In the last part of our 3-part Telefomin diary, Twin Otter pilot Richie Axon shares how God rearranged their flying day so MAF could help four patients to get the medical care they so desperately needed.

Once a week the Telefomin Twin Otter dedicates one full day to assist our MAF base at Tari. Leaving Telefomin in the morning the flight plan was for Richie and Brad to do a flight out of Tabubil, delivering some cargo to Oksapmin first, before heading to Tari. Richie shares how this day evolved:


Day 3: 4 in 1

After leaving Oksapmin we received word from our Flight Operations Coordinator, Sharlene Coker, via v2track, that there was election-related shooting and police activity at Tari, and so we were not to proceed there. We returned to Oksapmin, to the disappointment of our passengers. While heading back to Oksapmin, we heard on the HF radio from Telefomin base that there was a medevac from Yatoam and another from Agali.

Brad had been flying as Captain that day but, as he is not checked to Yatoam, after returning to Oksapmin we swapped seats. So I flew as Captain to Yatoam where we found there were actually two medevac patients to travel to Oksapmin: one man who appeared very anaemic and another man with a very large tropical ulcer on his shoulder which to me looked very painful.

Twin Otter P2-MFU at Yatoam

We returned to Oksapmin and dropped off the two patients and some other passengers, so that they could get treated at their Local Level Government station’s health facility.

Brad Venter, in charge of the paperwork for the day, talking to the MAF agent at Yatoam, while getting the body weight of the man who appeared very anaemic.


Brad gets the details for the second patient. The man with the tropical ulcer is not wearing a shirt, only a cloth over his head as a shirt probably would have been too painful on his skin.

This was how the cabin looked before take off at Yatoam. The man with the ulcer sits in row 3, the anaemic man in row 6. Two passengers who wanted to travel Tabubil-Tari are sitting in row 7. They went all the way around with the Twin Otter and back to Tabubil, and seemed to observe the morning’s rounds with interest.

At Oksapmin we picked up a man and his son with a referral to the Tabubil hospital. The boy had a urinary tract infection and his father was accompanying him to get it sorted out. They were short on payment by K100 which Brad made up from the MAF PNG medevac fund.

From Oksapmin we flew to Agali where we found a woman, Merike, who was pregnant and not looking well at all. The baby inside her needed to be delivered as soon as possible to save the mother’s life.

While in the air and on our way to Tabubil, we called ahead on the radio to ask Tracy Kiliwo, Tabubil Base Manager, to call the ambulance. We knew that Merike would not be able to walk to the hospital. 30 minutes later we landed at Tabubil.

Shortly after landing, Merike went into labour at the MAF Base. Tracy guided her into the shower room to wait for the ambulance to come and fetch her.


Tracey and the nursing officer pushing Merike from the MAF Base to eventually transfer her to the ambulance to get her to the hospital’s emergency ward.

“I was with her in the shower room“, continues Tracey, “and Merike said she could feel the baby coming. So I quickly went to the office and called the Accidents and Emergency Ward asking them for advice. They told me to tell Merike to just lay on her side and wait for the medical officers to come. To the relief of us all, after five minutes the ambulance arrived and the nursing officer assisted Merike. The nurse told me that Merike’s waters had broken and were contaminated. The baby’s head was in view. They managed to control the situation and rushed Merike to the hospital. I sent one medevac care bag with her. The next day Richie brought another medevac care bag down from Telefomin, so I took the bag to the hospital and visited Merike. I was told by her guardian that she had given birth to a stillborn baby boy, so unfortunately he did not survive. However, they could save the mother, Merike. I then went to the Accidents and Emergency ward and interviewed the Health Extension Officer involved. She told me that the baby had passed away due to the contaminated waters when Merike was in labour. Now, the mother is okay and already discharged from the hospital. She is staying with some family from Agali here in Tabubil. If MAF had not done the medevac the mother, Merike, would have also passed away. Thank God, we could at least save one life.“

“God rearranged our day so we could help these four patients“, Richie summarises this day’s experience. “We would not have been able to help any of them if we had flown to Tari and proceeded with our normal programme. The change of route because of the fighting at Tari turned into a blessing for these patients. We used one of the latest technical upgrades in the cockpit, the v2track App on the iPad-EFBs (Electronic Flight Bags), to send and receive messages. This also was a real benefit and blessing as the HF radio, which is normally used to communicate with ground staff, was very bad that day.“


v2track tracking devices use local cellular data and the international Iridium satellite networks to provide efficient worldwide coverage.

MAF PNG uses them for flight-following, the transmission of destination and waypoint information and, in combination with the EFBs (Electronic Flight Bags), for advanced two-way messaging.