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!

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Justin-Honaker-Lesotho-flowersby Justin Honaker

The patient doesn’t make a sound as a nurse and I position her on the floor of a Cessna 206. I am amazed at her resolve not to demonstrate any pain—not even the slightest wince. 

Her name is Maleboheng; she is 81 years of age and has a broken femur. Earlier in the day she was in a bus that crashed while negotiating Lesotho’s treacherous mountain roads. MAF was called to transport seven of the most critical patients to a better-equipped facility. Maleboheng was the last of the seven, considered one of the most stable of the group.

I am astonished how well she is handling the pain, though I can see that it is intense as I fasten the last of the straps that will hold her to the floor of the aircraft. The first two planes responding to this accident used our four stretchers we keep at the ready. I have to strap Maleboheng to the floor using a specialized nylon strap specifically designed for such cases.

It is very functional and quite secure, but at the cost of comfort. It’s not my favorite to install, especially with her in so much pain, but I need to keep her safe for the 40-minute flight.

Maleboheng gives me a nod, assuring me that she is okay and ready for departure. Our flight together is short but I am so thankful I can help, even if I make her uncomfortable for a little while in order to get her to the help she needs.

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

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HuplaCelebrating a completed Bible translation

Video at

SOBA, PAPUA—A three-day celebration in a village in the highlands of Papua, Indonesia, marked an important milestone for the Hupla people: the translation of God’s Word into their native language. This process began in the 1980’s … but MAF has served this village even longer. “The story of MAF’s involvement goes back 40 years,” said David Holsten, MAF’s regional director of Indonesia. “We’ve had the privilege of serving here that entire time.”

Hundreds of people from the surrounding areas poured into the small village for this celebration that involved dancing, the roasting of 275 pigs, the baptism of 26 people, and a ceremony that represented the Bible reaching all generations. When the first box of Bibles was opened, a Bible was given to three representatives: a young man to represent the younger generation, a woman to stand for all women, and an older man to represent those who have waited a long time for the entire Bible to be translated.

“This is exciting stuff for us, because we’ve been partnering with these folks here in Soba, with the missionaries who have been working years and years on this translation,” said MAF pilot Mike Brown. “It’s been great to be able to come and join them in this celebration.” MAF staff, the missionaries, and local church leaders are excited about what this new chapter will mean for the Hupla people.

“My hope is that they’ll treasure God’s Word and that Hupla theologians will start to appear to analyze their own situation and what’s important,” said Sue Trenier a UFM Worldwide missionary who was an instrumental part of the translation team. Sue served in Soba from 1978 to 1997 and now lives in nearby Wamena.

The biblical author Isaiah writes that God’s Word “will not return void,” that God will accomplish what He pleases. This celebration makes it clear that the Hupla people are excited about the work God is accomplishing among them.

“Now, I’m feeling like I’ll be able to learn more deeply about God’s Word,” said Kenuel Sobolim, the son of one of the Papuan translators. “When I sit with my own people, we’ll be able to read it together.”