Solar lights and tarpaulins, Bibles, guitars and tambourines, soccer balls and volleyballs, hinges, padlocks, saws, and spanners are useful items to help rebuild church buildings and fellowship after the physical and spiritual destruction caused by the recent earthquakes.
The German Liebenzell Mission has a long and strong connection to the ECPNG churches in the area hit by the earthquake and therefore felt called to assist in a very practical way in this time of need. Monetary donations by German churches were passed on to Aviamp based missionaries Gerhard and Brigitte Stamm. They then purchased this variety of useful utensils, enough to bless and encourage the congregations of three communities. The churches at Dodomona and Walagu got their share delivered on the 14th of May.
Also on board of the MAF Caravan that morning, were two heavy boxes from the SIL Press, containing the Gospel of John in the Edolo Language as well as 10 boxes of medical supplies to stock up the Dodomona Health Post.
Last but not least, three passengers boarded the aircraft to fly home to Walagu. All of the men were patients released from the Mt Hagen hospital.
What a great loading to start another week of flying to bring help, hope and healing to people living in isolated and hard to reach places!
The pilot of the Caravan Aircraft was Mathias Glass. Luke Newell sat on the right-hand seat. He is one of our senior Caravan training captains who has been flying this aircraft type for about three years, after starting off flying the GA8 Airvan about five years ago. Mathias Glass, who in his 11 years with MAF PNG gained lots of flying experience with the Twin Otter and the Airvan, has just started flying the Caravan this year. Currently, he needs to be checked into more challenging airstrips, which are the short and/or steep ones. So for this day’s flying, he did the hard work while Luke got to come along as the supervisor.
By 8:29 am the Caravan P2-MAF was checked, loaded and refuelled, the passengers strapped into their seats and safety briefed, the engine powered up and ready for taking off.
The day unveiled itself very busy. Additional landings were needed because of safety margins and an unexpected call for a medevac.
9:19 Landing at Muluma
The first landing was supposed to be at Walagu. Because the flyover at Walagu airstrip revealed that the airstrip was too wet for a safe landing with a fully loaded Caravan, the pilots diverted to Muluma, an airstrip only 5 minutes away.
The three passengers for Walagu disembarked the aircraft. The donations for the Walagu ECPNG church were also unloaded. Passengers and cargo had to wait for the Caravan to return and pick them up later during the day.
9:40 Take off at Muluma
9:50 Landing at Dodomona
Flying the Caravan with a maximum load into this 481m short airstrip, which only has a 1% slope, the landing at Dodomona was the first so-called Advanced Airstrip Training Landing and check out for Mathias that day.
The medical supplies, church donations and SIL boxes were unloaded.
Three passengers of Care International boarded the aircraft to return to Mt Hagen.
10:23 Take off at Dodomona
10:47 Landing at Tari
The Care International personal had to be dropped off for a later pick up.
Then, the aircraft was refuelled for an unscheduled flight towards the north of Tari. Tari base had received a call for a medevac. At Waiki, a woman was facing severe birth difficulties and wanted to get help at the Wanakipa health centre. The flight to Waiki was utilised to fill up the aircraft with some supplies for a local store owner at Waiki.
11:20 Take off at Tari
11:49 Landing at Waiki
This was another training landing for Mathias. The challenge at Waiki is that the 451 metre long airstrip has a rough and uneven surface and a 9% slope. The airstrip is a kind of new, only 3 years old, and the ground still needs time to consolidate.
Many of the community helped to quickly empty the aircraft.
While Mathias was sorting out the paperwork with the local MAF Agent, he was distracted by a shouting voice behind his back. One elderly woman came dancing around the aircraft, chanting and holding a frond of green leaves. The agent explained that this was just an expression of joy to see an aircraft again at her village. It must have been a while since a plane had landed at Waiki.
After the paperwork was finalised, the pregnant woman, accompanied by another young mother and her baby, boarded the Caravan for the short flight to Wanakipa.
12:07 Take off at Waiki
12:15 Landing at Wanakipa
The women disembarked the aircraft.
One student came on board to fly to Mt Hagen. He was left behind the Friday before because there wasn’t enough space for him.
12:27 Take off at Wanakipa
12:52 Landing at Tari
The student had to join the other three passengers who waited at Tari.
Before flying back to Mt Hagen, more work needed to be done south of Tari. The three returning patients and the donations for Walagu were still waiting at Muluma…
Again, our base staff pumped fuel into the tanks which are in the aircraft’s wings.
Tari is located on the Highlands Highway, therefore also functions as a base from where relief goods get distributed to the communities affected by the earthquake. So the Caravan was filled up again, this time with relief supplies for Huya, Dodomona and Walagu, about 300kg for each destination, some of it being 20kg bags of rice, clothes, tools like hammers, spades and nails.
13:31 Take off at Tari
13:50 Landing at Huya
Huya is also one of these short and flat airstrips and therefore qualified as training landing for Mathias.
Because of the landing penalties at Dodomona, not only the freight for the community at Huya was unloaded, but also the one for Walagu.
14:08 Take off at Huya
14:17 Landing at Dodomona
The relief goods were quickly unloaded and the plane was back in the air in less than 10 minutes to fly back to Huya.
14:25 Take off at Dodomona
14:31 Landing at Huya
Again, with the help of some locals, the 300 kg cargo for Walagu was swiftly loaded back into the Caravan, most of it into the cargo compartments underneath the aircraft’s belly.
14:46 Take off at Huya
14:55 Landing at Muluma
After waiting at Muluma for more than five hours after being dropped there in the morning, the three men from Mt Hagen must have been very relieved to hear the sound of the Caravan again. They happily got back into their seats after the donations from the German churches were also taken back on board.
15:09 Take off at Muluma
15:17 Landing at Walagu
This was Mathias’ last airstrip check for the day. The approach into Walagu needs to be precise as this airstrip can be extremely slippery and the plane really needs to stay on the centre line. All went well. This means, Mathias is now released to fly into Walagu, Huya, Dodomona and Waiki on his own, increasing the numbers of airstrips for which our MAF programming staff can schedule him in the future.
The three returning patients disembarked the aircraft, glad to have arrived home healthy and safe. Many helping hands assisted to unload the relief supplies from Tari and the ECPNG donations.
Two more Care International staff and another passenger also waited all day to leave the village and now could finally board the aircraft.
15:34 Take off at Walagu
15:47 Landing at Mougulu
The two Care International personal hopped off the plane to continue their relief work at Mougulu and the plane was soon taking off again to collect the waiting folks at Tari.
15:54 Take off at Mougulu
16:15 Landing at Tari
For the third time that day, our base staff had to hand pump enough fuel into the tanks to take the plane and the five passengers safely back to Mt Hagen.
16:47 Take off at Tari
After a long day waiting at Tari and Walagu, the passengers were rewarded with a smooth flight back to Mt Hagen, flying through the Tari and then through the Tomba gap, watching serious thunder storms with lightening and heavy rain in a safe distance.
At 17:17, P2-MAF gently touched down at the Kagamuga airfield at Mt Hagen, about 9 hours after it left in the morning, doing 13 landings in-between and being a total of 270 minutes in the air assisting people living in isolated and hard to reach places.
All in a day’s flying!
Mandy Glass. Photos Luke Newell (LN), Mathias Glass (MSG), Mandy Glass (MG)