Photos by Mandy Glass.
If you ever get the chance to meet Reji, you wouldn’t know which box to place him in. He says he can survive anywhere, on anything, and he literally does. His meals often consist of plain rice with salt and pepper. He is possibly the epitome of a no-fuss guy.
Reji Yosuvaraj has been serving with MAF as a Flight Scheduler and Logistics Officer in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for the last year. It isn’t easy having to coordinate flights when there are so many factors that need to be taken into account like aircraft hours, pilot duty hours, pilot authorizations, airstrip limitations, cargo capacity, weather, efficiency, feasibility of the flight, etc.
Anyone observing Reji will always tell you that he’s a hard-working, thoughtful and helpful guy. But Reji, being Reji, often plays himself down.
On a recent conversation with him about his job and what he does, he talked of an upcoming flight scheduled for the next day that had some complications. An important visitor was coming for a special event in Lae, a big city in Papua New Guinea. The request to fly with MAF came in 2 months earlier, and the flight was scheduled, the charter quote was signed, the flight had been paid for, and the pilot was rostered.
After being personally briefed by the MAF PNG Country Director about how important this function was, and how excited everyone was for this visitor to come, Reji decided to double check to make sure everything was good to go. The plane that was scheduled for the flight was a small aircraft - a Mahindra GA8 Airvan (an 8-seater). Everything looked good. However, when he called the event coordinator, he learned that there was a problem with the weight limit of the aircraft. With four passengers needing to get on the flight, they would need 400 kg, whereas the maximum payload capacity of the GA8 for this particular flight would only allow 350 kg. These weight restrictions would make it impossible for the flight to take-off with all passengers as planned. This happened two days before the scheduled flight.
Looking at available aircraft and how best to swap them around so this flight could go on as planned, Reji decided to swap two planes around. The GA8 Airvan out of Goroka was scheduled to do this flight would take on the schedule of the C208 Caravan at the Mt. Hagen base. The C208 Caravan would then be free to fly the important visitors to Lae for the big event, wait there for 5 hours and then bring the passengers back to Mt. Hagen. Reji realised that those 5 hours of waiting in Lae could be used to fly to and out of the MAF base at Madang. The aircraft that was supposed to orginally fly to Madang had a scheduled maintenance check. Once Reji had the plan, he had to let the people involved know.
After all the planning, on the day of the flight, halfway through the schedule, an urgent medical evacuation request came in from Andakombe, a remote community in the Eastern Highlands Province of PNG. So, the GA8 Airvan was rescheduled to do the medevac. “Even though the day didn’t go as planned, and lots of apologies had to be said to passengers for cancelled flights, at the end of the day, a life was saved, and our partners were supported in the ministry of God,” says Reji.
In his usual manner, Reji adds, “So it’s not a big amount of work… just a little bit of coordination…‘would you do that’, ‘would you do this’… just regular things. It is what it is. I enjoy a little bit of a challenge…like today, we had two passengers who did not turn up for a flight. We couldn’t contact them over the phone either, so we cancelled their tickets. They showed up over an hour later, demanding for their flight, intoxicated. When I tried to explain what had happened, they got upset and tried to attack me, but thankfully I was behind a counter and security mesh! So yeah, it’s fun!”