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U.S., British cooperation ensure Millions Against Malaria success

When the weather got rough en-route from Natal, Brazil to Ghana, Africa, the pair of pilots radioed Ascension Airfield.

When the weather got rough en-route from Natal, Brazil to Ghana, Africa, the pair of pilots radioed Ascension Airfield.

ASCENSION AUXILIARY AIRFIELD, MID-ATLANTIC -- Recently the men and women of the Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing Detachment 4, headquartered in the mid-Atlantic at Ascension Auxiliary Airfield, received a unique request for help from Australian pilot Tim Pryse.

Mr. Pryse and his co-pilot and fellow Auzzie, Ken Evers, were in the middle of a round-the-world flight on a GA8-TC Airvan to raise awareness about malaria June 1. However, heavy thunderstorms and strong headwinds forced them to adjust their flight plan and look for a nearby place to land. They diverted from their mission, dubbed "Millions Against Malaria", and found a port in the storm here.

Ascension Airfield is a joint facility operated by the U.S. and British Royal Air Forces located 5,000 miles off the coast of Florida and 500 miles south of the equator. While the RAF uses the airfield to transport communications equipment and troops to support the outpost, USSPACECOM and the 45th maintain a weekly flight between the island and Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

The first leg of their journey began May 8, with the pilots aiming to cover 26,740 nautical miles in 230 flight hours, while burning 13,980 liters of Avgas (a high-octane aviation fuel used to power many aircraft and racing cars) -- all toward reaching their goal of raising $1 million for and raising awareness about malaria.

When the weather got rough en-route from Natal, Brazil to Ghana, Africa, the pair of pilots radioed Ascension Airfield.

"I believe any effort to find a cure should be supported because malaria affects and kills so many people throughout the world and the Millions Against Malaria flight is a perfect example," said Maj. Eric Amissah, Det. 4 commander.

The landing process approval for a civilian aircraft at the joint U.S. and British military base usually requires three weeks, but the two sides came together quickly to save the future success of the Millions Against Malaria flight.

"We are not really geared up for civilian aircraft to land here, but due to bad weather across Brazil they would have been stuck for weeks," said Ross Denny, Administrator of Ascension Island

Such a delay stood the possibility of endangering the entire round-the-world flight.

"We have been planning the flight for a year and hit the road just about a month ago," said Mr. Pryse. "We are very grateful to the men and women of Ascension. Without their support we may have been delayed to the point of losing some of our permits, which could have cost the entire mission."

He went on to say that, the major problem with obtaining new permits would have been cost and time.

"Money for the mission has been one of the harder things to come by, especially during the economic crisis," Mr. Pryse said. "Malaria has become a poor man's decease, as places like the U.S., Britain and China have all but eradicated it, and our flight is about showing it is still out there and we can do something about it. Thank you to those who supported us here as we continue forward."

"I think fighting Malaria is something we could all support," said Mr. Denny. "And our support of this mission is a great example of British-American Ascension Island Cooperation."

"I am glad the Ascension team was able to be a part of this," Major Amissah added.

Late in the afternoon of June 3, the GA8-TC received its fuel from an RAF fuel truck. The pilots then performed their preflight inspections and American air traffic controllers cleared them for takeoff from the tiny airfield, putting their mission back on course.