Last week I was invited to accompany one of our pilots Tim Ault in picking up a missionary from the interior of the Amazon. I don’t get many opportunities to go along and so I accepted the invitation. Our destination was an hour and a half flight Northeast of Manaus to a small village called Kassawa’. The people in the village have had the New Testament translated in there language Hixkariana but it is out of date and needs to be revised. There is a New Tribes Mission family and a single woman Maria that have been working on the revision for the last 10 years. During conversations to plan the trip we decided to use our newest Cessna 206 N5209X that had just arrived two weeks earlier to make the flight. With a better instrument panel, more comfortable seats that are safer in the event of an accident, a more powerful motor, and amphibious floats that allow the plane to land on water or land. The plane was an easy choice.
Tim and I departed from the hanger at 9:00 am and Tim wanting to practice landings in a short area (Kassawa’ has a river that has two bends one on each side of the village with rocks in the water making the landing area small.) we made 4 take-offs and landings in front of the Hanger. We then proceeded to the air club airport that is close to our house and again since the landing strip is very short Tim wanted to simulate short landings to see how the wheels that are deployed from floats would handle the strip in Kassawa’.(Rachel and the kids were able to watch us take off several times as we flew over the house) On the first landing the plane stopped in an adequate distance for Kassawa’ but what really caught my eye was the number of people that stopped what they were doing to admire the plane. In my experience any one that works in aviation usually will stop what they are doing to look anytime a plane is flying over and at an airport a new airplane will draw that much more attention. After making 4 take offs and landings with a crosswind no less we stopped to look at the weather and lots of people came around to admire the new plane. One of the guys asked if the plane was an H model ( The H model is the newest 206 model that is still in production) and other people asked other questions about the airplane. On a funny note when Tim and Marcio were bringing the plane down from the States they had bought some chocks with the manufacturers name on them. The name of the manufacturer is ASA and being that our mission name is ASAS someone thought we had personalized chocks made. He said “Where did you get those chocks they cost an arm and a leg here in Brazil to have made.”
The river approach at Kasawa. The village is in the center right section of the photo.
After making a cursory look at the weather and filing a flight plan Tim said we were ready for departure. N5209X lifted off at about 11:30 am with two aboard heading Northwest at 90 knots. We were bucking a 15 knot head wind but the ride was smooth. The airplane is a pleasure to fly, many times Tim would take his hands off the control yoke and the plane would fly straight and level with no tendencies to one side or the other. The instrumentation is some of the best in terms of functioning that Tim has ever flown with. Normally here in Manaus we put up with instruments that have some bearing noise but none of that is evident in N5209X’s instruments. The engine monitor (MVP-50) is easy to read and once the pilot get used to it, it becomes very helpful during the flight as it gives a lot of information about how the engine is running. The engine runs as smoothly as a turbine with no vibration felt in the cabin and burns less fuel. Using the engine monitor we were able to make adjustments so that 12.5 gallons an hour were consumed at 75% Which is about a half to a gallon an hour less than the older original engine and we gain 10 horse power to boot. We finally arrived at Kassawa’ about ten minutes later than planed because of the head wind. It was my first time to visit the village but as with other villages the people were all out on the bank waiting for us. As we pulled up to the dock I was surprised at amount of cell phones that were filming our entrance. There were about 20 children and teens on the dock and several phones all taking pictures. (there is one phone in the village it is a payphone that sends its signal via satellite I don’t think there was cell phone coverage there. ) For the most part the villagers just watched us as we met Maria and loaded her bags. Some of them spoke Portuguese but for the most part they only speak their own language.
The Kassawa reception committee.
When it was time to go we climbed into the plane and I noticed that as with most runways we had obstacles that needed to be cleared. There are two bends in the river that limit the take of run but it is the rocks at the one end that really are the incentive to get off in a certain distance. there are are of coarse trees all around as well so Tim had to think out how we would take off. He spoke aloud “ok I want to be up on the step here. This will be our abort point. We will start our run around the bend and be off before the abort point.” I was thinking the whole time boy this looks like a short runway and those are tall trees. Maria the single missionary was very calm and so I chatted with her a little about how long she was there in the village to which she replied 10 years and that she was working on the revision of the New Testament. She said the people are very receptive to the gospel and that they also intermarry with the Wai-Wais a group of Indians that received the Bible in its entirety.
Ryan, Maria, and Tim
The Floats are incredible as they get up on the step almost immediately and with the more powerful engine the plane was off the water and into the air long before the abort point. On the way home Tim explained that he wanted to test the airplane and run one tank dry before switching to the other that way all the fuel would stay concentrated and it would actually be safer later on. I must admit I don’t like running the tank dry in my car let alone the airplane but curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to see what would happen. (My life insurance in Christ is paid in full) The engine monitor shows when you get low on fuel by the number turning red on the screen and the numbers of gallons finally went to 0.0 and stayed there. We flew almost all the way home on that tank until we were on final and Tim said he needed to switch tanks for safety sake. We never did run the tank dry. We finally made it back to Manaus and instead of lowering a cart down the ramp to pull the plane up we motored up the ramp using the engine. It was a good trip, the plane proved that it will be a huge blessing in terms of comfort and safety and the smile on Maria's face as she stepped out on to solid ground was worth the trip in its self. I want to thank everyone that had a hand in putting this plane together. The pilots Tim and Marcio have already grown to appreciate the planes capabilities. The Lord has blessed Asas with this piece of equipment and me as well to be able to accompany the plane on it’s first mission flight.
Lord Bless you all and a Happy new year!