The Peruvian Air Force (FAP, in Spanish) counts social programs among its duties. As per an agreement with the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion (MIDIS, in Spanish), hundreds of residents from remote and vulnerable areas of the Peruvian Amazon can now receive medical support services.
On April 20, 2018, FAP evacuated a 2-year-old boy with tumors in both eyes from the community of Puerto Alegría, Loreto, to receive emergency medical attention at the Regional Hospital of Iquitos in northwestern Peru. Such humanitarian aid flights are part of the new aerial Itinerant Social Action Platforms (PIAS, in Spanish), within the framework of the March 2nd interagency agreement with MIDIS.
Acceptance and confidence
“This initiative supports the strategy of riverine PIAS and promotes the government’s vision of integration, which seeks to strengthen [its] presence and improve the quality of life of residents in rural communities along several rivers of the Amazon region by flying to areas Peruvian Navy vessels cannot reach,” FAP Major General Roder Bravo, commanding general of the Fifth Air Wing in Iquitos, told Diálogo. “The Amazon is a difficult region to navigate, and air transport plays a critical role to provide aid and support to all communities in need.”
FAP arranged for 500 flight hours in 12 Twin Otter planes for aerial PIAS to reach areas inaccessible to riverine PIAS, allowing nearly 39,000 residents of the 151 local communities to receive help, the force stated in a press release. The Navy’s riverine PIAS provide medical aid, health, education, and safety programs, promoting development and inclusion in remote regions along the banks of Peru’s rivers.
“FAP goes where commercial aviation or other types of river transport cannot reach. The complexity of the Amazon region limits contact with the rest of the country. Its rivers serve as channels of communication. It takes 15 to 45 days to reach the most remote locations, [but] FAP can reach [any] place in the Amazon in less than two hours,” Maj. Gen. Bravo said. “As of April 23rd, we’ve logged almost 40 flight hours with this new program.”
Aircraft from FAP’s Fifth Air Wing and 42nd Air Group are on call to provide medicine, medical specialists, and aid materials riverine PIAS need on their circuit. They are ready to carry out joint interagency missions to transport patients in critical condition to regional hospitals and medical centers.
“[The Navy] transported the [2-year-old] boy, who was in severe pain and suffering loss of vision because of the tumors, by boat to a [FAP] floatplane to be evacuated. Life is priceless,” FAP First Lieutenant Javier Maldonado, crew member of the 42nd Air Group Twin Otter that rescued the boy, told Diálogo. The Belén 41st Firefighting Brigade of Iquitos then transferred the child to the Regional Hospital.
“This type of mission really helps increase acceptance and our fellow countrymen’s confidence in us because these are communities where the government has little presence,” 1st Lt. Maldonado said. “FAP brings aid to all corners of the country—no matter how hard it is to access. It is committed to contribute to the development of these communities and bring them the aid they need.”
FAP pilots are not only trained and prepared for defense, but also to respond to matters involving socioeconomic development and social inclusion in Peru. “We pilots are constantly training to face all kinds of adverse situations, since our [work] area includes the entire Amazon region. When rivers rise and the winds blow, the weather is extremely volatile, which complicates operations but doesn’t make it impossible to provide help,” 1st Lt. Maldonado said.
FAP works in the Amazon since 1926, sending social and civic action flights. Since then, it’s a unifying force in this region of the country, in cooperation with MIDIS and the authorities in Loreto. “Interoperability allows us to reduce mortality rates of infants and expectant mothers, which reached [troubling] levels,” Maj. Gen. Bravo said.
“FAP will help bring the government entities, especially the ministries and other bodies involved in social projects, closer,” Maj. Gen. Bravo concluded. “The Air Force not only makes [its] helicopters and transport aircraft available in the Amazon but across the nation, bringing government services to all Peruvians.”