Follow my journey as I serve as a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Papua New Guinea.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Meeting people

Here are some more pictures from my month of LOFT - people I've met along the way.

Folks at Kawito who were close friends of Andy & Mif

Helping Sally at Mougulu by bringing some anti-malarial medication

Singsing at Yehebi to welcome a plane load of Bible translators

Young man at Wanikipa with an impressive headdress!

Drawing of an aeroplane on the ground at Pyarulama

Friday, 27 May 2022

LOFT activities

LOFT (line oriented flight training) has continued, with flights to about 30 different airstrips. Most of these have been regular programmed flights for passengers and/or cargo, but we've also had some specific training exercises and looked at some emergency drills and manoeuvres on some of the empty flight legs.

Here are some photos to represent what I've been doing...

A (fairly straightforward) flight from Goroka to Mt Hagen

Early morning cloud formations in the Western Province

Steeper airstrip training - Pyarulama (9% slope)

Cargo run to Simbai

Loading the plane with bags of coffee

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Mt Hagen outreach

Last week the MAF team in Mt Hagen organised a community outreach event. Two marquees were set up in the open field adjacent to the compound, and for four days we had kids' programmes, singing, dances, dramas, testimonies, stories, interviews, preaching, videos and movies. Several of the local churches were involved too.

Putting up the marquees - in the rain

Evening event

Hundreds of people came each night

Afternoon kids programme

On the Friday night, it was my turn to be interviewed - in Tok Pisin!

Taking the stage with fellow kiwis: Godfrey Sim (MC),
Benji, Jess & Elliot Hunt

Godfrey interviewing me in Tok Pisin

Friday, 29 April 2022

LOFT begins

LOFT stands for line oriented flight training, which in MAF PNG consists of a series of modules that cover airstrip operations (i.e. take-offs, landings, emergency procedures, etc.), terrain flying (valley turns, ridge crossings, etc.), navigation (learning the local features so we can still find our way if the GPS systems fail), negotiating weather, etc.

For my first day we headed out to the Western Province, visited a number of airstrips, and stayed overnight in Kiunga. It was a lot to take in!

On the ground at Lake Murray airstrip, day 1 of LOFT

On day 2 we planned to visit two airstrips on our way back to Mt Hagen. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get to our first destination due to cloud, which forced us down to 500 ft above the ground (the legal minimum) and rain, which blocked our path. At our second destination there was a bit of a clear pocket around the airstrip and I was able to fly a low-level circuit but made a bit of a hash of the landing. On leaving there we picked our way through the cloud layers and attempted to find a way through to Hagen. All up this was probably the most challenging weather I have encountered so far, so it’s no surprise that my brain was fried afterwards.

Weather on arrival in Mt Hagen, day 2 of LOFT

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Watching and waiting

While I have enjoyed the observational flights that I have been doing, in part the reason I have been doing these now is because I have been waiting for my licence paperwork to come through from CASA PNG. As it turns out, they were waiting for CASA Australia to verify my licence details - something that I thought would have been virtually automatic, but ended up taking almost a month!

Anyway, long story short, I finally had my CASA check flight on Wednesday, so that is a very big box that has now been ticked.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Observation flights

Following my base ops orientation, and while waiting for CASA Australia and CASA PNG to process my licence paperwork, I tagged along with various training pilots for some observational flights. This was an opportunity for me to learn the various procedures (both in-flight and on the ground) and to start to learn some of the main geographical features on our main routes. We visited a number of airstrips of varying degrees of difficulty and I was introduced to the MAF agent at each one.

Mt Wilhelm, highest mountain in Papua New Guinea (14,790 ft)

Taking off at Tsendiap airstrip

A crowd gathering to buy Bibles

The Laigap valley

Mt Giluwe, second highest mountain in Papua New Guinea

A crowd gathers as trade store goods are unloaded at Tekin

Tekin airstrip

Strickland river gorge

One of our flights was to drop off a MAF family who were going for their week-long bush orientation at Sengapi. We arrived to a crowd that was much larger than usual, and a bilas (decoration) gate at the airstrip. There was chanting and drums and we saw groups of men and women in traditional dress dancing. I assumed it was all to welcome the family, but when I talked to the MAF agent he informed me that the community was practising their traditional dances for the governor, who was planning to visit that afternoon! Even so, it was still quite special to witness.

The men

The women

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Base ops

For the past two weeks I have been observing what happens at the Mt Hagen base. This is a snapshot of MAF operations at the various bases around the country - some of which have pilots stationed but others do not. The base staff put together a flying programme for the aircraft assigned to that base for each day, handles bookings for passengers and freight, loads and unloads said passengers and freight, refuel the aircraft when required, etc. Here are some pictures...

Cargo area at the Mt Hagen base, with a trolley of cargo ready to
be loaded. We fly lots of Maggi noodles for bush trade stores...

Some of the more delicate cargo - boxes of day-old chicks
(for raising as chickens for eating)

Madang base staff load a fuel drum into the plane - a team effort!