Monday, September 1, 2014

One year later

Time sure does pass by quickly! At the beginning of this year we were busy moving airplanes and building a hanger for them on our base. Next came the huge task of getting the airplanes airworthy and that took months of coordination and hard work. The Cessna Turbo 182 was the first to get its annual, things went well and progress was quick. Many thought this airplane would surely fly first. Everything was good to go except for a small delay, a dead battery. A new one would need to be bought in the states and have it brought down in the near future. But not too worry, two more airplanes are sitting on standby ready to get there much needed annuals. 

Work started on the Mooney as soon as time could be found. It was one of those projects where you’re not sure what you’ll find, as this airplane had been sitting outside for 3 years! Sure, it had ferry flown nicely, but that was a quick 5 minute flight were only the necessities needed to function. We know had the task of fixing everything wrong and some more in order to conduct mission flights safely.

Washing out the fuel tanks before resealing them.

One of those big tasks was to get the main tanks resealed. You see, this airplane carries its fuel in the wings. It also has some glue type material coating the inside of the wings preventing leaks. This material had worn out in some areas, and was causing leaks in various places. It takes a lot of repetition and patience to find and seal leaks. The majority of my time was spent of the wings, as DJ and Steve concentrated on other areas of the aircraft. After days of sealing and testing tanks, we finally got them sealed up!

The holes you need to reach trough to access the tanks.

Pulling off access covers to reach the tanks from below.

Brendonn came to help us on the airplane annuals. He is an apprentice mechanic, working towards his airplane mechanic license.

Not laying down on the job. Steve doing an inspection on the rudder.

Soon the annual was finished up. It was now time to test fly the airplane and to see if what we had worked on would pass as airworthy. I filed my flight plan and waited for weather to clear up. There were a few showers in the area but those soon moved away and I was able to get in the air. Things seemed to be normal, a few quirks here and there but nothing major. Upon returning to the airport I thanked the Lord that once again we had an airplane in Bolivia. It had been a whole year of patience and hard work to get our airplane going again. For one whole year the project here was without an airplane of its own. But now His blessing had arrived and we are back to where we were one year ago.

Test flying the Mooney over our runway. In the background you can see the hanger and house.

Drug dog sniffing out the airplane before exiting the country for a 30 day flight renewal.

Drug dogs are a common sight in Bolivia due to heavy trafficking.
This Mooney flown by mission pilot Jeff Sutton was in Bolivia a few weeks. I flew it a few times in support of our TV network. Here it sits in Guyaramerien.

The Turbo 182 with annual 99% completed. One day it will service the highlands of Bolivia.

A budding electrician, Brendonn wires the hanger for power.

Hanger ready for the night shift.

Fixing and putting up the windsock with steel cable reinforcements. Wind frequently gusts up to 50mph on our runway.

A rough road still lays ahead, we need to get the other two airplanes flying and also nationalized. That means we need to register the airplanes as Bolivian aircraft and that is a whole other process. So far we have been flying on a 30 days renewal basis. Things have gotten much tougher for foreign aircraft to operate here. Every month the airplane will need to leave the country to a neighboring country and come back in in order to get this renewal. So it is vital that we get our airplanes nationalized for this reason, and also to lift the operating restriction of not being able to fly into uncontrolled runways.

I am working and praying about this process and I ask for your prayers in this project. There are many steps involved and many snags along the way. In a sense, things are just getting started, but the Lord has shown his faithfulness. I know that someday we will be operating at full strength. For now though, we have an airplane that is able to move the sick, help the needy, and provide all kinds of support for the work being done in Bolivia. We praise the Lord for He is good!

Herman Gonzalez
Chief Pilot-Bolivian Lowlands
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Herman Gonzalez
Gospel Ministries International
Project Name: Bolivia Mission Aviation
874 South McDonald, TN 37353
1 (423) 473-1841 or 1 (423) 473-1842