I became a pilot for MAF about two months ago. During my first solo flight, I was so nervous. My hands were shaking. My heart was thumping in my chest. “Here we go,” I thought, and pulled back on the control stick. I knew immediately something was wrong. My aircraft pitched to the side, toppling over, propeller blades slicing into the dirt.
Of course, I should mention that I was flying a remote-controlled quadcopter, not an MAF plane. And “pilot” is really stretching it—I’m a videographer with a tiny camera attached to a plastic helicopter. I took it up for the first time in our backyard, and that first tip-over was probably the gentlest aircraft crash in the history of flight.
Still, after two months of otherwise accident-free flying, I get nervous before every takeoff. I have a recurring dream where I’m flying over a lake and the quadcopter descends on its own. I try and try, but I can’t get it to stay in the air. It dips below the surface of the water, and slowly sinks to the bottom.
If I feel like this, I can’t imagine what actual MAF pilots flying actual MAF planes must go through. And yet, on flight after flight—with rough airstrips, bad weather, even the occasional pig running out onto the runway—I see those pilots in complete control.
I feel so lucky to get to sit next to those pilots and see them in action. A lot of the airstrips we fly into are, frankly, terrifying. But I have total faith and trust in their training, experience, and safety record. I know that each and every one of those pilots also has faith and trust, beginning each flight with a prayer to the ultimate Pilot.
A lot of people have asked if I’m interested in getting my pilot’s license after serving with MAF. I can now answer that question with a resounding “no way.”
I’ll stick to making movies with my little quadcopter.
Mark Hewes is a Field Resource Coordinator for MAF. He and his wife Kelly are currently serving in Papua, Indonesia. You can see footage from the quadcopter in their latest video: