‘Wings of Love’ – a new Cessna Grand Caravan – arrived in Lubango, Angola today, replacing MAF’s oldest serving caravan in its global fleet. The 37-year-old Cessna Caravan ‘Wings of Hope’ – which once flew HALO’s demining team in Angola to work with Prince Harry – is retiring after 17,000 flights…
Wings of Hope (WOH) – built in 1985 – has flown in Angola since MAF first established its operations there in 1989.
For more than three decades, WOH has faithfully supported Angola’s remote communities, transported medical staff and partnered with demining organisations across the country. But as WOH aged, the increasing cost of maintenance meant a replacement aircraft was inevitable.
On 9 February, WOH’s replacement – the new donor-funded Wings of Love (WOL) – left Kansas, US, after it was outfitted with additional fuel tanks needed to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
The ferry flight – piloted by Dylan Fast – took seven days to fly nearly 9,000 miles via seven destinations:
Winnipeg, southern Canada
Quebec City, southeast Canada
Newfoundland Island, off east coast of Canada
The Azores, Portugal
The Canary Islands, Spain
Diass, Senegal, West Africa
Lome, Togo, West Africa
Final destination – Lubango, southwest Angola
Watch WOL finally land in Angola on Wednesday 23 February. What a welcome!
Given the long journey, increasing fuel capacity was essential as MAF Canada’s Vice President of Operations, Lowell Deering, explains:
‘Three aluminium tanks are installed in the cabin to carry an extra 2,040 litres of fuel. Combined with the 1,250 litres already in the fuel tanks, that gives a total of almost 3,300 litres, which will give the pilot up to 17 hours of flight time.’
An inflatable life raft is also legally required to be on board all transatlantic flights.
‘If Wings of Hope could talk!’
As we say goodbye to WOH, MAF Canada’s CEO Brad Bell, summarises her incredible history:
‘If WOH could talk, she would tell many stories of flying through war zones to rescue people, of being shot at, at performing countless medevacs that have saved lives.
‘Flying bomb technicians who’ve removed thousands of landmines preventing severe injuries and saving many lives, transporting medics to remote areas to perform lifesaving operations, and bringing medical supplies and food in times of dire need and famine.
‘WOH would describe gripping tales of 30 years of incredible service, so it’s our hope and prayer that WOL will have a similar legacy, bringing help, hope and healing for decades to come for the people of Angola.’
Brad Bell, CEO MAF Canada
Here’s a snapshot of how WOH has been serving the people of Angola
Supporting demining across Angola
WOH – the single-engine, ten-seater turbine plane – has worked with the HALO Trust since 1994. The demining charity has been locating and removing landmines following Angola’s 27-year civil war, which started in 1975.
Although the conflict finally ended in 2002, hidden landmines continue to detonate and devastate vulnerable communities two decades later.
WOH exclusively transported HALO staff to demine various locations and was on-call 24 hours in the event of an emergency medevac from a minefield. WOH allowed HALO to keep working, knowing that MAF would always be there should the need ever arise.
On 27 September 2019, WOH flew HALO staff to Dirico near the Namibian border to work with the Duke of Sussex who detonated an active landmine in honour of his mother – continuing Princess Diana’s legacy.
MAF pilot Brad Fretz – who served in Angola with WOH between 1990 and 1997 – sadly recalls the time he medevacked casualties from a community blighted by landmines:
‘I remember folding the seats of WOH down to carry in medicine and supplies, then folding them back up again to carry out a lot of landmine victims – women and kids sadly as they were the ones who worked on the farms and were stepping on the landmines.
‘Angola is a gorgeous country, but it has suffered for many years. There are still thousands of landmines there. If a landmine is buried in a road that’s 10km long and somebody steps on it, that whole road becomes a landmine. Until you clear the complete road, you won’t know where those pieces are.’
Brad praises the work of WOH and looks forward to her replacement:
‘The distances in Angola are huge and rebuilding the infrastructure there is slow, but to have a plane like WOH that can do almost everything is so important. I am so grateful that we are sending WOL – a great tool that can help Angola.’
Millions of pieces of unexploded ordnance are reportedly still buried across Angola today.
WOL will follow WOH, continuing to support HALO’s vital work.
Wings of Hope’s legacy will live on
The acquisition of MAF’s newest aircraft is only possible thanks to the generosity of MAF’s faithful supporters, says Brad Bell:
‘Wings of Love will continue the legacy of using a Caravan to serve the people of Angola. Because of its capacity, new advanced avionics and navigation system, we will be able to maximise our impact and mission while operating safely.
‘The newest aircraft will replace MAF’s oldest – funded by generous donations from MAF supporters in Canada. We want to thank everyone for their unprecedented support to help us keep MAF flying in Angola for years to come.’
WOL – a Grand Caravan seating up to 14 passengers – is bigger than WOH and can carry an extra 400kg of cargo.
With a top speed of 350km per hour, WOL will be able to shave 30 minutes off longer flights compared to before. She also has the power to take-off more quickly.
Due to her more advanced capabilities and capacity, WOL will reach even more remote people in need of medical care.
The transportation of the coronavirus vaccine, which requires cold storage, is now also possible with WOL. This was not achievable with WOH.
God willing, the more efficient Wings of Love will continue Wings of Hope’s legacy for a very long time.