“Good job, pilot!” said little Eliana after her flight from Mt Hagen to Goroka this morning (Photo and quote sent to us by her parents).

Are you looking to book a flight?
Great news!
You can now reach our bookings department on WhatsApp: Send your booking requests to +675 70440433.
Or simply send a message and they will call you back.

Alternate phone number: +675 7373 9999 (Please note this number does NOT receive text or works with WhatsApp)

You rather like to email us?
You can always reach them at [email protected]

Where are you from and where do you live now?
I am from a small district called Pangia in the Southern Highlands, well it’s not so small anymore. The small village my dad is from is called Tengai. My mom is from Ialibu. In PNG culture you’re from where your dad is from. So, that’s where I’m from-from, but I was born in the Eastern Highlands, in Goroka. Though, for most of my life, I’ve lived in the National Capital District, in Port Moresby. Currently, I live in Mount Hagen.

Do you mind telling me a little about your family?
It’s a big family! I have seven siblings, five sisters and two brothers, all from the same parents. We come from a Christian family; both of my parents are elders in churches. I am the third born; there are two girls before me, two girls after me, then two boys, and then a girl. We’ve lived in Port Moresby all our lives, so they’re all down there and I’m the only ones who’s up here working at the moment.

When did you join MAF and why?
My recruitment started all the way back in 2017 when I came up here, to Mt. Hagen, to do my assessment. Then the whole recruitment process started – fundraising, Bible college, and three months of refresher flying in Mareeba. Then I did the GPSS exam – worst exam EVER! It’s a psychometric exam all pilots have to take and you have to pass to be recruited by MAF. Boy, I walked out of that feeling like I failed! I was like, “Ok, this is it. I’m done. I’m going to go join the army now.” But, thank God, I passed. So, I went back to Mareeba again to do my conversion onto the Caravan, which was a different sort of challenge because I was trying to keep up with Volker Jacobson .
But I managed to get passed that and I’ve been here in Mt. Hagen since March 2019.

So, what made you want to join MAF and go through ALL of that?
Toward the end of the flight training school, when you have to think about what job you want to do, I had a talk with Mom and Dad. Mom immediately told me to join MAF. Growing up in PNG, you always hear about MAF; you don’t really know what they do, but you have an idea.
In my family, my Mom and Dad believe in giving their first harvest to God. I was their first kid to go out and go through flight school, and I’m the firstborn son, so Mom was really adamant. I was happy to do it as well – give the first harvest to God – and I wanted to serve the people first too. So, I thought of either MAF or the army. I sent my papers everywhere to keep my options open, but MAF was the only positive feedback.

What is your role with MAF now?
I was training – I’m actually still in training – and had a flight test in March 2020. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass the test because there were lots of small, but important, things I still needed to work on. So, the plan was to do another two weeks of training and then I would go solo. But the Corona Virus happened and all my instructors had to go back to their own countries.
So, now I’m just here helping out at the base and doing airstrip surveys. MAF decided to bring back the position of Base Liaison Pilot and they put me in that position for Mt. Hagen. In this position, I keep good communication between the pilots and base staff so flights flow smoothly. If the pilots come back to Mt. Hagen for a turnaround I make sure the cargo is ready, the passengers are ready, and it’s just go, go, go! I’m still figuring this out as I go, but it’s been fun.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
In a way, this situation is good because if I just went flying, flying, flying I wouldn’t have time to develop other skills or interact with the ground staff and develop bonds with them like I’m doing. I know that in PNG relationships serve you well. I think everything happens for a reason.
But, if I was flying I would enjoy flying most.

What do you find most challenging about your role?
Right now, I would say it’s finding that neutral ground where I can manoeuvre without overheating. For example, I want to do well and impress my seniors, but I don’t want to push myself to the point where I’m mentally unstable.

What does MAF mean to you?
Standing outside, looking in, it’s an organisation that serves the country and helps local people. But when you join MAF, do the flying, and serve the people, you realise the impact we have.
Now I describe MAF to friends and family as selfless. The people who come and serve here – it’s crazy, the life they’ve left behind. MAF means a lot to me, actually; the organisation itself and the people. MAF has had a very big impact on my life. It’s family now.

How has Covid-19 affected you and your family?
I’m actually concerned about my smaller siblings’ school because Covid-19 has disrupted classes and the kids are losing interest. I try to encourage them to keep reading and do whatever work the teachers have given, but they’re teenagers. How can you control teenagers!? You can’t! So, that is the biggest concern because the two smaller ones have exams coming up.
And then it’s possible my dad, who’s flying for Air Niugini, might lose his job. That would have a major, major impact on the family because he’s the only bread winner, besides me. But God has been good, and he’s still flying, and none of us has gotten Corona. They’re safe and still happy and loud and noisy as usual. And school started back again so I’m happy the kids are back in school. I just hope they can cope and catch up and not get too frustrated.

What is something others might not know about you?
They don’t know because I don’t want to tell them! Ha!
I like doing Karaoke at 3 a.m., by myself, in my corridor, with my country music on. If it’s raining outside, even better! I just sing my head off! Who cares if it’s off-key!? It’s a stress reliever to sing with no care. Another thing I really like is going for a long car ride with my favourite music on singing my head off.

Do you have a favourite food?
Oh, I love food. But it would be rude to say I have a favourite. I will eat anything that’s put in front of me. Well, no that’s actually a lie.
I recently discovered something that got me excited. It’s the traditional mumu we do, but last time they marinated it with ginger, curry, garlic, sauce, and all the good stuff at 10pm and left it overnight. Then it went into the ground the next morning. When it came out of the ground…ahhh it was golden brown and so good! That got me excited.
A mumu is when we put the pig in the ground with hot stones. You dig up the ground, put the hot stones in, put all the food in, and cover it up. It’s like you’re making an oven in the ground and everything heats up and cooks.

Is there any advice you would give yourself at the start of your MAF career?
(Singing) Hold on, help is on the way!
I would say, don’t lose sight of why you joined. Yes, you want to serve the people, but you’re here because you’re serving God first. People are people; they’re fickle, they’ll let you down, and you know, they get annoying sometimes. So just keep in mind that you’re here to serve God and not people. And whatever you do, do it with all of your heart and to the best of your abilities. Otherwise, don’t do it at all.

Story and Photos Tim Neufeld

On September 7th, we were able to re-enter Papua New Guinea; almost six months after we had departed on what should have been a week-long trip! After completing a 14-day quarantine, we returned to our home in Goroka. I was able to get my medical certificate renewed two days after we got out of quarantine and got right back to flying with lots of challenging but rewarding days, frequent trips for the Aerial Health Patrols, training into new airstrips, and exposure to some new parts of the country that I can now fly into.

One of the new airstrips that I went to was Tamo. Tamo is in the East Sepik Province of PNG, somewhere inland between Madang and Wewak if you are looking on a map. MAF doesn’t fly here all that often, but a few times a year we will get a request for a flight, usually from Pioneers Bible Translators. A week after I was approved to land at this airstrip, a call came through on our booking line. One of the Pioneers’ staff members had died, a single woman who grew up in Tamo as the daughter of Bible translators, and came back to PNG as an adult to serve as a logistics coordinator for Pioneers. When this news got to the pilots, we thought surely there was a miscommunication.

Bethany would have been the person to call to arrange a flight, that was her job. But as more information came, it became clear that no, it was Bethany herself who had died. A tropical disease had taken her life, and her body, in typical PNG custom, was to be returned to where she was from, the village where she grew up.

I was assigned the flight: two trips into Tamo, one with Bethany’s friends and colleagues, and again with the casket. For me, this was a huge responsibility. Bethany’s parents and brother were in America, and would not be able to attend this burial. We have never met them, and we might not ever meet them, but for that day, the story of their years of work in the Sepik, their decision to be in Papua New Guinea, their family growing and living and laughing and crying in this country, and our story both intersected.

A burial in PNG is something that could not be more different from what we know in North America. For several days, there will be a “haus krai” (house cry), a public display of mourning.

When I landed in Tamo with Bethany’s casket, hundreds of people were waiting for the plane, their bodies painted in the mud of mourning. As soon as the doors were opened there was an intense wailing and weeping. Most of the people would have known Bethany. The older folks would have remembered her as a girl. A choir of around 50 kids sang a song as her body was carried off the plane. Though it was difficult to hear the words, one line was “Welcome Home, Bethany.”

This was a moment of life that I will never forget, the raw emotion, the intense cultural expressions of grief, and evidence of one person who upon departing this world has left a legacy. PNG

Airstrip surveys are continuing! Meanwhile, we have 87 airstrips re-opened!
However, we know that there are many airstrips not yet listed as open for MAF operations. Surveying more than 200 airstrips is quite a huge task that takes time. The gathered data by our RAA and MAF team then needs to be assessed for the involved risks and safety of our operations and/or guidelines/advice for more needed maintenance will have to be communicated with the community etc.
Our team will contact the MAF agent and advise the scope of work needed in the event that the airstrip isn’t safe for operations yet. But this might be a few weeks down the road. Please bear with us.
We’ll update the list in a few weeks’ time again.
Thank you for your cooperation and assistance to make our operation safer!

For flight inquiries and bookings, please contact our MAFCOM Team. The acronym stands for MAF Customer Service and Operations Centre, Mt. Hagen:
[email protected]
T +675 7373 9999 (This number does NOT receive text)

And here’s the list of open airstrips:
East Sepik (7): Ambunti, Malaumanda, Samban, Tamo, Wewak, Wuvulu, Yambaitok
Eastern Higlands (12): Aiyura, Ande, Aziana, Goroka, Guwasa, Marawaka, Owena, Simogu, Sindeni, Usarumpia, Wonenara, Wuyabo
Enga (5): Kairik, Kompiam, Maramuni, Pyarulama, Yenkisa
Gulf (2): Kerema, Wabo
Hela (2): Tari, Wanakipa
Jiwaka (2): Koinambe, Tsendiap
Madang (3): Madang, Simbai, Teptep
Morobe (7): Derim, Finschhafen, Gusap, Nadzap, Sapmanga, Wasu. Yalumet
NCD (1): Port Moresby
Sandaun (16): Edwaki, Eliptamin, Green River, Kwieftim, Lumi, Munbil, Nuku, Oksapmin, Sibilanga, Sisamin, Tadji, Tekin, Telefomin, Tumilbil, Vanimo, Yapsie
Simbu (3): Chimbu, Karimui, Manu
Southern Highlands (1): Muluma
Western Province (24): Aiambak, Balimo, Bensbach, Daru, Debepari, Dodomona, Fuma, Hesalibi, Kamusi, Kapal, Kawito, Kiunga, Lake Murray, Morehead, Mougulu, Nomad River, Rumginae, Sasereme, Suabi, Suki, Tabubil, Wawoi Falls, Weam, Wipim
Western Highlands (1): Mount Hagen