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Sea to Sky series Chapter 1 - with Bush pilot Ryan from Papua New Guinea · 6 September 2020 by colin newell

I’ve often thought that God has to have a sense of humour. Moments after creation, the supreme being paused for a moment, and during a millisecond of pique, created Papua New Guinea as an exercise in extremes.

For Papua New Guinea is a land of unapologetic beauty, impossibly isolated mountain ranges, with waterfalls emptying into valleys of inexhaustible fertility.

Bush Pilot Ryan with happy passengers

Ryan Farran was fascinated by aviation while growing up in Papua New Guinea. The child of missionaries, it was during adolescence he decided that a life of service to the people of PNG, from sea to sky, would be his career choice.
His work for Ethnos360 Aviation, a non-profit organization, assists tribal church planning missionaries, running MedEvac missions and supplying safe water projects, to name a few.

We asked Ryan where his interest began, “I have had the itch to be a pilot since probably first grade. It’s always been an interest, but it wasn’t until about 11th grade that I made the decision that being a pilot is what I wanted to do. More specifically, a missionary pilot. Flying with the airlines looks too monotonous and boring. I like the fast pace, single pilot aspect of my job.”

We reflected, how “a kid from the United States…” would adapt to a cultural mosaic that could not be more diverse and separate from his own.

The actual answer is likely more complex. Papua New Guinea is, on geography alone, a place so exquisitely secluded, that a 25 minute flight between villages is a 4 day trip through impenetrable jungle. This is where the benefit of bush flying comes in. However dangerous this job might be, and not without a myriad of challenges, a skilled pilot makes the difference between getting supplies to an isolated community a reliable option versus, well, not at all.

Ryan continued, “I was born in Missouri, but grew up everywhere. My parents went into missions when I was 5, so we moved around a lot for that. We lived in Papua New Guinea in the late 80’s and early 90’s for 4 years. That is where I got my first introduction to bush pilots. From 6th grade on, we lived in the States, mainly in Michigan where I finished off high school and started my flight training at age 19.”

Ryan discovered, early on, that the people of Papua New Guinea are easy going and friendly. Guests in this country must be mindful that this is a paradise where time and distance are not measured in quite the way we are familiar with.

Today, tomorrow or next week all can mean the very same thing. On some primordial level, this is simply the way things get done.

For Ryan, this sense of time suits him just fine. His greatest joy is planning out his day, making all of the important decisions and completing his mission safely, “on time” in a World where time is often meaningless.

Ryan again, “We live, on a missionary center, and it’s kind of like raising your kids back in the 1950’s in a small town where everyone knows one everyone else. We live on a 35 acre village with about 250 other missionaries.
There are a ton of kids for our kids to play with, and a school that has K-12. It really is great when one finds his purpose in life doing what he loves, and having eternal value while doing it. It’s definitely a rewarding and fulfilling life.”

Bush Pilot Kodiak Cockpit - 2020

Ryan’s company aircraft is the Kodiak. Purpose built in Sandpoint, Idaho, the Kodiak is considered one of the more robust STOL (Short take-off and landing) aircraft seemingly destined for the most efficient humanitarian workloads. With a cargo capacity approaching 1000 kg, it’s a lifeline to communities that are separated by the most rugged of countryside.

For those seeking a career in bush pilot flying, be advised, the training is a long haul, 10 years or so according to Ryan. If our readers think there is anything routine about this line of work, Ryan offers…

“Yes, my most memorable flight days have been usually linked around bad weather.
Coming to the field with Very little IFR (instrument ) experience, it has made me learn it very well and fast.
PNG’s weather can change in a blink of an eye, keeping you on your toes at all times.
That aspect of the ever changing weather can be challenging at times, and fun other times.

Even though we fly a lot of the same routes to different bush locations, no two flights are ever the same. Cloudy or rainy weather can make the area look completely foreign.

I wind down with my hobbies. I love riding my dirtbike through the local mountains. I’ve probably put on 8000 miles over the past 4 years. I’ve always had a passion for photography, and it’s only been in the past 6 years that I’ve started getting into videography, and actually enjoy it even more.”

Ryan’s Missionary Bush Pilot YouTube channel is a delight to watch if you are interested in aviation and rugged terrain.

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Last call from Amelia Earhart · 27 July 2018 by colin newell

Amelia Earhart 1937

Amelia Earhart waded into the Pacific Ocean and climbed into her downed and disabled Lockheed Electra.

She started the engine, turned on the two-way radio and sent out a plea for help, one more desperate than previous messages.

The high tide was getting higher, she had realized. Soon it would suck the plane into deeper water, cutting Earhart off from civilization — and any chance of rescue.

Across the world, a 15-year-old girl listening to the radio in St. Petersburg, Fla., transcribed some of the desperate phrases she heard: “waters high,” “water’s knee deep — let me out” and “help us quick.”

A housewife in Toronto heard a shorter message, but it was no less dire: “We have taken in water . . . we can’t hold on much longer.”

That harrowing scene, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) believes, was probably one of the final moments of Earhart’s life. The group put forth the theory in a paper that analyzes radio distress calls heard in the days after Earhart disappeared.

PostLostRadioAnalysis.pdf

In the summer of 1937, she had sought to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. Instead, TIGHAR’s theory holds, she ended up marooned on a desert island, radioing for help.

Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, could only call for help when the tide was so low it wouldn’t flood the engine, TIGHAR theorized. That limited their pleas for help to a few hours each night.

It wasn’t enough, TIGHAR director Ric Gillespie told The Washington Post, and the pair died as castaways.

But those radio messages form a historical record — evidence that Gillespie says runs counter to the U.S. Navy’s official conclusion that Earhart and Noonan died shortly after crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

On July 2, 1937, just after Earhart’s plane disappeared, the U.S. Navy put out an “all ships, all stations” bulletin, TIGHAR wrote. Authorities asked anyone with a radio and a trained ear to listen in to the frequencies she had been using on her trip, 3105 and 6210 kilohertz.

It was not an easy task. The Electra’s radio was designed to communicate only within a few hundred miles. The Pacific Ocean is much bigger.

The searchers listening to Earhart’s frequencies heard a carrier wave, which indicated that someone was speaking, but most heard nothing more than that. Others heard what they interpreted to be a crude attempt at Morse code.

But thanks to the scientific principle of harmonics, TIGHAR says, others heard much more. In addition to the primary frequencies, “the transmitter also put out ‘harmonics (multiples)’ of those wavelengths,” the paper says. “High harmonic frequencies ‘skip’ off the ionosphere and can carry great distances, but clear reception is unpredictable.”

That means Earhart’s cries for help were heard by people who just happened to be listening to their radios at the right time.

According to TIGHAR’s paper:

Scattered across North America and unknown to each other, each listener was astonished to suddenly hear Amelia Earhart pleading for help. They alerted family members, local authorities or local newspapers. Some were investigated by government authorities and found to be believable. Others were dismissed at the time and only recognized many years later. Although few in number, the harmonic receptions provide an important glimpse into the desperate scene that played out on the reef at Gardner Island.

The tide probably forced Earhart and Noonan to hold to a schedule. Seek shelter, shade and food during the sweltering day, then venture out to the craft at low tide, to try the radio again.

Back in the United States, people heard things, tidbits that pointed at trouble.

On July 3, for example, Nina Paxton, an Ashland, Ky., woman, said she heard Earhart say “KHAQQ calling,” and say she was “on or near little island at a point near” … “then she said something about a storm and that the wind was blowing.”

“Will have to get out of here,” she says at one point. “We can’t stay here long.”

What happened to Earhart after that has vexed the world for nearly 81 years, and TIGHAR is not the only group to try to explain the mystery.

Washington Post Link

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Spectres of Shortwave Sneak Preview · 7 November 2016 by colin newell

This is a very short interview with a gal from Eastern Canada who is producing a film about the Radio Canada International transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Spectres of Shortwave – An experimental documentary film about the RCI shortwave radio towers. Images captured on 35mm film accompanied by personal stories told by people who lived near the towers.

Listen to the Podcast |



Click here to play the audio in your browser -or click the link below to download this short interview…

Amanda-Christie-Sneak-Preview.mp3

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Philippine typhoon relief - help needed now · 14 November 2013 by colin newell

Typhoon Haiyan – locally known as Yolanda –is the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in 2013 and arguably the most destructive storm to hit the region in anyone’s memory. The storm has caused widespread damage, including landslides and flooding. Tragically, among the people affected are those who were left homeless by an earthquake in mid-October.

So, I ask you… I beg of my readers:

Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan Fund

The Philippine Red Cross has been on the highest alert since the typhoon was sighted, pre-positioning supplies, helping with evacuation plans and warning communities. Today, they are working to meet the needs of individuals affected by the storm. It is a tough job – and how can we help? With money.

Canadians wishing to help individuals affected by this storm are encouraged to make a financial donation online, at their local Red Cross office or by calling 1-800-418-1111. Please earmark donations “Typhoon Haiyan”. Funds will be used to support Red Cross efforts in all countries affected by the storm.

Our American readers can pop over here to donate.

International readers click over here for the International office of the Red Cross.

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UVic Congress 2013 Main Stage with Buffy Sainte-Marie · 6 June 2013 by colin newell

Buffy Saint-Marie at UVic Congress 2013

It has been a busy week at the University of Victoria with the Annual Congress of the Humanities – with some 7000 delegates and their families, the campus and the city as a whole has been hopping with big thinkers, the learned, the curious and the rest of us.

The reality for me, at UVic, is that every day of the year is an adventure in advanced education. Congress 2013 has been more of an amalgam of thought pressed into a tight 7 day event.

Humanities at UVic encompasses the study of English, French, Germanic and Slavonic studies, Hispanic and Italian studies, History, Latin studies, Greek and Roman studies, Linguistics, Medieval studies, Philosophy, and Women’s studies (hope I did not miss anyone!) –

Within the Faculty of Social Sciences is Economics, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Geography, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology.

Congress is kind of a conference within a conference… plenary sessions, discussions, summits, society meetings, AGM’s etc – and even executive events for the government group known as SSHRC (Social Sciences Humanities Research Council) – they hand out money and often lots of it.

During the event (and because it is a fairly inclusive event) there were lots of family friendly events, food kiosks, entertainment and attractions on campus and in the Capital regional district.

We actually had a main stage on campus on one of the green spaces that featured afternoon and evening entertainment – many of them local and regional musical groups.

The evening headliner on Wednesday was 60’s legend and Canadian-American singer/artist/activist/educator Dr. Buffy Sainte-Marie. She wrote hits like “The Universal Soldier”, “Up where we belong” from the movie Officer and a Gentlemen, “Until it’s time for you to go”, “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” and many others. Her significance and place in the history and evolution of the sixties is well documented – but that only barely scratches the surface of what she accomplished in the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s and so on. Her 60’s hits are merely an introduction to a life well lived – with clearly many more chapters to be written.

According to her bio, she has recorded over a dozen and 1/2 albums (with clearly more on the way) has charted 1/2 dozen singles and has sold in excess of 26 million albums. She lives a quiet live on the Hawaiian Islands when she is not on tour – and she is currently on year 3 of a 2 year tour!

At 72 years of age, Buffy looks more like a mid-fifties athlete. I had around 2 minutes of her time the day before the concert while assisting her team on her spoken word lecture at one of UVic’s recital halls. Her demeanor is one of peace, harmony openness and inclusion. She was, after all, an educator before she became a musician. She created the Cradleboard Teaching Project – a curriculum that aims to raise self-identity and self-esteem in present and future generations of Indian children by introducing them to enriching, accurate information about Native American people and cultures. (Wikipedia)

Seeing her in concert with her backing band of rocking all-stars was a far cry from my reminiscences of the late 60’s – however dim and youthful they may have been.
If this lady was a Woodstock era folk musician, there was little evidence of it in the 21st Century. Buffy has clearly been keeping with the times and the technology – apparently using Apple computers to compose new music since the 90’s. So, she is on top of things. And her stage shows reveals the energy of a rock star a fraction of her chronological age – kind of a lady version of Mick Jagger.

She launched right into the classics to an appreciative audience of around 3000 folks – many of them clearly a fan of the folk-World-Native genres. It was a spectacular mix of softer songs contrasted with harder edges pieces – all of them with a message. She did write “Universal Soldier” after all – the treatise on the root causes of conflict and who, ultimately, is responsible. (Us, by the way…)

Her 2 hour set included the body of her best work and (she is prolific!) an unveiling of one of her latest songs – so new that all of her band members had the musical chart in front of them!

I can admit this now, that even though I am not from the 60’s (I was a teen in the 70’s) there was something so resonant about her concert, her stage presence, her voice and message that moved me to tear up several times. And I am pretty sure I was not alone.
She has been a messenger for peace (a pacifist if you would…) since the 60’s and has railed against the culture of war and aggression since the early 60’s – it is even generally accepted that she was “black-listed” by the Nixon and Johnson administration – it’s written that Johnson wrote letters to several radio networks thanking them for suppressing her message of peace. Peace (in the 60’s) was considered a threat to the establishment much as it is now. In reality, her messages are as important now as they were then – if not more so.

She sings about love, the environment, a plea for equity, fairness, justice and a livable World community for future generations – the stuff that is often labeled “terrorism” or “Eco-terrorism” by “The Man” here in the 21st Century. Yup, not like that much has changed.

Anyway – seeing and hearing Buffy Sainte-Marie at the University of Victoria was one of the best outdoor shows I have seen in a long time and easily the most meaningful!

Long life and more music to Buffy! She has an incredible schedule – interested in seeing the legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie live? Head on over here to her Tour Schedule

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