Stuart Fitch, Operations Support Manager for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) talks about his journey from the RAF to becoming a bush pilot for the world’s largest humanitarian aviation service provider.

How did you come to join the RAF?
I grew up in Norfolk, and joined as a pilot straight after leaving school – something I’d dreamed of since I was 13. I returned to University later to complete an MSc in Aviation Management.

What were the highlights of your military career?
I enjoyed flying in support of operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan and being part of a huge team. Personal highlights included air-to-air refuelling over Afghanistan and attending multinational exercises in Canada, USA, Malaysia, Japan and Europe.

What prompted you to become a bush pilot?
I felt it was the right thing to do to join the RAF to be a pilot. However, when I discovered MAF’s work, I felt a growing desire to serve their humanitarian mission and combine my Christian faith with my flying skills and help reach people in real need doing something to transform their lives.

How did your life change when you then joined MAF?
Living overseas in Kenya and South Africa with my family and flying in places such as South Sudan was a big change. The aircraft were smaller and the airstrips very different! It took me some time to adjust to working outside of such a structured environment as the military.

What has challenged you about serving with MAF?
Working in South Sudan supporting the aid community there was truly eye-opening. But serving in a developing country with huge needs has been a privilege. There are many hot, hard, tiring days of flying, but they end invariably with you knowing the world is a (slightly) better place because of the work you’ve done. It’s so rewarding.

What would you say to anyone considering service with MAF?
Do it! However, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons – don’t just rely on a desire to help people and do good. MAF is a great organisation to work for – the balance of being able to use my Christian faith, technical skills and aircraft for peaceful and humanitarian purposes is perfect for me.

This article is taken from the January 2018 issue of Pathfinder International magazine.

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