Can you find the C206?
Here are eight GA8 Airvans and a solitary C206 snuggled tightly into the MAF Hangar at Gove Airport. The hangar, completed in 2009, is rated to withstand moderate cyclonic winds.
Can you find the C206?
After two days of planning the weather has changed from blue skies and light winds to a more ominous dark grey, with light rain and constant thunder in the background. The spiral arms, reminiscent of those of a distant galaxy, are now starting to sweep over NE Arnhem Land bringing instability and rain. The red and amber returns in the image above are associated with storm cells.
MAF brought all of its aircraft into Gove yesterday afternoon and left the families in the communities in accordance with our wishes. We are now waiting for the strong winds and finalising our preparations. We have gas stoves, water stored in readiness , torches and candles, and inverter backup from car batteries to try to keep fridges and freezers running if we lose power for an extended period. The garden has been cleared of loose objects and we are restraining items at risk of turning over or becoming airborne.
As I was walking through the community of Yirrkala, I had a conviction in my heart that another Christmas could not go by without people having more opportunities to hear the good news of Jesus Christ! Sadly so many around the world choose to not have anything to do with Jesus at Christmas. I wondered what I could do? What skills or gifts do I have to help spread the incredible truth of Christmas? Surprisingly MAF’s area of work with ‘Technology Services’ came to mind! Nearly all people in Arnhem Land have mobile phones so why not use this device to share the Christmas message?
It has been another year of change on Elcho, with a completely new team established in the closing weeks of the year. We welcomed two families: Jason and Kim Job with Sam (3), who were previously at MAF’s Numbulwar base and also Ian, Adele, Jimmy (3) and Ned (1) who have just arrived having joined the MAF staff team after a year at Milingimbi as a relief pilot in 2011-12. David passes on his Operations role in January to concentrate on the Elcho Base Manager/Pilot role again.
Emergency procedures training
It's been a hectic time recently with two major events within a week of each other and staff conference just a fortnight away.
We had our annual management conference and workshop with Phillipa Forsyth from the MAF Africa region. This year's training theme was 'introduction to leadership' which took us through the various aspects of effective leadership and gave us a practical tool for leading a team or project. As mission pilots, we often become the default leader by being the 'last one standing' in a particular place, but we don't necessarily have the experience or knowledge to make a good transition from doing to planning, delegating and following-up.
A week later the pilot group met for its annual training and education days. We practiced evacuation procedures from our aircraft, tried to put out fuel fires using a variety of extinguishers (including the wrong types), let off some flares and did our best to demonstrate the life jackets!
The US Air Force have a song that starts "Off we go in to the wild blue yonder.” However, in Arnhem Land there are times when it is not blue but it is definitely wild! Like many tropical regions, Arnhem Land has a defined rainy season and when it comes, it comes. The weather can go from dry to instant deluge and then back again all within the space of a few hours. Then at other times you get up with the rain, sleep with the rain on your roof, and then it is there waiting for you when you get up again! And don’t think light rain either- this is the instant flood variety where the gutters are swamped!
Times like these are a real challenge to flying both from a logistical point of view and also of course for those who are actually braving the elements. For the MAF ground staff things can get hectic quite quickly. First of all there is the call from the base to tell you that though it may be fine & sunny where you are, where they are they can’t see the end of the runway! That’s always frustrating as the passenger waiting to fly is looking at a sunny sky and can’t understand why you don’t want to take off!
It is exciting to see the Sunday School activities restart this year. Ngandama, a very faithful lady, who has run Sunday School for years and years asked some of the younger ladies from the weekly Bible Study to take up the leadership. With support from Graham and Jen they are leading a group of 20-50 children each week. Jonathan provides valuable technical support from home for the Sunday School.
The community at Mapuru homeland, 30 km south of Galiwin’ku, has been operating a co-operative food shop for the last 14 years. It aims to make essential supplies available in the homeland by buying and transporting in bulk, so that expensive ad-hoc shopping flights to Elcho are reduced. Over the years, MAF has transported bulk food consignments at reduced or zero cost by using “back-charters” – the empty sectors we fly between charters.
Recently we got the call that the road to Mapuru had become impassable due to the rising river levels so could we fly the latest bulk order of four pallets arriving on the barge. Each carton, bag or drum has to be weighed, moved to the aircraft and loaded thoughtfully to keep the aircraft in balance and within its take-off weight limits. Over three days we used ten flights at full capacity to transfer the food the 15 minute hop to the homeland. In all, we moved 3,944 kg. The pilots were grateful for the line of willing helpers at Mapuru to help offload.
We have a new family in the MAF Elcho team – the Vautiers.
Des, Emily, Jack, Dominic and Nevaeh are from Auckland, NZ. They joined MAF in September and then spent 3 months in Yirrkala. Most of their gear came over by plane beforehand, leaving their 4WD to arrive by barge the following week. (A GA8 can lift 500kg and takes up to six 200L drums.) Their actual arrival was delayed by 24 hours when rain set in at Gove airport late in the day.
David and Jen Pett, MAF staff in since 2006, now in Cairns.