Online Community of Zenith Builders and Flyers
I have compiled the following photos and account of Jeff Badgero's recent flight from Florida to Haiti.
Jeff and Carol Badgero are missionaries with H.O.P.E. Missions who have been working in the country of Haiti over the past thirty years, bringing impoverished people hope and teaching them to improve their lives, drilling water wells and developing fish ponds. They continuously see the need for a light aircraft with great STOL capabilities to fly medicine and medical personnel in mountainous areas where there are no clinics and no other access. Two years ago builder Tom and Lori Moore donated a STOL CH 701 to H.O.P.E. Missions. Jeff started to train himself and prepare the aircraft for the trip to Haiti, flying the Zenith STOL from Florida to Haiti, leaving on January 17, 2015:
"I left land from Fort Pierce, Florida, on January 17th, my 39th wedding anniversary. There were low ceilings (2,700 feet) and high clouds 9,000 feet plus, so I flew the first leg with a head wind, at 2,500 feet, and arrived at Freeport (The Bahamas) 2.5 hours later, where I cleared custom, fueled up and and got a cruising permit."
"I made my way to Spring Point (Acklins) and got a ride to the gas station since there was no fuel at the airport. The gas station was closed but the attendant said he would fill my gas cans if I waited for the police to come, being cautious of drug runners."
"Once fueled up, I headed for Matthew Town (Great Inagua), flying over a long stretch of open water. You couldn't see land in any direction but God was everywhere, and arriving as a storm was starting to build...
"The U.S. Coast Guard has a station next to customs. The winds were building so I wanted to check the windsock since there was no response on the radio. I made four passes over the windsock and each time I flew over the windsock it changed direction! I then looked at the American flag at the guard station and it was constant, so I landed (into the wind) only to realize they had been running a helicopter near the windsock, causing it to spin like a meery-go-round!"
"With only 110 knots to Haiti, I tried to file a flight plan by phone but wasn't able to get through. I cleared Bahama customs and headed for Haiti, flying at 5,500 and 7,500 feet. I tried to reach Miami or Haiti by radio but couldn't reach either. 40 knots out I communicated with an American Airlines captain, asking him to notify of my arrival. At 7,500 feet and 15 knots out I still had no contact with the tower, as there was a cloud bank in front of me that went from 2,000 to 10,000 feet."
"I decided to drop down as I didn't want to fly into the mountains of Haiti. I leveled off at 1,800 feet and the clouds dropped to the ocean... two or three minutes can seem like and eternity. I adjusted course to avoid the mountains and maintained my altitude, being swallowed by the clouds. When I broke out I could see the town and established radio contact."
"November-One-Two-Three-Six-Niner, clear to land."
"I've flown the good flight, I've finished the course. What's in store for me now is whatever God puts before me. Where He leads I will follow. Because it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I can say "I had a dream of one day flying a plane to Haiti and now it's a reality."
"If you are interested in our work, or have spare parts (such as a good three-blade composite prop) or a plane you would like to put to good use, please contact us. We are also looking for flight instructors. The the long term plan is to teach the locals and give them this great airplane."
Jeff Badgero, H.O.P.E. Missions, 160 Ravine Dr. NW, Kalkaska Mi 49646.
Email Jeff: firstname.lastname@example.org