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Jungle Pilots Are Superheroes – Smarter Every Day 152

Hey, it’s me Destin welcome back to Smarter Every Day. I’m currently sitting in an airport with my oldest son and we’re on our way to Idaho. Destin: Where does superman get his Superpowers? Son: Krypton Destin: The planet Krypton. What about Batman? How did he get his superpowers? Son: He learnt (learned) his. Destin: Do you think people can learn superpowers? Son: Yes sir. Destin: Yea, me too. If you’ve watched smarter Every Day for any length of time, you’d know that my superpower to be flight but not like Superman- I would want to become a pilot. I’m actively working on it actually. When I was younger I read this book, and it’s called Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot and in the book I met a guy named Nate Saint. This was the first time I realised (realized) you could use your technical abilities to help other people. When ever there’s a natural disaster like a Tsunami or an Earthquake, often governments will send aid to these really tiny nations who don’t have the infrastructure to get it out to the isolated people that need it. That’s where Superheroes come in, these guys fly the aid up into the bush and give it to the people who need it. So today on Smarter Every Day, I want to go to the organisation (organization) that Nate worker for, it’s called the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and learn how these guys train to become real life superheroes Okay, here we are, we are here at MAF headquarters at Nampa, Idaho and this is Aaron. He let me stay at his house last night. and we’re going to meet Brian, right? Aaron: Brian… yep! Destin: Alright, cool. Destin: Are you Brian? I am Destin. Brian: Nice to meet you. Destin: Nice to meet you, how are you doing? Meet Brian Shepson, Chief Training pilot for the MAF I figured out pretty quickly that Brian is an extremely humble man despite the fact that he spent over a decade flying in the jungles of Equador which makes him somewhat of a legend. Now he travels all over the world teaching the next generation of pilots and mechanics who they can fly safely in crazy conditions. Destin: So you basically train Superheroes, right? Brian: Well, pretty much every day by your definition, yes! Destin: *laughing* Brian: We go to places that are hard to get. If roads come in or other transportation systems come in, We leave, we go another part of the world that is hard to get to. This airplane is a good combination between being able to carry and being able to get in and out of a short airstrip. We have a heavy duty gear the tire is a bigger size, we have gravel guards to keep rocks and things from hitting the tail. We have a rubber abrasion boot on the tail to deflect rocks. Tip extenders on the wings. A fuel tank for extra range if we need it Destin: A fuel tank in the tip, here? Brain: Yes, an extra 15 gallons (57 Litres) on a side. This cuff here, it adds a little bit more areodynamic grip at a slower and higher angles of attack. We have a mirror over here so that we can see if we have any smoke, fire or oil We have a cargo pod underneath. We can put cargo in the aircraft without having to tie it down Here we can just open the door and slide in stuff Pigs, chickens and things that need Destin: You are not exaggerating, you ship life stock. Brain: Oh yeah, we carry anything. Crocodile, snakes, you name it. If it needs to be transported, we can transport it. Destin: Brian agreed to take me up into the mountains to teach me a little bit about flying in rough terrain. We strapped in and headed out to the wilderness of central Idaho where the first thing he wanted to teach me was how to fly through a valley if you are forced to fly below the mountain tops. Brian: The untrained pilot in terrain would fly right through the middle of that pass. The trained pilot knows “I need to be able to turn outta here”. Destin: Yeah, because if he got through the middle and you take a turn left or right… Brian: he has have of the valley to work with. So what we do is, we work with the whole valley Then we have the whole valley to turn with Destin: How do you do that? Brian: We move over to one side, or the other Let’s go ahead and move over to the right side here And so the whole idea is – you see how much room I have over there to turn around in? Destin: That’s your out Brian: That’s my out, but I have to be able to turn to get there Brian: Nothing out there, clear. Let’s go ahead and turn Just add about 4″ of manifold pressure. Destin: You’re pulling back to maintain altitude Brian: 45° of bank, yep. Brian: Finish the turn.
Destin: You didn’t even use a third of it. Destin: Think about what Brian is saying here if you lose an engine, you’re gonna start to descend Even though it feels more dangerous because you’re so close hugging the mountains is your clearest bet for survival Destin: How many people would you say that you have saved over the years from things like disease or your medical extractions, and things like that? Brian: Oh my goodness, I don’t even know if I can hazard a guess We actually would do teams that would go in and administer vaccinations for kids Almost all of the kids in the – in the jungles of Ecuador, where I flew They receive their vaccinations because we flew the doctors there Destin: When you’re transporting a vaccine, you have to worry about what’s called Cold Chain Management If a vaccine warms up it loses it’s potency so even if the medicine is in country, you can’t get it to the people who need it in time if you have to hike for days across rough terrain and through water This is why airplanes are like having a superpower You can get the vaccine to people who need it in minutes instead of days Brian: There was a meningitis outbreak in a – in a – in a – valley that was completely isolated because of snow on the roads. Couldn’t get to it for like 4 months out of the year And the nurse in the village called and we were able to package up 300 – uhh…- viles of the treatments – the serum fly up there and drop those out of the airplane and only one of the little viles broke out of 300 I think they did a good job of packaging those Destin: That’s amazing, it’s like the egg drop competition in school only with vaccines that are gonna save somebody’s life.
Brian: That’s right. Brian: Only Life and death, that’s right I can tell you from experience that the hardest part of flying is making a good landing. So I asked Brian to show me an example of the airstrips that jungle pilots might have to land on These strips are often cut into the jungle with machetes, so they’re very short and very narrow The craziest thing about these runways is that you often have to commit either they’re so short that you have one chance to take off or there’s a mountain in the way and you can’t do a go round if you miss the approach Once you commit, you either have to do it right or you crash This is the width of the Atlanta runway and this is the width of the dirt runway that Brian’s about to land on. I looked it up. It’s one tenth as long and oh by the way just to make it interesting it’s pointing uphill with a huge bump right in the middle This means that instead of gently gliding down to the ground we have to pull up at exactly the right second and start flying uphill or we’re gunna smash and pancake into the dirt The geometry says that the hill rises faster than the plane can pull out so you’re committed. You either land or you don’t. Usually understanding the physics of whats about to go down makes me calm, but in this case it made me nervous Brian: Little sinker, and we’re committed. Brian: .. Flair. Brian: Just touch it. And. Good hard brakes. Brian: Now we got stopped by the wind sock Destin: You are a boss. Brian: That just shows what slope can do for us Destin: That’s impressive.
Brian: And dirt you can brake as hard as you want on dirt, you’re not going to hurt anything on asphalt you’ll slide and flatten the tires. Destin: There’s no threat of tipping over. It’s skills like making these landing every single day which helps the MAF get help exactly where it’s needed The main thing I learned though, wasn’t about the pilots it’s that people who learn these skills can use them to save people in a desperate situation. and basically become superheroes. Technicians build the planes IT Professionals, Radio Operators, logisticians, engineers, medical professionals. Every technical skill becomes a super power if you choose to
use it not to build yourself up Brian: for snake bites and venoms, we’d fly live snakes up to a serpentarium where they could do the milking and make a venom that would work particularly for our area. Destin: You would fly snakes in the plane with you. Brian: snakes on a plane son: Wait, there’s a planet really named Kypton? Destin: No it’s not
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