By Richard Shipman

Aviation and jigsaw puzzles would seem to have little in common, but JAARS recently faced a situation resembling a jigsaw puzzle—except the pieces were aircraft and engines rather than cardboard cutouts.

The puzzle began when a Cessna 206 that JAARS had acquired and upgraded for our aviation partner SIL Cameroon could not be delivered because aviation gasoline there had become prohibitively expensive. About the same time, another partner, SAMAIR (South American Mission Air), lost one of its C-206 floatplanes when a hangar collapsed during a windstorm.

Now the border of the puzzle was laid out. JAARS had an available C-206, and SAMAIR needed one to continue their important humanitarian work and mission support. Wouldn’t it be logical to fill in the puzzle by sending the homeless Cessna to SAMAIR? Yes, except for one problem.

SAMAIR’s fleet of C-206s were powered by the IO-550-F engine, but the engine on the plane planned for Cameroon was the IO-550-N version. The engines are similar but differ in several ways such as power output and parts location. SAMAIR wanted to use the same engine type throughout its fleet, so sending the available C-206 was not an answer.

Because these puzzle pieces didn’t fit together, JAARS needed to work out an alternate solution. Many aviation mission organizations use the C-206, and JAARS has two of them in its fleet to accommodate various pilot training needs. These 206s are the same, except one was equipped with the IO-550-N engine (like the one intended for Cameroon) while the other had the older IO-520 model. Using different versions of these workhorse engines was not a major safety issue, but pilots and mechanics benefit when they train in similarly configured aircraft.  Chuck Daly, Chief Pilot at JAARS, expanded on the benefits. “Training is simplified and enhanced when both aircraft have the same engine installed because the performance of both aircraft will be the same, and the pilots will have to learn only one set of engine limitations.”  JAARS recognized the desirability of having one engine version on both training aircraft but replacement of the IO-520 engine had not been in immediate budget plans. Good stewardship of kingdom dollars is always a JAARS core value.

After much thought, discussion and prayer, all parties agreed to a plan that would solve the puzzle. JAARS would take the -N engine off the C-206 previously bound for Cameroon and install it in place of the IO-520 engine on the JAARS training aircraft. JAARS would then sell the removed IO-520 engine from the training aircraft to help defray costs. SAMAIR would acquire the now-engineless C-206, equip it with an IO-550-F of its own to maintain fleet commonality and take the plane to Peru. “We had pieces of this puzzle everywhere; we just had to fit them together to ensure everyone got what they wanted,” said David Kooistra, a JAARS maintenance trainer who coordinated the project with SAMAIR. This plan was typical of the innovative problem solving that JAARS does regularly.

JAARS maintenance technicians Jeyson Braun and Dallas Glick working on removing the old engine on a 206 in our training fleet so the new one can be installed. Photo: Jon Thomas

JAARS maintenance specialists Jeyson Braun and Mark Ott installed the new IO-550-N on the JAARS training C-206, making it available for the March start of 2022 PFO when the 206s are used extensively. Both training C-206s will then have the same -N engine. “In addition to commonality, another benefit of installing the more powerful -N engine will be that it provides a better safety margin for operations on our training airstrips,” added Chief Pilot Daly.

Meanwhile, Daly and SAMAIR program manager Craig Gahagen flew the replacement C-206 to Miami where Chuck yielded his seat to an experienced ferry pilot. The crew then continued on to Pucallpa, Peru where SAMAIR will be able to continue its important operations with an airplane similar to its other 206s. Read more about the ferry flight here .

This completed puzzle illustrates how partnerships among mission aviation groups are becoming increasingly important in our mutual effort to promote Bible translation. It also shows that the Lord is pretty good at solving puzzles when you ask for his help.


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