Luton man lands exciting job with humanitarian airline after Covid shatters aviation industry
Former easyJet engineer is moving to Uganda and following in grandfather's footsteps
Covid may have sounded the death knell for many working in the aviation industry, but it has enabled former easyJet engineer Mark Draper, 36, to realise the dream of a lifetime.
He, his wife Stephanie, 41, and their three daughters are moving from Luton to Kampala in Uganda where Mark will join Mission Aviation Fellowship, the world's largest humanitarian airline.
He's following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Leslie Draper - one of the charity's early engineers who helped assemble its first Cessna 180 in 1956.
Leslie was an RAF engineer who worked on De Haviland Mosquito planes during World War Two. He initially volunteered to help MAF co-founder Stuart King and was a passionate supporter of the charity all his life.
Mark says: "My grandad was so kind, gentle, humble and inspiring. He's the reason I'm so interested in aeroplanes.
"He would be thrilled to know I'm going to work with MAF."
The charity now boasts 90 planes which not only transport humanitarian cargo and medical supplies but also carry out emergency evacuations in more than 25 countries.
Mark - a keen cyclist, runner and biker - found it difficult being furloughed during lockdown.
He confesses: "Going overnight from doing what you love to being a full time Dad and home-schooler was crazy and tough. Now I'm excited to move on and so grateful for where I am today."
He is currently studying the final parts of his Aircraft Maintenance Licence which has taken 10 years part time.
Stephanie - a midwife at the L&D - carried on working while Mark was furloughed. Their daughters - Lexi, nine, Evelyn, seven, and four-year-old Raya - will leave Warden Hill Primary and Junior Schools in preparation for the move to Kampala early next year.
Mark has never been to Africa and admits the prospect is scary. But he says: "We want to live our lives in support of other people, especially those less fortunate than ourselves.
"MAF's humanitarian air service is a perfect way of combining my aviation skills with a chance to make a positive difference in people's lives."