Mafair Cessna 185B VH-BVM, Minj - 1963

New Guinea is a country renowned for its difficult flying conditions, yet air transport was often the only viable way to get around. The Australian branch of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) was formed in June 1947 by a group of airmen studying at the Melbourne Bible Institute who had a vision of using their aviation skills to support the missionary work of the Church and assist those living in remote areas. New Guinea, because of its rugged terrain, was an obvious place to begin work.

The first MAF (also known as Mafair in the early days) operation commenced in New Guinea in 1951 using an Auster Autocar. Later the new breed of all-metal Cessnas became the workhorses of the Mafair fleet. This photo shows typical Mafair Cessna 185B VH-BVM (cn 185-0524) at Minj in the New Guinea central highlands in 1963. It would have been practically brand new at the time as it was first registered to Mafair in February of that year. It's a bit difficult to pick up in this reproduction, but the item hanging from the post on top of the fin is in fact a plastic funnel which is being used as a drogue for the aircraft's trailing HF radio antenna.

VH-BVM had originally been allocated the US registration N2524Z, but this was one of a large block allocated to Cessna and was probably never painted on the aircraft. As was all too often the case in New Guinea, VH-BVM did not last long and it crashed and was wrecked at Katbaka, West Irian, on 10 December 1966 while being operated by MAF-USA.

(Photo: Ron Rye/CAHS collection)

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