Gravity charges a high price for defiance. All aircraft, whether space shuttle, jet airliner or jungle Cessna cost a lot to operate. They need energy to get off the ground, then demand more to stay aloft until they reach their destination, be it International Space Station, Chicago, or the next jungle strip.
NASA spends $450 million per shuttle launch. Airlines pay an average of $9,000 per Boeing 737 flight-hour. Our MAF Cessna 206’s average nearly $300 per flight-hour to operate – not counting insurance. But it’s not just expensive fuel. Mechanical things wear out (see “Fighting Entropy”), especially when we try to fly safely again, and again, and again. Steel drums dent floors, dirty feet deposit grit, fluids seep, puddle and corrode. After hard use, airplanes need attention.
For example, a 1980 Cessna TU206, named HC-BMO, served 20 years in Ecuador bouncing between Amazon jungle strips and Andes mountain passes. After accumulating almost 10,000 flight hours (about 1.4 million miles) we reassigned it to Africa. But first, we routed it through Nampa for a new engine and a major airframe overhaul.
We took out the interior, radios, windows and floor. Then we removed the engine, landing gears, wings, and tail. Next we split the fuselage and opened large sections of each half. At the same time we disassembled the wings and tail sections into their smaller components.
We drilled out and replaced over 11,000 rivets to expose and check every square inch of every surface. We inspected each rubber grommet, control mechanism, pulley, bearing and hose. We checked hundreds of feet of electrical cables and radio wiring. We cleaned, repaired or replaced as necessary. After completing that, we treated the aluminum with corrosion protection, then primed and painted the entire airplane.
After investing nearly 2,000 man-hours (worth $130,000 not counting parts), we sent it out with a new name, N5142C, to serve the mountain folks of Lesotho. If we cared for cars like we do airplanes, we couldn’t afford to drive. But we bear flying’s cost because Jesus paid an even higher price, forever granting infinite value to each person we carry.