AircraftMAF Operations

MAF closes operations in Mongolia after 19 years of service

29th June 2020

Blue Sky Aviation (MAF Mongolia) hangar

MAF in Mongolia – known as ‘Blue Sky Aviation’ – has ceased operating, following a detailed viability study. In two decades, Mongolia’s infrastructure has improved, reducing the demand for MAF’s services. We look back on what MAF has achieved in this unique country…

Mongolia – a country of extremes

Spanning over 600,000 square miles with a population of just 3.3 million, Mongolia ranks as one of the most sparsely populated countries on the planet (1).

It’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, is the coldest capital on earth plummeting to -40C in January (2). Conversely, Mongolian summers can reach a sweltering 40C!

45% of Mongolia’s population live in the capital. According to the WHO, until recently, Ulaanbaatar was the most polluted capital in the world, fuelled by coal burning stoves to keep people warm. In a bid to clean up their air, the Mongolian government outlawed burning raw coal last year (3).

Mongolian landscape from the air

MAF receives invitation from Mongolia’s MOH

In 1991, when MAF first surveyed Mongolia following an invitation from the Ministry of Health, the country was less developed than it is today.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, they withdrew their financial support, which triggered widespread poverty and unemployment across Mongolia.

Basic infrastructure and medical services fell into disrepair and the most remote, rural communities had little access to decent healthcare.

Due to the sheer vastness of the country and bad or non-existent roads, international development NGOs and aid agencies found it almost impossible to reach rural communities.

A Christian missionary commissioned by Mongolia’s MOH to overhaul their failing health system, contacted MAF for help – the final missing piece of the jigsaw.

‘I’m so thankful to God and MAF for giving us such a good service with a discount to enable us to develop our ministry around Dadal in eastern Mongolia’

Minister, Charles Cook

The fall of Communism creates new opportunities

Following nearly 70 years of Communism and religious suppression, there were very few Christians in Mongolia. The fall of Communism in 1990 however, ushered in new ideas, a fledgling democracy and ultimately, religious freedom.

Many Mongolians returned to Buddhism, but the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and share the Gospel had never been greater.

Mongolia became more open to foreign development accompanied by a thirst for education and progress among the younger generation.

As the Christian community started to grow, so did calls from missionaries and NGOs for better transport to go about their work.

Cessna Caravan aircraft ‘Millennium Messenger’ in winter

‘Blue Sky Aviation’ is born!

Following further surveys in 1993 and 1997, MAF joined forces with local partner, ‘Exodus Way’. By then, an experienced pilot family arrived to set up MAF’s first flight programme.

In spring 2000, a prefabricated hangar was shipped out and assembled at Ulaanbaatar Airport. By July, a new Cessna Caravan aircraft – funded by generous MAF supporters – had arrived.

The ‘Millennium Messenger’ was fully equipped for flying in extreme temperatures and ‘Blue Sky Aviation’ (BSA) was launched in 2001.

BSA medevacs, Marie - with dangerously high blood pressure - from Tsetserleg

BSA saves lives

BSA was the first light aircraft operator to enter Mongolia and played a significant part in developing aviation across the country.

People who lived hundreds of miles from towns and cities were now able to reach them in a matter of hours by plane rather than a week by road.

BSA became an ‘air ambulance’ service so that emergency healthcare could be accessed in the remotest of regions, which saved many lives.

Thanks to BSA’s partnership with charity, ‘Nurses Heart to Heart’, doctors and nurses in rural areas received CPR training resulting in more saved lives!

By 2012, demand for BSA’s services increased.

BSA flies child to 'Reaching the Light' therapy in Ulaangom in June 2017

MAF helps grow Mongolian Church

BSA formed a long-term partnership with ‘Reaching the Light’. This Christian charity provides physiotherapy and speech therapy to children with disabilities, supporting hundreds of isolated families.

During its time in Mongolia, MAF played its part in supporting various missionary partners such as the Antioch Church project, which spreads the Gospel to unreached communities and raises awareness of people trafficking.

Over the years, BSA helped Christianity grow in rural Mongolia, by facilitating many mission trips from the capital, Ulaanbaatar. BSA has enabled a range of domestic and international church groups to evangelise, educate and encourage isolated communities and churches throughout Mongolia.

From a handful of Christians in 1990, Mongolia’s Christian population today has reportedly grown to nearly 80,000 people (4).

‘I’m so happy to see my daughter walk properly. It would have been so difficult to go by car for two days to get treatment. The flight was so important because most families can’t afford a government flight. The pilot was so kind. I’m really thankful for Blue Sky Aviation.’

Mother of ‘Reaching the Light’ patient

The Millennium Messenger flies to pastures new

By 2017, Mongolia’s infrastructure and transport network had improved. Today, various construction projects are still underway across the country.

The church in Ulaanbaatar is rapidly growing and many young Mongolian Christians are sharing the Gospel across their own country.

Simultaneously, government agencies are increasingly taking responsibility for healthcare in remote locations.

Following 20 years of faithful service, it’s time for MAF to move on. The Millennium Messenger will be redeployed from Mongolia to Guinea to serve other remote communities in future.

BSA's 'Millennium Messenger' in Tosontsengel

1. The Telegraph
2. World Atlas
4. Operation World