YAJASI vs. the Coronavirus

By Rachel Greco

Like most countries, the Coronavirus has caused major changes for YAJASI, our aviation partner in Papua, Indonesia.

Change Number One: No More Passenger Flights

According to Jim*, an aircraft mechanic for YAJASI, “All passenger flights into, out of, and inside our province are banned. A few runways in the mountains shut down except for emergencies.”

Only cargo is currently allowed on YAJASI’s flights

YAJASI has reduced flights to about 40 percent of its normal flight hours. They cut a number of ministry flights because most of those involve passengers. YAJASI can still operate a few cargo flights to remote airstrips to provide medical, food, and building supplies to these remote areas. The income from these cargo flights helps offset YAJASI’s operating costs. They’ve also still been able to do a few medical evacuation flights, which are allowed with special request.

YAJASI can still perform a few emergency medical flights

Change Number Two: Disinfect Everything

Jim, who also serves as the Parts Room Manager, spent one evening driving around town to six or seven stores searching for masks, hand sanitizer, paper towels, spray bottles, disinfectant wipes and gloves. The masks and hand sanitizer were already sold out, but he was able to acquire hand-made masks from some local tailors. YAJASI personnel wear these masks when they are around others or traveling outside their homes.

YAJASI cleans their facility with a mixture of diluted bleach, but they disinfect their airplanes with isopropyl alcohol because it doesn’t cause corrosion on the aluminum. The pilots even carry a special bottle of soap or hand sanitizer in their cargo pods to wash their hands after loading the planes.

Each plane now has soap or hand sanitizer to keep the pilots’ hands clean

Change Number Three: Revised Maintenance Programs

With fewer planes flying, the maintenance team has caught up on major inspections. They now have more time to do facility maintenance, keep up equipment, and touch up paint. It may not be as exciting as soaring over forested mountains, but it’s still necessary and too often overlooked. Jim also took a whole day to teach some coworkers how to do a pitot-static test and altimeter recertification.

A party YAJASI staff held while practicing social distancing

Change Number Four: Social Distancing

YAJASI takes the temperature of everyone who enters their facility at the outer gate and denies entrance to those with high temperatures so they won’t accidentally send the virus to a remote village. While working, they also attempt to remain a safe distance apart.

They even toned down their YAJASI Aviation 27th anniversary celebration in the hangar with appropriate spacing and appropriate food (aka cake). Happy Anniversary, YAJASI!

Change Number Five: Shipping

One of Jim’s main difficulties is how to move aircraft parts around the world. In ordinary times, there are hardly any scheduled cargo flights into and out of their region, so nearly all air cargo goes on passenger flights. But passenger flights are currently cancelled.

YAJASI can ship parts by boat, but it’s a slow process, and since most boats are passenger/cargo boats, several have been quarantined. Many companies won’t even try to ship right now.

Thankfully, some of the large shipping companies YAJASI uses promised to keep packages coming into and going out of Papua, helping supply them with thermometers and alcohol. But these companies send their cargo to a different city and only a few times a month! Thus, YAJASI is still considering the best options of how to receive the supplies they need to serve those in this remote area.

Please join us in praying that the Lord continues to provide for YAJASI and they’re able to continue shining God’s love and light to the remote people in Indonesia.

*Name changed for security reasons.