Our April guest presenter was Paul Rule. Paul’s father was a doctor serving in Congo, Africa. Paul learned to fly at an early age, as small aircraft are essential transportation in a country with negligible infrastructure for land transportation.
He eventually married and raised a family in Congo and continued to advance his aviation credentials, earning his ATP with ASEL/AMEL CFI/CFII as well as A&P/IA and several type ratings. He became the chief pilot in Africa for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF – https://www.maf.org/).
Flying conditions in Congo were quite primitive and of course, most of his time there was before GPS navigation was available and practical. Runways were always dirt and were very challenging (Ed. some looked like models for roller coaster tracks). Pilots had HF radios in their homes and often, it was the wife who was tasked with keeping track of the husband/pilot by plotting his flight progress on a chart. Several MAF aircraft were fitted with ELT homing devices to enable tracking of aircraft that had gone down in the densely forested terrain. MAF stations were extensively stocked with spare parts for aircraft. Aircraft used were Cessna 185, 206, 404 (Titan), Caravan, and more recently, the Kodiak Quest (turbine). Turbine aircraft (jet fuel) have become essential due to the lack of availability of Avgas.
A typical mission was Medevac. Aircraft were operated at gross weight 95% of the time.
Paul eventually returned to the US and flew for the airlines for 22 years; then was “retired” (not optional) by American Airlines at the age of 65.
Paul is actively providing instruction in complex aircraft for Archer Aircraft Instructional Services (http://archeraircraft.com/) . He has accumulated over 19,000 hours and has flown 90 different types of aircraft.
Paul has shared his presentation with the chapter. You can view/download the PDF file here: LIVING-AND-FLYING-IN-D.R.-CONGO.pdf (222 downloads) .
Also, Paul provided a link to a news video about the training of MAF pilots in Idaho.