Managing resources and supplies is an essential part of MAF operations overseas. When a problem strikes we don’t always have the replacement parts to fix things immediately, often we need to wait for a shipment from Australia or an engineer to bring a much-needed item.
On the 1st of February, the staff at MAF Timor-Leste had a busy day. Chief Pilot, Marcus Grey was visiting from Australia. Windier than normal weather was making flying difficult, particularly into the island of Atauro, where several groups of people were trying to return to Dili. The weather was making both sea and air travel impossible.
Jason Job, Country Director and pilot, returned home, to a home with no power, because of a freakishly windy storm that had just crossed the city of Dili. They were hot, bothered and tired after such a long day. Then the phone rang... the airport security staff were asking Jason to go to the airport to fix the cover on the hangar which had been damaged in the storm. Aldo, our Timorese staff member also called retelling the same story, also adding that his own house had been severely damaged in the storm as well. The cover of the hangar was old and was starting to deteriorate. After all it had served the MAF aircraft well, protecting the hangar for the past nine years.
When Jason and Marcus got to the airport they could see the damage the storm had caused. Pieces of tarp flapped around in the wind. Holes were evident. And darkness was fast approaching. Thankfully the planes seemed to have escaped any major damage! The men assessed the damage and, satisfied that no further damage was going to occur, headed home via Aldo’s house. They were able to supply him with tarps to secure his house from further rain and wind damage and then they returned home even more hot, bothered and tired, to a home with still no power and an overcooked dinner.
January through to March is the most windy time of the year in Timor-Leste and this week was no exception. The wind velocity ranged from 10-14 knots and when you have a badly torn canvas the size of a hangar wildly flapping in the wind, there was nothing to do but to let it flap for the next two or three days. It was just too risky to try to remove it immediately.
Removing the remaining pieces of tarp from the hangar structure took time in between charter flights and medevac requests. But finally, the structure was clear and ready for the new cover to be put on. But how exactly do you cover a structure that is eight and a half metres tall and approximately, 21 metres wide and 16 metres deep? With a crane, lots of manpower and the “air stairs” - the moveable staircases used at an airport to meet the bigger jet aircraft that visit. Thankfully the boss of the company who supplies these stairs for the large jets had told his staff to help MAF whenever we need it. We were really thankful for their hard work and many hours they spent in helping secure the canvas to the steel structure.
It was not a simple task, and one that took the greater part of two days to complete, but the new cover is now on, secure and is once again protecting our aircraft from the elements outside. And the pilots in Timor-Leste are very thankful. “The new canvas again gives us the ability to resume normal operations without have to worry about the weather” was the observation made by one pilot. Another remarked that, “Passengers can again wait in the shade until it is time for them to board the plane. It is a great thing for customer service. Medevac patients can also be off loaded in the shade and out of the rain.”