For many years, Jon Damon, the JAARS maintenance training coordinator, has dreamed of developing a mentorship program for aviation maintenance specialists. His own maintenance training for overseas service was a bit haphazard. Two schools he attended eventually closed, and he had to pick up training in bits and pieces. “It was very stressful for the family to even get to a point where we could do an orientation to go overseas,” he recalled. “I can’t tell you how many times we wanted to quit just because of the transitions.”
Jon has longed for a place where mentorship can help people work through their weaknesses—he understands the struggles firsthand. And this dream is becoming a reality!
With help from people like you giving to JAARS Aviation Training Solutions, JAARS has begun a JATO (JAARS Assisted Take-Off) program for maintenance specialists. When maintenance specialists with an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) license come to JAARS hoping to attend Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) and serve overseas, they may learn they need more experience, even though they exhibit knowledge, skills, and a good attitude. They now can stay and take the JATO program.
Before, if maintenance specialists weren’t ready for PFO, Jon and David Kooistra, the JATO program manager, had to ask them to get more experience before returning. “We didn’t have staffing and didn’t have a place to make [the mentorship] happen,” Jon explained. Unfortunately, those maintenance specialists rarely returned. Yet in mission aviation, maintenance specialists are the biggest need among all mission aviators worldwide! Something needed to change.
And, praise God, change has come to the Aviation Department at JAARS. With the help of the Facilities Department at JAARS, the old engine shop has been transformed into a dedicated place for the students to study and improve those areas that they are weak in. Now Jon and David don’t have to turn prospective maintenance specialists away.
“We’ll do a lot of projects with them in [there],” David said. “And then they’re going to be integrated onto the shop floor.” There, in the main part of the hangar, the students will have the opportunity to work alongside more experienced maintenance specialists and take charge of more projects. These projects and the one-on-one attention the students will receive during their months at JAARS will help build their confidence.
And confidence is integral to their work overseas. As David said: “They’re going to be quickly put into positions of authority over these [expensive] airplanes, so we want to teach them confidence and that they can run these kinds of [projects].”
Unlike the three-month Pre-Field Orientation that pilots and mechanics attend before going overseas, JATO is a highly individualized program, tailored to that person’s needs. It isn’t constrained by a timeline. Once the students have the skills and experience needed to succeed as maintenance specialists overseas, they’ll graduate from the JATO program.
Even though JATO is separate from PFO, it will include some aspects of the latter. The first two men in the JATO program will begin PFO in March with the other pilot-mechanics. When PFO ends, they will continue in the JATO program at JAARS for anywhere from two to six months, depending on how long it takes them to develop their skills. One of these men will serve with AIMAir in Africa, and the other will volunteer at JAARS.
JATO is all about building confidence by developing knowledge through experience so that more maintenance specialists can fill valuable roles in mission organizations around the world.
Join us in praying that God uses the JATO program to prepare maintenance specialists to spread his kingdom in the remote places of the world.