Celebrating 15 years in Bangladesh

16 July 2012

Report by Chad Tiley, MAF Bangladesh Country Director

In 1970, a cyclone hit the southern cost of Bangladesh, and to date caused the world’s worst reported natural disaster.  Over 500,000 people lost their lives, with millions homeless on a single day. That event triggered two men from Sweden who were working with MAF at the time to travel to Bangladesh with the sole purpose of seeing what they could do to help in the midst of so much devastation.

Chad Tiley

They journeyed by boat several days south, through the vast river network of the country to reach the affected area (the island of Bhola), where the cyclone had hit the hardest. They began to envision MAF using an aircraft that could operate both from the land as well as the water. This combination of versatility would enable a country that was locked by so many natural barriers (water) to become completely accessible.  Utilizing an aircraft that was amphibious would enable humanitarian, development, mission, and medical groups the ability to reach millions of isolated people in need in minutes, rather than days.

From that moment began a long journey whereby MAF formulated the vision to use an aircraft within the country to assist people. Throughout the 1980s MAF Australia in concert with other MAF groups sent staff such as Norm Latham, Robert Hadfield, and Jim Charlesworth, to Bangladesh to help build relationships with the local Flying club. By providing training, education, and instruction, it enabled trust too be built with the leaders of the aviation community. The trust and respect that was developed during those formative years eventually allowed MAF the opportunity to start its own flight service in 1997.

Finally after 27 years of effort, MAF Sweden was able to start a traditional MAF flight service within the country using a DH2 Turbo Beaver.  By 2003, MAF Sweden handed over the flight operations to MAF International. During this period MAF worked extensively with the floating hospitals within the country. Transporting doctors to and from hospitals located in rural remote parts of the country.  MAF also began a domestic on call emergency medevac service whereby national Bangladeshi families could request the aircraft to assist with relatives who were in need of rapid transport from outlying areas back into Dhaka, the capital city.

On May 15, 2007, Cyclone Sidr, a category 4 storm, hit southern Bangladesh. The next day, the MAF office received over 200 phone calls from different humanitarian and medical groups who wanted to help and needed MAF to transport them to where the cyclone hit. MAF responded and for the next 3 months was flying close to 3 flights a day 7 days a week. Having the only aircraft in the country with this type of capability, it enabled relief and development workers to be flown directly to where the need was the greatest. They in turn then coordinated the relief for millions of people. Without this type of aviation capability, millions of people would have suffered needlessly.

After 15 years of flight operations within the country, the MAF Bangladesh program flies over 763 flights annually, serving 64 different humanitarian, medical, and mission groups. Transporting close to 3,000 people yearly all whom help to assist poverty stricken people. The MAF motto is “Flying for Life, and it is not just a saying, it is our purpose of providing lifesaving flight support to the people of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Country Profile

 

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