My uncle flew for Mission Aviation Fellowship (maf.org) for a university in Texas, and I believe that he was flying a Cessna to the Amazon (among other places). He actually knew Jim Elliot (who went to the Waodani of Ecuador), the martyr about which the movies "Beyond the Gates of Splendor" and "End of the Spear" were made. He had landed in the Amazon and one of the vanes of his 3-vane propeller broke and flew somewhere off into the jungle. So he got the welder out of the back of the plane, and cut off one of the remaining two vanes and welded it back on at 180 degrees to the one remaining vane. Then he took off and flew home. I love this story, but I always wondered...
How often does a propeller vane just fly off like that?
(And how challenging was that repair?)
Finally, was there any maintenance that would have prevented propeller breakage?
From a page from his own memoir that I found online (search for Strash), I found that he definitely flew a Cessna 206 while in the Congo near Kinshasa (then Zaire) in Africa.
Before he worked in Africa, he worked in Suriname in South America, which, indeed, is considered to be part of the immense Amazon jungle. I don't yet know the specific plane he flew while he was there, but a direct contact at the MAF tells me it may have been a Cessna-185 or a Cessna-206.
My mom seemed to recall the story clearly (even though she's 83 and bedridden and I'm caring for her 24/7). Mom said that there was a tree branch that was hit during takeoff, which took off the blade.
If I can get a copy of Uncle John's memoir, the story may be in there.
Bottom line, I know the story was actually told because I received it personally while in his presence and he would have set the record straight at that time if it didn't happen. My recollection of the details may be fuzzy (meaning Amazon or Congo) because that was perhaps approximately 1990 when he visited us in New Jersey.
When this story took place, he may have been in either of those two places, Suriname or Congo.
Here is an early picture of my uncle from his yearbook online, before he became a full professor. He worked both at the MAF, and as a professor teaching Aviation at LeTourneau University, Aviation Technology division.
I have to apologize... My story was probably wrong all along. Contacting someone related to MAF directly yielded what I consider to be a more realistic story, which I include here because it's interesting in its own right:
I was unable to verify your uncle’s propeller accident, but when asking around, one person remembered a similar story but it involved John flying a Cessna 185 in Africa where he lost a propeller tip (no welding involved). In order to fly the plane to an MAF repair base, he reportedly sawed the other propeller blade down to match the shorter one and it flew reasonably well out of the jungle until it could get properly fixed—no third blade involved. Of course, this cannot be confirmed, nor did it comply with MAF standards of safety, and it was 60 + years ago.
Now all of your responses make more sense to me. Thanks, everyone!