A Day’s Flying with Captain Luke Newell in the Cessna Caravan P2-MAG out of Wewak
Story and photos Luke Newell
8:19 am I depart Wewak for Oksapmin with a full load of medical supplies for the Oksapmin health centre. Upon arriving at Oksapmin, a man named Michael hops up to the aircraft while we are unloading wanting to get to the nearby airstrip Sisamin. Michael has only got one leg so needs to get around with crutches. I check the schedule for the day and decide it would be a minimal diversion and issue Michael a ticket and also take another passenger wanting to go to Tari.
9:41 We take off at Oksapmin for the 5 minute flight to Sisamin. We climb out of the Oksapmin valley and descend 4000ft to Sisamin working our way through all the different procedures and checklists. Sisamin is at the bottom of the valley where the Lagaiap and Ok Om Rivers join to become the Strickland River.
9:50 Michael is very pleased to be now in Sisamin. After only a few minutes on the ground, we start our 10 minute flight up the Lagaiap River for Wanakipa. Arriving at Wanakipa, the passengers I expected are not ready yet. Because there were problems with the HF radio, they were not expecting the aeroplane until the next day. However, there is a small child that needs medical attention. So we wait while his mother prepares their bags. Then another three high school students also quickly gather their belongings, board the Caravan and we depart for Tari at 10:38.
10:59 MAG is now in Tari and the passengers have disembarked. There is a full load of trade store goods to be delivered to Tekin next, so the Tari traffic officers load up the 1006kg into the aircraft.
12:20 After a 30-minute flight, MAG has touched down in Tekin and is being unloaded. There are eight high school students waiting to go to Telefomin to sit exams so they are very eager to catch this flight. There is still one more seat remaining in MAG and there were lots of high school students waiting in the morning at Oksapmin so I decide to make the short 5 minute flight to Oksapmin to help at least one more student as there are no other aircraft operating in this area for at least another week.
1:13 pm We now depart Oksapmin with a full load of nine high school students. I radio in to Telefomin base to give an ETA and to check weather. The weather report is good. However, they tell me there is a medevac at Miyanmin for a woman that had fallen out of a tree and hit her head needing to get to Telefomin.
1:36 After touching down in Telefomin, we learn that the patient at Miyanmin can probably wait a few extra minutes and we decide to do an additional landing at Eliptamin on the way to Miyanmin so that the patient doesn’t need to endure another stop on the way to the hospital.
2:08 We depart Telefomin and cross the ridge line to the north into the Eliptamin valley, touching down only seven minutes later. We pick up two government officials wanting to travel to Wewak.
2:28 Now we depart Eliptamin for the ten minute hop into the next valley to Miyanmin. After getting out of the aircraft at Miyanmin, I notice two stretchers being carried to the aircraft instead of one. I ask what has happened and the story is that the first woman actually had a strong argument during a volleyball game the previous afternoon resulting in a fight rather than falling out of a tree.
Then at 11am in the morning, the family of this woman came for revenge on the other woman and beat her as well. Now both women had to share the floor of the same aircraft. We re-arranged seats, laid the two woman with their stretchers onto the floor in the back of the aircraft and fit the remaining seven passengers in sets and take off for Telefomin at 3:12.
3:24 We arrive in Telefomin again and are met by the ambulance. Unfortunately the ambulance does not have any stretchers so we transferred both women side by side into the back of the ambulance on the floor.
4:05 We leave Telefomin for Nuku. The 40 minute flight takes us out of the highlands and North across the Sepik River into the foot hills of the Coastal Ranges where Nuku sits at 900ft elevation. On arrival at Nuku, our MAF traffic officer Ludmer with his family are waiting to board the plane back to Wewak. They have been back to their home visiting family in Nuku over the weekend and are now returning to Wewak.
5:14 Wewak-bound we depart Nuku. The 36 minute flight is uneventful in clear weather and we touchdown in Wewak at 5:50. It’s then time to complete the day’s paperwork and then we all make the 10 minute drive home, just in time for dinner at 18:30.
At the end of the day, 30 adults, a child and an infant travelled safely with the Caravan P2-MAG, piloted by Luke Newell; and also about 2 tonnes of cargo were transported from major centres into remote villages. That’s what MAF stands for – overcoming barriers by our aviation service.