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Back to School to Talk About Airstrip Safety

Story by Jenny Davies

On 26 July, it was back to school for two of our MAF South Sudan staff!

Operations Manager John Feil and Flight Follower Grace Toby went to Torit to teach runway safety to kids from Airport View School. The students, currently on holiday, attended the school for a special lesson led by members of the MAF Flight Operations Team.

MAF flies to Torit, in Eastern Equatoria Every Monday and Friday as part of our eastern shuttle route. The service is one of MAF South Sudan’s busiest routes used by many people who serve in that area.

‘We’ve had a lot of issued in Torit with kids running across the runway and playing on the runway when our aircraft are coming into land.’ John explains. ‘I was a teacher for twenty years before coming to MAF, so when our Safety Manager Alistair, mentioned the safety concerns. I said I’d be quite happy to go and talk to the kids at the school.’

‘We had 300 kids assembled under a tree. They listened as my colleague Grace, and I presented a bit about MAF. She shared her background as a pilot and how she got to where she is working with MAF. Grace is from Torit, and it was good for the kids to hear from her.’ ‘Torit is my hometown and a busy airstrip with a lot of planes landing and taking off,’ Grace explains. ‘The school is close to the airstrip, so we taught the kids about airstrip safety and the dangers of playing on the runway. They cross the runway on the way to school and when they’re going back home, so it’s an important lesson for them.’

The message is simple John explains. ‘We taught them to “Stop, Look and Listen.” First you stop, look to see if you can see an aircraft coming, at the same time you listen out for the sounds of an aircraft which may still on the approach. Only if it’s safe do you proceed. ‘To check they had got the message we played the game True or False,’ John continues. ‘I said something, and they had to respond to say if they were true or false by putting their hands on their heads if it was true or putting their hands behind their backs if it was false. They seemed to enjoy that, and we could see that they had understood the teaching well.

‘It’s been a long time since I’ve done a school assembly,’ John reflects - ‘And this wasn’t like any assembly that I’ve done before!’ laughs John. We’ll see if it’s made any different on Friday when we go back to Torit on Friday.’ ‘We had a lot of fun,’ both John and Grace agree. For Grace whose job is manning the radio and keeping track of the MAF planes on a computer screen from the flight following office, it was great to get out of the office. ‘The flight was very good, and it was nice to be in the air again. I trained as a pilot, and it even made me think of going back to flying again!’ she reflects.



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