Mission Aviation Fellowship crew, plane makes stop at Gore Bay Manitoulin Airport

Members of the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) made a stop at the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport last week to fuel up their airplane. In photo, left to right, are members members of the MAF crew including Alex Henderson, Ray Snaith, Michelle Menard and Lowell Deering.

GORDON – Members of the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) made a stop on a trip around British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario to fuel up a brand-new Cessna 208EX Grand Caravan plane at the Gore Bay Manitoulin Airport on Thursday of last week.

“The Mission Aviation Fellowship has been around for over 80 years” Alex Henderson, vice-president development of MAF told The Expositor. He was on the flight along with Lowell Deering, MAF vice president of operations and pilot of the plane, Ray Snaith, second pilot and manager of recruiting, as well as Michelle Menard, event coordinator for MAF. “MAF is the largest private fleet aircraft in the world, having about 140 planes. We operate in 30 countries worldwide and have flown to more destinations than the two three airlines in the world (2,500).”

MAF, a Christian organization, was founded in 1945 by World War II pilots who had a vision for using aviation to spread the gospel. Since that time, MAF has grown to a global family of organizations serving in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Haiti Eurasia, Indonesia and Latin America, supporting the work of missionaries, evangelists, Bible translators, and responding to humanitarian needs around the world. MAF’s Canada headquarters is in Guelph.

“We fly partner groups like the Red Cross, and World Vision all over the world to communities needing their support,” said Mr. Henderson. “What we do is basically provide hope to people in the form of delivering provisions.” MAF is key to the success of HALO Trust, an organization dedicated to eliminating the estimated 10 million landmines left behind by Angola’s 27-year-old civil war.

“Today we are continuing our tour to introduce our brand-new plane to replace the oldest currently operating Caravan in MAF’s global fleet, another Grand Caravan,” said Mr. Henderson.

This new MAF airplane will serve isolated people in the African country of Angola. The airplane is currently being prepared for service, before it will be flown across the Atlantic Ocean sometime in early 2022.

The new airplane is nicknamed ‘Wings of Hope’ (WOH) because of its registration. WHO is the 18th Caravan built of more than 2,600 manufactured to date, and has served in Africa since 1989 including Angola for over 30 years. 

MAF Canada president and CEO Brad Bell said, “WHO provided faithful service in Angola for over 30 years and is leaving a legacy of hope. Imagine the legacy that this new aircraft is going to have. Its work will continue to make an impact for generations to come.” 

Purchased new, the Cessna Grand Caravan retails for roughly $3.6 million with all the equipment MAF needs to operate in remote areas. “This particular airplane really was a God-send,” said Mr. Bell. “It was built for another operator who was unable to take possession of it, so we were able to negotiate roughly $800,000 off the purchase price, which is unheard of for a plane with only 12 hours of flight time (at the time of purchase).” 

“The Cessna Caravan has been central to the work we’ve been able to do for 30 years in Angola,” said Mr. Bell. “There are no roads in or out many of the communities we work in, and the ones that do exist are often unusable during the rainy season. We’re able to provide our ministry partners in Angola with a safe and timely alternative to days of overland travel, and sometimes, the only access that exists at all.”

The new aircraft can carry up to 12 passengers, or a useful load of 1,400 kilograms. The plane will be used for medical evacuations, delivering doctors, healthcare workers and national pastors, as well as carrying vaccines and medical equipment to remote clinics when time is critical. In particular, MAF is instrumental in elevating the status of women in community, by providing flights for hundreds of fistula patients each year. 

“This new plane will be flown to Africa in January or February,” said Mr. Henderson. He explained the plane “can hold a medical team, and equipment and supplies like stretchers, plywood and other provisions. It is the truck of planes.”

As for the MAF crews stop at the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport last week, Mr. Henderson said, “this is the first time we have been on Manitoulin and this airport. It’s absolutely beautiful.”