The last MAF aircraft in the air on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 2020 was P2-MAH with Philipp Sutter in the captain’s seat and Joseph Tua as a second pilot on the right-hand seat.
Philipp shares some unexpected and unplanned events from this day:
On the ground in Mougulu, just before taking off, we received a V2 Track message, asking if we had time and enough fuel to pick up a sick patient from Wawoi Falls to take him to Kiunga. Wawoi Falls is a remote village, located in the southern lowlands of PNG in the middle of the jungle, but next to the gigantic waterfall of the Wawoi River that originates at Mt. Bosavi (8,100ft) and flows to the Gulf of Papua.
The distance from Mougulu to Wawoi Falls is about 40 nautical miles, but the flight path was in the opposite direction we intended to fly. We discussed it and decided that we could since we had taken an extra 60min of fuel out of Mount Hagen due to weather as we are in the rainy season currently. For this diversion, we would use 20min worth of fuel each way, leaving us with 20min over minimum fuel at our destination in Kiunga.
Having received a report of good weather from Kiunga we decided to do the extra leg, which turned out to be very helpful for a young 10year-old boy, named Mark, who had fallen out of a tree a week ago and broke his right leg above the knee. He was in a lot of pain and without a cast for a full week already.
The medevac kit we had onboard came in very handy. It provided an inflatable mattress he could lie on and the harness system secured him for the flight. The father would hold his leg up as this caused the least amount of pain for Mark.
In Wawoi Falls we decided to take-off from runway31, but as we lined up, there were lots of clouds and rain on our departure track. We taxied back for a departure from runway 13 and as we came to the line-up position, we saw our temperature gun, which we use for COVID-19 precaution procedures, laying on the ground. We had put it on the wing strut but forgot to take it with us. Joseph manned the breaks and we feathered the prop, as I went out to grab it – I guess God just put the rain and clouds in our departure route so that we had to come back and find the temperature gun.
As we flew towards Suabi to pick up some other sick patients, the weather there was very bad with lots of rain and clouds all the way down to the trees. We were unable to land and had to fly straight to Kiunga.
Via HF radio we advised Lakis, our base manager in Kiunga to call the ambulance. As we landed a Toyota Landcruiser approached and with the base’s scoop stretcher, we lifted Mark off the airplane and straight into the “ambulance.”