THE BUSIEST AIRLINE IN THE WORLD!
A registered charity with its Head Office in Folkestone operating on a global scale was the subject of a talk by Michael Hawthorne of the Mission Aviation Fellowship to Dover Rotarians at lunch recently.
Michael Hawthorne indicated that MAF was a Christian organisation having its origins in 1948 when three former RAF officers embarked on an initial flight from the then Croydon Airport to Nairobi, Kenya, taking 27 days to arrive. From this initial flight the first operation to a developing country took place in 1950 to Sudan. At the present time the charity is active in 38 countries and acts as a combined scheduled and charter airline as well as an air taxi. It serves 1500 missionary and relief organisations and its workhorse plane is the Cessna 208 which has the ability of being a float plane as well as wheel landings.
Mr Hawthorne said that MAF has 3000 destinations, more than any other airline, and every 3 minutes an MAF plane lands somewhere in the world. The organisation is an enabling mission supporting crucial work by development agencies and such organisations as Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without frontiers).
Experienced pilots have to land in some very difficult terrain with a landing strip in Madagascar proving particularly challenging as it was located on a high piece of land which falls away on all sides is a mud landing strip of short length and to add to the interest is subject to severe crosswinds. The benefit of the air ministry is its ability to help transform the lives of some of the world’s most isolated people who live in the least accessible of locations.
The charity operates purely on donations and costs approximately £20m a year. One tenth of its income is from legacies and currently just one of the founders of MAF, Stuart King, is alive, living in Folkestone and in his nineties. His story of MAF is published in a book entitled “Hope has Wings”.