Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bell Beginnings

This past week Duncan has been at the Bell Helicopter training facility near Dallas, Texas, learning from the horse's mouth how to fly the 206L3, or Long Ranger. A 7 seat, turbine-powered helicopter, this is what SIL operate in Papua New Guinea.
Some of the Bell Helicopter fleet
The first half of the week was all ground school - learning the technical side of the aircraft. Bell certainly have a good facility, with plenty of bits of helicopter to get your hands on and a maintenance training aircraft in the hanger to see how it all fits together. Then came the fun part...
Brian (my instructor) and me
Most of the time was devoted to what to do in the unlikely event that things mechanical stop working the way the designer at Bell intended. Time was spent practising what to do when the pedals stop working (no, you don't have to pedal to keep the aircraft airborne) but most of the time was used landing safely following an untimely engine failure. Brian certainly opened my eyes as to what was possible (safely) in a Long Ranger.

The Bell Practise Area

Brian failed the engine in just about every location imaginable, and each time we manged to land back on the runway with the aircraft still in a state that we could go and do it all again. We did engine failures on take-off and approach, and just about everywhere in between. I think the most interesting was from very close-in downwind: flare the speed off, pedal turn and then accelerate (all within 800') was a new technique!
 Each runway had the yellow aiming squares on it - each square is 12m x 12m (40' x 40')
As time progressed, Brian expected me to vary the flightpath such that we landed in the square he designated. Brian could land and stop in a square of his chosing! Me ... more like one or the other; but it was a lot of fun! And good training too, of course.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Last week, Duncan and  I took a short off-road driving course...JAARS offer this for missionaries who are going to places with challenging roads and there are definitely some of those in PNG! There is a 'course' in the forest near the centre, so off we went...

The teacher's tactic was to drive us round the course first and then we each took a turn at having a go. I sat in the back to begin with and was determined to act cool, unsurprised and totally calm about whatever arose! We chatted about life in PNG as we went around - our instructor worked there for a number of years and had lots of great stories to share. As we talked, we experienced some pretty interesting angles. The photographs don't really convey what it felt like, but from the back seat I felt, well... ok I admit it: I was terrified and the thought of driving this road myself was even worse. But I think I looked pretty calm...

Driving in the forest!

Duncan took his turn and was unsurprisingly brilliant. I was up next. The view from the driver's seat was daunting and I am amazed that we stayed upright! But we just kept on chatting and somehow the car performed dazzling feats while I wiggled the steering wheel. I thought I had managed to act cool, but Duncan reported afterwards that more than a few little squeals could be heard in the car!

This bit is called 'the steps'...

I now know that I love 4WD and that it is possible to drive along 'roads' that your head tells you should not be passable. Don't get me wrong - I do not believe that I am now the best off-road driver ever and can tackle anything (although in the euphoria of survival I did wonder that for a moment!). But it did teach me - again - that the way I 'see' is changing.


After we came home I was VERY excited! I rushed up to a friend and enthusiastically babbled on about our latest adventure. When I calmed down, I realised we could use the experience as a metaphor for what is happening to us here...the whole thing was a like a little picture of what life feels like at the moment. To be honest, the road ahead looks more than a little daunting, but people are telling us stories and sharing their hearts with us so much that we feel like this 'car' will drive...we are going to experience some interesting angles, but our perspective is changing because the concept that God makes the impossible possible isn't just a concept anymore.

How can we ever thank the people at JAARS for all they have taught us?