Joseph E. Tua - Trainee Pilot on a Mission for God and Country
We’ve known Joseph E. Tua since our science foundation year together at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) in 2013. He was one of the first friends we made catching toads for a biology practical. Joseph has come so far from being our amphibian-trapping buddy though. He is now a trainee pilot for Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF), where he is kicking off a career in aviation by first serving Papua New Guineans in remote pockets of the country. Here, Joseph shares with us his journey to becoming a fully-fledged pilot with MAF and how God is at the center of it all.
Would you say having a pilot for a father shaped your passion for aviation early in life?
Growing up, it used to amaze me that Dad would go to work and come back having seen multiple places all in the one day. The idea of flying and being up there in the clouds just captivated me, you know? Plus, every time Dad put on the (pilot) uniform, his presence oozed authority and just demanded respect. I wanted that for myself, I wanted to be just like him. So, yes. Seeing him do what he loved ignited an equal passion in me, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be since.
You are currently a trainee pilot with MAF. How did you go from where we were in 2013 to applying to MAF?
It was my plan to go straight to flight school after Grade 12. However, my older sister was already enrolled in higher education overseas at the time, and my parents couldn’t support us both so I just had to wait. It was during the wait that I got into UPNG for a Bachelor of Science. After we completed science foundation together in 2013, I got accepted into the geology program there. And it was great, but halfway through that second year, I realized it was not for me and made the choice to leave the program.
For about a year after, I was running small jobs for my family until mid-2015 when I was blessed to finally have the financial support from my parents to attend Nelson Aviation College, New Zealand for a two-year period.
As I was nearing the end of my flight training there in 2017, I applied to every air operator I qualified for, MAF included. In fact, MAF was the air operator my parents and I had agreed on to be the most ideal starting point for my career in this industry. I am the third born among eight children, but the first male child in a Christian family. We believed it was only right I start in the mission field with MAF as part of my thanksgiving to God – giving Him the first fruit of my harvest.
By His grace, I successfully completed my flight training in New Zealand on September of 2017 and entrusted my future to Him. Almost as confirmation, the only positive feedback I got from all the applications I sent was from MAF.
Run us through the process you’ve gone through with MAF to now be a trainee pilot.
When MAF got back to me on my successful application, I was asked to attend a three-day assessment at their main base in Mt Hagen on November 2017. Passing that, I was then required to do at least 3 months of Bible college which I completed at the Christian Leadership Training Centre in Port Moresby (May-July 2018). Then towards the end of July, MAF invited me to their training base in Australia to do further flight training for another 3 months (August – October 2018) to bring me up to their standards.
By God’s grace, I impressed my instructors and passed the Pilots Standardization. I returned to PNG briefly after that before being recalled to Australia in January of 2019 to do my conversion onto the Cessna Caravan (the aircraft I currently fly). Completing the conversion, I returned to country again and shortly got posted to the MAF Hagen base in March 2019, where I’ve been till now. I fly one month on and then one month off (for break) and so on.
I’ve been doing more training around operational flying since being based in Mt Hagen. This includes familiarizing myself with the aircraft and the area in which I fly, learning to read the weather, getting my head around MAF’s standard operating procedures, and handling passengers. Basically, just practicing being in command of the aircraft and growing that confidence of being the Captain.
What route are you flying now as part of your training?
I have been flying to and from the Western Province. Most of the routes I fly now are between Daru, Kiunga, and around Mt Bosavi. There’s a route I get to fly a few times that I particularly love. It’s from Kawito (in the Western Province) back to Mt Hagen. It’s special to me because it takes me right over my Mom’s village. Man, is our country beautiful and blessed! And with the weather always changing, the same view is presented differently every single time - it’s magical!
MAF pilots fly into rural, isolated places in PNG where most air operators don’t go. What services have you assisted in delivering to these remote communities on your current route?
MAF pilots and trainees fly students, teachers, pastors and missionaries out to these places and back. During the national exams, we helped transport exam papers to schools in these rural communities. Our highest priority of flying is given to medical evacuations in these areas – mothers in labour or experiencing pregnancy complications are the most common.
Just last year we partnered with the PNG Sustainable Development Program and began the Aerial Health Patrol (AHP). The AHP are a group of doctors and health professionals whom we fly daily into rural communities to set up clinics and see patients. It’s been a rewarding experience knowing I play a part in the delivery of these basic services to our people in hard-to-reach places.
We understand you’re now just one step away from being a fully-fledged pilot with MAF. That’s exciting!
Yes, it is! I’m waiting to pass my Line Check before being released to fly solo and serve our people in the Western Province. A Line Check will have you fly with an instructor who observes your flying, asks questions, and gives you a few emergency scenarios to assess how you handle them.
I actually had a Line Check two weeks ago, but I did not pass. I made a few errors when making decisions regarding the weather and fuel planning. Of course, I was disappointed I did not pass then, but I’m happier I discovered areas where I was lacking and need to brush up on.
So right now, I’m studying and running through similar scenarios on my own to be better equipped and pass my Line Check next time around.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey with MAF?
MAF is a charity mission organization. Pilots are therefore required to raise their own funds to sustain them as they serve in the mission field. Every pilot, including myself, have been given a target amount we need to raise annually. I’ve had to seek support from friends, family, and other organizations, both in country and internationally to reach that target.
This, I can say, has been the most challenging part of my journey with MAF – it’s not easy for me to approach family or strangers for financial support! However, it is a challenge I have accepted and taken in stride. And this is where I’ve seen God’s Hand too!
I already have a few good supporters in country and internationally. And though I still need some more support, I trust God will make a way.
My family has been very supportive with my fundraising and my journey overall. I am so grateful for them. I don’t think I would’ve been able to come this far without them and the help of all my supporters.
You can follow Joseph. E Tua’s journey on his Facebook page here: Tuas Journey with MAF. You can also message him on the same page if you want to help him reach his target amount for the year. #journeyon