Impressions from P2-MFB’s last operational day flying in the Marawaka Valley for MAF

I had the privilege of going on a MAF flight on Thursday, 24th August 2017 in the Marawaka Valley. What made this flight particularly significant, was that it was the last flight on the Twin Otter P2-MFB for MAF before this aircraft is leased elsewhere.

The pilots on this flight were Holger Lasi and Mathias Glass. From the outset, I was impressed by their kindness to everyone they came into contact with, their efficiency and thoroughness, their ability to multi-task and be flexible on the spot, and their strength to help people on and off the plane and to load the plane with produce, supplies and goods. Encompassing all this are their phenomenal flying skills.

The plane itself is an incredible piece of engineering. This was evident to me as we flew over rugged landscape and soaring mountains, and then landed on a variety of airstrips mowed into the most level area of a mountain-side. Take offs and landings in the Marawaka Valley are short and steep, ranging from a 485m long air strip at Ande, to a 560m strip at Sindeni. The steepest airstrip was at Andakombi which has a 9.1% slope. This resulted in the pilots executing a very quick and precise take off and landing.

In each village, MAF dropped people and supplies off, and picked up other people and their supplies or produce. One of the most common types of produce is coffee, which people in the villages grow and harvest. They then bring their harvested beans to MAF planes to be transported to town to sell.

All people and items loaded onto the plane need to be weighed and distributed evenly to balance out the plane for effective take offs and landings. This requires the pilots to have attention to detail and to work out a lot of weights and amounts.

Pilots also need to account for the unexpected, as much as this is possible. A priority is a medevac, and in two of the three villages that P2-MFB flew into, there were three medevac cases – one child who had been badly burned, one young man with an unidentified illness which prevented him from walking or standing on his own, and one pregnant lady who had complications. All of these people needed to be accommodated on the flight in a timely manner. This plane was ideal to carry all the supplies and people for these particular areas of the valley, and be able to take off and land on such difficult airstrips – an amazing feat.

It is hard to encapsulate this experience in a few words, but I will attempt this and note that I came away from the trip with an impression of the following: compassion, multi-talented, flexible, patience, superior skill, care and hope. The verse that came to mind is Isaiah 40:29-31: ‘He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’

Thank you MAF for allowing me to join this flight and for giving me a taste of the essential and valuable ministry MAF provides to people in Papua New Guinea.

Derene Els*

Auckland, New Zealand

* Derene Els is a friend of Michelle Venter, currently visiting the Venters in Goroka. Michelle writes: “Derene and I have known each other practically all our lives! Our real friendship started when we were in Grade 1 in South Africa and we have been friends ever since then. Her family immigrated to New Zealand after high school but we still kept in contact. Derene has a heart for people and missions and is one of our faithful supporters.“