The day begins with 5Y-ESU departing South Sudan’s capital Juba and climbing into the skies above the River Nile. Over the following hours, the aircraft will serve locations along the country’s southwest borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Story and photos by LuAnne Cadd
This region, Equatoria, was once one of the most prosperous and peaceful of the world’s newest nation, but in recent months the ethnic conflict which has destabilised so many other areas has arrived. As a result, aid agencies are exercising much greater caution and avoiding overland travel on local roads which involve the threat of bandits and multiple checkpoints manned by armed militia. This has caused demand for MAF flights to destinations in Equatoria to soar, and the team in South Sudan have responded by scheduling four services a week.
'Aid agencies are avoiding overland travel on local roads causing demand for MAF flights to Equatoria to soar!'
Piloted by Sam Johnston, this particular flight is calling at stops in West Equatoria. As a shuttle service, aid and mission organisations greatly benefit from the opportunity to buy only the seats they need on board, rather than charter the entire aircraft.
The schedule for the day will transport 21 passengers, representing 11 different humanitarian and Christian organisations, and make calls at four separate locations. The activities these workers are involved in are incredibly diverse and include medical training, agricultural improvement, local church ministry and more.
Aphrodisius, a 29 year-old priest serving with Don Bosco, is in a particular hurry; he has an infected foot and is flying on the shuttle for the flight leg back to Juba, where he will board a commercial service to Kenya to undergo the urgent medical treatment he needs.
'Equatoria, was once one of the most prosperous and peaceful regions of South Sudan but in recent months the ethnic conflict has arrived'.
The stop at Mundri is typical of what happens during an MAF shuttle service. Several people who have been on board since the departure from Juba disembark and step on to the dirt airstrip, while others heading elsewhere remain on board.
Sam unloads any bags from the cargo pods beneath the aircraft which belong to those who are leaving. He then works with Simon Elniah, an airport official at Mundri, to check and complete paperwork regarding the flight. With new passengers joining the service, Sam commits the journey to God in prayer before taking off for the skies again.
Similar scenes take place at the other stops along the route and before long, 5Y-ESU is heading back to Juba. With the sun’s changed position, the shadows have moved and leave different parts of the city’s landscape exposed to the sunlight breaking through the clouds. Sam safely guides the aircraft to the ground, and the final passengers disembark – ending 5Y-ESU’s work for another day - until next time.