Hugh Beck pokes and prods the Cessna 182 like he’s a physician giving his patient a physical. No joint overlooked, no piece misplaced. Meticulousness is required when you’re about to put a plane in a box and ship it 8,000 miles to be reassembled in the jungle.
After serving as a maintenance specialist for 36 years with MAF at various locations in Africa, Beck has spent the last 13 years helping MAF transport planes to and from the field in this manner. This week, Beck is tasked with pulling apart a 182 so it will fit into a 40-foot cargo container headed for Madagascar.
“You have to make sure that everything is going to be snug and properly secured when you put it in the container,” Beck said. “The plane has a long journey ahead of it – and you just don’t know how it’s going to be treated while it’s being loaded and unloaded on boats and trains until it reaches its destination.”
With the help of volunteer Bill Rogers, Beck carefully places things in marked bags, both to ensure that no parts are lost and to make reassembly as easy as possible.
“I’ve never lost anything major while doing this,” said Beck, who oftentimes oversees the entire tedious process – disassembling on the field, reassembling in the U.S. for maintenance, disassembling in the U.S., and reassembling on the field again.
It’s a process that is surprisingly more efficient and cost effective than ferrying a plane across continents. Due to the cost of outfitting a small plane to make such a long flight and the government permission required to fly over each country, the box is often the best option.
With this particular 182, Beck had to create a temporary landing gear in order to roll the plane into the container. The standard landing gear is too wide to fit in the thin container that also necessitates the removal of the plane’s wings and tail.
“I really enjoy working on these projects,” Beck said. “It’s a lot of fun to work on a puzzle like this.”