MAF is pleased to have partnered with Barrick Niugini Ltd to deliver subsidised air transport to remote and isolated people in Enga province.
Noting the high costs of remote area aviation services, BNL has provided funding to allow for up to a year of significant price reductions for travel to and from the rural airstrips on MAF aircraft within the Enga Province. Two months into the year-long subsidy scheme, there has been enthusiastic uptake by the remote communities.

It is intended that the scheme will allow for affordable travel to remote people through reduced fares (for personal and freight carriage) to and from their rural airstrips within the province. The subsidy also provides for travel to and from main centres providing access to hospitals, schools, government services, and general travel to improve living standards. Further, cheaper flight costs are likely to allow greater delivery of development resources into the remote areas.
MAF operates on a non-profit basis, where service and community welfare are MAF’s primary goals. Accordingly, it welcomes and values the partnership of BNL in assisting with service delivery to isolated people.

MAF is recording and measuring the flight activity and will compare the results to previous years flight operations. It is hoped that the scheme will show greater movement of passengers and freight in the health and education sectors, contributing to an overall increase in development in the Enga Province.

MAF has previously worked in partnership with BNL in responding to the 2018 earthquakes. BNL provided over K1M to support MAF’s aid, relief and rehabilitation flights into both the Hela and Western Provinces. This latest funding initiative by BNL will see a similar type of impact and assistance being delivered into the Enga Province.

A recent flight enabled through the subsidy scheme was a medical evacuation for a young boy from Malamaunda who broke his left leg when a wooden beam fell on him. Dr Rebecca Williams, Medical Superintendent for Enga Baptist Health Services at Kompiam District Hospital (shown operating in the picture below) described how he had sustained the injury about 3 days prior to the MAF medevac flight. He came with his father to Kompiam Hospital where he was sedated, then had his leg pulled straight and set to full length with applied traction. He was in bed for four full weeks before hospital staff removed the traction. On discharge, he was mobilizing well and had no noticeable indications of long-term problems. If he hadn’t have been able to get to the hospital, he could have developed a serious disability with limb shortening or rotation.

This flight is one example of how effective corporate–private partnership can deliver the services our remote communities need. The ability of MAF to cost-effectively provide medical flights certainly bought about positive outcomes for one young boy!

Photo:
Dr Rebecca Williams, Medical Superintendent for Enga Baptist Health Services at Kompiam District Hospital and her team operate on a patient at Kompiam Hospital

The Swiss pilot couple, Joël and Andrea Rominger, spent one week at Wewak for Joël to observe flying operations in the Sepik Provinces. Here, Andrea shares her experience of her flight back to Mt Hagen:

On Tuesday, 28 May 2019, I thought we would be flying back from Wewak smoothly with one stop at Maramuni only. But it all came different…

Inflight, pilot Mathias Glass received a message about two medevac patients he would have to pick up on the way. Fuel was being calculated and Mathias decided that it was possible to do the medevac. Landing in Maramuni, we picked up one sick child and his father. Instead of continuing to Mt Hagen, we were now heading to Kol where two sick women needed to be medevac’d.

The story of one of them left me speechless: Her husband told me, that she gave birth to their baby two weeks… wait, three weeks ago. Her placenta hasn’t come out yet and that is why she can’t barely walk. I thought I heard wrong! This woman is definitely a strong person! We took her on board and with the other patient and their caregivers, all seats were occupied. And off we went with that full load to Mt Hagen.

Arriving at Mt Hagen, our MAF staff got a trolley to get her to the gate. Our ground staff already called for an ambulance to take the patients to the hospital, however, it was busy somewhere in Mt Hagen. I was shivering and getting stressed when I realised there was none available to take her to the hospital, considering her circumstances. We had to get her to the hospital as soon as possible! She shouldn’t even have to wait for three long weeks! My husband, Joël, got permission to take one of our MAF vehicles and drove her, her husband and the baby, as well as a family friend to Kudjip Hospital. In a desperate situation like this one, we don’t want to lose time!

The doctor at Kudjip confirmed that every minute counted for this women. Considering the time of birth and the retained placenta this was life-threatening for her.
Please pray with us that she will recover well from the surgery so that she can see her baby grow up.

UPDATE: 3 June 2019
On Sunday, we visited the woman at the Kudjip hospital, where Joël dropped them off. She looked much better than on Tuesday. The doctors had done surgery on her. Actually, she did not have a retained placenta, however, her uterus was full of puss. So when the surgeons opened her womb, they realised what was happening and removed the bits of the puss which they were able to without destroying her uterus. She did look better, however, she was still only able to walk with help.
We hope she will be recovering well.

Story by Mandy Glass. Photos David Moore (DM) and Mandy Glass (MG)

„This afternoon, just after 2 o’clock, I was approached by Reji (MAF PNG’s Flight Scheduler) if I want to go on a flight, then this is the time! It was a medical evacuation that needed to be done from Kol for a young child who had fallen into some boiling hot water and got badly injured.
So I joined the pilot for my first flight in PNG and it’s a medical evacuation!
The flight was spectacular with a little bit of turbulence, beautiful views and an interesting landing in Kol as it is a bit of a soft landing strip. And then to see the child nestled up and with some IV; being just there to help them get on the plane to be able to fly them back was amazing.
And 1 hour 40 minutes after the call we are back in Mt Hagen and the child is on its way to the hospital, which is awesome!
You feel the emotion when you land and you realise you’ve done such an amazing thing. It’s great, really great!“

Very passionate about his medevac flight experience, David Moore gave this account of his first ever MAF flight after being seven days in the country. Together with his wife Caroline, he is visiting the MAF Papua New Guinea programme as the couple considers being long-term staff members and part of our team in the future.

The girl got admitted to the Kudjip Hospital to receive the treatment she needs. Apparently, her mother placed a freshly boiled pot of hot water near the entrance of her haus kuk (separate bush material house used for cooking). When the girl came to see her mum she stumbled over the pot with the boiling hot water.

Please pray with us that the burns will heal well so she can run around her village again one day without having pain and will remember this event in her life as something God was in control of and where many people just where there at the right moment to help her:

• Her father who carried her 2 days to the next clinic, where the Community Health Workers treated her burns and set an IV.
• The CRMF team who passed on the call for the medevac to our Mt Hagen based programming office who then organised the flight ringing a pilot to come back from home to fly the medevac on a bright sunny afternoon.
• After landing at Mt Hagen, our Communications Officer went to get one of the medevac care bags blessing the child with a soft toy, a set of clothes and other things, packed by our expat spouses and words of encouragement and prayer.
• The Jimi MP, Wake Goi, whose funds paid for the flight; and the Jiwaka Health Department which sent an ambulance to get the family to Kudjip hospital.
• The doctors and nurses of Kudjip hospital who will attend to the young girl.

Please pray also for David Moore and his wife as they process all the experiences of their look-see-visit and seeking the Lord’s guidance and confirmation if joining the MAF PNG Team as long-term support staff is what God wants them to do.

UPDATE

The flight happened on Wednesday, 24 April 2019 and the girl arrived at the Kudjip hospital in the early evening.
The following day we received word that the girl is stable and she is going to make it, but will likely need two separate skin grafts. The doctor needs to wait a couple of days to let the burns demarcate so he can tell exactly what he needs to graft and what skin he has to work with, he guesstimated at 20% burns. It’ll be a multiple month inpatient stay as she recovers from probably two different graft surgeries.

Story by Satish Moka. Photos by Mathias Glass (MSG)

MAF’s Core Values
One of our values at MAF is Impact. Another one is Excellence and considering the nature of our resources, Stewardship is pretty high up there. So for the men on the ground, this boils down to “efficiency” and since the start of this year, we have been on a drive to maximise our flying days. More flights mean that more people can be served and more impact on an individual and community basis. Out of our Mt Hagen base, we have been having early starts and our results have bolstered us further, to aim for even more efficiency. As we do this we also Care, keeping our Christian Witness and Partnership with teams across PNG. We try to balance and maintain all our values.

Values challenged
Mondays at Mt Hagen normally are days dedicated for charters. As the needs for transportation within PNG always outweigh our ability to provide air services, our programmers have a weekly schedule to cater for various regions and organisations.

One Monday recently, the Mt Hagen based Cessna Caravan P2-MAG was dedicated for our partner organisation, the Rural Airstrips Agency (RAA), which does a wonderful and important job in trying to maintain remote airstrips across PNG. We were to transport two lawn mowers from Mt Hagen to bush strips in the Western Province (WP). These would be used for cutting grass regularly, which grows rather fast and makes it unsafe and slippery for landing. These mowers would also mean a requirement of a regular supply of fuel, which has to be flown in too. So the plan was to ferry fuel drums from Kawito (WP), which was to receive these drums by boat. The planning for this flight was done weeks in advance. RAA was assured of the fuel being delivered to Kawito on time.
We departed Mt Hagen early and reached Kawito well ahead of schedule. We juggled with our loading and with one lawnmower and two drums headed out into the bush strips. There was overnight rain and we were cautious, having a good look from the air before we attempted to land. It is not infrequent for aircraft to get bogged down in bush strips, which can lead from just plane delays to at times even major losses. It is with a heavy heart, a pilot sometimes has to take the decision to ‘give away’ a landing, if he considers the airstrip to be ‘too wet’. The fact that there are passengers who are so close to home and need to land (and may not get another flight for a week at least), there are needy people on ground, the fact that we have come all the way (spent so much fuel) and the very act of ‘letting go’ (convincing oneself that I can’t land) – all weigh heavy on any pilot’s heart. Our threat and error management (TEM) techniques, extensive training and sheer personal experience (learned from own or other pilot’s stories) help us make meaningful and safe decisions.

The airstrip at Dewara looked good and safe for landing. We made a smooth touch down and the surface felt good as we decelerated to a stop. As we tried turning the aircraft around to taxi towards the parking bay, we realised that we were stuck in the ground. Having been in similar situations before, we quickly shut down the aircraft and unloaded the cargo – to the relish of the community, proud owners of a brand new lawnmower. Our left wheel was an inch into the soft ground and some quick shovel work helped us get out of the soft ground – with some delay woven into our schedule. We made it up with quick turnarounds in the next two communities. We were looking forward to completing out next two deliveries and eventually head back to Mt Hagen, before the notorious highland weather starts posing problems.

On returning to Kawito, we were welcomed with the news that the promised fuel drums haven’t arrived yet. The likely arrival times were also fairly fuzzy – not unexpected ‘in the land of the unexpected’. A total rehash by the RAA, based on priorities, meant, after one hour of waiting, we were heading to Wasua with two drums of fuel. The nature of this airstrip meant heavy penalties (limitations on landing and takeoff weights) and we were flying in with minimum fuel onboard to reduce our weight. We needed to return to Kawito for topping up prior to our departure to Mt Hagen, and our plans to beat the Mt Hagen weather were soon closing down. However, we just had to dump the load at Wasua and rush back, an assured quick turnaround.

There were showers in the vicinity, so we had a good look at the Wasua airstrip and proceeded to land. As we unloaded our cargo and were preparing for our departure, a community member informed us of a patient – a lady who had been suffering for weeks and needed to be transported to the hospital at Balimo. We worked out the fuel and flight plan and the ‘medevac’ seemed feasible. We quickly made queries and realised that it would take twenty minutes to get her to the airstrip. With our minds still focussed on our return trip, we promised to wait for a maximum of thirty minutes and no more.

We decided to make good use of the time by inspecting the airstrip and chatting with the community members. Apparently, Wasua was one of MAF’s earliest bases in PNGs Western Province. I was talking to the older members who were talking of the good old days when they were at the centre of MAF’s activities. We had shifted our operations since and our present landing was one of the first landings at Wasua in a long time, as the airstrip remained non-operational for years.

The time was ticking and we were growing uneasy, as the concept of time in PNG can be very flexible and not factual in the ‘western’ sense. It was decision time – do we wait or leave. Finally, I could perceive some activity as noises emerged from the bush path behind the tall grass and trees. As I waited impatiently, all I could see was a small person perched on the shoulders of someone and a number of heads following in the distance. And then all of a sudden, the movement stopped, near a tree. I was growing restless as I waited – do they really have to take rest, now. Can’t they hurry up? Don’t they know we have a schedule? All these thoughts were bursting onto my mind – my mind so filled with me and my schedule.

And finally to my relief, the procession started moving. And I finally got a glimpse – of the frail woman perched on the shoulders of a man. A man who was having beads of sweat streaming down his face. Maybe tears too, I don’t know.

As I watched the man finally put his wife on the floor of the airplane, all I could see was a stoic face. Lots of perspiration from the heat and humidity of the lowlands, and the blank face of a man. A man who must have been working in his garden, when someone scrambled screaming – the ‘balus’ (plane) has come and the pilots are willing to take your wife. A wife who had been lying helpless, maybe even hopeless. Wasting away, knowing very well the final outcome of her sickness, unable to weather the walk to the hospital at Balimo, which would take a couple of days, maybe.

And then all of a sudden, the scream of ‘balus’. The shout of hope. It must have been well under five minutes (the bush people know of our western obsession with time) – dropping everything he was doing, he would have been off, walking with his wife on his shoulders. No thoughts, no plans, no packing, no preparations. Just moving, towards the ‘balus’, towards hospital, towards ‘Hope’. Hope has wings. Indeed.

I saw the man finally catching his breath. Someone from the community thrust a few Kina (PNG currency) into his hands. Someone else gave him a plastic bag. It didn’t seem to matter. We managed to seat the passengers and went through the routines of briefing on the safety features. I couldn’t take my eyes off the man – clutching tightly onto the battered health card, not knowing what lays ahead.

We quickly got into our procedures of starting up the aircraft and heading towards Balimo. A quick radio call was made to our Kawito base, to coordinate for an ambulance at Balimo airstrip.

We landed at Balimo which was desolate except for two construction workers, building what would be a small terminal in the future – a shelter, not unlike a bus stop. The man carried his wife to the makeshift shelter of the construction workers. I carried the small plastic bag, probably holding a sago cake or two, and a pair of worn out slippers, to the man who was trying to make his wife comfortable.

We were hoping the ambulance would come if there was one and serviceable. We asked the workers to help the couple. We had to go. We had a program ahead. As I was leaving, the man walked up to me. With an expression that betrayed gratitude, he uttered ‘thank you’. Man to man – a lot more was communicated than was said. My heart crumpled inwards. I turned back towards the ‘balus’. Another life saved. Maybe. Hopefully.

Values reflected
As I stared at the vast expanse of blue ahead of me on our return trip, I was haunted by the fact that I was so close to leaving the airstrip without the man, and his ailing wife. For being ‘efficient’? I tried looking inwards, into my daily life. Let alone with strangers, in my exchanges with ones close to me. My interactions with my dear wife (do I really listen to her or just offer solutions to perceived problems), my teenage son (do I appreciate his passion for computing or just bark instructions – list of don’ts), with my colleagues (do I at least smile and have time for a chat or just utter a morning pleasantry) and our passengers whether in the bush or in the plane (do I just pass on instructions or am I really concerned for their comfort). As the blue started to turn grey in the distance, I was back to the task on hand – radar, weather, terrain, navigation and safety.
But the thought remains. Does my drive for efficiency overwhelms my ability to empathise. Do I really have the space and time, to be ‘mindful of others needs’. Or is it just me, my work, my schedule and my life. In my penchant for being effective and efficient, am I too busy – to CARE?!