Spokane Turbine Center changes lives. My name is Jon, and I’m passionate about explaining how we equip missionaries to reach isolated people groups using aviation. As a rusty pilot/mechanic, I’m taking our professional missionary aviation training courses to help tell our story.
What makes me mad? Significant aircraft engine damage or premature wear-and-tear because of less-than optimal use. Lost time and low reliability due to preventable problems costs effectiveness and even lives in missionary aviation. “You pay tuition on operational decisions one way or another,” Ken (our Chief Operating Officer and engine instructor) says. “A missionary aviation organization could have sent their entire team to Spokane Turbine Center for much less cost than a typical unnecessary engine repair.” So, understanding optimal PT6A engine use is where missionary pilots begin their Quest KODIAK (common missionary aviation aircraft) transition training.
At 7:45am today, I too began my training at Spokane Turbine Center so I can better explain how we help change lives around the globe. Around 10 years have passed since I’ve flown or maintained airplanes regularly… and those were piston-engined aircraft, not unlike your car’s motor. Not a big, turbine-engined monster like our Quest KODIAK. So on my first day of PT6A engine class, I sipped coffee with intimidation as my classmates introduced themselves.
One is a pilot with years of Indonesian flight/maintenance experience, bolstering his turbine knowledge for helping manage his missionary organization’s safety program. Another is a technician with nearly 40 years turbine helicopter experience, transitioning to maintain Quest KODIAKs. Next is a Canadian air ambulance pilot preparing for missionary work in Papua New Guinea. Beside me is a former Alaskan bush operator, who has also flown freight all over the Northwest.
Then I introduce myself: I’m the rusty-pilot/mechanic who happens to be blogging. I’m the only one lacking significant turbine experience.
As the day progresses, I realize it doesn’t matter as much as I feared. Type-specific training for a specific engine is all about in-depth learning of one system. Prior experience provides context, but not necessarily answers. We all have much to learn.
As we students are a group of five married men, Ken provides a helpful illustration. “Remember that girl you dated in college? Remember the certain ways she wanted you to celebrate her birthday, or what movies and foods she liked? Now, flash forward to your wife. Would you just copy your girlfriend’s preferences to your wife and expect her to be happy?” Of course not. We laugh, likely because we’ve each paid emotional tuition in this same circumstance. So it is with transitioning from piston-engine operation to turbine operation, and in lessor ways, between turbine aircraft types.
Hence, the importance of type-specific training for turbine operators. To optimally use an engine, and an airplane, you must precisely understand it and carefully consider operational decisions. For missionary operators, good training is good stewardship, and remote people groups served in the name of Christ.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about exactly what we are studying, and the valuable tools we use.