Story by Katherine Williams
John Hermanus, a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer has served with MAF for over 30 years and is currently based at MAF's Engineering Facility in Mareeba, Australia. He was brought up in Western Borneo where he worked as an engineer in various locations. He then ended up working as a pilot in Arnhem Land, Australia and eventually trained to become a licensed engineer.
John also has first hand experience of MAF being a lifeline in remote communities. He explains - “Without MAF, I would have lost my mother 43 years ago when she suffered from pregnancy complications while delivering my sister. I would also have lost my brother 38 years ago, when he suffered from a ruptured colon after contracting severe typhoid. The doctor said that if he had not been admitted to the hospital that day, he would not have survived.
John’s biggest challenge was being taught engineering in English, which was a foreign language to him. John says - “When it got too difficult, I would just hand everything over to God.”
An MAF engineer typically has many responsibilities.
First, there is paperwork. John explains how every job includes paperwork. John likes to complete the full job and then do all the paperwork at the end. He estimates that 10% of his working life is taken up with paperwork. The aviation industry requires a lot of paperwork as we are required to maintain a clear, organised record of all maintenance carried out on our aircraft.
Engineers require extensive tool boxes that take years to build up and cost many thousands of dollars. John sees his toolbox as God’s and is more than happy to share with other engineers.
John helped carry out a major inspection of VH-MFQ, which is a MAF Flight Training Centre aircraft. MAF engineers in Mareeba carry out line maintenance or routine servicing for the Flight Training Centre's aircraft, as well as all their heavy maintenance. At the end of an inspection, the plane is put back together.
Mareeba engineers also work on special projects. One such project that John and other engineers in Mareeba worked on involved 6 new Cessna Caravan aircraft. They were then modified and all licensing paperwork completed in Mareeba, then flown to Papua New Guinea to serve the remote communities there.
VH-MTR is an aircraft that was originally used in Indonesia, then Australia. The aircraft has been completely stripped back to the metal, so that every component can be checked and repaired. Its wing also needed to be repaired. When repainted, it will be sent in a container to Suriname, replacing their last Cessna 206 with a GA8.
Mareeba engineers often travel to MAF programs to carry out maintenance of aircraft. John carried out a 200-hour inspection on an aircraft in Timor-Leste. During the time when John visited, there were many medical evacuations (five on his last day). John had the opportunity to co-pilot one of these flights where he flew the patient, a lady with pregnancy complications, to the main hospital in Dili.
The role of an MAF engineer is wide and varied. As well as carrying out line maintenance for the Flight Training Centre, aircraft from MAF programmes are flown here for more extensive heavy maintenance. The engineers also travel to the programs that have little or no engineering support.
Without engineers, MAF would not be able to get planes in the air. We are blessed to have talented engineers like John in Mareeba, playing such an integral role in the organisation.