After a crew of 11 mechanics worked more than seven months on a complete rebuild of a 1968 Piper Navajo, the newly refurbished “Aquila” (Latin for Eagle) flew to Arusha, Tanzania, to start its new life flying medical evacuation missions. Jacek Rejman, affectionately known as “Tanzania Jack” around the Wings of Hope hangar, is using the Aquila to launch Arusha Medivac. The new nonprofit will provide desperately needed emergency medical transportation to Arusha, a city in the east African country of Tanzania which has one of the world’s worst doctor-to-patient ratios.
“There’s one doctor for every 125,000 people,” Jacek says. “We have few roads and the access to medical care is really appalling.”
Jacek formerly worked as a pilot for Flying Medical Service (FMS), Wings of Hope’s partner in Tanzania. Our pilot, Elsa Klarich, currently flies for FMS, supporting biweekly medical clinics for women and children in 27 remote settlements. Jacek and Arusha Medivac will work closely with FMS, providing patients emergency medevac transportation as needed.
Preparing the plane was a true team effort. Jacek spent five months in St. Louis working on the rebuild. Pat Patten of FMS arrived at Wings of Hope in mid-April and spent the final month of the rebuild working alongside Jacek and our mechanics. Pat was Jacek’s co-pilot on the 12-day trip that began with a much-anticipated takeoff from Wings of Hope’s headquarters on May 7. Next up was Bangor, Maine; St. John’s, Newfoundland; and an 8 ½-hour flight over the Atlantic to the Azores, Portugal. The plane then stopped at the islands of Mallorca and Crete before heading to Egypt and stopping in Nairobi to rest and refuel before flying the final one-hour leg to Arusha. All in all, the journey covered 9,260 miles (8,043 nautical miles) and took 52 hours of flight time.