Traveling on AIM Air

December 1, 2011

Moses and I arrived at Wilson Airport in Nairobi at 6:30 am. Outside we met our favorite pilot, Jon Hildebrandt, and his family. Jef Foss and I stayed in their guest house last spring because we couldn’t catch a flight to Nairobi that day.

His wife and two children would be flying with us, but Jon had to fly commercially as our cargo was heavy. Including passengers, we’re allowed 1000 kg on the caravan. Our heaviest item, a 3′ diameter spool of underground cable was too heavy for AIM’s scale. To accommodate our cargo without leaving too much behind the plane loaded only enough fuel to get to Eldoret. We landed, refueled enough to get to Loki, landed, and went through immigration AGAIN even though we hadn’t left the country, THEN we flew to Juba. Now that the country is independent, all the flights have to go through immigration instead of landing directly in villages. So we stopped again, had the visas stamped, and then we flew to Duk Payuel.

The poor pilot wasn’t done. He had to fly to Pieri to refuel for the morning. Then he returned to the village and stayed with all of us at the clinic. In the early morning he took several sick passengers to the hospital in Bor, picked up our electrician, two plumbers and additional materials, flew back to Duk to drop them off and then on to the rest of his day: the life of an AIM Air mission pilot.

We were greeted as usual by an entourage of children, villagers, clinic staff, and now our ASAH girls were waiting, too, wearing their hot pink t-shirts.

There are three vehicles in the village. None are in working order, so our bigger girls carried duffle bags on their heads—each weighing 50 to 60 pounds. The smaller girls carried other items on their heads. Boys typically carry things on their backs or shoulders, though a few of them did the head carry. It took many people to bring our cargo to our storage at the school, the clinic and the site, walking in hot afternoon sun, for 15 to 30 minutes with heavy loads.

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