Confirming the Vision

By Julia Rose Cagasan

“All right, Julia, you are flying!”

At those words, there was an indescribable feeling within me as I concentrated on the controls. With the experienced JAARS pilot Rachael Stoner beside me, I was truly living the dream I’ve had since I was a young child. I couldn’t stop smiling for two hours!

Julia and Rachael landing on the JAARS runway

When I got to fly commercially for the first time when I was six, I fell in love with the sky and knew I couldn’t stay on the ground. I’ve also been interested in missions for as long as I can remember, an intrigue fueled by stories I heard before I could even read. Until I found out about JAARS in 2018, however, I wasn’t aware of the opportunities to integrate my love for flying into my passion for God’s Word and missions. 

The JAARS Vision Flight program, launched at the beginning of 2021 and offered every Thursday morning for youth ages 12—21, includes a tour of the Townsend Center as well as the main hangar. Participants are given the opportunity to take the controls and fly the airplane under the guidance and supervision of an experienced JAARS pilot. My 14-year-old brother Joshua and I were immensely blessed by the threehour experience. For me, the entire time confirmed God’s calling to mission aviation even more strongly.

The main hangar at JAARS

In the JAARS Townsend Field main hangar, I was able to witness aviation maintenance in progress, tour the aviation training classrooms and workspaces, and watch the behind-the-scenes collaboration that makes flying possible. 

But the best was yet to come. Meeting Rachael, who is in charge of the program and has flown in Cameroon, meant the world to me as she has overcome many challenges that I will also face one day as a mission pilot. Before we began, she welcomed us with JAARS pins, hats, and a Vision Flight booklet with a unique application of aviation terms to spiritual life. After ensuring that my brother and I knew proper airplane safety, Rachael guided us through the preflight checklist, allowing us to check the fuel level and become familiar with the aircraft. 

Rachael, Julia, and Joshua do the preflight inspection.

Climbing into the pilot’s seat was surreal, something I had only dreamt of and never imagined being able to do anytime soon. Professionally and comprehensively, Rachael explained the panel and controls in front of me. Her reassuring mannerisms made the (otherwise daunting) idea of flying a plane completely comfortable. Under Rachael’s guiding hands, anyone could take the controls with confidence! 

Headsets on and the propeller cleared, I keyed the mic and read the prompts Rachael had prepared for Seven Juliet Alpha. 

As I taxied down the runwaysomething I thought I’d have to wait at least five years to doRachael gave me tips and supplemented my actions with her experienced adjustment, giving clear and patient explanations of the takeoff logistics.

In a moment, we lifted off the ground, climbing over the treetops and leveling off with our eyes on the milky horizon of the cloudy day. Rachael showed me how to bank (turn) the plane and watch different instruments on the panel in front of me. And then she said the words that struck such a swell of joy within me: “All right, Julia, you are flying!”

All too soon, we were back on the ground.

After Rachael signed off the logbook pages in our Vision Flight booklets, she had a final question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being never and 10 being absolutely, how likely are you to pursue missionary aviation?” At her words, I grinned even more, having been so deeply inspired and motivated by the hours spent at the JAARS hangar.

When she gave a countdown for my brother and me to answer, I didn’t even have to think twice. “Ten!”

You too can get a hands-on taste of what JAARS does! Check out the Vision Flight program here.