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MAF PNG at 70 – retired pilot Max Meyers meanders down memory lane

6th May 2021

Max in 2003

On 7 May 1951, MAF conducted its first ever flight in Papua New Guinea. 70 years later, MAF is still going strong and is the longest serving operator in the country. Max joined MAF PNG as a pilot in 1961. From thousands of flights over 17 years, Max remembers one passenger who he’ll never forget

He was one sick little boy.

We were frightfully busy in those days – I’d been up very early. I was on my second flight from the coast to PNG’s Highlands for the day and that was usually enough work for one pilot in one day.

I had a third flight planned in the Lowlands, which meant that I wasn’t going to get home until around 6.30pm. It was a very full day.

‘I flew with a terrible grace’

They called and asked me if I would do a medical emergency. I said, “No I can’t, it’s too much of a diversion – get someone else to do it”, and they said, “There is no one else flying and you are the only one that we can ask.”

Looking back, I flew with a terrible grace. I thought, “I’ve flown so many medical emergencies but how many of them are true emergencies?”

So, I begrudgingly accepted the medevac thinking, “I wish I wasn’t doing this – my third flight for the day has been cancelled and all those people I’m supposed to carry are going to be frustrated.”

‘When I saw the boy, I felt ashamed’

When I descended, I could see a man standing at the top of the airstrip with a rugged bush stretcher made out of poles and vines holding this little kid.

When I landed and saw the boy, I felt ashamed. He was unconscious. He was filthy – his face was dirty, mucus was coming out from his nose, mouth and eyes and there were flies all over him. I felt so bad.

I took the door off the plane and took the seats out. We laid him on the floor. I took off, trying to find a part of the airstrip that wasn’t bumpy. It was a really steep airstrip.

‘To be involved with MAF is the work of eternity, the work of God’s kingdom and my privilege.’
Max Meyers, retired MAF pilot and former CEO of MAF Australia and MAF US

‘I pleaded with God for his life’

As I flew toward Wewak in northern Papua New Guinea, I called ahead and asked for an ambulance. I told them it was urgent.

I tried to find an altitude where there was no turbulence. I leant down and picked up that little kid’s hand – a filthy little hand in my two hands. He just laid there, and I pleaded with God for his life.

I had five little boys at home at the time and it broke my heart to see this little kid.

His eyes suddenly opened, and he regained consciousness – he looked up at me with terror in his eyes – absolute terror. He’d never been in an aeroplane before. I just looked at him, smiled and said to him in a language that he didn’t understand, “I’m here to take you for healing and I’m here to pray for you through this.”

‘He died with his hand in mine’

I prayed for that kid and he just smiled. I saw the fear go out of his eyes and I saw him looking at me.

Peace came into his eyes – I saw the miracle of peace. We just flew along and I prayed so hard for that kid.

While I was holding his hand, I saw his little chest rising up and down. It slowly quietened down and he died with his hand in mine. He died with a smile on his face and peace in his eyes.

I remember crying out to God, “God, I pleaded with you to save this kid!” and I think God said, “I just did and I gave you the privilege of bringing him to me.”

I turned the plane around, cancelled the ambulance and flew back to where I had just been. I took his little body back so that he could be buried in the village where he came from.

‘I came back with the presence of God’

I flew home. I didn’t tell my five little boys that story but I put them to bed that night and told them how much I loved them.

I thanked God for how he had just impacted my life.

I flew out with a terrible grace – the most disgusting attitude – but I came back with the presence of God, which I’ve rarely felt in my life.

To think that I could be flying a blooming A380 (the world’s largest passenger airliner) all over the world or a Boeing 747, but what could compare with the kind of flying that MAF does?

To be involved with MAF is the work of eternity, the work of God’s kingdom and my privilege.’

Max Meyers in an MAF plane

Australian-born Max Meyers learnt to fly at sixteen. After seven years as a military pilot, he spent 37 years at MAF including seven years as CEO of MAF Australia and 13 as CEO of MAF US. Now an author and speaker, Max and his wife Jo live in Colorado Springs, US and Melboune, Australia.

Read more about the history of MAF PNG