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Overwhelming joy as aviation comes to Wetap

| MAF Nederland

MT HAGEN - When Wilfred and Richie got off the plane in Wetap, people immediately came running and hugged the two pilots.

"It was very interesting to open a runway where no one has ever been," Wilfred recounted.

“Suddenly you have to decide whether you fly the circuit right or left. What is better, what is safer?

“We arrived in the afternoon, the weather was good, the wind wasn’t too strong, the sky was clear, no clouds in the vicinity.

“The perfect conditions to fly different circuits and determine committal, the point from where you have to land and no longer be able to resume the landing by going around again.

“We need to pass a great deal of information to all pilots for future flights.

"The first landing always requires extra calculations and analysis.

"All the time you do risk analysis and try to determine what could go wrong and what your action is at certain moments.

“Each time you crawl a step closer, to the moment you commit to land... "

After a final low-level inspection, Wilfred successfully grounding the Cessna 208 Caravan - the first landing on the very short and steep runway of Wetap.

Its length of only 411 meters with an 11% incline makes it a Class D airstrip, the most difficult class for landing.

The tension and relief was not only with the pilots, however.

The people of Wetap didn't know what to do with their joy either.

"When we landed, it was almost as if they had become world football champions!” Richie recalled, chuckling.

“They came running to us and, as Wilfred tried to get the brake pads and tail support in the right place, they almost ran him over for joy.

“He was surrounded by about 20 people jumping up and down and a bunch of others dancing just away from the plane.”

Wilfred described the scene:

“Then they noticed Richie securing the aircraft and came running towards him, almost knocking him over.

“We spent some time with the people on the ground discussing runway maintenance and options for an HF radio.

“The residents were very grateful that we came. They had to work with their hands to get the strip operational.

“There are no machines or mechanical tools and it often takes many years to achieve a good result.

“That’s why they were so happy and relieved to see their work rewarded on this day.”

One of the community leaders, Shedric Bisapen, added, “The residents could only undertake this project with the power bestowed upon them by none other than their Maker.”

At Wetap, next to the usual huts, there were a few buildings with an iron roof.

For these, the people carried the roofing sheets on their shoulders from Oksapmin.

That is two days walking with an overnight stay en route.

According to Shedric, only the most energetic men are able to carry the cargo across the unforgiving terrain, the trek to Wetap taking about eight hours.

After years of hard work, opening the airstrip is an important event for the community.

Can you imagine what it must be like when a plane suddenly lands?

What must it feel like when people finally have a secure connection to the outside world?

Ambulance flights can now be called in the event of medical emergencies.

Food can be flown in when local products are not enough at times of drought.

Students can easily be flown to schools in Oksapmin and Telefomin to continue their education.

Church leaders and missionaries can come and speak about God's Word.

Papua New Guinea gives MAF its busiest schedule.

No fewer than 10 Cessna 208 Caravans are based here and last year 3,154 flights carried more than 20,000 over 841,000 kilometers.

In the past 70 years, more than 220 airstrips have been built, providing a gateway to help and the Gospel.

Every new runway a sign of hope.


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Lindsay F Bond

Not at every occasion, might it be remembered as, "the pleasure was all (of the visitor)", but today the recall among those surviving decades since, certainly is "the privilege was (of the visitor)".
So is shared the "present".

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