PCM News

News and updates from Paul and Cathy Middleton, serving in southern Africa.

16 February 2021

Welcome to Paul and Cathy's blog . . . . . please scroll down for new posts

Let us introduce ourselves.

Our names are Paul and Cathy Middleton.

That's us clinging to the top of an engine on one of the planes we used to fly.
You can find out about how we got to be where we are in the 'A short history of us' on the right (quite an interesting story if we say so ourselves).

This blog is basically a collection of the e-mail updates we have sent out since we joined Mercy Air in 2003, as well as some of the personal family activities we have got up to. Click on a year and read from bottom to top and it should give you a good idea of what we do.

14 February 2021

More Food Delivery

A few days after our last flight to Chimoio, the Kodiak was again loaded with another consignment of relief food, this time destined to partners in the port city of Beira where the cyclone first made landfall.
The 1650km 6h30 route to Beira and back
On the way

The Limpopo again - to compare with the photo from the same place last Sunday.

Unloading in Beira

The photo below is of the city of Beira on departure. I imagine a lot of what I delivered will end up helping people in the poorer parts of the town.

The weather wasn't as problematic as last weeks flight and I even got a little part of a rainbow as I crossed back over the border into South Africa.

We still have two tonnes of food still to deliver to other locations in Mozambique. That will likely be the subject of the next blog entrys.

Thank you

Paul and Cathy

08 February 2021

Flood Relief Food Delivery

After our response to cyclone Eloise we were happy to report that loss of life and structural damage was far less that feared. This however did not mean that people were not affected and there were still tens of thousands who were displaced and lost crops and food.

Rise Against Hunger, an an international hunger relief non-profit organisation that coordinates the packaging and distribution of food and other aid to people in developing nations, donated four tonnes of dried food for delivery to the worst affected areas, as well as money to cover flight costs for the first flight.

The 2000km route to and from Chimoio

Our Kodiak could easily take almost a tonne of supplies and so after taking all the seats out, we loaded it up.

Flying to Vilanculos, the first port of entry in Mozambique took us over the Limpopo river which was just bursting its banks.
It's interesting what 13000' does to an unopened packet of crisps.

After clearing customs and re-fueling at Vilanculos, Paul set off for the ASAM mission station in the bush just north of Chimoio.

Thunderstorms were developing along the route...

The Garmin G1000 storm-scope came in handy
.. and some avoidance was necessary...
Towering cumulus - to be avoided!
..before picking his way between showers into the airstrip.
The food was unloaded...
..to be distributed by ASAM to the most affected families in the communities where they work.
The following morning Paul began the trip back under better weather conditions.

We still have three tonnes to deliver and the next flight is planned for this Thursday.

Thank you

Paul and Cathy

28 January 2021

Cyclone Eloise Survey Flights

Following on from the last post, we have just returned from a week of survey flying in central Mozambique.

Our plan was to fly up the day before the cyclone arrived, get behind it, sit it out for a day to wait for the weather to clear a bit, and then follow it down, helping where we could. In the end we flew over 3100km and mainly covered the area up to 150km inland of where the cyclone made landfall.

We made it up to Chimoio on Friday and met up with our helicopter that had been doing mission flights in the Zambezi Delta the preceding week. As we were initially based near the Zimbabwe border out first flights were concentrated in areas we knew were badly hit by cyclone Idai, two years ago. The good news is that damage and flooding was not as bad as feared and although thousands of people have been displaced, there has been little loss of life and minimal structural damage. The main flooding was concentrated nearer the coast south of Beira.

This still amounted to some large areas of water...

..with some roads impassable...

..and villages cut off.

We flew members of Mozambique's Disaster Management Authority down to the Rio Save, a major river 150km south of Beira.

 Clever Garmin 1000 knows when you're flying up a river at 800'

They were particularly interested in the bridge carrying the main (only) arterial north/south supply road from the capital to the central parts of the country.
The old bridge was flooded but the new one was still passable, although with downgraded load bearing capacities meaning is now had a one way, stop/go, leading to some delays.

On the way back we flew over Buzi, the town that had borne the brunt of the last cyclone. As you can see from the photo below, the area was still suffering and many people were displaced. The town was mainly being re-supplied by boat although our helicopter was also able to help, even flying in the Mozambican Prime Minister who was keen to show his concern.

We flew up the river and past the place where Cathy had spent a week working at a field hospital two years ago.

The two small white tents just right of center in the photo below are all that remain of the field hospital that was erected by Samaritan's Purse in 2018.

One of the days surveys loaded on the Garmin 1000...

..and some of what we saw out of the window.

Most evenings consisted of planning round the dining table...

..and tweaking it the next day just before flight, as new information came in...

..before a muddy departure.

We got back to South Africa to find that our north eastern area of SA and eSwatini (the country formally known as Swaziland) had had heaps of rain whilst we were away. Apparently there are numerous bridges washed away and they are struggling to assess the damage. We are already talking to the authorities there and are planning to conduct survey flights tomorrow.

Thank you

Paul and Cathy

21 January 2021

Cyclone Eloise - January 2021

A few maps to show what will likely keep us busy this weekend and maybe for a while after that.

Cyclone Eloise will hit the coast of Mozambique on Friday night/Sat morning and then traveling westwards through Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.

It is slightly smaller than cyclone Idai two years ago - although still 1000km across. Winds will be in the order of 200kph and it will likely bring the same amount of rain to an area already waterlogged from heavy summer rainfall.

Our plan is for Paul to fly a team up tomorrow (Friday) just before the cyclone arrives to join our helicopter which is already up there. We will position behind it, sit it out for a day or two and then follow it down over the weekend and the early part of next week.

That way we'll be in a better position to respond by doing survey flights and flying in support of rescue efforts as they arise.

Bottom left to the middle of the cyclone is equivalent to the length of Britain.

Thank you

Paul and Cathy

22 October 2020

Eye Cataract Surgery Flights - Again

After a long gap due to the current world health issues, Mercy Air has once again been able to resume its partnership with MAF/Flying for Life, and take a team of surgeons up to Limpopo to carry out eye cataract surgeries for under-privileged people.

As always this is a big day out, being airborne at first light to see the sun rise above the clouds when in cruise.
I'm always impressed by the range the Kodiak has - and will therefore likely always post a pic of the green range rings showing how far I could fly with the fuel I have on board. For scale, the length of the UK is just over half the length of Madagascar on the right.
I arrived at Grand Central Airport in Jhb at 06:30...
.. and met and loaded the surgery team.
Within 30 minutes we were on our way again for the 1h30/430km flight to Thohoyandou. Google Maps shows this as a 5h45 drive and that's with no traffic or stops! We were then met by the Health Department's minibus for the 1 hour drive the the hospital.
Then the real work could begin. The patients, many of whom had traveled to the hospital over the preceding two days, were screened...
.. before going upstairs to the ward to wait their turn.

While the doctors set up, I helped arrange and order the special lenses that we had bought up with us.

Then they were led into the operating theater...

.. where I was able to 'help' watch the procedure.

Prof was very good at explaining what he was doing and let me have a look through the microscope...

.. to reveal the milky cataract that he was about to fix.
There are all sorts of things that are apparently 'better than being poked in the eye with a sharp stick'. But for these people, this is probably one of the best things that can actually happen to them!

The team were able to complete all but one of the scheduled operations before the time was up and we had to return to the airstrip to be able to take off before dark.

The flight back was mostly uneventful - a small storm over Jhb when we arrived, and I actually got back home about 2200, just  in time to watch the second half of the final Premier League match of the day which ended Newcastle 1 v 4 Man United.
The bright lights of Johannesburg
This flight was scheduled to happen two weeks ago but in the preceding days it became obvious that the weather on that particular Saturday was going to identify as British, and there was no guarantee that we were going to be able to get into Thohoyandou at all - even Jhb would have required some special effort. We therefore decided to postpone.
I felt for the patients, some of whom had already started their journey, probably accompanied by family members, from their rural communities to the hospital. Their hope and anticipation of renewed sight dashed. Many have been on the waiting list for a few years - would it ever happen.
It feels good though when everything does come together - especially the weather! You fly home knowing that not only the patients have a new lease of life, but all those in their communities who surround them are likewise affected for the better.

Thank you.

Paul and Cathy