MAF aircraft completes landmark flight to Liberia

Published: 18 Aug 2015

MAF's first aircraft to serve in Liberia successfully arrived at Monrovia on Monday 17 August, completing a landmark five-day trip across 11 countries.

Video: MAF aircraft lands in Monrovia, Liberia for the first time

The aircraft – registration 5X-OPE – landed at Spriggs Payne Airport at 12.31 UTC after a smooth ferry flight by Pilot Arjan Paas and Country Director Emil Kundig.

This is a milestone in our preparations to begin operations in Liberia to serve around 80 NGOs and mission groups working to bring hope to Liberia’s poorest, including those living in refugee camps along Liberia’s borders.

Emil Kundig recorded the ferry flight in a daily blog.

Day 1 (13 August) – Uganda to DRC

Departure from Kajjansi at 10 o'clock. A short hop over to Entebbe for the formalities. Within literally minutes we’re on the way towards Bunia, climbing to 16,000 feet. It is just perfect up here, as we are above the clouds and there are very few thunderstorms about. It is good to have oxygen though.

MAF Liberia aircraft takes off from Kajjansi in Uganda to begin its ferry flight

Photo: MAF's Liberia aircraft takes off from Kajjansi in Uganda to begin its ferry flight

Reaching the Congo border we’re allowed to fly directly to Kisangani. It is beautiful up here and it is easy to fly around a few lonely storms.

After 3 hours and 25 minutes we land in Kisangani. There is a lot of water here. We’re told that it rained heavily until 11 that morning. We arrived just after 2, so this was good timing. Some delay with the fuel credit letter, but bearable. Visiting the various offices to settle route and landing fees plus parking. The flight plan for the next day is accepted by the controller and we soon head into Kisangani for the night, getting a room at the Centre d’acceuil Ruwenzori. A quaint little hotel in the middle of the Congo with electricity and a delicious dinner that got us ready for bed.

Day 2 – DRC to Republic of Congo

Early rise for breakfast at 0600. Our transport arrives on time and we head out to the airport. It is foggy this morning, must be from the humidity and the big rain from yesterday.

We preflight the plane and are soon ready for our next leg. Just under 700 nautical to Brazzaville should take us about 5 hours. Today we climb to 10,000 feet as we have to keep some oxygen for the leg from Cameroon to Ghana where we will have to climb to 18,000 feet for a while. But at this altitude it is very smooth albeit we’re unable to see the ground most of the time. It also very nice to enjoy a slight tailwind that will make us gain about half an hour on our trip.

MAF Liberia_Emil Kundig and Arjan Paas at Kisangani airport in DRC, ready for leg 2

Photo: MAF Liberia_Emil Kundig and Arjan Paas at Kisangani airport in DRC ready for the 2nd leg

No thunderstorms or other challenging clouds. As we move away from Uganda further and further we lose the radio contact but are able to connect with the MAF guys in Congo for flight following. That is nice. Approaching Kinshasa we’re handed off to Brazzaville for the instrument approach for runway 23 right. Wow there are quite a bit of clouds all of a sudden, half way down on the approach we break out and land with a very cool 22 degrees Celsius ground temperature.

The airport authority man coming to greet us says that it is winter now…ok.

We have no delays today with our fuel credit letter and are quickly on the way to settle navigation fees, parking fees, ramp fees etc. The flight plan is already being handed in for tomorrow and so we can leave the airport and find our hotel. Margrit had booked it for us yesterday. The taxi man wishes to show us around Brazzaville, we decline politely as we have to do other things, like relax a bit and get ready for the next day. He is a nice man and as we say good bye it turns out his name is… Emile. Yes, French is spoken here.

Day 3 – Republic of Congo to Cameroon

Today is August 15. It is Congo’s National day and people are on the move to celebrate. It is cloudy still since we arrived yesterday. There are very little formalities and we are soon getting the plane ready for our flight to Cameroon.

MAF Liberia aircraft refuelling at Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Photo: MAF's Liberia aircraft refuels at Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

We plan to fly at FL 100. It is a good choice as we are getting a good tailwind we are sporting a ground speed of more than 170 knots. Today we are  overflying Gabon, Equatorial Guinea before entering Cameroonian airspace. The weather up here is nice and smooth but again as yesterday we can barely see the ground.

As we enjoy constant tailwind it looks like we will be 30 minutes earlier in Yaounde.

Arjan makes an ILS into Yaounde and by 11 o'clock local time we touch down. The flight time is 3 hours and 54 minutes.

Here we are now in Cameroon completing the 3rd leg of our trip to Liberia. Thanks be to God that so far everything went smoothly.

Day 4 – Cameroon to Ghana

It was a noisy night at the hotel in Yaoundé. There was a banquet and guests took the opportunity to celebrate into the early hours of the morning. Nevertheless we got up refreshed for our next leg. As we were about to start our breakfast the taxi driver came in to tell us that we better hurry up and go to the airport at once, since the president was travelling today also. For this they would block the access roads to the airport.

So breakfast was skipped and we just managed to get to the airport in time, getting the plane ready and call for start-up to Accra. After take-off we saw that there was already a lot of movements around the presidential airplane, but we managed, good.

MAF Liberia ferry flight_pilots Emil Kundig and Arjan Paas take oxygen on flight to Accra, Ghana

Photo: MAF Liberia ferry flight_pilots Emil Kundig and Arjan Paas take oxygen on flight to Accra, Ghana

Today was going to be our longest leg and needing the highest cruise altitude. We still had oxygen and so we climbed to 14,000 feet to be able to cross the Cameroonian mountains before crossing into Nigeria. We flew under and over cloud covers, almost perfect smooth conditions and outside temperature read 2 degrees. Nice at it was, we hardly saw anything of the country side we flew over.

Passing Lagos we finally started to see some breaks in the clouds. Overflying Benin and Togo let us see some glimpses of the main cities, Cotonu and Lome.

Soon we were guided in by the Accra radar controller for an ILS runway 19. We touched down after 5 hours and 5 minutes of flight time.

It was a good day and a perfect one since the permissions to land in Ghana had just come in last night, thank you Lord.

Day 5 (18 August) – Ghana to Liberia

Today begins the last day of our ferry flight from Uganda to Liberia. Many things had to work out so far and they did. Just imagining the paperwork involved to make this happen. It is truly mind boggling. Thanks to the many who made it possible.

Liberia aircraft and thumbs up from Pilot Arjan Paas and Emil Kundig

Photo: A big thumbs up from Pilot Arjan Paas (right) and Emil Kundig

After breakfast we’re driven to Accra airport for the formalities. We are just whisked through and find ourselves soon asking for start-up clearance for the last leg of our journey across Africa to Liberia. The weather looked good earlier and we can expect a nice tailwind pushing us home towards out families.

We find us again at 10,000 feet above a solid layer of clouds which will only eventually break up a little as we cross into Liberian airspace.

The crossing into Liberia at the checkpoint called MEGOT is celebrated with a picture to proof it.

MAF aircraft crosses the border into Liberia at MEGOT - GPS

Photo: The GPS shows the MAF aircraft crossing the border into Liberia at MEGOT waypoint

Starting the descent into James Spriggs airport shows us that it is the rainy season here. Various showers here and there but easy to fly around. We touch down at our final destination at 12:25 local time, the flight time was 4 hours.

MAF Liberia aircraft lands at Monrovia

Photo: MAF Liberia aircraft lands at Monrovia

Upon shutting down the aircraft, we were greeted by the director of the airport and colleagues from Samaritan's Purse. After formalities the aircraft was able to be put into a temporary hangar place which just became vacant today, amazing.

We thank the Lord for good weather, permissions on time, fuel when needed and an aircraft that performed without a glitch. Thanks also to you our praying MAF friends who interceded for a good outcome of this ferry flight. Let us begin now and serve here in Liberia and join in the rebuilding of this country.

MAF Liberia aircraft and ferry pilots Emil Kundig and Arjan Paas at Monrovia

Photo: MAF Liberia aircraft and ferry pilots Emil Kundig and Arjan Paas at Monrovia