It is no great suprise that MAF pilots primarily spend their times flying planes. Perhaps what is not so well known is all the other things that they also have to do. Here are nine of them:
- Flight preparations - check the route, requirements, etc
- Plane checks - is the plane fit for flight?
- Weather watching - Dodging storms. Is that muddy airstrip safe to land on?
- Washing planes - which also keeps them in good condition
- Loading and unloading - wheelchairs, food, building materials, Bibles... you name it!
- Refuelling - to ensure there is sufficient juice for the journey and task at hand
- Passenger check-ins - not every African village has a Heathrow terminal...
- Writing up manifest - Reporting, monitoring, learning and legalities.
- Flight attendant - making sure passengers are comfortable and safe.
MAF pilots face many other decisions too. For example what would you do when 9 people turn up for a flight when only 5 people can fit? Or if there is a medical emergency request enroute, can you accommodate it?
Let's step into MAF Pilot Matt Alcorm's shoes.
It’s an extremely hot day in Arnhem Land in northern Australia and the temperatures are around 30°C with the humidity around 90%.
Pilot Matt has arrived at Gove Airport for a passenger and freight pick up. A pile of food and general goods to be flown to Galiwinku (Elcho Island) is stacked up in the operations terminal.
Matt weighs up his two passengers with their luggage. He then makes a calculation on how much fuel will be needed for the trip to Galiwinku, thus allowing him to know how much weight capacity there is for the huge pile of freight that needs to go.
Just 150kg is available to take the nearly 300kg of what is waiting! Decisions need to be made, so Matt proceeds to weigh and calculate what he can carry. The remaining freight is left behind for the next pilot to process as best he can.
Matt loads the freight and passenger luggage onto the freight trolley and wheels it over to his waiting plane. He loads the bottom aircraft pods and the rear luggage compartment.
Challenges soon present themselves! Some boxes are too big to fit into the bottom pods and rear compartments so, using proper tie down procedures, Matt fastens the extra-large box to one of the spare seats.
With the sun beating down, his shirt quickly becomes wet with sweat and by the end of loading Matt is uncomfortable and exhausted. But Matt’s job must go on!
After refuelling the plane Matt returns to the terminal and uses a spare minute to gulp down a cold drink and get something to eat before loading the passengers onto the MAF GA8 Airvan.
After a passenger brief and radio contact with Flight Watch he is finally on his way to Galiwinku.
Upon arrival, the passengers disembark and Matt begins to unload the baggage and freight. Now the next flight is ready to begin…
MAF pilots do a tremendous job and it is not till one sees the whole process in action that one can truly appreciate how valuable each pilot is to MAF.