At the beginning of August 2018, we had the privilege of congratulating two more pilots on the completion of their flight training in Mareeba; the programme run in partnership between Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and Aviation Australia. Joël Rominger and Ueli Müller finished the Instrument Rating element, the final section of their programmes, which saw Joël start training in Mareeba with just a European Private Pilots Licence and Ueli needing to do a CPL conversion.
As both students had some previous flying experience, the instructor team at the training centre were able to tailor their training programmes to each individuals requirements. While their training schedules were slightly different, both Joël and Ueli share some similarities. Both are from Switzerland and moved to Mareeba with their wives in order to complete their training and both of them dream of using their pilot skills to one day fly with MAF somewhere in the Africa region. We shall watch this space to follow their journey from here.
Having wanted to become a pilot from a young age, Ueli’s dreams were crushed by a teacher at school who said there was no way it would be possible. Instead he took a path into engineering and later into mission work in Kenya for a small mission organisation who just happened to have a Cessna 182 aircraft. It was in Nairobi while based there, that Ueli started to work torwards his dream and gained his PPL licence. On his return to Europe, after 8 years in Kenya, Ueli didn’t think he would be able to use the licence and so gave up flying until 2014 when he and his wife decided that he should pursue his training once again, completing his CPL in Switzerland. Arriving in Mareeba in February 2018, he then began his conversion training at the MAF training centre. Having gained the different pilots licences in different flight schools, on different continents, Ueli commented that he was very influenced by the training team in Mareeba, “there was a huge difference to study with instructors who have a calling to do what they are doing, rather than someone who just does it for the money”. One surprising element of the training for him was flying IFR in uncontrolled airspace, this was something he had never heard of doing before and something coming from Europe that he would never have considered possible. From his experiences in Mareeba Ueli would definitely recommend the MAF Training Centre to others saying that there was so much support and encouragement, it was difficult to put into words, “there was so much caring for each other and support from the day we arrived … and the spirit of everyone wanting you to succeed as well and working with you to achieve that”.
Joël completed his training programme in Mareeba almost exactly a year after it began. Having had the opportunity to fly in a flight simulator as a teenager and go on a short mission trip to the MAF programme in Madagascar a decade ago, he knew he wanted to implement his skills as a meterologist in safely flying for people in need. Reflecting on his training, Joël will especially remember the opportunity to participate in a safari to the MAF programme in Arnhem Land and experience what life really looks like for a MAF pilot. Another highlight for him was flying for the first time into cloud on instruments and completing his first ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach into Cairns. Having initially started his flight training in Switzerland, Joël really appreciated being taught by such experienced instructors in Mareeba, not ones who had just finished flight training themselves as with his previous instructors, commenting that this was one of the outstanding features of the MAF training centre in Mareeba. The welcome Joël received along with his wife was also memorable, being treated like family from the beginning by staff and student families alike also made a real difference to his training experience.
Both Ueli and Joël are now completing their MAF Standardisation training before being allocated their first assignment to fly in one of the many MAF programmes across the world, using their skills as pilots to serve remote and isolated communities.