Merelava airstrip receives test flight

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Merelava in the Torba province celebrated as the first test flight was conducted on the island’s first ever airstrip—built purely with manpower. Merelava is an island in the Banks Islands of northern Vanuatu.

A historical moment would be an understatement for these people as American expert pilot and Gaua-based Seventh-day Adventist Missionary doctor, known to all Torban’s as “Dr Mark”, landed successfully on the 160-metre airstrip, using the doctor’s two-seater Maule aircraft.

The test flight did bring a great sigh of relief for Merelavans whose island was considered one of the most difficult to construct such an infrastructure

After the successful landing the pair were greeted with Salululu as the huge crowd sang a celebration song to welcome them. Reports from the Island say a huge feast was hosted to mark the historic event.

The test flight did bring a great sigh of relief for Merelavans whose island was considered one of the most difficult to construct such infrastructure.

In the past people seeking medical treatment had to wait for local sea-going vessels that didn’t serve the island regularly.

Many people lost their lives—as they could not get treatment for simple ailments that often got worse because of the lack of proper medical attention.

With the breakthrough, it’s now possible for the sick to fly directly to Santo for medical treatment. While the test flight brought great jubilation to the people, a huge amount of work is yet to be completed, as the airstrip needs further extension, which means more clearings are needed.

While there is little machinery and lack of government support, the work will continue to rest on the shoulders of the hard working men, women and children on the Island.

Contributions from Merelavan’s in Santo have been sent to assist with the project. Equipment such as spades, axes and food supplies were recently shipped to the Island to help those involved in the project.

Leaders on the Island have called on the people of Merelava in Santo and Port Vila and other islands to help with the project.

To commemorate the test flight, a short video clip of the landing and takeoff was filmed by Seventh-day Adventist media to mark the achievement.

The moving DVD is titled ‘Where there is faith’.

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