In far northern Queensland is a town known for coffee, bananas and sunshine. It is here, in Mareeba, Australia – population 8,000 – that a large international team of MAF staff provide vital support to the many different programmes.
It is our major engineering facility in the area, serving MAF's two largest programmes in Arnhem Land and Papua New Guinea (PNG), in addition to smaller programmes in Timor-Leste and Bangladesh.
There are teams of engineers in every MAF programme enabling lifesaving flights through regular aircraft maintenance. However, Mareeba engineers also fly out regularly to our Asia-Pacific programmes to provide extra pairs of expert hands.
Aircraft Engineer Kevin Kraak travelled to Timor-Leste with a propeller and engine for one of their GA8 Airvans. The damage to both parts occurred on landing, when an unidentified object bounced up and made a big hole in the propeller.
With a demanding schedule of work in their own hangar, Maintenance and Training Centre Manager Jamie Milner and Ben Sibthorpe, our Chief Engineer, are responsible for prioritising the effective use of engineering staff.
It was clear that we never have enough engineers or pilots. I had the right skillset, but no training. So I asked if I could retrain as an engineer.'
Glenn Cousley, MAF trainee engineer
The Mareeba apprenticeship programme for prospective MAF engineers aims to ensure that there will be sufficient engineers on the hangar floor for many years to come. There is capacity to train two new apprentices in maintenance and avionics every year.
Trainees like Glenn Cousley spend two years of the four-year programme in Mareeba, with block release study at Aviation Australia in Cairns. They then gain two years' experience in PNG and Arnhem Land, equipping them with skills, confidence and an introduction to the wider MAF world.
Glenn began this process at the start of 2015, having spent the previous decade with MAF in training, office and management roles across Africa. He has now almost completed his first year as an apprentice.