Friday, December 27, 2013

Going solo

Having returned to PNG alone to continue my in-country training, I was pretty much straight into the check-out process. I had tests to ensure I could fly the aircraft safely and operate in the PNG environment, and my solo return was rewarded with my first solo flight early in December.

The joy of being solo - freeing, but terrifying!
All our flights are tracked on-line and this is a record of where I went on my first day. This does of course mean that, whilst I may be alone in the cockpit, I'm never on my own out there. No diversions for a spot of heli-tourism!

The track to the North East was my first flight, the South West my second
My first task was to collect a couple of sets of translators from villages on the Huon Peninsula. My second flight, on the same day, was to take a person and some supplies out to some other villages for the Salvation Army. Because I'm particularly fortunate, I also got audited on that second flight to check the department's adherence to the rules!

Back safely - the new pilot and the new aircraft (P2-SIL)
Having been to Kerema a few times before with an instructor, that was my next assignment on my own. I overnighted in the town so as to be on hand early the next day to shuttle people into the village for the official handing over of the Digicel Foundation's first rural aid post to the villagers.
A suitable number of speeches were made to mark the occasion
Unfortunately, as I finished my first re-fuel of the morning, the aircraft developed a minor fault and everything ground to a halt. A number of people who wanted to get into the village were stuck in Kerema and a group of people who would rather be out of the village before it got dark were now trapped up there. Thankfully it was still early. I climbed on the aircraft, found a fault and fired it back up again - the problem came straight back! Thankfully a fixed-wing aircraft was sitting unused at base, so  a mechanic jumped into it and was promptly with me. Along with the auditor! He wasn't checking me this time, but he was certainly being thorough. Aircraft fixed, I could get back underway, but now with significantly less time than I'd started out with.
The village landing site. Thankfully I didn't breakdown here!
Mercifully everyone was very gracious and understanding, so everyone who needed to got into and out of the village, and everything was completed before the weather closed in - just.

My last solo flight before the Christmas break was to a coastal village in the South East. I went to take out songbooks to be distributed.


I was glad to be able to bring these villagers the fruits of their labour, but it was a warm day in a warm part of the country and a flying suit is not the coolest of attire (at least temperature-wise).


I was longing to join the local kids in the river, but seemed to have forgotten my swimming shorts. At least I wasn't the only person suffering in the heat - a government helicopter brought in some local officials. I'm guessing their pilot was warm too.


But with the solo flying underway, it's nice to be back with the family again.

Monday, December 2, 2013


It is rainy season in PNG now and after a few months of 'dry season' (when it still rains but not much), everyone at Ukarumpa is delighted to have overflowing water tanks.

This is our water tank, complete with its own waterfall!
When it rains, it rains HARD and it helps us feel at home!

Our tin roof makes it sound pretty loud!
This is a bit of a cheesy comparison, but there are many senses in which we are 'overflowing' too. Duncan is in PNG on his own at the moment so we are missing each other very much, but at the same time we are overflowing with thankfulness for our gorgeous son, for the care of friends and family in the UK and at Ukarumpa, for the fact that Duncan will shortly fly solo in PNG for the first time, for the provision of things we need here and when we go back there, for the prospect of a Christmas in the UK with a son we never dreamed we would have this time last year and for the peace that God has given us in the midst of so many transitions. As I'm typing this I'm suddenly remembering an evening last summer... we were in Waxhaw, North Carolina and the skies suddenly opened. Boy did it rain. The day had been so hot that we rushed outside and danced around until we were soaked. This time feel likes that: overflowing, overwhelming, but exhilirating...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Change of Plan

Do you have ever have those times when it seems like a number of things are going wrong at the same time and you have to make a big decision based on information that keeps changing? Well, that is what these past few weeks have been characterised by for us!

Without boring you with all the details, the upshot is that Duncan is returning to PNG in a few days, but Reuben and I are staying in the UK for a bit longer. His visa hasn't arrived and he has to have some more vaccinations. Duncan needs to get on with his training, but will pop home again (is it possible to 'pop' 8,000 miles?! I'm not sure, but it makes it sound less serious...) for Christmas, after which we will all go to PNG in the new year. We have always HATED being apart and it doesn't get easier in spite of previous training! It feels different again now that Reuben is on the scene, but hopefully our reunion will be all the sweeter!

Friday, November 8, 2013


Hello everyone!

Apologies for our recent quiet patch - we have been visiting and visited, which has been lovely. Reuben is loving his adoring public and is doing well. He is over 10lbs now and is full of smiles.

I know we are biased, but he's pretty gorgeous isn't he?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Reuben Report

Reuben's adventures over the past couple of weeks:

Working out in the gym

Getting clean after all that exercise

Being introduced to Mummy's favourite shop
Getting to know the family

It's all so exhausting!

Building Bridges

Back in March we took building materials and tools into a remote location, to assist the building of a new bridge.

Off-loading cement...

...and tools

The landing site, to the right of the thin bridge across the river
One of the items we took in was a generator, which we were then asked to lift back out again when the new bridge was complete. That gave us a chance to see the finished article.

The old bridge

which I didn't much fancy crossing

The new bridge
a much safer way to cross 

 The old and the new

The generator rigged and ready to go

Taking the sling gear off the generator

 From the air

We were then asked to take the local MP and Governor to the official opening ceremony. As well as the government, the charity responsible for building the bridge and the Australian development agency (who funded it) were represented. This was a big occasion as an agreement was signed to build more, similar, bridges. The nearby village put on a great singsing (show) for the event.

The dignitaries were greeted by a procession of chanting warriors

 wearing traditional dress
A ceremony was then held to mark the official opening, and agreement to build more bridges 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

No second chances

Enough of babies - back to the important stuff!

A few weeks back I took a flight in one of the SIL Kodiaks to better get to know an area the helicopter rarely (but occasionally) goes to. Our destination for the trip was Masa. Masa is one of those decently-sloped one-way runways that PNG specialises in. The sort that is on a ridge with a drop-off at one end and hill at the other.

Amongst others, we took in one of my colleagues whose family lives in the area. It took us 40 minutes to get there by aeroplane; it took him 3 days to make the return journey by foot, truck, boat and public transport!

Here's a short video of the landing and take-off...

I also recently went to Nahu in the Kodiak. It's another of those sloped runways which suddenly ends in mid-air!

These are the places that make me happy not to be a fixed-wing pilot! [Though I'd like to say they're all terribly well trained and good at the job.] If they make a mistake at the wrong point - there are no second chances...

Beach Babe

Last time Duncan and I walked down our favourite local beach, we were about to leave for Papua New Guinea. We had no idea I was pregnant! Yesterday we returned to the beach as a family. Ukarumpa is completely landlocked and we do miss the sea, so it was a joy-filled walk for a number of reasons.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Reuben arrives!

We are delighted, overjoyed, thankful and still slightly surprised to announce the arrival of Reuben Freddie George Tough. He was born on Monday 26 August at 22.34, weighing 5lb 130z and 3 weeks early! Never let it be said that the Toughs do not know how to make an entrance!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bye Bye Tru

Trudie's been gone a week - how have I coped?

Trudie about to get aboard the Kodiak to depart Aiyura, at the start of her journey back to the UK
Well, it's been tough, but I wish I had a photo of the freezer from the day she left - food literally fell out of it, it was so full of goodies she'd made me. Otherwise, I managed to find something almost as cute as her at work to distract me (no, not the helicopter - even I don't go as far as to find it cute).

One of the cats at work with her new-born kittens
I have also done a little flying in the fixed wing recently to help me see parts of the country not so frequently serviced by the helicopter. Last week we went to Hoskins, on New Britain (an island to the east of the PNG mainland) which involved flying over this relatively recently active volcano and it's lava flow!

There are still a number of active volcanos around PNG
But I am mostly rather looking forward to our being back together again.