Measles, diamonds, Antonovs: Tales of General Aviation in the Congo

Posted by on Apr 26, 2011 in "Hangar Flying" | 0 comments


When it comes to battling a measles epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Garth Pederson plays a key role: pilot. He and two other pilots, Rod Hochstetler and David Francis, with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) have been flying staff and medical supplies for Doctors Without Borders since January to combat measles. Now, they average one flight per week to transport staff.

MAF helped to deliver about 1,300 pounds of supplies last month, primarily using its Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, turning a one-way 350-nautical-mile leg that would take a week by automobile into a 2-hour, 20-minute flight. The three pilots, all AOPA members, share the crushed-rock Tshikapa runway in the Kasai province with Russian Antonov AN-26 freighters that have left their share of ruts. The Antonovs support the diamond mining industry in that province.

MAF has worked with Doctors Without Borders at different times throughout the years, but the working relationship has taken off in the last five years.Doctors Without Borders uses the pilots’ “expertise and experience to operate safely in the aviation part,” Pederson, who is based in Kinshasa, told AOPA in an email interview. MAF’s service “enables them to use their expertise in the medical intervention helping to reduce suffering and save lives.”

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