Flying Mission Zambia (FMZ) has been helping partner organizations in NW Province to upgrade their airstrips. Roger Green (projects) and his wife Sally drove the 11 hour journey to Chitokoloki to assist the Manager, Gordon Hanna, to prepare the field for inspection by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA). Roger chose to drive the short route through the bush! The better roads need 13 hours since the route is longer.
Chitokoloki is a Brethren Mission station. Situated beside the River Zambezi, Roger found a top grade hospital, with leprosy and TB departments; also a big Outpatients Department. There are schools alongside the hospital as well as staff and missionary housing. In any one day it is estimated that 1000 people might be on site! FMZ has been providing the aviation support for this station since we became operational in Zambia. The airfield has been a bit rough, so the Cessna 206 or the Cessna 185 (both with fixed undercarriage) have been used to shuttle medical and mission personnel in and out of the station, either to Lusaka or to one or other of the sister hospitals and clinics in the area. Once the strip has been re-surfaced – shortly, it is hoped – the Cessna 210 with retractable undercarriage can also be used. This plane is more economical, and faster, so its use will increase the efficiency of the service FMZ can provide. At present a trip to Lusaka takes two and a half hours – still considerably shorter than the 11 hour road trip and definitely less tiring and less stressful!
Roger worked with local men to re-align the strip slightly and to place the markers at the runway thresholds and along the edges, so that pilots have a clear view of it on approach. Once that was completed, the team set about fencing the whole area to prevent the local animals from churning up the surface, and local people from making pathways all across the runway. The fencing was of barbed wire and razor wire construction, strained onto posts cut from the local hardwoods. (These proved to be so hard that the staples wouldn’t penetrate the wood!) Brush and trees were removed where they infringed on the fence line. The name of the airfield was marked out in letters 1.5 metres high, painted bright white for clarity from the air. Finally a new windsock pole was erected and it now sports a brand new sock to celebrate completion! The surface of the strip has been leveled in places but Gordon has arranged for the local Roads Crew to provide a completely new gravel surface. Their arrival is awaited.
Before returning to Lusaka, Roger and Sally took a trip 2 hours further north to view the strip at Chavuma, another Brethren station with a highly efficient 140 bed hospital. Roger found that work was in progress to make it viable and so his task was simply to encourage the work to go on! When all these strips are in place there will be an even greater capacity to support one another up here in NW Province, where the mission hospitals serve the community in a highly significant way.