IT FITS, IT WORKS, IT’S IT

MAF is well known for flying because that is the bread and butter of the organisation. However behind the scenes is a long list of skilled people who have made sacrifices to see the vision of MAF fulfilled. These people are pilots, engineers, managers, HR personnel, office staff, builders, IT support personnel and much more. Each person in these roles has a very important place in the bigger picture and vision of MAF.

Without IT (Information Technology) support staff, MAF’s operations would come to a standstill because so much these days is build on a fully functioning and reliable IT system.

“It’s the infrastructure behind the scenes, that many are unaware off. These are the tools of the digital world that make things work and it’s a privilege to be part of a larger team that makes sure the goals of the Arnhem Land program can be achieved through Technological tools”. Nevin Urey Arnhem Land IT Support

Within the MAF the focus on Technology fits into two different categories internal IT Support and Technology Services. The Arnhem Land program is a good example of how the two of these focus areas go hand in hand. The role of the IT Support person is to help manage the phone, email, network, and hardware systems that the entire team use to complete everyday activities. This means keeping a close eye on making sure systems are updated, running, backed up and when things are broken, replacements are put in place or work around solutions are setup. In Arnhem Land it is not unknown for things to go wrong such as the Internet going offline or a power cut occurs or rodents eating through cabling. Also with the addition of the Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) to the pilot’s set of standard operating gear, this has meant an EFB administrator is required to be in place. This person works alongside the IT Support person to make sure all the iPads are up to date and reliable for use in flight. The IT Support team in both Cairns (Australia) and Ashford (UK) back up the small team in Arnhem Land by offering advanced support in all areas.

To understand the focus of Technology Services, one needs to take a step back in time to the year 2000. Within MAF worldwide a ministry called Learning Technologies (MAFLT) had started to be birthed. The first project was establishing a set of Bible Study resources for Russian pastors. Amazingly, by 2009 MAF LT operated in 18 countries, serving 46 ministries.

Early in 2010 with the introduction of Campbell Smythe (MAF Cairns – IT Support), MAFI Asia Pacific started to take on board the MAF Learning Technologies focus. Campbell was passionate about growing the ministry throughout MAF in Asia Pacific. At the same time Brett and Michelle serving in Arnhem Land saw the need for resourcing people with God’s Word in media format but didn’t have the time or man power to do so. Across in Papua New Guinea the CRMF team were also connecting with the MAFLT US model and looking into how they could use technology to expand God’s Kingdom in Papua New Guinea. (Today in 2017, Technology Services known as CRMF in PNG is flourishing)

In 2011 Peter and Tiina arrived into Arnhem Land with the encouragement by Campbell Smythe and Brett to work on a 3-month project before transitioning to PNG. This project was called Manymak Dhäwu (Good News). After three months, God had other ideas and so the Peter and Tiina stayed on and since 2011 Technology Services* has had a prominent place in Arnhem Land. (* MAFI changed the name from Learning Technologies to Technology Services in 2013)

Technology Services are those activities where MAF supports the use of technology for spreading the Gospel in the areas where MAF serves.

Stepping back into 2017, it is clear that MAF Arnhem Land program values the ministry enabled by aviation and technology services because as a team there is a strong belief that both can be used to transform communities. By applying technical understanding and skills, barriers that hinder advancement in isolated areas in the spheres of education, communication, community development and the Gospel can be removed.

To give a better idea and picture on what Technology Services has meant for a program like Arnhem Land, listed are some tools and projects that have been tried and tested in an Aboriginal Ministry context. Some have worked very well, others have not but that is what it takes these days in ministry to find the niche.

  • Mänymäk Dhäwu DVD: This original ministry resource was a picture book with 40 pictures and an audiotape to accompany it. The story was put into digital and the end result of this revised resource was a DVD with 650+ moving pictures and audio. The story was from Genesis to Revelation in Gumatj, one of the local languages. The DVD was used on outreach trips and Kids Clubs.
  • Mänymäk Dhäwu For Mobile: Not long after the DVD was produced mobile smartphones began to appear in numbers. The need was seen for the DVD to be split into 40 different media stories. The files were prepared for use on mobile and were made small enough to be bluetoothed from one mobile to another.
  • Gospel Media Stories: From initial requests from local Aboriginal believers to have more stories in local language, time was spent recording local Bible translators retelling Bible Stories. These recordings were then matched with images that depicted the story. These media files were loaded onto mobile phones and MicroSD cards.
  • Training for leaders: Requests from local Aboriginal individuals for training on how to use email, Internet and computers was time well spent.
  • MicroSD Cards: This project was birthed from a desire to do more about spreading the news at Christmas and Easter time. Appropriate resources were located and permissions obtained to use them, then multiple MicroSD cards were purchased, loaded and distributed. Today MicroSD cards remain a digital resource that many people are hungry for because it has God’s Word in a form they can listen to and understand.
  • Tablets: In 2014 with the cost of Android Tablets dramatically reducing and becoming readily available, this meant MAF was able to purchase tablets and load them with Gospel media such as Bibles, Audio, Videos and Image files. These Tablets were then distributed to leaders wanting to grow in their relationship with God. As a result tablets became a springboard for MAF staff to have closer contact with people.
  • Networking: It has been important for MAF over the years to stay connected with other mission groups working in the area of technology in missions, so MAF staff from Arnhem Land attended various gathering of likeminded techy people working in various mission groups in Australia and beyond. This was a great way to connect, learn, share, pray and be inspired.
  • Gospel Resources: DVDs, CDs, Bibles were sold out of vehicles in the back of communities which was always popular as people were hungry for resources. This demand meant that MAF needed to do something more to provide options for Gospel Resources, so the old hangar space at Gove Airport was converted into a resource shop and terminal area. Stands with DVDs, CDs, Bibles, and Technology Media are for sale and on display.
  • Resources in a Box: To make these resources more mobile for pilots travelling to the homelands, small containers were purchased and loaded with DVDs, CDs, Bibles, and Technology Media. These boxes were used on homeland outreach trips to sell resources.
  • Solar Power Players: Solar Power MP3 players are a great way to make God’s Word in audio format available. In 2017 180+ units were purchased and distributed to individuals. Each unit had a mixture of Audio Bibles, Music, Teaching and Gospel Stories in local languages. They were hugely popular and many people continue to ask for them.
  • Bible Mobile Apps: SIL brought out a tool called “Scripture App Builder” and various Bible Apps have since been created and made available on the Google Play store (Search for “AuSIL”). MAF have used this same tool to create a mobile android App for the Manymak Dhäwu series. Now people have access to the media stories more easily on their mobile phones.
  • SMS Scripture Ministry: For a few years MAF ran a Scripture SMS system. People would sign up to the SMS number and a website tools was used to distribute verses to people on a weekly basis. This was a popular service and Yolŋu people were often requesting for a service.
  • Satellite TV: Working with Life TV, a set box was donated to MAF and a dish was set up to provide Free Christian TV in the Terminal waiting room. The idea behind this project was to see if satellite TV would be off interest to other Aboriginal communities.
  • Technology Media in the Homeland: The majority of the mentioned forms of technology and media have been taken into remote homelands where they have been displayed, distributed and used. Today the challenge continues to be getting resources where they are most wanted and needed and that is in the homelands. Hence the need for planes and pilots!

It is clear from these few examples that the Technology has been able to be used as a tool to spread the Word of God in Arnhem Land. God’s Word has the potential to bring explosive transformation in the lives of individuals and communities. And so the program can say with confidence that:

IT Support & Technology Services

  • IT FITS
  • IT WORKS
  • IT’S IT IN MISSIONS

NOTE: To view a picture album of Technology Services images, click on this link below:
https://www.flickr.com/gp/maf_arnhemland/H54Xi4

TECHNOLOGY – A MEANS TO DISTRIBUTE GOD’S WORD

The Word of God has the power to change and transform lives.

MAF’s very own purpose is to share God’s love through aviation and technology, with a vision of seeing isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s name. MAF’s core business is aviation but with this comes the opportunity to invest into people’s lives in many other ways.

MAF is in a privileged position in Arnhem Land because through invitation by the Yolŋu (Aboriginal) over 40 years ago, MAF is able to provide a vital aviation service yet at the same time proclaiming the Word of God.

One of the ways MAF is proclaiming the Word of God is through the means of technology. In a world where technology has such a prominent place in people’s lives, most cannot do without their mobile devices. This phenomenon is becoming the same for the Yolŋu of Arnhem Land, as technology has firmly taken its place. Smartphones and Tablets are becoming a way of community and bush life. The devices are not just used for phone calls but for listening to music, taking photos and sharing files.

MAF Technology Services has seen the huge potential that presents itself with this and has been working hard on making Gospel resources available to mobile media via various means: (The ones in blue are click-able and have a further story)

MicroSD Cards (Suitable for Mobile devices): Preloaded with Gospel presentations, audio Bibles, imagery and testimonies. These have been distributed during Easter and Christmas and are available for sale at the MAF resource shop.

Solar Powered MP3 Players: Preloaded with portions of Yolŋu Matha audio scripture, English Bibles, gospel music. These are a great device for those who don’t embrace the world of the mobile. It provides a means of listening through headphones or through external speaker.

Electronic Tablets:  Preloaded with gospel presentations, sermons, audio Bibles, imagery, testimonies and much more. MAF has been working with some key Yolŋu leaders and mature Christians in various communities. These tablets provide a means for technical evangelism and discipleship.

WIFI Access Points: MAF has set up a series of Electronic WIFI access points. When a user connects to these particular access points they are directed to a page on their Internet Browser. On this page they can click to listen to music, watch videos or read the Word of God. These resources can be also be downloaded for free. MAF has in place both powered and battery operated WIFI access versions. Battery operated versions has meant the devices can be taken to homelands and used outdoors.

SMS Scriptures: A system has been set up that allows mobile users to subscribe to weekly Scriptures. People can join and leave the subscription service at anytime. This system has provided a means of spreading God’s Word right into the hands of the people.

In the end it’s simply technology being used to connect God’s people with God’s heart.

TECHNOLOGY ON A WING

(Profiling MQR – Mike Quebec Romeo)

Over the past twenty years or so our society has made some major leaps in the quality and use of technology. Look at a film made in the eighties and see the ‘mobile’ phones used then- about as portable as a brick! Things like GPS in our cars and MP3 players are now taken for granted and we have wireless headphones to listen to music. The mobile phones now have not only shrunk but are more like portable mini computers! We have apps for everything and news, weather and TV are at our fingertips.

It should come as no surprise then that in flight operations there have been significant advances made with technology. Within MAF, there are three particular advances that have made a difference to how our aircraft are flown. Not all aircraft have the changes as yet but each time an aircraft is overhauled modifications are made. MQR was one of the first planes to be re-fitted and is in the forefront of the new look, sporting all three advances.

EFB

EFB or Electronic Flight Bag is the latest of the three changes. Whilst not a physical part of the plane, its use changes procedures and help pilots immensely! Simply put it does away with the paper side of flying and replaces the need to carry paper charts, manuals and airstrip diagrams. All of this will be at the fingertips working from an iPad. We are working with the regulator, pursuing the goal that passenger manifests etc. will be electronically inputted into the EFB and ultimately transferred from there into the MAF Wingman records. The flight plan can be entered into the iPad by the pilot, giving them an estimated arrival time, fuel needed, the best height to fly according to winds as well as the actual flight path needed. It also has the capability to submit SAR (Search and Rescue) flight notification times for each flight, a mandatory requirement.

To implement EFB each pilot is issued with an iPad and a backup unit is assigned to each aircraft. There is also an upside to communications with EFB. Using a combination of v2track tracking unit (more later) and EFB, the pilot can be contacted even mid-air and messaged. He can then respond and make the necessary adjustments to his day’s flights. Whilst it is still early days, this system is already having an effect on the daily routine and as time goes on it will grow in its place in flying in Arnhem Land.

TOW2

v2track

v2track is an operational system that has been around for a while, tracking in real time an aircraft’s movements and vital for anyone monitoring the operations of aircraft. Whilst not new in that sense, recent times have seen a change in its capabilities and the use it is put to within MAF Arnhem Land. Previously MAF had used another system in the aircraft but it did not meet real time reporting and alerting requirements. v2track has provided additional capabilities that we are now utilising along with EFB.

Every MAF aircraft in Arnhem land, now has a dedicated v2track tracking unit instrument installed so that the feed is more direct and gives an instant picture. MQR came to Arnhem Land in November 2014 and was one of the first to have the actual unit fitted. Now the Operations staff can look at the map and see where MQR is, how long before it reaches the destination, who is flying the plane, what height it’s at and how fast it’s going. It is also used to see if a pilot is about to take off or if he has just landed which is very useful when the passenger wants to know where the plane is! The unit also helps provides instant emergency alerting if required, providing assurance to pilots that in the unlikely event of an emergency key people immediately are notified and can act.

Of equal importance is that the v2track can also provide history of a fleet or specific aircraft over a nominated date range showing the where and when of the period’s operations which is very helpful for statistics and projections. This is also a function of the unit that has grown in importance in recent times.

One of the issues when a plane is flying in Arnhem Land is the ability to keep in contact with the pilot. A mobile phone is not the best when the plane is in flight and on the ground there are many homeland communities that do not have mobile coverage. In addition the radios used are subject to a great deal of interference from atmospherics etc., and have a limited range. Add to that engine noise and you have a situation where sensible communication is a challenge. v2track overcomes many of these problems. While they are in flight pilots can either be messaged to mobile phones or directly to the EFB being carried. The pilots can then read the text and either reply if suitable, or wait and contact the base once they have landed. Because the unit uses Satellite communication and mobile it can receive and send even when on the ground in a remote part of the area. Obviously the better the communications the better the service MAF can provide and the v2track unit has helped it come a long way.

TOW4

ASPEN

The third of the changes is a recent aid to an aircraft’s instrumentation. In MAF aircraft the Aspen supersedes altitude and directional instruments and provides improved information on wind information and ground speeds. The old instruments ran mechanically off the back of a vacuum pump fitted on the engine and had some issues of reliability and needed a lot of maintenance as a result. Aspen is a digital unit containing its own backup emergency GPS which provides an accurate electronic version of altitude, horizon and compass. It is more reliable, less expensive to maintain and far less prone to failure. This was shown recently in MQR when one of the mechanically based units failed in flight. However MQR was able to continue its flights with complete safety using Aspen. It was then able to come in to the maintenance base on a scheduled call rather than an additional flight to Gove or the requirement to fly out an engineer for field maintenance, which is an expensive exercise. These units are already proving their worth.

Not all aircraft in the MAF fleet have the Aspen units as they are only fitted when a major overhaul takes place on the Aircraft at the MAF Mareeba maintenance facility and when funding is available. MQR however was fitted out with this before it left Mareeba to join the Arnhem Land fleet and became the first Aspen aircraft in the program. Since then another two have been delivered for operations whilst a further aircraft is currently being fitted out. MQR certainly led the way …

TOW5

These changes will no doubt be the first of many as the world around us changes, but so far the differences have been noticeable and have contributed towards the changing face of MAF flying in Arnhem Land. MQR is proudly flying the banner of technology change along with its sister MQI. These aircraft and others will continue to serve the people of Arnhem Land for some time to come with their improved technological capacity.