We are here in Nampa, ID and we have finished our first week of Standardization. What is Standardization? Glad you asked. Standardization is MAF’s process through which they teach you how they fix and fly airplanes, which means how I will now fix and fly airplanes! MAF has a long, proven track record and they have developed standards by which they expect their pilot/mechanics to fix and fly.
We are here with three other families. Jesse and Kelly are taking their daughter (Lydia) to serve in Central Asia. They will be leaving this summer and serving in a very difficult place for Christians. Tyler and Renae Schmidt are taking their three kids (Caleb, Aaron, and Jocelyn) to serve with us in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Steve and Nikki Simpson are taking their two daughters (Becca and Hannah) to serve in Mozambique. It has been fun living as neighbors and letting our kids play together around the MAF apartments. What a blessing to have 6 other young kids to play with as well as the beautiful weather God has given us.
The first week was our flight ground school where we learned about MAF procedure checklists, how to determine if a runway is safe to land or take-off from, learning how to set abort points so we know when to call off a landing or take-off, and how MAF flies safely in poor weather and rough terrain. Many look at MAF and think that we are “bush pilots” like the guys on “Flying Wild Alaska,” but this is not the case. We are professional pilots who happen to fly in the “bush.” The standards for flying with MAF are high but they will do what it takes to get us there. The primary term that is mentioned in each of the classes is “Margin.” The basic idea is that MAF sets in margin to protect pilots from an accident, aka “bending metal.” If you think about a bullseye, the middle of the bullseye is the normal operating area, the next circle is the margin, and the outer portion is an accident. MAF has margin because they know that there may be times when a pilot will have to dip into the margin to perform a maneuver safely, but it won’t result in an accident because there was sufficient margin. Let me give an example…
MAF requires that a pilot be able to execute a 180 degree turn when operating in a valley and be finished with the turn in 50% or less of the width of the valley. So, if I am out flying and a strong wind makes me use 75% of the valley, then I am still safe because I had an extra 50% of the valley to use before I bent any metal. A second example would be…
MAF requires that a pilot be able to touch down after the first 100′ of runway. Then, they must land and stop after using only 60% of the usable runway. This means that the pilot should expect to leave 40% or more of the runway unused. So, let’s say I am landing at a 1,300′ runway that has a wet, grass surface and I end up using 1,000′ of the usable runway length because of a loss in braking action. Well, I had planned to stop in 720′ of runway but I had to dip into my margin. Even so, I was safe because I still had 200′ more feet. (Remember, I didn’t use the first 100′ of the runway per MAF policy)
It is important that I learn to operate with plenty of margin so I make sure I come home to my family every night, or maybe spend a night in the jungle instead of pushing to get home. And do you know what happens if you wait out a storm because it is just plain nasty? The next day is blue skies and a great day to fly!
So, we have one week down and seven more weeks of Standardization. This week is the maintenance ground school portion where we will learn all about the engines and airframes of the Cessna Turbo 206, as well as the standards to which MAF repairs their planes. We have been entrusted with some expensive tools to advance the Kingdom and spread the Word of God, and we want to be the best stewards we can in order to honor God. After this week, the class will spilt up into two groups. The next two and a half weeks (March 24th – April 9th) I will do my flight Standardization. This consists of 11 flights where I learn to fly close to terrain and land/take-off of short runways. The next two and a half weeks (April 10th – April 25th) I will do my maintenance Standardization. I will be given a variety of projects to complete in the hangar, such as timing the ignition system (magnetos), inspecting an engine, and doing airframe repairs.
The culmination of Standardization is “Backcountry Week.” At the end of April, all of four of us will fly out to the mountains of Idaho with our instructors. We will sleep in a cabin and practice taking-off and landing on short runways up in the mountains. Some of the runways are at the base of a mountain and you can’t see the runway until you are only at 300′ in the air and just turned around a mountain. It is going to be a lot of fun and very difficult as well!
We are having a great time up here and working hard. This is our last long training before we start language school in September. Interestingly, it is also the longest amount of time we will spend in one place before we move to Indonesia. We are enjoying our time with our fellow missionaries here at MAF. It is such a blessing to rub shoulders with the men and women at headquarters who have served for 20, 30, and even 40 years. We are excited to start our journey off right and make sure we are as ready as we can be before our big move. Thank you for all of your prayers. Please pray…
- …that I, Phil, would be a sponge in the classroom and learn everything I can.
- …that our kids would stay healthy and have fun with their new friends.
- …that we would all have fun and grow even closer as a family.
Thanks so much and God Bless!