Mozambique (MNN) — Mission Aviation Fellowship recently dedicated a new plane to the Lord. MAF Quality Manager Warren Veal missed the dedication of the organization’s newest Cessna Caravan, but he took part in preparations for its first voyage–a flight that would take it halfway around the world to Mozambique, South Africa.
The Cessna Caravan turbine aircraft can carry more, faster than its older brethren and is designed to work well in the rugged terrain of Mozambique–an area where Veal once served. The turbine-powered craft uses jet fuel rather than aviation gasoline which is often expensive and hard to obtain in remote locations.
MAF’s fleet contains many of the Caravan aircraft, but this one will be special to those in Mozambique who rely on MAF to get safely around the country.
The capital of Mozambique is in the south, and the plane is stationed at the MAF post in the north–Nampula. It’s a large city with close to 500,000 people, but the infrastructure isn’t so good, Veal says.
What is important about a Caravan is that it can deliver medically-fragile people to and from the hospitals for care in a country where Veal says most estimates are a ratio of one doctor per 30,000 residents. That means health care is a luxury in the city and a fantasy for those in rural areas.
But MAF works with missionary doctors and Mozambique businesses to deliver health care options to those in outlying areas.
In the decade and a half civil war in Mozambique MAF pilots flew aid workers, doctors, and those carrying the Gospel over the fighting to get to those hardest hit by the strife.
One MAF flight became a target during the war that ended in 1992. It was shot by someone on the ground, injuring a passenger. The bullet went through a door and lodged in a passenger’s hand, Veal says. The passenger’s injury was treated, and the plane was fixed. In fact, it still flies today and will be one of the few remaining piston-engine planes flown by MAF in Mozambique, and the only one that has had to have bullet hole repairs.
While flights don’t always go as planned, Veal said the central third of Mozambique is roamed by a remnant group still trying to destabilize the country’s government. Flying is far safer.
“Road travel in the middle section of the country is quite dangerous,” says Veal. “The plane enables the missionaries, church groups, relief and development workers to fly over the dangerous conflict areas where they might be ambushed on the roads.”
The aircraft is being ferried to Mozambique from it’s fitting at MAF in Idaho. It is more economical to fly it than it would be to ship it, Veal explains.
“The reason for flying it over is that it is cheaper and also safer,” he explains. “[When] shipping an airplane, you often have to disassemble it quite completely, and it can get damaged in shipping easily, whereas flying it, as long as everything is running well and it is in good shape, it’s actually safer than trying to ship it. It’s less damaging to the aircraft.”
The pilot who is taking the plane to its base of operation, along with his wife, are blogging about the experience and sharing the route of travel here.