A special memorial service was held in Sydney on Monday for young Mission Aviation Fellowship* pilot, Hadleigh Smith, 23, who died whilst piloting a light plane off the Arnhem Land coast on Thursday October 16.
Circumstances surrounding the cause of the accident are still unclear. A small amount of aircraft debris has been recovered but searchers have been unable to locate the main fuselage or the body of the pilot.
Nevertheless, it appears inevitable that Hadleigh did not survive the impact - which investigators believe occurred ‘with devastating force’ - in the waters of Buckingham Bay, about 25 kilometres east of his departure point on Elcho Island.
The search for the pilot and the aircraft is ongoing.
Monday’s memorial service at Gymea Peoples’ Church celebrated a life of commitment to God, to flying, to people and to MAF.
In his 2007 application to serve with MAF, one of his referees said of Hadleigh: “His best qualities are a simple, unwavering Christian faith, constant diligence, determination, loyalty and an eagerness to serve the Lord at his own expense….”
Hadleigh did, indeed, serve God and MAF at ‘his own expense.’ His grieving family and friends have resigned themselves to the fact that he will not be coming home to them. They are supremely confident that he is now in the presence of the Lord.
“Every day, MAF pilots face a range of risks to their personal health and safety – all in the name of serving God, serving people and serving MAF, said MAF Australia Chief Executive, Rob Owen.
“In effect, they put their very lives on the line every day in order to help meet the needs of people who, more often than not, can get help no other way.
“Most workers don’t have to face that degree of risk on a daily basis. Hadleigh, like all our pilots, was aware of the dangers and he paid the ultimate price. We thank God for his courage and dedication.”
Despite high standards of air safety, intensive and thorough training of pilots and engineers and a program to acquire new aircraft, risks associated with flying have always been part of a pilot’s ‘calling’ to serve with MAF.
Diverse terrain and unpredictable weather patterns in some of the world’s most remote and isolated areas can also impact air safety.
And yet, given the sheer volume of flights undertaken by MAF pilots in developing countries throughout the world every day, accidents are few.
*Mission Aviation Fellowship is a Christian organisation with 136 aircraft operating in over 30 countries. MAF has been serving people, churches and missions in remote areas throughout the world for 61 years, providing a lifeline where, often, no roads or emergency services exist.
For further details contact David Henry at MAF Media on (03) 9890 4009. More information may be viewed at www.maf.org.au
Loss of Young Pilot Highlights the Risks of Mission Aviation
Hadleigh Smith Memorial Service
Wednesday, 29 October 2008, 11:42 (EST)