KIWI Frank Carter’s solo mission to buy an aircraft for the work of the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in Papua New Guinea sets the heart aglow.
Such determination and dedication in one man, and 76 years old at that, is the stuff from which legends are born.
Mr Carter is trying to raise money to buy an Australian-built GA8 Airvan to donate to MAF.
He is doing so by riding a 1955 Scrambler motorcycle, the same one he used while serving in the Western Highlands in the late 1950s, from the North Island of New Zealand to the South.
At the weekend, he completed the trip and announced he had raised K54,000. While it is short of the K1 million that the aircraft costs, he is well on his way and it is hoped that many more kindly souls including individuals and corporate citizens in PNG will support the cause.
Mr Carter and his wife Ruth are a special and rare breed whose courage and efforts are immeasurable.
It is obvious that they love PNG. It is equally obvious that they appreciate the efforts of the MAF, which has served the outlying areas of PNG since the late 1940s and 1950s.
The couple’s mission, itself the epitome of selflessness and love and care, reveals to us the quiet dedication of a bigger group – the MAF.
In Papua New Guinea in the 1950s and even today, the airplane is the only connection to the outside world if you are stuck deep in the bush.
Missionaries rely on the airplane and its brave pilots to deliver mail, provisions, medicine and often take the sick and infirm out for treatment.
The pilots are a lifeline to the outside world and nobody appreciates them more than the individuals who are stuck in some difficult to reach place with only an airstrip.
They form a life-long bond with the pilots and it is certain the two Carters will have had friends among the MAF staff and pilots.
The MAF, incidentally, is based in the Western Highlands headquarters, Mt Hagen, where the Carters were based during their stay in PNG.
The MAF is a unique organisation whose history extends back to the years after World War II.
At the end of the war, Christian military airmen sought to combine their religious faith and their love of flying by using the airplane to reach out to people in isolated areas throughout the world.
Pilots in Australia, England and the United States formed the Missionary Aviation Fellowship and began ministering throughout Africa, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
The name has since been shortened to Mission Aviation Fellowship.
Its work is to provide support to relief and developmental organisations during natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, and families in the 1980s. It gradually began moving from single engine Cessna to bigger aircraft like the Twin Otter and Beech 99.
MAF is today a global ministry partnership, serving the aviation needs of more than 35 countries including PNG from head offices in Australia, Canada, Europe, South Africa and the United States.
It is said that an MAF pilot and plane takes off or lands somewhere in the world every three minutes.
The MAF’s work in PNG in particular and that of other third-level airlines in general will remain crucial in flying people and cargo to and from remote areas for at least a decade longer.
There is a lesson to be learnt from Mr Carter’s effort.
More efforts could be undertaken in country to acquire more aircraft for MAF if we had the capacity.
It would be ideal, for instance, if each provincial government were to acquire a Twin Otter Bandeirante and give them to the MAF with a certain allocation each financial year for running costs.
These aircraft would be used exclusively for the Government work in the province such as pay runs, medevac, transfer of public servants, moving agricultural produce from inaccessible areas and such like.
At least one provincial government is said to be considering the concept.
So long as road transport infrastructure is not available, the need for airplanes and their operators, particularly trustworthy ones like MAF, will continue for a long time.