70 Years: Changeable but Immutable

Piper AE-1 somewhere in Mexico. Photo credit: Jim Lomheim

Piper AE-1 somewhere in Mexico. Photo credit: Jim Lomheim

Aviation ranks as one of the most conservative activities on the planet. In the beginning, all flights were experiments. Enough succeeded to encourage more tries, but crashing got old. Surviving aviators developed a fondness for doing what they knew would work over what they thought might work.

So even in MAF’s rough & tumble world of bush flying, rules prevail. Our manual prescribes exactly how we conduct each maneuver. We reevaluate each pilot every six months to ensure he or she performs according to standards.

But despite our best efforts to do everything the same way every time, our world changes. Take our planes, for example. In the 1940s and 50s we used aircraft like the Piper PA-14 Family Cruiser. It weighed just over 1,000 pounds empty. With a 115 horsepower motor, it could lift 830 pounds, comprised of fuel, pilot, three passengers and cargo, into the air.

Cessna TU-206 in Masaramu, Ecuador. Photo credit: Kelly Hewes

Cessna TU-206 in Masaramu, Ecuador. Photo credit: Kelly Hewes

By the 1980s and 90s we moved from powered kites to airborne pickup trucks like the Cessna TU206. It weighed 2,100 pounds empty and its 310 horsepower motor lifted 1,500 pounds of fuel, pilot, five passengers and cargo.

In the 21st century, we added the Quest KODIAK weighing just shy of 3,800 pounds empty. Its 750 horsepower engine lifts 3,500 pounds of fuel, pilot, nine passengers and cargo.

Quest KODIAK at an airstrip in Papua, Indonesia. Photo credit: Alan Discoe

Quest KODIAK at an airstrip in Papua, Indonesia.
Photo credit: Alan Discoe

What else changed in MAF’s 70 years? Electronics? MAF pilots pocket more computing power than NASA carried to the Moon. Passengers? We started flying expatriate missionaries. Now, we’re more likely to fly national church workers. MAF Staff? Builder generation folks, who endured the Great Depression and helped win World War II, launched MAF to minister to a crazy world. Now, Millennial generation “kids” who grew up surrounded by abundance and technology lead MAF field teams advancing God’s Kingdom in a dangerous world.

Today, when a world awash in flux taunts us, it helps to remember the Rock. The Lord neither changed MAF’s mission nor gave his people a different purpose. He still calls us to administer his grace in its various forms such as aviation, technology and training. Seventy years a long time? Just a pittance. We’re talking eternity. Amidst the world’s chaos he confirms that he is, indeed, the same yesterday, today and forever.

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