The entire year of flight training at the School of Missionary Aviation Technology was a fast blur of events. I passed my private pilot check-ride in December of 2019, followed by flying as many good days I was able to.
After I graduated from the SMAT flight training program in September 2020, I have been flying as much as possible to reach 500 flight hours which is the considered a baseline of experience by many aviation mission organizations.
I have also had the opportunity to expand my aviation maintenance experience, changing engine parts, upgrading avionics, wiring, changing upholstery on the seats and much more. I enjoyed a lot of what I was doing and really felt fulfillment when I finished the task and went flying afterwards.
A month after I graduated from flight school, I was accepted as a missionary pilot with MiracleAir, which will be serving in Nicaragua along the eastern coastal region. MiracleAir is looking for land to set up the new airbase in Pearl Lagoon, and will be flying unscheduled emergency evacuation flights, and delivering needed supplies to the very remote river villages. During the time that I'm not flying in Nicaragua, I plan to be helping to do basic maintenance with the MiracleAir Airplane, and helping to set up the mission base there. Also, I'm looking forward to mingling with the locals to help to lead them to Christ and show them that I care about them.
After being accepted with MiracleAir in October, I have been focused on pursuing additional training to equip me for flying in Nicaragua. One of the biggest excitements was learning to fly a seaplane. Being able to land on water is like nothing I had experienced to that point. Flying a seaplane adds a whole new dimension flying. The feeling is similar to driving a speedboat, and at the right speed, there is this gentle jump forward as the floats leave the water, and you fly away!
Within two weeks of finishing my initial seaplane instruction, I was sent to Idaho with the other MiracleAir pilots for special training on how to maintain the Aerocet floats that we are installed on C-FXRB. These floats are composite and are both stronger and lighter than comparable aluminum floats.
The tour of the Aerocet factory was fantastic and the people at Aerocet were very helpful. During our time there, we were able to replace the keel wear strips that were becoming brittle on the bottom of the floats, and we also upgraded the wheel assemblies and brake systems.
Shortly after returning home from Idaho, a large hurricane started building strength in the Atlantic Ocean and was forecasted to hit Central America. We watched its progress with heavy hearts as it neared the country we had been called to serve. Hurricane Eta came ashore along the northeastern coast of Nicaragua as a category 4 hurricane with peak winds of 150 miles per hour.
No sooner than hurricane Eta was ashore and causing incredible damage and flooding, that another hurricane was forecasted to follow. Hurricane Iota followed less than two weeks later and destroyed what remained. Iota landed only 15 miles from where Eta hit, and the damage was very significant. It is estimated that nearly 44,000 homes were badly damaged or completely destroyed in Nicaragua alone.
These natural disasters have increased MiracleAir’s efforts to get established in Nicaragua and start making a difference as soon as we can. A very important step is actually flying the airplane from Canada to Nicaragua. We have been on standby waiting for permission for C-FXRB to enter Nicaragua, and it is proving to be a bigger process getting in contact with the right people after the hurricanes have hit. While we were waiting for permission to enter Nicaragua, we decided to fly the airplane out of Canada before winter set in. I was able to fly commercially and meet Norman Hansen in Montana and help fly it to Saint Louis, Mo, where it will stay until the Nicaraguan government allows us in.
The flight was very beautiful out of Kalispell, MT, as we passed through the Rocky Mountains. We made a few stops along the way to spend the night. We had an excellent trip and met a number of supporters along the way.
My teammates and I are working hard to prepare for launching to Nicaragua. Norman and Nancy Hansen will be traveling to Nicaragua in a couple weeks to work with the Nicaraguan government to get permission to expand our service reach. We are also seeking supporters for MiracleAir so we can fly on more missions than we currently have funding for. Keith and Jennifer LeRoy and their precious family are learning Spanish and Keith is flying often trying to reach 500 hours as soon as possible.
I am in the process of scheduling a seaplane check ride, which I should be able to finish by the end of January. After that, there are some written tests I need to pass in order to obtain a Canadian reciprocal pilots license, so I can fly C-FXRB. This is necessary because the airplane is registered in Canada and insurance requires pilots to have a Canadian pilots license. This process isn’t difficult, but it takes precious time.
Another step I am very excited about is underwater egress training. This is a specialized course that teaches students how to survive emergency situations where it is necessary to exit a submerged aircraft after a crash scenario. All MiracleAir pilots will have this safety training to prepare them to survive in an emergency situation. As pilots, we train for a variety of emergencies to understand what to expect and how to survive them with the hope of never needing to use the training.
The underwater egress training is done in a pool with a device that is shaped like an airplane or helicopter fuselage, and is controlled by a crane. After being lowered into the water, the mock-up is turned upside down and the students navigate in the mock-up to find the exits and escape. Stay tuned to hear about my experience.
I know God has big plans for this new year. This past year of 2020 was not what I had expected, but I have seen God's hand in many key situations that unfolded. I am excited about what he has next for me, as well as for MiracleAir.
- Please pray for the people of Nicaragua. Many families are suffering incredible loss from the hurricanes and flooding.
- Pray that hearts will be open to the Gospel and that we can minister to their physical and spiritual needs in the best way possible.
- Please keep MiracleAir in your prayers, as we are seeking more supporters for the ministry God has called us to. God has really been blessing our ministry in incredible ways, both with prayer supporters and financial support. If God is calling you to support our ministry, visit the support page.
May God richly bless you in this new year!