The 9 day journey
At the end of August 2016 a brand new Cessna Caravan arrived safely in Mareeba, Queensland (the MAF International Asia Pacific engineering hub) having been flown all the way from Kansas, USA. This is the first new Caravan MAF International has purchased for over a decade. Ferry flight pilots, Dylan Fast and his wife Val flew the epic 9 day journey (crossing the international dateline) on our behalf, clocking up 48 flight hours, stopping in Colorado, California, Honolulu, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Cairns before arriving in Mareeba.
The landscapes that they crossed during their journey were dramatic in extremes, desert, mountains, ocean and lush tropical hills.
The airports were equally as distinctive too, from the Caravan being dwarfed by a DC-10 used as a water bomber at the Santa Maria Airport in California to long thin islands where the runway was basically the width of the whole island at the Amata Kabua International Airport on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
'The work and lives this aircraft will touch has just begun'
In order to make this journey, additional fuel tanks were needed, which were placed right behind the pilot and co-pilot seats increasing the maximum distance they could fly by an additional 1,600NM.
Their longest day of flying was from California to Honolulu, 14 hours and 20 mins, the whole time sitting in a small cock-pit over an endless ocean with no option to get up and move around. For these legs of the journey, the husband and wife team wore their dry suits and had their life raft close at hand in case of any emergency.
Dylan and Val have chronicled their journey with some amazing photographs of the scenery they flew over on their blog: www.mafdeliveryaustralia.wordpress.com.
Val writes 'Some of the things I love about these ferry flights is that I feel privileged to be a part of the delivery of aircraft that goes on to do such important work in the world – and in this case Papua New Guinea – but as well in bringing the aircraft to its destined place – the journey that it goes to get there – the people met and the places seen. The world is truly amazing and fascinating and every person we see or meet or fly over has a story … The work and lives this aircraft will touch has just begun.'
Preparing for duty in PNG
During it’s time in Mareeba, N71367 was re-registered as P2-MAH and had some modifications carried out to prepare it for service in Papua New Guinea, as well as some more MAF specific changes. Removal of the air-conditioning system and installations of a singlepoint refuelling system, baggage extension pod at the back of aircraft, aircraft tracking system and radar altimeter and a payload extender (enabling the aircraft to carry more weight), to name just a few.
It is the second Caravan that P2-MAH Task Co-ordinator and engineer, Mark Beckwith has been involved in modifying since his family moved to Mareeba from the MAF programme in Tanzania just over two years ago. He says ‘It is good to be part of getting the aircraft ready for the ongoing work that MAF is doing throughout the Asia Pacific region.’
A proper send off
By February 2017, it had been prepared for and received its Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA) from the PNG Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the seal of approval needed for it to serve the remote communities of Papua New Guinea and after some post CofA flight tests and pilot training, it was time for the Mareeba team to farewell the aircraft.
Early on the morning of March 6th 2017, all the Mareeba staff gathered out on the apron to dedicate P2-MAH before it departed for its new home in Papua New Guinea with MAF International Aviation Director William Nicol on the controls.
The new Caravan will have a huge impact when it begins flying in Papua New Guinea. Read about how another one of MAF's Cessna Caravan's made a very important medevac flight on Good Friday here