Story by Jill Vine.
With long-awaited relief, MAF in Uganda were given permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly passengers domestically after a six-month wait. The programme is required to meet health restrictions, and between each flight, the aircraft needs to be thoroughly cleaned before more passengers can board.
On the first flight since permission was granted, we flew Jesse Kamstra, Director of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to Pader, a town in Northern Uganda. The LWF oversees around 850,000 refugees and have faced ‘unprecedented challenges’ addressing new stipulations as part of the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 response team. LWF is a big player in the Non-governmental organisation (NGO) world in Uganda and their involvement with developing and helping run the settlements has been crucial. Jesse went to the northern part of Uganda to inspect four of LWF’s offices response preparedness.
Jesse mentioned “I’m very happy to be able to go with MAF as I’ve been having to go by road over the last six months since MAF stopped flying passengers back in March. We haven’t stopped working but so great to be able to fly again! I have been stuck due to the bad roads couple of times and the journey times have been very long. As soon as I knew MAF had been given permission to fly, I informed the rest of the country directors in the NGO community that flights are happening again.” The LWF fly with us regularly to save time. Their own partners come from higher levels of government, both foreign and Ugandan and other NGO partnerships, so saving time is extremely important.
MAF Uganda is getting ready for their schedule to fill up quite quickly because as Jesse has shared with us, the roads are in a very bad condition after heavy rains most of the year and impossible without a 4-Wheel Drive. Jesse added, “Where roads were good, they ran a risk of slipping off the top when it was wet as the mud became very slick.” Our first flight was also utilised as a training flight for pilot Lungpinglak Domtta along with his training captain, Martin Zimmerman. Operations also combined the flight to inspect the Adjumani and Moyo airstrips on the way home where the grass had grown to wing-tip height.
MAF Pilot, Gregory Vine shared what it’s been like for him over the last six months and how it felt flying again after he flew to collect Jesse Kamstra from Pader on Friday, “I’ve managed to do a limited amount of CAA permitted training flights more recently but it is an altogether different thing to do a flight that is having impact, helping our partners and putting our training to good use in getting a real job done. I have flown a small amount every other two to three weeks in the past two months.
Prior to that we were doing what we could in the simulator to stay current. We’ll soon have a better impression of how the last 6 months have impacted our beneficiaries while hundreds of our partners we normally fly haven’t been able to work or have struggled with the minimum amount of road travel that has been permitted. I can only imagine this has been a very difficult time for those who are used to accessing a whole range of support, services and ministries via our partners.”
It is with enormous gratitude that our pilots begin doing what they’ve been trained to do and once again are enabled to serve our partners who have also waited with anticipation for this moment to arrive.