Many of my flights are memorable, but the one I took yesterday was even more special. I received my first field PFR (proficiency flight review) since arriving here. We take pride in our safety and professionalism, so every 6 months an instructor pilot joins us to watch us during an operational flight. Once our passengers deplane, we go and do some maneuvers (or manoeuvers, depending on what continent you are in) and simulated emergencies. Here is what my flight path was during some of that review.
It was fun getting to wring the airplane out but that wasn't the best part. About 5 months ago one of our pilots was flying near Kikongo, in the Bandudu province of DRC, and received a call for an emergency medical evacuation. The call came from a missionary at the pastoral training school who had a staff member complaining of a bad headache that had lasted for a week, then became less and less responsive and the local doctors didn't have the equipment needed to help him.
Our pilot was able to pick him up and fly them back to Kinshasa where there are better facilities available. We hadn't heard any follow-up from them until last week when they booked their flight to go back home. The morning of the flight came and as I was preparing the airplane ,I had a short opportunity to talk with my passenger and his wife before we took off. But upon landing, I quickly realized how special this man was to the people of Kikongo. As I taxied up to the parking area, even with the engine running (keep in mind it's an un-muffled turbo-diesel engine, spinning a large propeller... PLUS wearing our helmet with noise cancelling headphones...), I could still hear people singing, beating drums and chanting.
There is a very eerie death wail that people do here when they mourn the loss of a family member or friend. It is quite loud, and the word "sorrowful" just doesn't do it justice. I have heard that quite a lot with the flights we do taking the deceased and their family members interior.
But this was the first time I had heard the rejoicing wail. It was beautiful! There were a few men that held back the crowd until I could stop the engine. As soon as I shut down the villagers surrounded the airplane, still wailing, jumping, singing, and playing the drums - nearly yanking the husband and his wife from the airplane and engulfing them. As I unloaded the cargo and prepared for the next leg, the group continued to celebrate. Finally, the man said a few words and someone prayed, and the singing started again as they walked off to the school where the ministers-in-training were taking their end-of-year tests. If a group of 100 can make that kind of sound, I can't wait to hear what a multitude of angels sound like when we join our Lord!