Flying for Life

A recent talk (10th January) to Largs Probus Club members took to the air as we learned about MAF – rather obscure, but standing for Mission Aviation Fellowship.  MAF is the world’s largest humanitarian air operator. For over 75 years they have been flying light aircraft over jungles, mountains etc …  As their website succinctly puts it: MAF is a Christian mission organisation that uses planes to overcome jungles, mountains, swamps, insecurity and dilapidated infrastructure. Our pilots and personnel deliver relief workers, doctors, pastors, school books, food, medicines – everything that can only be safely and speedily transported by air.

The talk by David Wilson, a MAF Area representative, enabled us to understand the incredible and dangerous journeys that they undertake.  At the end of WWII, two redundant pilots, Jack Hemmings and Stuart King realised that planes could help rebuild damaged parts of the world by using them for good rather than destruction.  The sister organisation in the US was first into the air when in 1946, pilot Betty Greene flew the first MAF aircraft on its inaugural flight, transporting two missionaries of Wycliffe Bible Translators to a remote jungle location in Mexico.

Since then, MAF has grown so that now they operate in Africa, South and Central America, and northern Australia.  They operate 135 light aircraft (mainly Cessna 208 Caravan) reaching 1400 destinations in 26 countries.  They do not operate in war zones and only with the local government’s permission – they have recently had to stop operating in Haiti.  Their initial work was evangelistic, helping churches in remote areas, but now covers medical work and supplies, and disaster relief after natural events such as earthquakes and typhoons.  They were very busy during the Covid 19 pandemic and are currently very active in South Sudan where there are 2.4 million displaced children.

As an example of Medevacs, flying people for medical care, David told of a round trip of 840 miles to collect 5 people for urgent medical care in Timor-Leste (previously East Timor).  Evacs are humanitarian in nature, for example evacuating 22 children from a village in South Sudan, where they would have either been killed or recruited into guerrilla forces.

Successful operations are a team effort, from the local inhabitants who keep the airstrips open, to the maintenance teams and of course the air crew and pilots.  With global warning on most people’s minds David explained that flying to these remote places is much more efficient time wise and generates much less CO2formation than trying to take a fleet of Land Rovers through the bush, thus it is a sustainable way of helping people living in remote and sometimes dangerous locations.  Phil Theaker gave the vote of thanks, citing a story he knew of a plumber who retrained as a pilot for MAF as he felt that was what God wanted him to do.

Largs Probus Club next meets in the Willowbank Hotel on Wednesday 24th January for their Burns Lunch.

Men over the age of 50 who are retired, or nearing retirement, are welcome to join the Club by completing our Contact Form.