Since 1951, MAF’s continuous operations in Papua New Guinea have provided essential air transport to isolated communities located in some of the most rugged terrain in the world. Today, MAF is the longest serving aviation operator in PNG, with international standards of safety, flight operations and aircraft maintenance.
When timing is critical, MAF provides air transport for sick or injured people, connecting isolated communities with better equipped health facilities and the best available care in their region. MAF aircraft efficiently transport building materials to the remote communities to develop local infrastructure e.g. class rooms and health facilities. MAF transfers cash crops for farmers – vegetables, coffee, cocoa, peanuts – to market, often their only available source of income. Regularly flying to specific areas, servicing more than 230 airstrips across mainland PNG, MAF offers the opportunity to purchase individual seats or charter a whole plane. Passengers include missionaries serving in rural villages, students travelling to further their education outside their small communities, teachers, health and aid workers, pastors or the general public.
Over the past several years, MAF PNG has found it increasingly challenging to keep its multiple-type fleet (C208s, GA8s, Twin Otters) operating on a regular and dependable basis. As a third-level airline to maintain a multiple-type fleet requires a lot of logistics, e.g. two types of fuel, different inventories of parts, engineers trained to maintain three different types of aircraft and the availability of sufficient number of pilots, with required experience, cross-trained to fly the different types of aircraft just to name a few of the challenges.
“In 2018, we have only been able to maintain approximately 51% of our fleet in the air on any given day,“ reports Todd Aebischer, MAF PNG’s Country Director. “This means that we are providing service 200+ airstrips, with about 5-6 aircraft each day. These aircraft are flying an average of 40 flights per day. It has been challenging to maintain reliability and dependability at the level we desire in order to meet the needs of the people we serve in remote communities.“
During the last decade MAF PNG has slowly been expanding the operations of the Cessna Caravan. This aircraft is now used to operate into 95 percent of the more than 230 remote bush airstrips—many of which are positioned on mountain ridgelines. With the purchase of six brand new Caravan turboprops, MAF adds to its existing fleet of three in PNG, transitioning to a single fleet consisting exclusively of Caravan aircraft.
This investment into serving the people of PNG, represents the largest single purchase of aircraft in the history of MAF International, since beginning its worldwide operations in 1945. By the end of 2019, MAF PNG will have nine Cessna Caravans, equipped with the latest in avionics / technology. Five of the six new Caravans have already been ferried across the Pacific from the manufacturer in the US to MAF’s Asia Pacific maintenance facility in Mareeba, QLD, Australia. Currently they are undergoing some MAF specific upgrades and getting registered for PNG. The first new Caravan was welcomed at the Kagamuga Airport on 11 February 2019, and the second one is due to arrive by the end of March 2019.
“Following the model of some of the most efficient and effective air services in the world, with this major transition MAF PNG will have a single-type fleet of Cessna Caravans, simplifying the training pathway for our pilots, as well as enhancing our dispatch and maintenance reliability,“ continues Aebischer. “This will result in a much greater percentage of our fleet in the air each day, more reliable and dependable service to the communities and partners we are serving, financial viability for the years ahead and greater opportunity for transformational impact.“
MAF is already phasing out the GA8 Aircraft. The next one will leave the programme in the first week of April, leaving only two to remain in the country. The three Twin Otters will remain flying in country through May/June of 2019.“We realise that there are some communities and partners that will experience a reduced payload impact from the loss of the Twin Otter,“ states Aebischer. “Therefore, we encourage our partners and the communities to plan ahead to move heavy and bulky / long loads that are more ably carried on the Twin Otter, e.g. portable sawmills. We will be looking at price adjustments to help those communities experiencing a loss of the lift capacity of the Otter. But in the long run we see that a greater number of communities will receive more frequent and reliable service by our MAF aircraft.“