for a while we decided it be best to sleep on the potential friendship and try again the next night.  Well, after a few nights I decided, I shouldn't have a new experience with out my family so I postponed holding him until my family can join :) I thought that was a great excuse!  I'm satisfied with the photos!

Thank you all for praying for me as I was in Arizona!  God exceeded my expectations and it wasn't as  nerve wracking as I thought it would be!  I feel I have left there as a better pilot with potential to always try to better myself!  I love you all and appreciate all your support, encouragement and prayer

Until Next Time,