Serving Up North: Missionary Aviation in Alaska

By Jon Weber

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As a kid, I dreamed of missionary aviation operating in distant foreign countries, from the humid jungles of South America to the arid deserts of Africa and everything in between. While we certainly work with operations in such exotic places, over the years I’ve learned that critical missionary aviation also takes place within the United States.

Samaritan’s Purse is a huge global Christian relief organization with a fleet of support aircraft. It is one of several missionary aviation organizations operating in Alaska, over terrain just as forbidding as the most remote nations overseas. Recently, Spokane Turbine Center, in partnership with our subsidiary Parkwater Aviation, provided Quest KODIAK familiarization training to Zach Riggs. Zach is an experienced Samaritan’s Purse pilot with several years of Alaskan operation under his belt.

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Zach Riggs of Samaritan’s Purse in his natural Alaskan Habitat. (Photo courtesy Zach Riggs)

“Samaritan’s Purse does several things in Alaska with airplanes,” Zach explained. “On Monday’s we’re typically flying volunteers to Samaritan’s Purse work projects throughout the state. They might be building churches or seminaries, reconstructing houses destroyed during a spring flood, or whatever is needed. Most of the lumber and building supplies are brought into the villages by river barge, but other weekday flights also include specialty tools or construction items needed on site.”

There are few missionary aviation organizations with as interesting a story as Samaritan’s Purse; an older video here tells a bit of their story. I was very interested in talking to Zach about Operation Heal Our Patriots. Taking place in a remote Alaskan lodge, this seminar gives injured or wounded service members and their spouses focused time to reconnect with God, with others, and with each other.  The Heal Our Patriots web page has fantastic photos and information about the program.

“Most summer weeks, I’m heavily involved with Operation Heal Our Patriots, and I’m often flying groups of veterans and their spouses to the camp. We fly them out on Sunday afternoon, and by Friday, we return for the passengers, hauling food for the next week’s camp on the way out.”

As we talked, I thought about how different Alaskan aviation is compared with flying here in the “Lower 48.” The crazy, unpredictable northern weather is a key challenge, partly because it tends to change so quickly. In-flight ice seemed normal too, even in the “warmth” of summer.

“In Alaska, you often you have to be creative and think outside the box to get to your destination safely, without breaking rules or doing something stupid. Knowing how to best use your airplane is invaluable, which is why type-specific aircraft training is critical. It becomes even more important as we begin to operate the KODIAK on very short runways.”

Samaritan’s Purse flies a variety of aircraft in Alaska, depending on what the mission requires. For heavy lifting and large passenger loads, they operate two CASA 212s, which are boxy 19 seat twin-engined turboprops. They also operate a Beech King Air 200, a Cessna Caravan, and a Quest KODIAK on wheels. A second KODIAK and a turbine DHC-3 Otter operate on amphibious floats.  Zach has done type-specific training on most of these aircraft at other training providers.

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Samaritan’s Purse operates the CASA 212 aircraft in Alaska. Zach has completed familiarization training similar to Spokane Turbine Center/Parkwater Aviation courses for this aircraft at other training providers. Donors help us reduce the cost of KODIAK training for missionary groups, a discount not available from other training providers. (Photo courtesy Zach Riggs)

“I was making my first flight trip on a cargo flight to Bethel immediately after completing my CASA 212 training. We were level at 10,500’, flying in good weather over the Alaska mountain range about 110 miles from home base. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, our left engine quit. Fresh from training, I knew exactly what to do, and what checklists to perform. We elected not to attempt a restart and flew home on one engine, then landed safely. I can completely attribute the success of this incident to good training. It’s important to understand how you and your aircraft will perform in a controlled environment before an incident occurs.”

While I always imagined missionary aviation serving the needs of tribal people in remote areas, I’ve only recently learned how Spokane Turbine Center can support a much wider array of missionary aviation projects.

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Samaritan’s Purse operates a beautiful Quest KODIAK on amphibious floats in Alaska. (Photo Courtesy Zach Riggs)

“I’ve done familiarization courses for other airplanes with other training providers, and Parkwater Aviation/Spokane Turbine Center training was fantastic,” Zach said.  “It’s practical, the scenarios are realistic, and the instructors move beyond the canned information and figure out what I need to know for my specific operation. The knowledge I’ve picked up will have a clear impact on how I operate, and I’ve learned things that I can use in other aircraft besides the KODIAK. Here, I can draw on the experience of several great instructors.”

Thank you to our donors, who have helped us provide cost-effective training for Zach at Samaritan’s Purse and pilot/mechanics from 18 other missionary aviation organizations. Now that Zach has completed our KODIAK training, he can safely operate this aircraft type. Take a few minutes and learn about Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Heal Our Patriots.

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Impact: Ryan’s heart for Venezuela

By Jon Weber, Director of Development

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When visitors are meeting our entire staff, we each typically take a few moments to introduce ourselves and explain our own roles. However, we mixed it up at a recent meeting and introduced the team member to our left rather than ourselves. I happened to be sitting next to Ryan Dawson. Here’s what I shared about him:

  1. Ryan was born in the jungles of Venezuela. He grew up eating things I’d be shocked to find in a zoo.
  2. Ryan currently part of Mission Padamo Aviation Services (MPAS) but is “on loan” to Spokane Turbine Center as he builds missionary aviation experience and oversees the refurbishment of a recently-purchased Cessna 206. Moody Aviation and Spokane Turbine Center are assisting with the aircraft maintenance work.
  3. More than anyone I know, he instructs our Spokane Turbine Center and Parkwater Aviation customers with an unmatched passion for missionary aviation. In addition to his faith, that passion is a product of his own family history.
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Ryan instructs pilots for both Spokane Turbine Center and Parkwater Aviation as he prepares for serving in Venezuela. Although fluent in English, Spanish, and Yanomamo, Ryan sometimes teaches pilots via translation to yet more languages. In this simulator session, Ryan works with a Mandarin translator for Chinese Parkwater Aviation customers.

While currently upgrading MPAS’s Cessna 206 and building turbine aircraft experience, one day he’s heading back to his roots with a critical tool: an airplane capable of reaching places like his home village of Coshilowäteli (please don’t ask me to pronounce this) in southern Venezuela. His heart is for the Yanomamö people who live across the region.

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Ryan Dawson’s family is committed to showing the Yanomamo people of southern Venezuela the love of Christ. An airplane will enable them to serve these people far more effectively. (Photo courtesy MPAS)

Hyperinflation, food shortages, deep recession, and government corruption dominate current headlines from Caracas. For Ryan’s remote home village, economic and political instability are only part of the challenge. Geographic isolation is another. There are no hospitals in the unforgiving jungle.

“Effective missionary aviation is personal to me,” Ryan says. “In 1992 my mom went into a malarial coma on a Sunday morning, and it was not until noon on Monday that we could establish communication for help. We were finally able to get an airplane to our village, but this was too long and she never recovered. Then in 2006, my 6-year old sister, Mikeila, became ill soon after midnight one morning. She went unconscious at 9:00 AM and passed away at 2:00 PM. We called for help the whole time but no one ever answered.”

Having witnessed preventable deaths in his own family, Ryan grew up dreaming of having an airplane available in the jungle, where it is needed most. The MPAS team believes with their whole hearts that one day God allow them to operate aircraft in Venezuela. When emergencies happen, an airplane can bring the Yanomamö badly-needed relief. It can also support missionaries to show the Yanomamö how much God loves them.

Once, missionary aviation organizations used 86 different village airstrips in Venezuela. Back then, with aviation logistic support, missionaries could more effectively serve the Yanomamö.  Many deadly medical problems could be solved, as missionary aircraft could be called in to evacuate the sick or fly in medical help.

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Medical flights are a way of bringing people condemned to death from sickness or injury back to life. In the same way, the Word of God brings people condemned to darkness back to life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Photo courtesy MPAS)

That changed in early 2006 when then-president Hugo Chavez forced missionary aviation organizations to withdraw from Venezuela. The government has not provided air support to local villages since, and many airstrips have been reclaimed by the jungle. Remote people are far less accessible to the missionaries who are desperate to serve them. Victims of easily treated emergencies like snake bites, pregnancy complications, and malaria are now dying regularly because there is no way to provide even simple treatments.

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Without effective air support, the most effective method for reaching the Yanomomo people is with river boats. While boats can haul far more cargo and people compared with aircraft, their slow speed makes them less effective for medical help. (Photo courtesy MPAS)

Because they are Venezuelan citizens (Ryan was born there), the Dawsons can legally continue to operate Mission Padamo Aviation and Support (MPAS) in the country. MPAS’ vision is to provide cost effective air support for the national church and assist them in placing missionaries in the furthest hardest to reach areas of Amazonas state of Venezuela. Medical flights are another urgent priority.

 

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MPAS’ Cessna 206 will soon be ready to begin operations in Venezuela. Moody Aviation and Spokane Turbine Center have served MPAS by inspecting the aircraft, helping with repairs, and installing modifications like a belly cargo pod, and additional fuel tanks.

“MPAS has tapped the invaluable expertise of the Spokane Turbine Center staff, and have networked with other mission aviation organizations through Spokane Turbine Center,” Ryan says. “While our new Cessna 206 is a great start, a larger KODIAK could easily be utilized to its maximum capacity in Venezuela. My Spokane Turbine Center experience will someday play a critical role in allowing our organization to use a turbine aircraft.”

Spokane Turbine Center needs your help to continue serving our partner organizations like MPAS. Here’s how you can become part of our team:

  1. Contact me and sign up for our regular electronic updates. You can also follow us on Facebook at Twitter.
  2. Support Spokane Turbine Center through prayer and finances. You can even direct your donations toward Ryan’s salary while at Spokane Turbine Center.
  3. Come visit if you’re in the Spokane area and learn more.

Here’s how you can partner with MPAS;

  1. Follow MPAS on Facebook, and visit their web page.
  2. Support MPAS through prayer and donation.
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I am honored to work with Ryan, who grew up in a Yanomamo village like the one above. I’ve learned so much about missionary aviation through him. Join me in praying for Ryan, the Dawson family, and MPAS as they diligently serve the people of southern Venezuela. (Photo courtesy MPAS).

 

Why don’t we clear runways by hand?

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By Jon Weber, Director of Development

At the moment, it’s warmed to a balmy 8 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Earlier this week, I noticed a coworker bundle up and head outside to clear our walkway snow with a small blower. With continuing low temperatures, our snow won’t be going anywhere soon.

Fortunately, we only need to clear our walkways. Our friends at Moody Aviation have used their small truck to plow our shared parking lot. Felts Field has two paved runways (come visit our facility if you’ve never been): one is 4499 x 150 feet, and the other is 2650 x 75 feet. There are also miles of taxiways and ramp area needed for aircraft operation. What if the Spokane Turbine Center or Moody team had to clear the entire airport using our small tools? What if we had to purchase a large snowplow with our limited financial resources?

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Here’s the Spokane International Airport team hard at work, clearing snow at Felts Field with equipment much more powerful than our little snow blower.Thanks to Rachel Driver for the pic!

What a terrible use of Spokane Turbine Center’s time, talent, and treasure! Our staff is currently preparing for another deluge of Parkwater Aviation KODIAK familiarization students next week. We’re busy updating curriculum, preparing facilities, and planning lessons so that our customers receive the very best KODIAK training available.

The professional team at Spokane International Airport (SIA) takes care of maintaining the runways and taxiways of Felts Field for all airport tenants. They have the heavy snow removal equipment and expertise we lack. Because of their persistent work, we can focus on our primary mission of training.

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I’m thankful we don’t have to clear runways of snow with the wrong people and tools. We can depend on professionals with the right expertise and equipment. I’m just as thankful that missionary organizations don’t have to bear the cost of professional turbine transition training on their own. (Rachel Driver photo)

Like SIA team equips us to function effectively, Spokane Turbine Center help missionary aviation organizations accomplish their respective objectives by providing professional turbine training. As missionary organizations entrust much of their turbine training to us, they are better equipped to focus on their primary missions: serving remote people groups and other missionaries in the name of Jesus Christ. Just as we should not dedicate massive resources to snow removal, missionary organizations should not have to procure/operate expensive simulators, training expertise, PT6A engine resources, training aircraft, and other specialized resources. Having each missionary turbine operator do so on their own makes as much sense as airport tenants trying to clear a runway with tiny snowblowers and shovels. We let the pros at SIA take over and blow that snow away!

Thank you to our donors who are a key part of our training process. Also, thanks to our friends at Moody Aviation. Thank you to the Spokane International Airport team for being outstanding partners, and for taking care of all that snow!

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Mountains of snow! What a blessing to have a clear ramp and runways. Thanks to the Spokane International Airport Team!

Everyday Online Shopping = Eternal Impact

by Jon Weber, Director of Development

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Normally I don’t post blogs twice in one week, unless I’m doing something crazy like a PT6A/KODIAK course audit. In fact, this week I’m busy celebrating Thanksgiving, planning birthday parties for my wife and children, decorating for Christmas, and doing a ton of online shopping.

Online shopping with eternal impact, that is.

This year, my online shopping will support professional missionary aviation training at Spokane Turbine Center. And, I’m hoping to save money  as well.

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Your online shopping can help make missionary aviation training possible. 

Want to join me? Here’s how:

Goodshop

  • What it is: Retailers like Home Depot, Bass Pro Shop, Target, and many more donate a percentage of your purchase to Spokane Turbine Center. They also post awesome online coupons and discount codes.
  • How it works: Register, identify Spokane Turbine Center as your cause, and shop away!
  • Where to sign up: Here.

Amazon Smile

  • What it is: It’s Amazon. With a portion of your purchase donated to Spokane Turbine Center.
  • How it works: Register your Amazon account with Amazon Smile, and make all purchases through the Amazon Smile portal.
  • Where to sign up: Here.

I don’t pretend to be a technical guru, but if you run into problems signing up, let me know.

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Online shopping with eternal impact? Join the Spokane Turbine Center team, and help provide professional training to missionary pilot/mechanics who connect remote people groups with the love of Christ. 

Also remember our end-of-year #OneMoreMissionaryTrained campaign, where we are raising $3,100 to subsidize one more missionary PT6A course. Make a donation for a free Spokane Turbine Center mug!

Shop away, my friends. On behalf of the entire Spokane Turbine Center/Parkwater Aviation team, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

A Coffee Mug, $3100, and #OneMoreMissionaryTrained

By Jon Weber, Director of Development

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Last week, five more missionary pilot/mechanics wrapped up our PT6A engine comprehensive overview course. What impact will these five have as they depart? Several will teach young aspiring missionary aviators at Moody Aviation. Another will use his PT6A knowledge in Indonesia, where the KODIAKs he will operate are a lifeline to remote people groups.

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This is what a PT6A runup looks like from inside the stand. Here at Spokane Turbine Center, missionary pilot/mechanics learn just how to safely and cost-effectively operate turbine aircraft in order to serve remote people groups in the name of Christ.

The loud whine of the PT6A runup stand outside my window carried my thoughts away from my desk to the people of Indonesia who will experience the love of Christ, in part because of Spokane Turbine Center’s training. I think too of the dozens of Moody Aviation students who will someday work around the world, flying and maintaining the powerful turbine aircraft used for modern missionary work.

More. We need more people trained.

But do we have the resources to expand our training?

The cost to subsidize one week of PT6A training for one missionary pilot/mechanic: $3,100.

By the end of the year, let’s increase Spokane Turbine Center donations by $3,100. That will subsidize #OneMoreMissionaryTrained.

My family believes in making a difference in the lives of others. We donate to Spokane Turbine Center each month because we believe in this team providing the finest in professional aviation training to missionary pilot/mechanics.

Join our donor team for #OneMoreMissionaryTrained. Maybe you can make a one-time gift. Or, maybe you’d like to contribute $20 per month next year. Your generosity in either case helps equip missionary organizations to reach remote people groups with airplanes. Help us reach our $3,100 subsidy goal by the end of the year.

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#OneMoreMissionaryTrained donors of at least $100 will receive a thank you mug for donating toward our year-end goal.

If you can give in one of the follow ways, I’ll send you a Spokane Turbine Center thank-you mug:

  • A one-time donation of $100 or more
  • A monthly pledge of $20 or more, for one year

Head to the #OneMoreMissionaryTrained Donation Page by December 31 and be a part of training for one more missionary pilot/mechanic!

7 Ways a Spokane Turbine Center Visit Will Inspire You

by Jon Weber, Director of Development

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I get fired up explaining what God is doing through our little building here at Felts Field. Some days I head home wondering if I nerded out a bit too much.

Were our visitors inspired by the critical work we do? More importantly, do they understand why we serve missionary aviation organizations? Was our need for donations clear? Did they catch a vision for the outcomes of effective training? Or, was I too technical, or inaccurate as I struggled for words?

Each tour means a departure from my desk, interaction with people, and storytelling. Hopefully, the Spokane Turbine Center tour is the high point of a visitor’s day. Despite my insecurity, it certainly is the best part of mine. Maybe that’s why I’m geeky and excited at tour time.

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Our airplane, hangar, and historic building at Felts Field in Spokane.

You need to stop by. If you haven’t yet seen our building, contact me RIGHT NOW and schedule. Here’s what you’ll experience:

  1. Our unique, historic, and beautiful building located at a remarkable little airport. Even if you aren’t a history buff or into architecture, it’s fascinating.
  2. Coffee is especially important on cold, rainy days autumn days like today. Come have a cup with us.
  3. Check out the compelling training tools used for professional aviation training. We’re talking a full-motion KODIAK simulator, turbine engine lab, PT6A engine runup stand, and big yellow KODIAK airplane.
  4. Often, we make popcorn. The buttery smell. The salty taste. Mmmmm.
  5. See the non-missionary KODIAK training done through our subsidiary, Parkwater Aviation. There’s a good chance you’ll run into a customer from the other side of the planet.
  6. Our map shows the places and faces of missionary aviation. See the global impact of our donors, who are making professional training possible for missionary organizations.
  7. Learn how to join the team making professional missionary aviation training at Spokane Turbine Center possible. We need advocates, donors, and prayer partners.
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That’s our KODIAK simulator. It’s even cooler in person.

If you’ve already visited our facility, how was your experience? Leave a comment and let me know if I really was too nerdy.

For the uninitiated… I look forward to showing you around soon. Schedule with me today! Please, forgive us in advance for being dorks about missionary aviation.

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Isn’t it cool that the Spokane community has such a tremendous impact on remote people groups around the world? Visit our facility and see how. Photo courtesy JAARS.

Hope Stronger Than a Hurricane

By Jon Weber, Director of Development

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Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean last week. I’m heartbroken in the storm’s aftermath, knowing some of the poorest people in our hemisphere have lost housing, clean water, and loved ones. Over 1,000 people are dead. Infrastructure destruction and the outright poverty of these areas means recovery will be challenging.

The physical loss alone is tremendous, but these are people like me and my family. Have they lost hope? I’d struggle with hope in this situation. Sitting in my warm office, I try to imagine the terror of being homeless, cut off from food and medical help. I wonder what it is like for parents to doubt their ability to care for their children.

It is clear: things are not all right. That bothers me.

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Thanks to Agape Flights for allowing me to use photos! Here’s the condition of Haiti after Hurricane Matthew hit last week.

Disasters like Hurricane Matthew are obvious, headline-grabbing examples of pain and need that exist around the world, all the time.  If you’re anything like me, your heart longs for a day when wrongs are made right. You want justice and provision. You want sickness healed, broken things to be made new again, and isolation replaced by connectedness.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have hope: a day is coming where ALL OF THIS WILL HAPPEN. Until then, we must demonstrate God’s healing, justice, provision, and hope to one another. Especially in the wake of disasters, it is critical that we bring hope into heartbreaking tragedies. We can all help to make wrongs things right again.

I’ve been closely watching updates from our missionary aviation partners operating in the Caribbean, including Missionary Aviation Fellowship, Mission Flights International, and Agape Flights. Each organization is using different aircraft types, in different locations, and meeting different needs. Each are hustling to bring hope to those in desperate need.

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Again, thanks to Agape Flights for sharing pictures of relief work. Agape’s EMB-110 uses PT6A engines, and is busy shuttling supplies to and from Haiti.

Well-maintained aircraft engines can provide years of reliable, cost-effective service for this purpose.  Back in 2014, Greg Haman of Agape Flights came through Spokane Turbine Center’s PT6A course here at Felts Field. Our objective was to give Greg an increased ability to maintain the two PT6A engines on Agape’s EMBRAER 110 aircraft. Since the hurricane cleared, Agape’s airplane (which Greg maintains) has shuttled supplies between Florida and Haiti. In addition to flying, Agape has also been gathering supplies, and coordinating with other missionary aviation partners to help get items to the hardest-hit areas of Haiti.  Food, water purification tablets, tarps, generators, and tools are arriving to help provide hope.

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Maintenance technicians like Greg are a critical part of missionary aviation. Our job at Spokane Turbine Center is to provide professional training to the pilots and mechanics that make missionary aviation happen.

Spokane Turbine Center’s little building in Spokane has prepared missionary aviation professionals to help make things right again, in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, or in everyday logistic challenges. Without donations, we cannot provide the training to Agape Flights or and other organizations need to effectively operate turbine engine aircraft.

I’m proud of what organizations like Agape Flights are able to safely and cost-effectively do with the help of professional aviation training. Each month, my family donates to Spokane Turbine Center because we are called to help bring God’s hope into a world that is broken. Perhaps you feel called to offer direct support to organizations like Agape Flights. Or, perhaps like my family, your role is to support professional turbine training at Spokane Turbine Center. Please join us in making things right, and bringing hope.

Lessons at the End: Quest KODIAK Pilot Familiarization Day 8

My 2.5 week audit of Spokane Turbine Center’s PT6A Comprehensive Overview and Quest KODIAK Pilot Familiarization courses ended today. I began this journey desiring to share the experience of taking professional missionary aviation training courses. The final sim session of the final class was done just after noon, and I said goodbye to my classmates. They’ve become part of our family while they’ve been here.

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From left: Rod, Ken, me, Pieter, the Bird Butcher, and Pauline.

Here’s some of what I learned about missionary aviation and Spokane Turbine Center:

  • The people of missionary aviation love people more than airplanes. That love for people is inspired by personal relationships with Jesus Christ and encounters with a living God. We want to serve others in His name so that others can also experience the hope we have in Christ. This is very similar to my own journey toward valuing God and his people over myself.
  • My classmates are clear: Missionary aviation is a critical lifeline to many remote areas. Connection to the outside world provides access to education, healthcare, and needed physical items. The spiritual needs met are closer to my heart: Bibles translated into native languages, missionaries supplied, and local pastors connected to needed resources. With airplanes, unreachable people are reachable, and challenges are overcome.
  • Turbine aircraft are needed in missionary aviation. With limited availability of aviation gasoline overseas, missionaries must use aircraft powered by jet fuel in many locations, which is comparatively cheap and available.Turbine aircraft are also very reliable, with high performance.
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One of our final lessons was walking through a KODIAK preflight inspection.

  • The piston-to-turbine transition is hard work! Missionary aviation needs a source of turbine expertise to help this transition.
  • Good turbine instruction takes expensive resources. I’ve used tools like the classrooms, G1000 trainers, the KODIAK simulator, the PT6A run-up stand, and much more. Fortunately, individual missionary organizations do not have to duplicate these costly resources. Spokane Turbine Center resources are available for all missionary organizations, so aircraft are not taken from missionary service for training purposes.
  • The most critical resource is gifted instructors who are experienced with turbine engines. Pauline, Ken, Rod, and the whole Spokane Turbine Center team are knowledgeable and passionate about changing the world, and I’m proud to be on their team. Missionary organizations can keep their pilots serving overseas, and utilize our collective expertise.
  • Spokane Turbine Center needs donors. We’ve had a rough year financially, and are in need of donors to continue operation. Our heart is to offer turbine training in more aircraft types, and provide deeper discounts to our missionary partners. If you agree this work is important, please join our donor team.  We value one-time donations, but regular donations at any amount are especially needed.
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I’m sampling fuel on the real airplane. Someday, maybe I’ll fly it.

Personally, I’ve learned a few things:

  • Blogging is hard but rewarding work! I’ve stayed late many nights, or spent time away from my family to write each night. But it’s been a great experience.
  • This was more than I was ready for! Most pilots would transition back into flying with a simple airplane like a Cessna 172, but I stepped up into a huge turbine Quest KODIAK. It made my head spin, but for the most part, I could follow along after over 10 years of flying my desk around.
  • Should I get current again? While I may not be called to be a missionary pilot, a passion for flying is still dormant in my heart. A simple piston Cessna 172 is probably a better start. Maybe some day I can actually try flying the KODIAK sim (or the airplane?). This will be a function of time and money.
  • I’m thankful to be telling the Spokane Turbine Center storyGod is changing the world through the work we do here, and telling others about it is a challenging but rewarding calling.

Thank you all for reading the blog!

 

 

The End Result, Part II: Quest KODIAK Pilot Familiarization, Day 7

“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.

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This is one of MAF’s Caravans in Papua, a similar airplane to the Quest KODIAK we’ve been training for. Type-specific training is critical when operating turbine aircraft. Thank you Pieter for letting me use your photos! 

“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.

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Pieter and his family in Papua. 

“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.

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“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.

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Pieter’s passion is using airplanes to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s awesome to study the Quest KODIAK with him and hear how God has been glorified in his life. 

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. 

What About the Airplane? Quest KODIAK Pilot Familiarization Day #6

The KODIAK sim maniacally thrashed around all morning as my two classmates fought their way through emergency procedures. Today I was able to sit inside the simulator, riding around as the instructor created one system malfunction after another. Rollbacks, generator failures, fuel pump failures… sometimes these situations require IMMEDIATE landings.

I have no doubt that we would have walked away from the airplane in each situation today, but there were some hard landings. My classmates are experienced pilots, and I’m impressed by how professionally they respond to unplanned situations.

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Emergency procedures today! This is the instructor’s view, where any number of emergencies and unusual events can be introduced into the simulation. This can include bird strikes.  

The sim is an invaluable training resource. Spokane Turbine Center is proud to operate the only type-specific KODIAK simulator in the world. Pilots from numerous missionary aviation organizations have used it, and they have been making a huge difference around the world. I’m in a class with two such pilots who will soon be serving remote people in Papua and Papua New Guinea in the name of Jesus Christ.

Why is type-specific training important? Flying turbine airplanes isn’t like borrowing your friend’s Toyota Corolla when you’re used to driving a Honda Civic. There are procedures, quirks, and specifics to know about each type of aircraft. That’s especially true when it comes to the emergency procedures practiced today.

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A Quest KODIAK in flight. This is a large, powerful aircraft that brings many newer technologies to missionary aviation. 

Let’s discuss the Quest KODIAK a bit more so you get an idea of why training is so important. Aviation fuel for piston-engined airplanes has become very expensive in many areas of the world, if it is even available. Jet fuel, on the other hand, is cost-effectively available in airports worldwide. It’s the same fuel used by airlines and military aircraft. In light of limited aviation fuel availability and aging piston-engined aircraft, missionary aviation in many areas needed a fleet update.

Several turbine-powered airplanes are used in missionary aviation, notably the Cessna Caravan and the Pilatus Porter. The Quest KODIAK is unique was specifically designed for missionary use. It has that critical PT6A turbine engine, and an awesome combination of short-field airstrip performance (how else can you land on a dirt airstrip carved on the side of a mountain?) with a solid cruise speed (think efficiency over long legs). Conditions vary, but in general terms, the KODIAK will haul up to ten people or a ton of cargo for up to a thousand miles. A typical jet airliner would require at least 5,000 feet of runway for normal operations; the KODIAK can operate with less than 1,000. That’s impressive!

Our instructors are often asked: How does a KODIAK fly? “Like a KODIAK!” they respond. “And nothing else.” So how do you learn to fly it? In a simulator, with looks of good coursework. That’s why Spokane Turbine Center was formed in 2009, just as KODIAKS began joining missionary aviation fleets. It has several technologies newer to missionary aviation, including the PT6A turbine engine and the digital “glass” G1000 cockpit.

Speaking of the G1000- I had a test today on my learning, and I did okay. Not bad for a rusty old pilot!

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. 

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Pauline instructed our G1000 course that was a particular challenge for me, as it did not really exist when I was flying. The G1000 is a three-screen digital avionics system in the KODIAK.