Sepik area airstrip surveys

Between 19-22 May, our Goroka based pilots Brad Venter and Arjan Paas, along with a team from the Rural Airstrip Agency, RAA, spent a few days in the Sepik to survey various airstrip our Wewak base flies to.
Now, Wilfred Knigge und Andy Symmonds, our Wewak based pilots know the ins and outs of the current airstrip survey procedures and as of 1 of June, slowly but steadily will survey more airstrips in the region.
As previously communicated, a major contributor to our recent landing incidents has been the condition of the airstrips. As a result, MAF is working diligently to re-survey all of the 213 airstrips that we service. As you can imagine, this process will take some time. Once our teams complete the on-site survey of a particular airstrip, the information obtained must be reviewed and a decision made as to whether or not we can continue with operational flights at the particular airstrip. This process may take several days from the time of the survey to the decision. Our teams will also be preparing recommendations for the communities of what actions must be taken in order for the airstrip to be operational.

RAA team doing surface testing

MAF pilots doing airstrip surveys, L-R: Wilfred Knigge, Arjan Paas, Andy Symmonds

First do the survey, then open the Bible Box!

While being out surveying airstrips, Wewak pilot Wilfred Knigge tucked his Bible box onboard the aircraft last week – and had interested and happy customers!
MAF PNG pilots have carried Bibles into remote mission stations and communities since 1951 (the birth of MAF in PNG). Historically such transport has been in response to requests from MAFs mission partners. Since the nationalisation of the church denominations and subsequently reduced funding for the import and distribution of bulk Bible shipments, the accessibility to Bibles has reduced significantly for isolated people.
MAF is improving accessibility to Bibles, both printed and audio, by carrying a “Bible Box” onboard most flights. The Bible box is literally a plastic toolbox filled with Bibles and Bible commentaries and dictionaries of different types which the pilots take out on their flights and “distribute” to people in the bush. Each Bible Box weighs approximately 10 kgs.
The Bible (audio and written) and soon solar radios are sourced from MAF Technology Services PNG, in PNG known as CRMF, who arrange bulk imports.
The Bibles and resources are “sold” to the local people at remote airstrips. They are often sold for less than half the price for ‘location-appropriate prices’. It is unwise to give the Bibles away for free as the culture predicates that only things you buy are of value.
MAF PNG bears the cost of the freight of these boxes as part of its operational expense so this project will help MAF PNG cover those costs.

Read more about MAF’s Bible Box ministry HERE

Wilfred Knigge opening his Bible Box

A need for a medevac!

During the Sepik airstrip survey trip, on Thursday, the team went to Samban to do the survey. That night, Brad Venter who was part of the team, received an email from the missionary based at Samban to ask for a medical evacuation flight. Two patients only came in after the aircraft had already left.
One patient was a man who had a broken jaw because he was drunk and he got into a fight with some others who busted his jaw. He ended up going to Wewak by boat.
The other medevac was needed for a 4-year-old child from Tamo who had an eye tumour. Supposedly, it took the family twelve hours by canoe to get to Samban where they hoped to get helped. Currently, Samban got a doctor from England working in the clinic. The doctor was able to look at the tumour and realised, unfortunately, there’s nothing that they could do locally. So they were contacting hospitals in Madang and trying to figure out what to do and together with the doctor and missionaries at Samban, we as MAF were looking at all different options. Brad shares: “The sad reality is, with an ocular tumour that big right in your eye, there’s not much you can do. And so basically, it was really just the kind of care for the child until he dies. The little boy’s name is Freddy and he’s four years old, but he only weighed six kilos. He’s got quite a bit of intracranial pressure and was in pain most of the time. We just put him on the father’s lap and basically treated him like an infant. We flew the father and another relative and the child up to Mt Hagen. They had got a reference letter for the Mt Hagen Hospital from the doctor in Samban and also a reference letter for the Madang Hospital, in case they go to Madang where they have family support.
During the flight, we stayed as low as possible from Samban to Mt Hagen and to stop any kind of pressure in the child’s head.”
Please join us in prayer for little Freddy and his family as they go through this rough season in life.

After arrival at Mt Hagen

More airstrip surveys!
Between 19-22 May, another crew did surveys for airstrips in the Hagen area. From Mt Hagen, they went to Yambaitok and Yenkisa, to Pyarulama, Koinambe, Tsendiap and Kol.
Two staff from RAA, Erik and Peter, were also on board. Erik did all the surface testing and Peter conducted conversations with the villagers about the airstrip and Covid-19.
Sander, from CRMF, looked at all the HF radios at the airstrips to get a good overview of where HF radios are installed. He collected information and did some repairs at the same time.
Corné Noordhoek and Markus Bischoff were the pilots on these missions. Timon Kuendig, one of our pilot-engineers, also helped with the surveys for MAF.

Pilot Corne Noordhoek talking to the community

Sander, from CRMF, checking and fixing HF radios

Timon Kuendig with a group of villagers

making the most of the airplane’s shade