When Erwin Jungen was working at our Mt Hagen base in Papua New Guinea (PNG) as a casual traffic officer, he had the chance to accompany a team to conduct some airstrip surveys. Erwin has been accepted at the MAF Mareeba Training Centre in Australia, where he will train as a pilot under the PNG pilot training scheme. Pandemic travel restrictions delayed him for the January intake this year. By working for MAF here at Mt Hagen, he’s gaining valuable experiences learning about our operations and MAF’s ministry.
Story by Erwin Jungen. Photos by Erwin Jungen & Paul Woodington.
Over the past few days, I was given the go-ahead to join the team of MAF and RAA (Rural Airstrip Agency) surveyors to survey closed rural airstrips. It was an amazing experience with a steep but valuable learning curve. Learning about the local radio callouts and the history behind the aistrips we were surveying was so interesting, with some airstrips having been built in the 60s and taking upwards of 16 years to finish!
Learning to use the technology, properly measure out the airstrips and have an awareness of hazards and potential risks that these locations provided was an exciting opportunity.
Though the learning was interesting and helped broaden my understanding, the greatest parts of the surveying airstrips were the experiences. From shepherding cows off the runway and the ridiculous heat at Mamusi to the 13 degrees steep and 350m long runway at Mengamenau, it was incredible looking at the lengths that MAF, in coordination with rural health care centres and communities, go to in order to provide a service.
That’s what it all comes down to. Not money, not how cool it is to fly in such beautiful and remote areas. It's providing a service for the people of our country. To provide economical and financial doorways. To aid in medical treatment.
Meeting these communities was the most important thing for me, learning their history, their languages, their plights and their stories. That is just irreplaceable.