5 Feb

In Papua New Guinea, the months of December and January are holiday months. Schools, colleges, and universities are closed. Students and teachers are travelling home to their villages – and consequently back to major centres as school resumes early February. These are busy months for our MAF operation, and we are moving more people these two months than any other time during the year.

Knowing, that people are back in their remote location often also triggers churches to plan big events. So it happened at Dodomona, a small village located in the middle of dense forest on the foothills of Mt Sisa, between the Strickland River and Mt Bosavi. The people belong to the Edolo tribe of about 3000 people, with about half at Dodomona and half at Huiya. They are very closely related to other surrounding tribes as the Biami from Mougulu.

From 18 to 24 January, the local Evangelical Church of PNG (ECPNG) invited Pastor Moses Kapak and Pastor Petrus Tumbo to “Rise & Shine”, a youth convention; and MAF was needed to fly these two main speakers from Mt Hagen to Mougulu as there’s no road connecting the two.

Philipp Sutter, the captain on this flight, shares:
“On Thursday, 14th January I had two pastors from the EBC Kugark (Evangelical Brethren Church), Petrus Tumbo and Moses Kapak on board. They had been invited to visit the ECPNG youth convention in Dodomona as guest speakers and travelled on heavily subsidised church fares on the MAF plane.
I only realised that they wanted to go to Dodomona while I spoke to them as we flew towards Mougulu. I showed them the village of Dodomona as we were approaching Mougulu. Dodomona has an airstrip, but due to my pilot restrictions (short runway), I was not allowed to land at this airstrip.
So we offloaded them about 10NM (16km) away from Dodomona at the airstrip of Mougulu. A person from the Dodomona village was expecting and welcoming them right at the plane.

10 minutes after landing, the three already headed off and started hiking. I learnt that they would have to overnight on the bush trail and then continue the next day to the village. I asked them if I could take a picture before they left and they agreed with a big smile. I told them that if possible, we as MAF would try to pick them up in Dodomona to spare them another long walk through the bush. Their faces lit up with this hopeful prospect and they disappeared.

At Mougulu, I also offloaded several hundred kilograms of building supplies and food for the new high school and then departed towards Tari to continue with my days flying.”

A week later, MAF was indeed able to fetch the two pastors from Dodomona on Monday, 25th January with Pilot Mathias Glass doing Corne Noordhoek’s line check that day.

The pastors reported that even though it was a youth convention, people across all age groups attended, young ones and old ones, about 1000 plus, coming from nearby communities around Dodomona, some of them walking 3 to 4 days to get there.

“Many gave their lives to Jesus. We estimate about 250 people, students and community leaders, who came up front during the week speaking a dedication prayer. After the Sunday service, 107 people, mainly from the younger generations were baptised in a nearby river,” reported Pastor Petrus. “During the church service, they shared their testimonies of repentance and promised to live a godly life,” added Pastor Moses.

“During the event, reconciliation happened between church leaders too. And a call to get more actively involved in church work and become a pastor was answered by 37 people,” shared the two.

“This was the first of its kind in the Bosavi-Strickland area organised by the ECPNG Pastor Steven Siale and his son, Maika Yabua. There’s surely more need for events like this and we will go back again God willing,” stated Pastor Petrus.

Along with the youth convention went a celebration of Pastor Siale’s son who was the first-ever Edolo graduate from University. He’s going to teach and minister at the Mougulu Highschool.

The connection between the ECPNG and EBC pastors goes back more than 10 years as Pastor Steven and Pastor Moses both attended Bible College together at the EBC campus in Lae.

What a great way to reconnect and partner together, with MAF doing its part to help with transport where there’s no easy way in and out – for the glory of God and to challenge people to make a commitment to give their lives to Jesus, our Lord and Saviour!

Brad Venter, our Flight Operations Manager shares about some airstrip surveys conducted in January 2021:
We’ve been doing Morobe Province surveys the last couple of days. We did three surveys a couple of days ago and went to Bungawat, Yawan and Tapmange. We also did a resurvey at Sapmanga to check the clearway after the community reported that they had cut them down.

The following day we did surveys in Indagen, Isan and Satwag, we were planning to survey Saidor but it was raining. We are trying to get airstrips surveyed and open in the Morobe Province so that we can start clinic runs in partnership with the Etap Lutheran hospital and also provide service to the people in Morobe Province.

Everywhere we go, the people are very excited to see us. In fact, on one day, we were given 26 cabbages by various communities. We shared them out with the Goroka base staff and the Goroka compound families and all our security guards. Glenys Watson was flying with me. She will be one of our main Morobe Province pilots. Communities are incredibly excited to see the “meri pilot”, in fact at Indagen, she had a major reception and they were all so happy to see her and that gives us a great deal of reassurance that when she starts flying around solo, she’ll be fine and that the communities will look after her.

It’s been really good for these communities to see us coming back again and that we haven’t forgotten about them. We keep telling them we’re talking with the Morobe government, and that we are just working on it slowly. We are going to try and get a program going a little bit by a little bit and that, yes, we as MAF are still interested in coming back to the Finisterres.

There is still a lot of work to do because there are many more airstrips to survey. Satwag is the furthest airstrip on the Huon Peninsula that we’ve been to so far. Beyond that, we have no Caravan experience in that area.

Additional surveys were conducted in the Simbu Province and Southern Highlands. We surveyed Mt Tawa (pictured), Appa, Woposali, and Aue. These communities had not seen an aircraft in nearly one year. On one day alone, we flew 3 medevacs as there were people in these communities that needed urgent medical attention.

We would like to inform our partners and customers about MAFs current status of operations and the progress since we shut down flying in Mar 2020 after our landing incidents. MAF has identified that the condition of airstrips was one of the contributing factors and as you are aware commenced fresh surveys of every airstrip based on ministry effectiveness and needs.

While the restrictions imposed on domestic travel by the Government due to the global pandemic did affect our operations, we have been engaged in health patrols to remote communities as a part of COVID response and have carried out more than 80 medevacs. Though the international travel restrictions are affecting our training and return of staff, we have been working diligently to be able to return to full-fledged operations in order to serve our remote communities.

The efforts of our ‘survey teams’ all through the year have resulted in us completing surveys of 136 of the 216 strips we regularly operate to. Planning and executing surveys need coordination between several agencies and we have been affected by the weather on several occasions. We are aware of nearly 80 strips and several new airstrips that still need to be surveyed and are consciously working towards the same.

Thank you for your patience as we have worked hard to ensure the safety of you, your families, and your valuable cargo.

As per the end of January 2021, we now have exactly 100 airstrips open. See the list below for details.
Please bear with us as we have to balance the need for more surveys, the training of our pilots and the ongoing high demand for service and medevac flights. MAF is still intent on our mission of reaching isolated communities while at the same time doing this in the safest manner possible!

Airstrips open for MAF operations as of 1 February 2021.
East Sepik (8): Ambunti, Malaumanda, Samban, Tamo, Wewak, Wuvulu, Yagiap, Yambaitok

Eastern Higlands (14): Aiyura, Ande, Aziana, Boikoa, Gema, Goroka, Guwasa, Marawaka, Owena, Simogu, Sindeni, Usarumpia, Wonenara, Wuyabo

Enga (5): Kairik, Kompiam, Maramuni, Pyarulama, Yenkisa

Gulf (3): Kerema, Kikori, Wabo

Hela (2): Tari, Wanakipa

Jiwaka (2): Koinambe, Tsendiap

Madang (4): Madang, Nankina, Simbai, Teptep

Morobe (7): Derim, Finschhafen, Gusap, Nadzap, Sapmanga, Wasu. Yalumet

NCD (1): Port Moresby

Sandaun (18): Angugnak, Buluwo, Edwaki, Eliptamin, Green River, Kwieftim, Lumi, Munbil, Nuku, Oksapmin, Sibilanga, Sisamin, Tadji, Tekin, Telefomin, Tumilbil, Vanimo, Yapsie

Simbu (3): Bomai, Chimbu, Karimui, Manu

Southern Highlands (1): Muluma

Western Province (29): Aiambak, Awaba, Balimo, Bensbach, Daru, Debepari, Dimissisi, Dodomona, Fuma, Hesalibi, Honinabi, Kamusi, Kapal, Kawito, Kiunga, Lake Murray, Morehead, Mougulu, Nomad River, Obo, Rumginae, Sasereme, Suabi, Suki, Tabubil, Tapila, Wawoi Falls, Weam, Wipim

Western Highlands (1): Mount Hagen

Are you looking to book a flight?
For direct calls to our bookings team, please use +675 7373 9999 (This number does NOT receive text messages or works with WhatsApp.)
You can also reach our bookings department on WhatsApp. Send your booking requests to +675 70440433, or simply send a message and they will call you back.
Do you prefer to write an email? Please use: [email protected]

Our vision at MAF PNG is to see isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s name by sharing God’s love through aviation and technology.
MAF has operated in Papua New Guinea continuously since 1951, serving remote communities through aviation for 70 years. Using our Cessna Caravan, C208 aircraft we are able to overcome the physical barriers that prevent people in Papua New Guinea from having access to healthcare, education, safe water, and the Gospel, helping to bring physical and spiritual healing to the isolated people of this country. We serve the local communities, local church groups, missionaries, NGOs, development and relief agencies, and government departments who are working to change the lives of those living in remote areas.

Where are you from and where do you live now?
Paul: We are from the UK but we are Australian too. We left the UK to join MAF and, in doing so, became dual citizens.
Clare: Australia was the only place after 9-11 where we could do your mission aviation course. So we moved our family to Melbourne to go to the Bible College of Victoria, which has a new name now. We’ve been calling Wewak, PNG home for the last 5 years, but at the end of 2020 we were actually packing up in Wewak because we are just going to be moving wherever we’re needed rather than have a base assignment. We’re sad to leave Wewak – it’s a beautiful place and we’ve been so happy there.

Do you mind telling me a little bit about your family?
Clare: We have slightly older girls – a dietitian and a nurse. They are working in a small mining town in Queensland, a remote place called Mt. Isa. Our oldest son did a science degree and is working in the mines there and living with his older sister. The little one is still at university in Sydney.

When did you join MAF and how did God call you to join?
Clare: When the tsunami struck in 2004, it really made us re-evaluate our lives. I felt God was speaking to me during that tsunami. You know, so many people were going to help, leaving their comfortable lives, going and helping out in the Philippines and other places. I asked God if He was trying to tell me something; if He had a different life planned for us.
I was left feeling very unsettled, so when Paul came home from work and the kids were in bed I said, “Look, I’ve had this really weird day and I really feel that God is saying something. Do you think God is calling us to a different sort of life?” I really thought he loved his job in the city of London and would say, no you can serve God wherever you are. We were settled in our dream home in England and very happy. But he surprised me by saying, “I’ve always wanted to be a mission pilot, I just never thought it could be a reality.” We decided that we would start praying about it and asking other people to pray. If it was God’s will He’d open those doors for us.
Very quickly we applied for a visa to go to Australia, for permanent residency leading to citizenship. We knew we wanted to become Aussies because we knew our kids would grow up as Aussies, they’d probably want to stay, and we needed free education. So, we applied to emigrate and we applied to MAF. In very short order we were accepted by both. We also managed to sell our house really quickly in a bad market. It was really a sign God was saying, let’s get going.

How did you find out about MAF?
Paul: When we got married we joined a mission group and somebody from MAF Asia Pacific, we don’t know who, came and gave a presentation in 1990. That kind of seeded the idea.
Clare: I have to admit, I have no memory of that at all. But it stayed on Paul’s heart for many years.

Paul, what is your role with MAF?
I have two roles, one as a pilot here in PNG and the other as a software writer for MAF.
For the last nearly eight years I’ve written and looked after the flight planning software. We also have a Route and Aerodrome Guide that I’ve been working on. Three years ago I brought it all together in an iPad ‘electric flight bag’ app called MAF Pilot. The app has the entire Route and Aerodrome guide, notices to pilots, the various details for each airstrip we fly to so pilots can see how to fly the airstrip, and pricing information for when the pilot is on the ground. It’s a MAFI project but it’s specific to PNG right now.

What do you find most enjoyable or rewarding about your role? What is most challenging?
I really like the flying a lot. But I think everyone needs two roles here so that when you’re not flying because of bad weather or something you’re not just sitting on the ground.
Being away from family is most challenging I think.

Clare, how have you found a way to join in and support the work of MAF or get involved in the PNG community?
When we were in Goroka, our first posting in PNG, our son went to the New Tribes mission school at Lapilo and I got a job running the elementary library. It was only a part-time job, but I loved it because I love books, reading, and early education. I’ve been a librarian before even though I’m a nurse.
It’s been a bit harder in Wewak. I’ve done some preschool – play school, really, with lots of games and cooking. I also teach ladies how to sew things they can sell like washable sanitary products, school bags, and things like that. Now I’m hoping to teach people how to sew masks – I’ve brought all the stuff with me from Australia.

What was the process of finding that niche like for you?
It was very difficult in Wewak. You can’t just randomly choose a local school because there are too many and jealousy can be an issue. A friend of mine was putting together baby packs and making washable sanitary products for a hospital in Anguganak (one of the places Paul flies to). I’ve been involved in that even after my friend left PNG. I put the ‘baby bundles’ together with all sorts of little things for mum and baby given to me by our supporters and people in Australia. I make the hospital baby bundles specifically for, and am supported by, the midwives of The Anguganak Healthy Motherhood Project, spearheaded by Debbie Butters. The bundles serve as an encouragement to ladies from remote communities to come to have their babies at the hospital for safety reasons.
So, that’s really what I do, sewing and putting these baby bundles together.

What does MAF mean to you?
Clare: For me, it’s a way for us to serve the Lord, but it’s also a way to get involved with the local people and show our love for Jesus Christ by loving others. There’s so much need here, which gives us lots of opportunities to help others and teach.
Paul: I think it’s a great way, like Clare said, to serve the Lord, speak into people’s lives, and do something not many people can really do. MAF is quite a technical ministry and not many people access these communities the way we do. I think it’s great that we can help the people of PNG; they are so pleased we’re here.

How has Covid-19 affected you and/or your family?
Paul: Well, it sent us back to Australia in mid-March 2020. I was really busy writing software while we were there. It was a good opportunity to do some things I didn’t have time to do in PNG and to visit family. The biggest problem from Covid-19 is that my 86 year old father is on his own and we can’t see an opportunity to go to England in the near future. We would have gone back to England or he would have come to see us if it weren’t for Covid-19. But we’re soon back in PNG and ready to serve.
Clare: We come from a place in far North Queensland where there’s not much Covid-19, but our family in England, my mom and Paul’s dad, have been at home for about ten months because it’s not safe for them to go out. We Facetime frequently so that we can stay in touch, but it’s still hard and they’re quite lonely. Two of my extended family have died of Covid-19 and at least four of my cousins who work in hospitals have had it.

Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at the start of your MAF career?
Paul: It’s a worthwhile trip, but you need to be committed. You can’t be committed for just four years – that’s too short. It takes so long to get going; a couple of years to get to the program, a year in program to get settled in, and about six years to be useful in flying in terms of being able to go everywhere. You need to be here for a lot longer than four years. We signed up for 25 years and have another 9 years to go.
Clare: This is sort of our second life and it will be our life until we retire if we ever retire.
Paul: I also think you need good life experiences before coming because it’s so easy to blame the program, to blame the environment, to blame everything when you have problems. If you’re in Melbourne, London, or New York you’ll still have problems. Problems are just different here, and sometimes a little bit worse. For example, if you have new children or are a first-time parent it’s a huge learning curve with struggles wherever you are. Saying it would’ve been easier in another country isn’t right; it wouldn’t necessarily be easy in any country.
So, long term commitment is very important because it’s a long road with knocks along the way.

What is something others might not know about you?
Paul: I’ve been a swimming teacher! I taught for a club when my children were learning to swim.
Clare: I’m a wildlife caregiver – I take in orphaned kangaroos. I can actually take in any wild animals, but I’m only really experienced with wallabies and kangaroo joeys. Paul is really, really handy. He’s one of those guys who can turn his hand to anything. He’s got a chainsaw he loves and he can do plumbing and electricity work.
Paul: And Clare likes hospitality; feeding people and entertaining. She’s the entertainment officer in our family!

Do you have a favourite food?
Paul: Fish for me.
Clare: Probably Indian for me. I love cooking and Indian food is interesting and fun.
Paul: We like our food relatively spicy, even if it is just fish.
Clare: We eat jalapenos or sprinkle chilies on just about everything we eat!