Michael Mukasa at Kajjansi Airfield (credit: Damalie Hirwa)
From football field to airfield, MAF Uganda’s Airfield Manager Michael Mukasa has never really been off the pitch! Michael chats to MAF’s Damalie Hirwa about his unusual transfer from football to aviation and his 25 years of service
Former professional footballer and father of five, Michael Mukasa, used to play for SC Villa – one of Uganda’s leading clubs.
He longed to be first choice goalkeeper, but his coach wasn’t convinced Michael was tall enough to pull it off.
When a spate of team-mate injuries gave him the opportunity to finally play in the first team, Michael seized the opportunity with both hands.
Michael (red) & SC Villa play against Nigeria’s Shooting Stars (credit: Michael Mukasa)
His bravery is fondly remembered by fans when Michael helped SC Villa achieve runners-up in the 1991 Africa Club Championship, and the 1992 Confederation of African Football Cup (CAF).
Michael went on to represent Uganda’s national team, the Cranes.
At the height of his footballing career, Kawowo Sports Magazine described Michael as:
‘Diminutive, but an excellent game reader and passer of the ball out of defence. His performances especially on the continent against sides like Vital’ O of Burundi, Iwuanywuanwu Nationale of Nigeria and ASMO of Gabon were out of this world, as SC Villa dominated the African continent from 1991-93.’
Michael (red leggings) with the rest of his team (credit: Michael Mukasa)
Using gifted hands for God
Now Michael uses his gifted hands for MAF Uganda, managing Kajjansi Airfield, but why MAF? Michael simply says he’s at Kajjansi in obedience to God’s call.
After his footballing career, Michael joined MAF in 1998 on a three-month temporary assignment. His role was to maintain the airfield, 11 miles south of Uganda’s capital Kampala and 18 miles north-east of Uganda’s largest airport – Entebbe International.
Planes take off & land on Kajjansi’s runway which Michael maintains (credit: Dave Forney)
Kajjansi is one of the busiest airfields in Uganda (credit: Damalie Hirwa)
Michael fell in love with aviation then and there and has never looked back! 25 years later, his love for the job has never really waned:
‘When I first came to Kajjansi, I looked at the aeroplanes and they excited me.
Now my satisfaction comes from seeing planes take-off safely every day.’
Michael Mukasa – MAF Uganda’s Airfield Manager & former professional goalkeeper
Such is his love for aviation, Michael even named his youngest child Chesley, after Captain Chesley Sullenberger. This aviation hero saved 115 passengers onboard his passenger plane in 2009 by landing on New York’s Hudson River after the plane struck a flock of geese!
Michael and MAF make history
MAF launched its Uganda programme in 1987, not long after the civil conflict had ended. Two Cessna 210 aircraft joined MAF Uganda in 1991.
Initially, MAF operated out of Entebbe International Airport, but it was a relief when the government allowed MAF to move to Kajjansi Airfield, where in 1994, MAF built its own hangar for aircraft maintenance.
MAF built its own hangar in Kajjansi in 1994 (credit: Damalie Hirwa)
The following year the runway was extended to 1.10km.
Managing the airfield makes MAF operations significantly easier to run says Michael:
‘Managing our own aerodrome comes with a lot of advantages – things are easier to handle here at Kajjansi than when we were in Entebbe.’
In 25 years, Michael has witnessed MAF Uganda significantly grow into one of MAF’s busiest African programmes:
‘There was only one entry gate into the airfield back then, but now we have three. The office area used to be bushland, but we started growing from one hangar to another.’
By 2013, four Cessna Caravans joined MAF Uganda and in that same year, Kajjansi became a MAF pilot training base. A Cessna 182 SMA joined the fleet in 2014.
In 2015, new purpose-built offices made MAF Uganda more efficient than ever.
Kajjansi is a maintenance hub for other MAF programmes incl. Liberia, South Sudan & the DRC (credit: Mark & Kelly Hewes)
Today, MAF Uganda maintains a range of MAF aircraft at Kajjansi from other parts of Africa including Liberia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But it was flying Princess Anne last October, which proved to be one of the most exciting events in the history of Kajjansi Airfield. Michael will never forget it:
‘Flying Princess Anne last year was a very exciting event. The facility even had a facelift in preparation for her flights. Flying these high-profile people raises our profile as an organisation.’
Thank you MAF supporters and thank you Michael! (credit: Mark & Kelly Hewes)
Supporters are key to MAF’s success
Michael is so thankful for his flexible and diverse team, who are unified by Christ, but it’s the supporters who make MAF’s work possible he says:
‘We are truly grateful for our supporters. We wouldn’t be in position to do this work without them and Kajjansi is an expensive infrastructure to manage.’
As one of the busiest airstrips in Uganda, Kajjansi operates every weekday and sometimes at weekends, meaning that the non-tarmac runway is under constant pressure from planes, and needs to be regularly maintained for safety.
The New Holland tractor is essential for Michael’s job (credit: Damalie Hirwa)
The New Holland tractor helps maintain Kajjansi’s runway (credit: Damalie Hirwa)
Thanks to the generosity of MAF supporters, Michael is able to do his job properly with the New Holland tractor, which was donated to MAF Uganda in 2018. It’s Michael’s main tool for maintaining the runway, cutting the grass and carrying material to repair potholes:
‘We would have had to hire a tractor if we didn’t have this one, and that would be very costly. We thank the people who heeded our call and supported us with this New Holland purchase.’
Michael and the team look forward to a time, God willing, when Kajjansi Airfield will be expanded further and registered as a port of entry and exit.
We wish MAF Uganda every success in their future endeavours and celebrate Michael’s incredible 25 years of faithful service.
Double rainbow (God’s promise!) over Kajjansi Airfield, MAF Uganda (credit: Dave Forney)