Horsepower and Heart, Burn

Posted on April 27, 2012

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Upstairs in the JAARS hangar in a dimly lit room our guest instructor unfolds the mysteries of the turbo prop engine. He passes around weighty parts that feel expensive before he drops the $80,000 price tag. He points at multicolored diagrams explaining how the fuel is controlled with precision without a single computer chip.

Honestly, this is what I have been looking forward to about orientation, this class. Currently AIM operates six of these turbine engines on four aircraft, and they form the backbone of the fleet. Without these turbine-powered aircraft, AIM Air and the missionaries they serve could not do what they do.

I will attempt not to geek out on you too much, but it will be hard. This thing has titanium blades spinning at irrational speeds, supporting a fire that makes your hottest bonfire look like a candle.  Brilliant engineering keeps that flame in check using only air and harvesting 700 horsepower. We get to delve into the inner workings and do a mock inspection on a training engine that was brought in special for the class.

This was what I go to work for, to learn about systems that I have not worked on. To follow the engineering brilliance (and sometimes not so brilliance). To incorporate the systems so much into my thinking that with a few symptoms I can diagnose a problem. Like a doctor picks your disease out of the air, I want to divine the solution by the strength of my mind. Each system is a constant fluid puzzle, and I have barely begun to scratch the surface of this one.

It is also the final event in orientation I have really been looking forward to. The aircraft at AIM can be broken up into two categories 1: piston engines, and 2: turbine engines. I have spent the last 5 years maintaining single engine piston aircraft of the same make and model as the ones I will find in Nairobi, but have had very little experience with the turbine aircraft. Here at JAARS they have a wonderful training aircraft, and it is exactly like what I have worked on for the previous 5 years, and unfortunately they have no turbine aircraft they can call their own.

This has lead to a struggle in my heart. I want to be excited to be here, but right now I am not. I feel that what I am doing is redundant. It is not that I am incapable of learning anything, certainly not that I know everything there is to know about the aircraft they do have. But, what I don’t know is often easily found, and it feels like I am absorbing time, waiting. I feel like I am moving in slow motion. I lose sight of the value of this time and feel frustrated that I am not in Kenya, or at least back in Spokane where I could feel that I was making a difference at Moody.

Pray for me. We just crossed the half way point in our time here, and the weeks ahead already feel like they are dragging at me.

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Posted in: Africa, Aviation, John