The Larry Heintz Safety Award for 2021 is awarded to Benjamin Hunt for his contribution to safety in the recovery of two damaged aircraft in PNG. The committee recognised his pro-active approach to the “righting” of the aircraft on-site, the transportation of the aircraft via a helicopter lift and subsequent repairs to the aircraft. Benji showed excellent safety awareness and engaged with the risk assessment process to produce, along with the PNG maintenance team, a safe and satisfactory outcome.
Benji has made a great contribution to the PNG programme, where he serves.
Country Director, Todd Aebischer reflects on Benji’s journey…
“Growing up as the son of missionaries in the Southern Philippines, becoming an engineer in mission aviation has been a boyhood dream for Benjamin (Benji) Hunt. He will tell you, “When I was homeschooling, I would often sneak out and go to the mission aviation hangar and my mom would have to come get me and bring me back home.” He would leave the Philippines, return to New Zealand, and spend the next 13 years gaining the training and experience to finally reach his dream of becoming a mission aviation engineer.
He joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 2006, entering Aircraft Mechanics training, worked on the Bell UH-1H (Iroquois) helicopters, then proceeded through an RNAF Aircraft Technicians Course, Pratt and Whitney PT6 course, Pilatus and Beechcraft courses.
In 2012, Benji left the RNAF and entered into civilian aviation, as a licensed Engineer and workshop supervisor, servicing aircraft from microlights, single and twin-engine Cessnas up to Beechcraft King Airs. His civilian aviation years have included employment with Safe Air Ltd, and Hawker Pacific.
Finally, in April of 2019, Benji (along with his wife Jessica and son Elliott) joined MAF. It should be mentioned that Jess went to nursing school so that she would have something to complement Benji’s dream of serving on the mission field. This couple has truly had a one-track mind for serving in missions.
Benji’s arrival to MAF PNG has brought significant, positive change. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a day that he wasn’t smiling. His love and passion for the work are evident in everything he does. He has a passion for training. On nearly every job, rather than just doing the work, you’ll see Benji teaching, providing tips, and sharing his love of engineering excellence, with his national colleagues on the floor. His industry experience has given him an eye for efficiencies which has resulted in a significant reduction to our 100 and 200 hour inspection times, while at the same time, bringing the incident level of maintenance escapes to nearly zero. His ‘out of the box thinking’ and creative ingenuity, have allowed us to overcome some significant hurdles that we have faced along the road of recovering two aircraft from bush locations via helicopters. One of those recoveries required the lowering of the aircraft from a precarious position on the edge of a steep precipice. After several sleepless nights, thinking, mentally walking through the steps, the recovery was flawless. A high point this year was the return to service of P2-MAI, one of the aircraft involved in an accident in 2020. The return to service, after nearly a complete disassembly and reassembly of all major flight components, was absolutely without snag. The pilot stated after the RTS, “I feel challenged, I’m a professional pilot, I should be able to find something wrong with this aircraft, but it flies better than it ever has, not a thing wrong.” While we praise the Lord for His hand of provision, we also acknowledge the careful, thoughtful “engineering with excellence” that Benji poured into the process as project lead.
As Country Director, the Hunt family has been an absolute answer to prayer. Our Engineering team, Pilots, MAF Family, and the people we serve, are safer today and have confidence in the aircraft with which we serve, thanks to the passion for service with excellence of a young boy with a dream, grown up, realizing that dream here in PNG! Thanks, Benji!!!”
There is little more to say, than on behalf of MAF International, congratulations on a well-deserved award.
Head of Quality, Safety & Security at MAF International
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