Forrest’s missionary experiences took him to Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. They spent time in Peru studying Spanish and preparing for his first term which was in Ecuador where he had the encounters with the Auca Indians. You might remember the story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Roger Youdarian, and Peter Fleming who were killed by the Auca’s in 1956.
The majority of his time, 15 years, was spent in Colombia. Having a young family and being more mobile, he volunteered to go to Colombia. Expecting a more senior pilot to come and set up the program, God had other plans and Forrest was made the Superintendent of Aviation Advancement in Colombia at age 28. He started the program from scratch.
One of the things he needed to do was establish the routes they would fly into the jungle. They were very specific about flying along rivers so if someone went down, they would know where to look.
They took a number of precautionary measures when flying as they kept emergency gear in the aircraft which included flares, fishing gear, shotgun, shells and other items they could use to survive for a few days. On the tail of the aircraft was a radio beacon that would be set off upon crashing. Fortunately, they never had to use the emergency beacon.
Were you Ever Scared?
Forrest noted that he was able to fly with a lot confidence because of all the precautions and the preventive maintenance. They also did regular inspections, checking for wear and tear.
However, there were times when things were kind of “hairy”. Weather issues created the most tension because the alternate airstrips were few and far between. You didn’t always know if weather was such that you could fly through it or not.
He relayed the following story…
“One time I was caught in bad weather, I was flying on a return flight from the jungle, passed an alternate airstrip but the weather looked like I could pass it or fly through it. But then the weather moved in enough that I wouldn’t attempt to land, for the wind whipping up so fiercely, so I turned around where I had come from to go back to an airstrip I had passed but the weather back there was bad as well so I was caught between two airstrips with bad weather on either side. By God’s grace, on this little river between those points there was an abandoned airstrip in a clearing in the jungle. The grass was grown up almost to the wings. There were about six people on board this flight – the translator, his wife, his father and mother-in-law and their kids.
So I decided to land it and did so safely using the propeller as a lawn mower cutting through the grass. Well then I was stuck not able to take off in the tall grass. But as the Lord would have it, there were some guys nearby hunting for tiger skins who were able to help us take machetes and create a clearing.
It was late in the day by the time we got the airstrip ready, so I left the men and boy there with an air mattress, emergency food and other supplies for the night.
I took the two women and the girl into the nearest airstrip, as the weather had cleared and we stayed over night and then went back for the guys the next day, picked up the girls again and then on to the center which was our original destination.”
What Distance is Required to Take Off?
Taking off requires a minimum of 400 feet. Normally, with a full load, you need about 300 meters or close to 1000 feet. The longer the airstrip, the more weight you can take. You could land full, but could not take off full on a shorter airstrip.
So there are a lot of details to keep in mind and make right decisions about. Through it all, the Lord was gracious in keeping us safe on flights.
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