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The move to Nhulunbuy, the main base of MAF, took place because of the new role that René has taken on him. He is now Crew Training Manager. In short, this means he is now responsible for the training and the skill level of pilots to ensure it remains at a high level, or is being developed where necessary. Also, he is deputy Chief Pilot, which means he acts as Chief Pilot when this person is away.

Within aviation a close eye is kept on pilots with various check flights every year. René can now conduct these check flights, which means he spends a day flying along with a MAF pilot, observes how they do their job, and afterwards debriefs the pilot regarding his performance on the day. Compliments are handed out where earned and critique is given if certain aspects of the job can be improved, or have slipped (MAF pilots are ordinairy people serving God, just like you). The three years of experience René has had flying at Milingimbi help him to pick up what pilots do well and what they do less well.

 
The throttle-quadrant in the GA8 Airvan. Pilots have to show they use this appropriately and thoughtfully.

But the biggest chunk of work for René happens when new pilots arrive. In the past few weeks, six new pilots have arrived.
The introduction program in Arnhem Land takes 3-4 weeks, and at every phase input is expected from René. As a result he has flown 50 hours in the past month, but not once with the control yoke in his hand! He sits in the right hand seat, whilst the new pilots fly. René is resonsible for the flight (i.e. Pilot In Command), but the other pilot does the work. This sounds relaxing, but is funnily enough hard work.
There is a lot to learn for new pilots in a short amount of time. For most of them it is the first time they work with passengers, time pressure and other operational stressors. For that reason the learning curve is very steep. This also means a lot is expected from the trainer. René has to continuously watch over the shoulder to check that no mistakes are made. During the flight he needs to assess the risks and decide whether the new pilot is dealing well with them, and if needed he needs to invervene. The new pilots all have obtained their Commercial Pilots License, and the Standardisation Training of MAF. But when operational stress is added, we expect a lot of pilots, sometimes too much. The first candidate pilot that René got, had to be put on hold at a certain point, and eventually was sent home. Fortunately this is an exception and the other candidates can confidently be sent solo for MAF.

 
A situation that is easy for an experienced pilot, but for a new pilot this can be a challenge

 
An operationele stressor: can we go, or not?

This all with the goal of providing safe and efficient air transport for the Yolgnu people of Arnhem Land. We are thankful to God for the opportunities to be involved with MAF in this way.

Photo's: Balz Kubli

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