It’s hard to imagine the whine, the roar, the wind, and the smell of an operating turbine engine. Airline passengers are certainly removed from the raw power of aircraft engines. Even most pilots sit inside their comfy airplanes, away from the thrust and noise that I experienced today. It was awesome!
Our morning began with an oral review of yesterday’s topics. Pepto-Bismol was not on the exam. The coffee hadn’t kicked in, so I’ll blame my lackluster performance on caffeine deprivation. After discussing the oil system and engine start/stop procedure today, we’d be operating a PT6A engine. Granted, it’s an old stand-mounted engine, not an airworthy aircraft powerplant. Still, I was nervous. Even a timed-out PT6A engine is expensive and intimidating.
Fortunately, my classmate/coworker Rod has a plan. He and I will do the runups after our other classmates finish.
I’ve always appreciated and respected Rod. We’re both pilot/ mechanics who graduated from LeTourneau University at different times, and we’re both family guys. Just as it’s hard to compare my small 3-child family to his nearly 8 kids, it’s also hard to compare our aviation experience. Since 2014, Rod has been teaching Quest KODIAK pilot courses at Parkwater Aviation, the for-profit subsidiary of Spokane Turbine Center. He has thousands of hours starting, operating, and shutting down PT6As as a previous freight pilot and Alaskan bush pilot/mechanic, and not once has he fried an engine.
So why is a veteran like Rod taking the PT6A Comprehensive Overview course beside a rookie like me? After all, Rod could be TEACHING this course.
Turns out, that’s exactly what he’s preparing to do. He isn’t learning PT6A basics. He’s observing how Ken (our PT6A instructor) is teaching in order to craft his own instructional method. Soon Rod will add PT6A training to his current role of Quest KODIAK course instruction.
Rod needed a guinea pig to practice PT6A engine runup instruction, and I needed more time to get comfortable with the screaming, crazy turbine engine. My classmates each took a turn firing it up under Pauline’s (another Spokane Turbine Center instructor) guidance. As they headed home, Rod and I stepped into the cab.
Rod’s voice is calm and reassuring as we brief the startup procedure. As I engage the starter, monitor engine gauges, and introduce fuel… the PT6A awakens. Maybe I’m too focused on not screwing anything up, but on the inside I’m grinning as the fuel ignites and the engine roars. The airplane-loving boy inside me comes alive again as Rod talks me through different power, propeller, and fuel settings. Am I really doing this? Am I really turning jet fuel into power and noise, yet learning so much about this engine in the process?
I’ve talked to many of Rod’s students over my months here. Each identifies him as one of the finest aviation instructors they have ever learned from. Knowing Rod, I understand why: he genuinely cares for everyone just like he is caring about me in this moment. He just serves people well. His neighbors. His students. People in remote villages on the other side of the world. Rod’s love for God breathes life into his passion for others. I only hope the same is noticeably true about me.
Also just like me, he understands that his calling to serve in missionary aviation doesn’t necessarily mean flying to remote villages overseas. He and I are called to support the cause in other ways. In Rod’s case, Parkwater Aviation work helps subsidize missionary aviation training costs while instructing at Spokane Turbine Center directly helps equip them.
Thank you, Rod, for caring about people near you, and those far away. Thank you for all you contribute to missionary aviation. And thank you for helping me turn fuel into noise today.
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.