About MAF Staff

MAF’s Disaster Response Team has been working to assess how we may be able to help after a serious 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country on Saturday.

The scenes emerging on the media are horrifying. More than 4,500 people are confirmed dead, with a further 8,000 injured. The Nepali Government suspects the death toll may rise to 10,000. The destruction has left tens of thousands of people displaced and ongoing aftershocks mean many more are afraid to return to their homes.

Landslides, heavy rains, limited access to isolated areas and a lack of food and water are immediate concerns in the rescue effort.

MAF staff have arrived

We are in communication with several partner relief agencies and have sent two MAF staff to conduct initial needs assessment activity on the ground in Nepal. One arrived on Tuesday and the other on Wednesday – and will be in a better position to link in with organisations on the ground to see what is needed and how MAF can help.

Initial research has indicated that there are many remote hill villages now almost entirely cut off and without aid – but that the need will be for small helicopters rather than bigger aircraft. 

Working with NGOs

MAF staff have already met with a number of organisations, including the UN and Medair. Medair staff are encountering serious road access constraints at the moment with it taking 3 hours to drive the equivalent of 10 nautical miles (that would take around 4 minutes in a MAF 208 Caravan.)

At the moment there still seems a limited need for our aircraft and we have not heard of any fixed wing airstrips in areas which need urgent disaster response. There is a need for smaller helicopters especially to transport relief workers out into the most remote areas. We are currently looking at whether we can help co-ordinate a light helicopter service using a local operator or work with an organisation like Helimission and we are also seeing if we could help provide assistance at the airport – especially with logistical management, ramp planning and cargo loading/unloading.

The MAF team in Mongolia have their Cessna Caravan aircraft on standby to go to Nepal if required. Flight permissions are being looked into and obtained in case it is decided that we need to send a plane in.

MAF’s expertise in aviation and communications has helped save lives in situations including the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the Boxing Day tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia in 2004/5.

At present, no donations are needed for Nepal unless our response escalates. However, you can pray.

Please pray for Nepal:

– For people affected by the earthquake in Nepal and surrounding regions.

– For those mourning the loss of friends and family.

– For NGOs already on the ground assisting with the disaster response.

– Praise the Lord for the stories of rescue we are hearing and please pray for safety for all those relief workers trying to assist.

– For wisdom for our disaster relief team as they travel in Nepal to get a clear idea of how we can best serve and respond to the disaster.

Article source: http://www.maf.org.au/news/n/nepal-earthquake-maf-assessing-how-to-help-in-disaster-response-150501

cover-pic(640)story by LuAnne Cadd

Everyone has a story to tell, but it’s easy to forget, even for someone whose job it is to find and tell those stories. Often it becomes a blur of humanity, just another face in the crowd, another passenger on a flight.

You never know what life has handed the stranger next to you. 

Chuol Kang Wuol arrived an hour late for check-in at the Juba airport. The scheduled MAF flight, heading to Renk in the northern-most corner of South Sudan, needed to leave on time for the long journey. When Chuol finally walked into the MAF airport office, he had left his luggage in the car. After retrieving the bag for weighing and tagging, we walked toward the terminal as a friend showed up with yet another bag which now needed to be weighed and tagged back at the office. We were late and irritated. We knew only that this tall Nuer man would be dropped off in Udier, a village on the way to Renk. It was a Medair flight, and for some reason, Medair felt that this man was priority.

We soon found out why. Chuol, whose contract work with Medair had ended, was returning to his home to see his wife and four children for the first time in four years. Chuol had never met his youngest child, now three, who was born after he left home. If he was excited and scatterbrained, it was absolutely understandable.

Violence, bloodshed, and nightmares

Those years away from home included several times of extreme danger that forced Chuol to hide or run for his life. In the most recent incident in August 2014, while working in logistics for Medair in a large northern refugee camp, fighting broke out with armed gangs targeting Nuer people.

Caught at the market when the violence erupted, Chuol hid for two days with no water while the militia searched for Nuer to kill.

Six Nuer staff working for various international humanitarian organizations were executed, including some dragged from their well-marked vehicles and shot. Chuol witnessed two men near him die but he was able to escape and later evacuated to Juba, although not without residual mental trauma.

One Medair staff recalls waking night after night to the panicked cries of Chuol’s nightmares months later. 

“I know that life is changing, that life in the world is not permanent,” Chuol said, reflecting on how he had coped with such harrowing experiences. “When you see too much, you become a bit mad. But you can just be reminded to take it very easy because I know the time has come to get my family, and to get my people.”

Through the violent South Sudan crisis, with no communication, for a time Chuol and his wife didn’t know if the other was dead or alive. Finally he was returning to his home, his friends, his family.

Chuol stared intently out the window as the MAF plane landed at Udier, a small dirt strip in a remote and inaccessible region that had only been rehabilitated seven months earlier. He wasn’t sure if anyone knew he was coming, but as the tall lanky man climbed down the aircraft steps, shouts rang out as people recognized and gathered around Chuol, holding him, touching him, with tangible love and joy.

I imagined the healing this kind of love could bring. I was reminded as well of the simple truth, that in this land of turmoil, statistics, and massive impersonal numbers of displaced and dead:

Everyone has a story – and every life matters.

Article source: http://www.maf.org.au/news/n/chuol-returns-home-150424

imag4091_600Story Angela Harding

It was 8.30am on Sunday the 22nd of March. Pilot Jonathan Lowe was getting ready for church when he received the call.  Maria, a 39 year old local woman from Suai, who was in the late stages of pregnancy, was having complications and the Ministry of Health needed MAF to transport her to Dili hospital urgently.

Jonathan responded immediately.  He changed into his pilot’s uniform, left his wife Angela and the children to go on to church alone, and headed for the airport.  Once at the MAF hangar, Jonathan prepared the aircraft and installed the stretcher, then with the flight plan submitted and MAF’s agent at Suai alerted, Jonathan was airborne.

When he landed at Suai 27 minutes later, a large crowd had already started to gather. Many knew Maria personally.  The group, together with Jonathan, waited about twenty minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

Patient Maria, together with her husband, mother and midwife, was then transferred to the MAF plane for the flight to Dili. As Jonathan took to the skies a little later, he reflected that “this was our 700th patient we have transferred from the districts to Dili since we started in flight operations in Timor-Leste in 2007.”

But that number was quickly surpassed.  The following day pilot Michael Bottrell was called on to provide another 2 medical evacuation flights!


Article source: http://www.maf.org.au/news/n/700th-medevac-in-timor-leste-150327

Two MAF aircraft in Timor-Leste!

On 12 February at around 12 o’clock in Dili, what we have been working towards for more than a year-and-a-half was finally a reality.

Ron Watts (who you may remember from his record-breaking flights in 2013) raised an outstanding $190,000 towards this project, and it was his privlege to accompany Pilot Brad Ballin on the ferry flight from Mareeba QLD to Dili.

The flight was completed in two stages. Leaving Mareeba at 7:30am, stopping in both Normantan and Borroloola, Brad and Ron arrived in Darwin just after 4:00pm and overnighted there. The next morning they took flight again, this time over the sea! In roughly 4 hours, VH-MQO landed safely in Dili, amidst the excitement of the whole welcoming committee.

Watch the aircraft arrive here! 

Timor-Leste’s Minister for Petroleum, Mr Alfredo Pires, was also present, who has a particular interest in the contribution MAF is making towards the welfare of the Timorese.

Pilots, engineers, admin staff, volunteers, generous donors and a whole lot of prayer all played a part in making this possible!

Find out the difference MAF is making in Timor-Leste:  watch the video

The whole story:

In June 2013, MAF was able to purchase 5 second-hand GA8 aircraft for a very good price.

However, it was no small feat retrieving them!

Situated in the remote town of Kununurra WA, each aircraft had to be thoroughly checked by our engineers and pilots before being flown back to Mareeba QLD.

After inspection, it was found that only two of the five aircraft had engines that could fly. Solving a logistical puzzle, two aircraft flew to Mareeba, had their engines removed, and then the good engines were driven all the way from Mareeba back to Kununurra, along with a whole lot of spare parts and special tooling. Crossing almost 3,000km with a van and trailer, this trip took several days. The engines were installed in two of the remaining aircraft, which flew to Mareeba (while the van drove back) and again one engine was driven back to Kununurra to retrieve the final aricraft. Phew!

Once VH-MQO arrived in Mareeba there was still a lot of work to be done. The fund-raising for this aircraft took 9 months. Once it was fully funded a complete refurbishment could be completed, which included a thorough inspection of the whole aircraft, a new engine, new seat covers, an avionics upgrade and a repaint with MAF’s paint scheme, not to mention the pile of paperwork to go with it!

You can imagine our excitement in seeing this aircraft finally arrive to serve the people of Timor-Leste!

Thank you for your support and prayers in making our dream a reality!

Article source: http://www.maf.org.au/news/n/what-weve-been-waiting-for-150213

Ten years after the Boxing Day Tsunami devastates Sumatra, MAF reflects on the crisis in Aceh

On 26 December 2004, the ground shook and the ocean rose, engulfing the western coast of the Aceh region of Indonesia. An estimated 170,000 people died, 550,000 were displaced, and communities were forever changed.

MAF was one of the first responders. MAF has worked in Indonesia since the 1950s and was able to mobilise aircraft from Bangladesh, Australia, and other parts of Indonesia to assist in the relief efforts. Within days, MAF was conducting survey flights and delivering aid to survivors, using roads as landing strips to reach the isolated.


Coastal destruction in Sumatra



‘I’ve never seen anything like it’

‘As you flew up the coast, things looked fine until you reached Meulaboh. Then, it was just destruction. I’ve never seen anything like it,’ said David Wunsch, special projects director for MAF.

Roads were destroyed or covered with debris, making ground travel nearly impossible. MAF used its aircraft to deliver food, water, medicine, and other necessities to locations that others were unable to reach. MAF’s Tim Chase arrived in Aceh 10 days after the tsunami and recalls those initial efforts.

‘At that time we had two locations on the coast where we were landing on roads,’ said Tim.

‘Obor Berkat (Operation Blessing Indonesia) was working very closely with us to provide food in boxes that we could give to each family. We could load 150 boxes or so in a Cessna 206.’

People would crowd around the aircraft as it landed, desperately seeking help.


Aid arrives by MAF floatplane



MAF installs internet cafés

As other relief organisations began to arrive, MAF established a communication centre or ‘internet café’ in Meulaboh, a community on the west coast of Aceh where the United Nations set up a base camp. Another communication centre was established in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital that was devastated by the tsunami.

‘There was a huge need for communications, as most of that infrastructure was destroyed in the tsunami,’ said Mark Blomberg, who worked at the Meulaboh communication centre.

‘The U.N. had set up tents on a soccer field, so that was a logical place for the internet café. We had a tent with tables, computers, and a wireless network that was available for the UN or anyone who wanted to use it. We also had several VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phones that the aid workers could use to call back to their offices.

‘People would come to the café early in the morning to shoot off a few emails or make a few phone calls, then they would go out and spend the day in the field. After dinner they would return and spend the evening writing up reports and assessments, or making phone calls with our phones. At that point our internet café was the only communication link,’ said Blomberg.


Bridge destroyed



MAF helps hundreds of agencies

Blomberg met his wife, Heidi, in Meulaboh, where she was working with Food for the Hungry, one of many relief agencies that partnered with MAF.

‘We always flew with MAF from Medan to Meulaboh,’ said Heidi Blomberg. ‘That was our only way of getting in and out. They transported all our expat and local staff. We also did a lot of surveying up the coast, and that was done with the MAF floatplane. MAF also worked with Food for the Hungry to set up internet for us in our office.’

The rebuilding work in Aceh continued for years. Tim Chase, who remained in Aceh until 2007, said that the people were dependent upon food aid for at least a year, until their gardens could become re-established. Hundreds of development groups were involved in efforts as diverse as clearing debris, building fish farms, planting rice, constructing homes and schools, digging wells, building boats, and helping small businesses get back on their feet. And MAF provided transportation, communications, and logistic help to make it happen.


Unloading relief supplies from MAF's Beaver floatplane



Disaster Response team is formed

‘The tsunami response was really the beginning of MAF’s disaster response department,’ said Dave Wunsch. ‘We have always helped in crises, but after the tsunami it became obvious that MAF had an important role to play in coordinating logistics and transportation and really enabling other relief providers.’

MAF now has a full-time disaster response department that is on standby to assist in the wake of natural disasters and other such emergencies. This team played critical roles following Hurricane Felix in Nicaragua, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.


Surviving family. Sumatra Boxing Day tsunami, 2004



Long-term commitment

What began as a disaster response effort turned into a long-term commitment for MAF in Aceh. Ten years later, MAF is one of the only aid groups still working there. From a base in Banda Aceh, MAF provides medical evacuation flights and safe, reliable air transportation. MAF also partners with a local aviation maintenance vocational school, providing practical laboratory training for high-school age students. In 2014, some 90 students passed through the MAF hangar.

To the casual observer, Aceh seems to have recovered from the tragedy wrought by the tsunami. But such loss is not quickly forgotten.

‘Things will never be the same,’ said Chase. ‘Everything looks fine now. The homes are built and the kids are in the schools, but the human aspect of it is pretty raw. It will be a generation or two before things truly get back to normal.’


MAF Airvan brings relief. Photo by Russell DunkinMAF aircraft on roadMAF pilot Rune Karlsson with relief beneficiariesA road through destructionFather and child receive aid flown in by MAFMAF's Beaver floatplane brings relief to coastal villages.Tsunami devastation in Sumatra, 2004. Photo by Rune KarlssonRoad destroyed by tsunami in Sumatra. Photo by Rune KarlssonSmiling children in Sumatra - Photo by Rune Karlsson

Article source: http://www.maf.org.au/news/n/after-the-boxing-day-tsunami-in-2004-150108