Rare Passenger Flight During Covid-19

As Covid-19 makes its way around the globe, our lives are changing. Here in Wamena, our flight schedule was reduced to medical evacuations and cargo flights only. As the virus was approaching Papua, a befriended family (after quarantining for three weeks) planned to return to their village in the remote mountains. 

Once we received permission from the local government to fly in passengers, we picked up the family of six at 4:30 am. We were all wearing masks, keeping our distance and greeting with just a wave. We weighed their luggage, loaded the helicopter and at 6 am we were ready for takeoff towards the Wosak Pass (11,800 ft above sea level) which usually closes quickly in the morning, shrouded in clouds. 

Promptly at 6 am I asked by radio for permission to take off. After several attempts with no reply I got the following answer: “Just fly at your own risk.” I chuckled and took off. 

After a trouble-free flight, the family brought their things to their house by themselves to avoid contact with the locals during this Covid-19 stage. They were happy to be home but a bit nervous too as they knew that if anyone in the village got sick, there would be big problems.  

About 4 weeks later, I was asked to fly in some plywood for their friend’s house building project as well as lots of vegetables and medicine. We bought all their supplies in Wamena and I flew it in by sling load. This was my first sling load at such a high altitude, but everything went smoothly. The family were so thankful for the medicine as there was a baby with an infection they were trying to treat. They also reported that there was no sickness in the village after their return! 

Flights like these are so encouraging. They show how necessary these helicopters are for getting hope to people who have no hope. However, the helicopter is just a link in a very long chain. I am proud to work with such a great team, and I am happy to support those people willing to live in remote tribes, learn their language and bring help and hope. 

Matt, Pilot