New aircraft’s busy role serving Indigenous communities

The latest addition to MAF Arnhem Land’s fleet was quickly put to work in the program, making a big difference in the lives of Indigenous Australians in remote communities.

The Cessna 208 Caravan VH-MFD landed at Gove Airport after a five-hour journey from Cairns, which included a refuelling stop at Normanton before crossing the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

MAF Arnhem Land program director Matthew Henderson spoke to staff and families gathered in the hangar to welcome the new aircraft.

He said that although the plane was an impressive addition to the fleet, it was important to see it as a tool to do the work that is bringing help, hope and healing to this isolated part of Australia.

“We celebrate the arrival of this new aircraft and we know that it will be a great blessing to the people of Arnhem Land that we serve,” Matthew said.

“We are grateful to the supporters of MAF who helped fund the purchase of VH-MFD and for the skills of all the people that prepared the plane to enter service with us.

“The whole team in MAF Arnhem Land is delighted to have it here, but our focus is on the lives we can impact by putting this plane to work.”

The very next day, VH-MFD was pressed into service doing some of its most important work – helping Indigenous students get to class at the start of the new school year.

The flights connect students with education to give them a voice, empowerment and options when they leave school, but the travel also keeps them connected to culture and family by bringing them home at the end of each week of lessons.

The new plane adds greater capacity to the MAF Arnhem Land program. It will also work on shuttle services that provide essential links to remote communities and smaller homelands airstrips, helping to bring in health workers, community development workers, specialist services and low-cost transport for locals.

VH-MFD was added to the MAF family of aircraft after the generous support of MAF donors supported the purchase of the aircraft.

Our team of engineers at the hangar in Mareeba, Far North Queensland, did extensive work and modifications to get the plane ready for service, including repainting it in MAF colours.

It was ferried to Gove Airport from Far North Queensland by MAF pilots Tim Vallance-Webb and Joe Knighton, who then spent a couple of weeks flying MAF services in Arnhem Land.

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