Float planes to service Western Province

With the many vast and wide rivers running through Papua New Guinea’s Western Province, accessing vital services through road can be difficult. Taking this into consideration, Mission Aviation Fellowship is planning a float plane project.

A team surveyed potential landing sites for a plan to improve health care for isolated communities in PNG’s Western Province.

According to MAF, preparations are currently underway to bring a float plane to PNG to make health patrols into the wetland areas easier.

MAF PNG Interim Country Director, Doug Miles, said; “We’re making available a different platform to deliver in areas where we cannot get a land-based aircraft”.

The group that went on a multi-day survey trip recently to Western Province included MAF Asia Pacific Regional Director Samuel Okposin, MAF Float Plane Captain Chad Tilley, MAF Airstrip and Infrastructure Design Engineer Terry Fahey, and Sustainable Development Program’s Chief Operating Officer Satish Moka.

Numerous areas were visited in the province, including Lake Murray, the Fly River, several supporting lagoons and more to investigate possible landing sites.

“If this concept succeeds, the intention is to eventually base the amphib (float plane) at Lake Murray (Boboa). The lake is favourable for float operations to start”, said COO Moka.

MAF advised that there are six villages to be considered as start locations on Lake Murray, Lake Hoover, and Khanada Lake. As the team gains more operational experience, MAF plans to increase the number of landing sites on lakes and lagoons. River landing sites may also be introduced after a period.

Docking infrastructure is required for every site and will vary in size depending on location.

MAF Airstrip and Infrastructure Design Engineer Terry Fahey emphasized that; “Docks are used to allow for the mooring of the aircraft and to provide a stable loading and unloading platform for passengers and cargo”.

After float planes arrive, health workers will now be able to access the wetlands without land-based airstrips, and those strips that experience seasonally poor conditions.

“There is a shortage of health workers and we want to optimize their services. If you’re able to just drop them right next door (to the village) instead of a two-hour boat ride, we can increase the (health worker) availability to 3 or 3.5 days,” said Satish.

While MAF’s Balimo base currently serves about fifty airstrips across Western Province, there are further opportunities to reach even more isolated communities, particularly during the wet season. Adding a float plane to MAF’s fleet will allow MAF to better support those living isolated along the lakes, rivers, and lagoons of Western Province.    

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