Friday, August 19, 2011...You never know where a chance encounter will lead you in life.
One such experience occurred at AirVenture 2010. We were approached by a pilot who had recently become acquainted with a plastic surgeon from Brussels. The doctor was "an outdoorsman…a mountain climbing type," we were told. Just our kind of guy. In fact, it turns out he regularly climbs in the Alps and has led, or been the mountain medical expert on, at least 18 climbing expeditions in a wide variety of remote locations including Alaska, Norway, Greenland, Siberia, Tibet, and Nepal. On a recent expedition, the doctor had his own chance encounter, a happenstance meeting that would radically change the course of his life.
Dr. Doug Rossillon was trekking in the Manaslu region of Nepal in 2007 when he came across a young girl who had suffered a very bad head wound. As is local practice, the wound had been covered with manure, so the good doctor stepped in and took immediate action. He cut away the dead flesh, cleaned the wound and stitched up her head with only the tools from the light travel kit he'd brought along. The young girl went off with her family and he never saw her again.
But Dr. Rossillon realized from this experience that he had something these people needed. And that realization transformed into a personal resolve to establish remote clinics in Nepal geared to do reconstructive, orthopedic, and burn surgeries. He would administer the medical training and experience at his disposal, directly to the point of need.
Immediately, there were challenges. Dr. Rossillon quickly determined that Nepal's existing infrastructure could not easily sustain his vision. Undaunted, he took inventory and created a plan. His solution? Learn to fly. With this added skill he could render the aid himself. But then there was another hurdle...what aircraft was up to the task of delivering safe reliable performance in the kind of high altitude, remote environments, and challenging weather that is Nepal? He thoroughly considered many designs but all, in the end, fell short. This one was too slow; that one could not handle the thin air of the Himalayas. His search kept coming up empty. Then he found the KODIAK…and placed an order. To insure the best chance of arriving at his destination, no matter the obstacle, he spec’d a production KODIAK equipped with TKS Ice Protection.
When we met Dr. Rossillon he had just about 100 hours total time and a private license under his belt. We directed him to our training partner Spokane Turbine Center, where he underwent initial turbine training -- an intro to turbine aircraft designed to take non-turbine pilots and provide them with a solid foundation. It turns out that a mechanically-minded surgeon with experience in woodworking and light truck maintenance makes for a good student. Dr. Rossillon added instrument training and took the instrument written while here in the U.S. Then he went back to Switzerland and later flew his instrument check ride in France. That was November of last year. In March he returned to Sandpoint and did factory flight training for one week followed by another week of recurrent training flying at Spokane Turbine Center.
With this solid base of instruction, Dr. Rossillon was prepared to ferry his aircraft home with an STC pilot in the right seat. Incredibly, he did all the planning for this ferry flight half-way round the world himself, and the entire journey progressed smoothly. KODIAK’s new capabilities came into play immediately. The Ice Protection System was required to get off the ground in Spokane. The rest of the trek took the two men through Canada over Hudson Bay and Greenland before heading over Iceland where TKS again kept the flight on schedule. From there it was a non-stop to Brussels, an amazing leg of 1350 nm in 6 hours and 20 minutes. The efficiency of this last leg was due to both strong tailwinds and the KODIAK's ability to climb directly into the flight levels to go get them.
All told, they averaged 170-knots over the ground for the entire trip in a stock production KODIAK. We were told, "it was really kind of routine."
And Dr. Rossillon has been at it ever since, flying around the Alps in preparation for the Himalayas.
He's amassed another 150 hours since his ferry trip. He's also finished his instrument rating in the KODIAK and is now working on his commercial license.
Within a year, he'll be working the aircraft in Nepal.
When that day comes, Dr. Doug Rossillon's journey will already have been incredible. But to say just that would miss the point entirely. They say in life, it's the journey that counts not the destination. But, let’s be honest, this isn’t true in aviation and it is certainly not true in medical care. In these fields, it’s best when the journey itself is so routine that it's entirely forgettable. What matters in this business is outcome; what matters is the destination.
From what we've seen, this is what we believe: when the destination is what matters, the KODIAK is your vehicle of choice.
Our deepest thanks to Dr. Doug Rossillon for inspiring us to keep pounding rivets and pushing these airplanes out the door into the world. Our thanks as well to Ken Smoll who helped ferry the aircraft through snow and ice to Europe and provided such a great account of the story. Godspeed in the work that lies ahead.