Koen and Anne-Laure Verdonck are blessed to serve as part of the aviation team in PNG, to see His church being established and growing to maturity for His glory.
Due to the pandemic, flying was reduced to only a couple of days a week, but it stayed quite busy. Lots of energy, meetings and preparation went into each flight. Now that time has passed and they face different challenges.
With other missions like SIL and MAF still limited in their flying capacity, they are challenged with balancing the flight requests with their capacity. They are currently operating with limited staff; only three pilots (one helicopter and two fixed wing) and two expert mechanics, beside their citizen staff. At the same time with international travel challenges, critical personnel are not able to return as planned.
In order to stay within legal duty hours and a manageable maintenance load, they will need to reduce their maximum flight hours during August and into September. They will need to reduce their commercial flight commitment to only already planned flights for missionaries. Secondly, they will reduce commitments to other missions in order to give priority to NTM missionaries. This means that it is important that flights are planned and booked as soon as possible, allowing them to manage the flight schedule and commitments well. They cannot cancel committed flights because of non-emergency late planned flight requests.
They have one of the SIL/Wycliffe helicopters on loan. Currently SIL has no helicopter pilots in the country. That means that they do not have a backup except for commercial options. Having SIL’s helicopter does allow NTM to manage helicopter maintenance needs without affecting the flight programme. It helps SIL offset costs so is beneficial to both organisations.
Ethnos360 Aviation has ordered the first new R66 helicopter for PNG. The Lord is still moving His people to provide the funding. The machine will be ready for delivery in September of this year. This helicopter will be equipped with removable floats for added safety when flying over open water. Once the aircraft is ready for operations it will be in Arizona for a time for NTM-PNG pilot training, before shipping. In the meantime, staff in PNG are preparing to receive the helicopter as manuals, operating procedures, etc., need to be written.
Early next year certifications needs to be renewed. Manuals and operating procedures will need to be reviewed, making sure that all legal requirements are met. Sometime toward the end of this year, they will have a CASA audit in order to obtain the new certification. At the same time, they are also developing a new pilot training curriculum.
Three pilots and one maintenance specialist plan to join the team soon. However, with the international travel regulations they are not sure when they will arrive in PNG. All in-bound or out-bound flights into PNG are now on hold until October.
Interesting days ahead, but God knows and has all things in His hands.