MAF pilot Justin Honaker retells the events of one particular afternoon and a flight where timing was everything.
2:45 p.m. I’m the only MAF pilot flying in Lesotho today, Friday, June 1. My passenger is not here yet, even though he insisted we make a special trip for him. I’m annoyed, but with the schedule otherwise complete, I’m happy I’ve got a few minutes to doze while I wait.
3:30 p.m. My passenger is still nowhere to be found. I’ve got just enough time to fly home before quitting time.
3:40 p.m. The boss’ voice calls over the radio while I’m still in the initial climb, although I already suspect why he is calling. “Code 1” (Medical Emergency) confirms my suspicions. I turn on track, punch up the route in the GPS, and relay my ETA.
Although I had brought plenty of extra fuel for just such a situation, I’m now concerned for the rapidly approaching sunset (5:15 p.m.) which we absolutely may not fly beyond. On the other hand, subtracting my remaining flight time from the remaining daylight, I have about a 20- to 30-minute buffer.
4:05 p.m. Touchdown in Thlanyaku, our most distant airstrip. While we wait for the patient, I have a few minutes to chat with the nurse. “Gangrene in his left foot. If he can get to the hospital soon enough, we may be able to save the foot.”
“He’s only 45 minutes away now,” I encouraged the nurse while fastening Kahlolo’s seatbelt.
4:20 p.m. We are airborne, making a direct course for the hospital. If this kid’s foot can be saved, I’m confident this is his best bet.
Had I not waited for the passenger that didn’t show, there would have been no way to accommodate Kahlolo with the early sunset, I think to myself.
5:05 p.m. (15 minutes before sunset) Touchdown in Maseru, ambulance waiting. Kahlolo is now only minutes away from the best medical care in the country.
As of today, Kahlolo has been in the hospital a little over a week. Please pray for him. He still has his foot, but it’s in bad shape and his condition is still very serious.