“Grandma’s dishes in the back were breaking,” my classmate laughed as the simulator slowed to a bumpy stop. “That was a rough landing!”
Pieter van Dijk, the pilot for this particular sim session, grinned. “Yes, but we landed. That was so cool! I actually used the EPL!”
We’re getting close to the end of Quest KODIAK Pilot Familiarization, and I’ve enjoyed auditing the course along with two missionary pilots. For over a week now, we’ve been studying the airplane, the G1000 avionic systems, the PT6A turbine engine, and using the simulator where we apply what we’ve learned. While I’ll return to my position as Director of Development at Spokane Turbine Center, my classmates will go on to places like Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The knowledge they have learned here will help them safely and cost-effectively use airplanes for missionary work, reaching remote people groups to actively demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ.
“Emergencies in the sim were hard work, but they were fun. I actually used the Emergency Power Lever (EPL) for the first time! I’ve talked about it and thought about it a lot as I’ve flown Caravans, but to actually experience flying with it in the sim is really helpful.”
Pieter and I spoke after his sim session yesterday. An experienced pilot/mechanic with Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF), Pieter has been flying the piston-engine Cessna 206 and the turbine Cessna Caravan for years in Papua, Indonesia. “I care about people, and I want to see them transformed by the life of Jesus Christ. In Papua, roads are mostly either really bad, or they do not exist at all. Missionary aviation is required to reach people with this message.”
Originally from the Netherlands, Pieter clearly has a love for the Lord that drives him to excellence. I’ve observed him ferociously taking notes in the KODIAK class, and ask good questions. While an experienced turbine pilot, Pieter is not yet flying the KODIAK. Still, he shares his knowledge of how MAF is operating KODIAKs and Caravans in the field, which helps the Spokane Turbine Center team improve our teaching.
“MAF in Papua uses the airplanes for many things. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough people and airplanes to meet every transportation need in Papua, so we have a priority system for deciding what needs can be met. Sometimes medical emergencies come up, and those have the highest priority. Whatever will serve missionaries and build God’s Kingdom comes next. Our scheduled flights might be a group of pastors we are bringing to a church conference. Or, we may fly kids from the interior to a boarding school, because there is no education system in much of the country. It just depends on how we can best serve missionaries and the local church.”
I listen to story after story of how God has met the needs of Pieter, his wife Anja, and his children. There are many struggles involved in serving the people of Papua, yet there is clear evidence of God’s hand in uniquely equipping Pieter for these tasks. His love for the Lord has sustained him.
“We are already short on people and airplanes. I’m thankful MAF doesn’t have to use an airplane and an extra pilot for KODIAK transition training, because I’m doing this at Spokane Turbine Center. And, I’m focused on training while I’m here, not juggling other work tasks. Maintenance and weather delays don’t slow my learning.”
It’s clear that Pieter and my other classmate have also connected. They both share a unique comradeship as missionaries and turbine pilots. Although they will serve in different countries, with different organizations, they have learned much from one another. I have no doubt that such connections will be very helpful in the future. We too at Spokane Turbine Center will be willing to serve Pieter and all our other students.
God is doing amazing things through missionary aviation around the world. As I’m tired from weeks of studying, blogging, and continuing to work my normal job, hanging out with Pieter has been healing to the depths of my soul. God is glorified by he and other missionary aviators, who work hard to safely and cost-effectively serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. I am proud to be part of the Spokane Turbine Center, providing critical professional training to help them accomplish their goal.
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.