Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Opening an Airstrip!

A rush of excitement ran through me as I touched down on the short gravel strip which was surrounded by water, and I began braking firmly. As the airplane came to a complete stop, a crowd of Haitians rushed to meet the first airplane to arrive in several years!

This week I had the great privilege of re-opening one of our airstrips located in the northwestern region of Haiti. Gonaives was massively flooded several years ago following Hurricanes Hanna, Ike and Gustav which all struck Haiti one after another. The airstrip remained over 12 feet under water, until recently it began to dry out to the point we could send someone out by road to inspect the surface condition. After we received a positive report, it was decided that we could fly in, inspect the strip our self, and make necessary upgrades to make it once again usable.

As I flew over the airstrip to inspect from above, the airstrip resembled a jetty jutting out into a large lake. The first 1500 feet of the strip looked dry, but several hundred feet past that, it gradually disappeared into the slow-draining lake. I planned several low fly-overs to inspect the surface condition better before making a full stop. Immediately a large crowd of excited Haitians rushed to meet the airplane. Some looked looked in wonder, others in astonishment, as I had just touched down on their new favorite fishing spot! Once I had finished greeting everyone, I explained the reason that I had landed there, and they were once again thrilled! I proceeded to measure the airstrip, confirm the placement of markers, and help erect a new windsock pole. It now looked like an official airstrip!

After several hours of work, I took the Mayor, several reporters and journalists, and a few locals on a demonstration flight. Most of them had never been in an airplane before, so it was quite exciting for all of us!

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