(Written by and photographs taken by Katherine Williams)

Everywhere I looked were clouds, amazing shapes, colours, just incredible clouds. I had no idea that clouds could be this way and I loved the fact that I was in a small airplane looking at them, feeling every slight bump in the air, on my way to Cairns with one of Arnhem Lands Senior Pilots Tim Valance-Webb (pictured below). Tim was a Corporate Commercial Solicitor before he joined MAF in 2011 and re-trained to become a Pilot. Today he was practicing for his Instrument Rating Test in VH-WMC. This aircraft is incredibly versatile as it is a 172 that can be used to train new student pi-lots , but it is also extremely well equipped which means that experienced pilots can use it to upskill, as Tim has done today.

Tim Vallance-Webb

David Chandler (pictured at end of story) is a mission pilot training for his Commercial Pilots license. He has been using VH-WMC for a few reasons:
* VH-WMC has an Aspen glass cockpit display, so whilst other aeroplanes have a basic analogue display, this aircraft allows the students to transition to a newer digital dis-play. This is the type of display that they will be using when flying in programme for MAF.

*VH-WMC has an Autopilot. This enables the students to ensure they are able to handle emergencies with the Autopilot. This is extremely important training for them.

*David is also able to build hours in this aeroplane using it to fly solo as it is a nice comfortable aircraft to fly in.

*In addition, this aircraft is chosen wherever possible for the students to carry out their Night Visual Flight Rules (Night-VFR) training in. Again, it is particularly good for night flying due to its glass cockpit and the fact that it has a more powerful engine which makes it a more safe aircraft to fly in. This is a very capable aircraft.


In Arnhem Land, where Tim will be flying, the pilots fly by Visual Flight Rules (VFR) which basically means that they need to be able to see clearly to fly. Therefore, if there is cloud cover or heavy rain that is affecting their vision, they are not allowed to fly, so why then did Tim need to ensure he could fly by Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)? Tim explained “that in order to fly Regular Public Transport (RPT) by air, the pilots offering this services are required to have their Instrument Rating License.” RPT is a daily shuttle service that MAF offers to local people around Arnhem Land’s remote areas. Arnhem Land’s terrain brings remoteness to the homelands and communities, as the roads are so poor and are mostly off road tracks. More often than not, it’s just a drive through the bush and very often in the wet season the roads become impassable leaving the homelands cut off from every-day needs. Therefore, this service is imperative to the people of Arnhem Land. Tim flew with frosted glasses on, which meant he only saw his instruments and was unable to see outside the plane at all. So this plane has enabled Tim to directly help Arnhem Land’s partners and the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land, who will be using this necessary service.

Tim’s view through frosted glasses

VH-WMC’s avionics are a GTN650 which are the same avionics as what a Caravan has, so whilst training for his Instrument Rating, Tim has also been able to train on an auto pilot which VH-WMC has and which is also the same as the Caravan, which he will be using in Arnhem Land. Training using the Caravan would have been incredibly expensive, so being able to train in WMC, a much smaller plane is very advantageous to MAF. Tim was trained by Thomas Beyeler, who has extensive experience with using an auto pilot and Tim said “that training with Thomas had been a phenomenal experience for him, to learn off some-one with such expertise.”

David Chandler

David Chandler, pictured above, is training to become a mission pilot. David said “he has always loved flying and has always wanted to help people,” so after going on a few mission trips, he decided that the mission field was his future. He then studied at Missionary training college and thought that he would go into para-medicine. He didn’t think he was capable of anything else, but God had other ideas and MAF and becoming a Pilot was on the cards to help isolated people.


In the long term David would like to be a full time missionary and at present aviation is the tool that God has provided for him to do that. He says “his heart is drawn towards South Sudan” but ultimately he is led by God and said he will be happy in the mission field for the rest of his life, whether in the air or on the ground.


So as you can see, VH-WMC is an incredible aircraft. It can be used to trained inexperienced pilots as well as very experienced pilots. This aircraft is incredibly versatile and Mareeba are very blessed to have this aircraft to carry out training in.