Pilot in plane

Marcus Grey has been flying with MAF for 40 years, with missions ranging from freight transport to scheduled passenger services to famine relief and hundreds of medevacs.

When Marcus Grey looks back at his most memorable flights, he recalls one that ended in a dramatic night landing on an airstrip lit by the headlights of more than 50 cars in 1990 in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, when he was transporting a young girl bitten by a death adder.

“She was partially paralysed already when we got to Goroka,” he said. “And that was like two or three hours after she'd been bitten. She wouldn't have made it through the night if we had to stay at the airstrip waiting for first light.”

Logbook page
Janne Rytkonen
Marcus’s 11 logbooks are meticulously filled with details of dates, times, places and terse ops abbreviations, but each page tells a story of its own.

Marcus landed the MAF plane safely, and the doctor was waiting at the airstrip and gave the little girl antivenin in the airplane.

A brief note in Marcus’s logbook reads, “Girl survived,” and he flew her back to her remote mountain village the next week.

I like flying because of what it achieves
Marcus Grey, Chief Flight Instructor

The logbook is one of eleven that document more than 17,000 hours of flying on five continents, including PNG, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Arnhem Land and short spells in Africa. After all those hours, Marcus still enjoys flying.

“The art of flying and the science of flying are intertwined,” said Marcus. “Flying, to me, is a technical enjoyment in that as I learn more and more, I get to appreciate it more and more.”

Marcus Grey at desk
Janne Rytkonen
Few pilots amass a career pile of logbooks this big.

However, as much as he enjoys flying, it has always been a means to an end, and even when flying a freight run of construction materials, Marcus is motivated by the objective of the day’s mission.

“I like flying because of what it achieves. That's the only reason I really enjoy flying. I never think of it as carrying cargo, as just timber or roofing sheets,” he said. “I could see who it was going to help. If it was a school, the kids were going to learn.”

Marcus Grey has become one of MAF’s most experienced and highly qualified pilots of all time, but his career has also been recognised in high places outside the MAF family. This year, the Honourable Company of Air Pilots, a Livery Company of the City of London, incorporated by Royal Charter, conferred upon Marcus the rare award of Master Air Pilot.

It takes a lot to surprise the unflappable instructor, but Marcus had no idea he was walking into a surprise celebration at MAF's Training Centre in Mareeba, where he guides the next generation of pilots.

Arriving for a normal day at work, Marcus was presented with the prestigious honour, which came as a complete surprise to him. He will attend a ceremony with the Honourable Company of Air Pilots in London later this year.

Marcus Grey award
Janne Rytkonen
The Honourable Company of Air Pilots, a Livery Company of the City of London, has recognised Marcus's service by awarding him the title of Master Air Pilot.

Despite the accolades and achievements in his long career, it is Marcus’s clear sense of God’s calling that has carried him through the ordinary and challenging days that are occasionally punctuated by the exciting and dramatic flights.

“You need to be really clear that God wants you to do that particular job,” he said. “Endurance and longevity in the job is dependent on that, and then closely on the back of that, you need to have lots of support from family and church groups.

“You have to realise that, even when you do a fantastic job, like bringing help, hope and healing to people in remote areas, it's not always going to be exciting. It's not always going to be fulfilling. Every day is not going to be chock full of excitement and fun and fulfillment in your job.”

Marcus Grey at Mareeba airstrip
Janne Rytkonen
Even examiners must be examined, and Marcus recently took a “base check” test to maintain currency for flying a GA8 Airvan.

These days Marcus, who has spent more than 6000 hours as an instructor, travels from his home in Melbourne to instruct and assess pilots in Mareeba.

“You've got to learn to be resilient and take each day as it comes,” said Marcus. “Give it to God and ask him to bring out of that day what he wants you to achieve. And you need to be satisfied with that at the end of the day.”