A day in my life

MAF pilot Irwin Hodder, stationed in PNG, shares what a typical day might look like for him in this beautiful and unpredictable country.

“It is a typical day. I get up at 6.00 am, get ready and go to the airfield. It’s only 300 metres and I often think while I walk. Telefomin is so beautiful, but the roads are rocky and I tend to look at rocks and puddles. I remind myself to look up. This is God’s creation and I am surrounded by His magnificence.

“I arrive at the airfield by 7.00am and meet our other pilot. We get the Twin Otter ready doing our external and internal checks, while the ground staff are checking in our passengers.

“Our first flight is 15 mins to Tabubil. It is where we do most of our flying. Many people fly between the two places because it takes two days to walk there. There is no road, just a track.

“We take off and fly ‘over the hill’, the Hindenburg Wall. It is an impressive limestone wall and magnificent to fly over. Then we descend into steamy Tabubil at an elevation of 1600 ft. We take ‘trade store goods’, the normal things that most of us take for granted, like food stuffs and building materials for community groups.

“After Tabubil we take off for the isolated village of Tumolbil at about 5,500 ft. It is tricky to fly into because of the mountain beside Tumolbil. We climb to 12,500ft, then drop down into Tumolbil. They have no cash crop and no road so usually buy trade store goods and a few building materials. This time we have passengers.

“We take other passengers from Tumolbil back to Tabubil, then head up to Vanimo on the north coast of PNG. It’s about an hour’s flight, which is long for us. Normally we are up and down every 15-20 minutes.

“On the ground at Vanimo around 3.00pm we do the passenger and cargo manifests as we have no Vanimo agent at present. With the paperwork done we take off after about an hour. Normally the weather builds up in the afternoon but there are no problems getting back to Telefomin.

“It is still clear but I call Telefomin to give them our ETA. They give us the weather and tell us about a medical report from the ‘Haus Sik’ (hospital). We are asked to drop into Gubil on the way back. As it happens, it is directly beneath us. We don’t have much spare fuel, but enough for an extra landing, so I start the descent.

“The people aren’t expecting us. They called the Telefomin Haus Sik and asked for a medevac for a woman who was in trouble with labour, but the Haus Sik said ‘Can’t do’. ‘There are no planes here.’

“So the woman is destined to die or get a miracle from God. I think it is a miracle that we are just overhead, and within minutes are circling down to land. It’s just a bush strip so when they hear the plane they go to get the woman. But it is after 5.00pm and getting late, so we are rushing. It gets dark here early, around 6.30pm.

“The woman and her carer are boarded and we get airborne. Normally we follow up the Sepik valley and over the gorge at the end into the Telefomin valley. But we meet a wall of heavy rain. We could divert to another strip, but I doubt the woman would survive the night.

“We head up the valley climbing steeply to get above some cloud blocking the way ahead. Rain is falling from higher cloud but finally we pop out into the clear. While still well before last light, the cloud and rain around Telefomin make it appear darker. My wife Gay, turns on the base lights which makes it easy to spot the airstrip and we land without a problem.

“Gay takes the woman to the Haus Sik. They are very experienced in midwifery, and the baby is delivered safely that night.

“Sometimes you think, ‘Where is God working?’ Then at times like this, you know there is no other explanation. Somebody would have been praying and He chose to intervene. He really is working.”

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