From the Left Seat to the Right

By Rachel Greco

Josh Eicholtz, a pilot who received his mission aviation training at JAARS, now serves in Papua New Guinea (PNG). There he spends his days soaring the skies in a Kodiak airplane to transport pastors, Bible translators, coffee, vaccines, and the injured who require medical treatment.

As most people would expect, piloting airplanes is a crucial job to perform correctly. Proficiency is even more crucial when the airstrips are carved out of dense jungles at high altitudes and surrounded by mountains. In order to remain proficient at what they do in PNG, the pilots have to undergo at least five flight checks every year.

Recently, when Josh returned to the U.S. with his family, he spent part of his time polishing his piloting skills. He also learned how to become a training pilot so that he could administer the necessary flight checks to pilots when he returned to PNG. As the aviation department there welcomes new pilots, Josh says, “I’m excited to help introduce them to flying in Papua New Guinea.”

For the training Josh underwent, JAARS utilized the services of Parkwater Aviation in Spokane, Washington. In contrast to the initial course that Josh took at JAARS four years ago, his training at Parkwater assumed he had experience and familiarity with the Kodiak’s systems. Josh looks back at those days of instruction: “It was enjoyable because it gave me the chance to get my mind back into the task of flying the Kodiak. With my first term of flying behind me, I could think of many examples relating to most of the systems we covered.”

Josh and one of his Parkwater instructors

After a full day of ground school, Josh was off to the simulator. After a short introductory flight with all systems working normally, Josh and his instructors began to explore the ‘what ifs’ about flying. “What if an engine failure occurs on takeoff?” Josh ruminates. “This is just one of the scenarios we work through in the simulator. Since it’s a simulator, we actually move the controls and shut the engine down. If it doesn’t work, we’ll learn from it and try again.”

With a few days of simulator sessions behind him, Josh jumped back into the airplane. It had been over eight months since he last flew the Kodiak, but with all of the completed simulator training, airplane flying was a natural next step. After a flight in the left seat, Josh moved over to the right seat to gain proficiency for a possible future role as a check and training pilot in PNG.

After six days at Parkwater, Josh finished his training. He is now putting what he learned into practice on the bumpy, short airstrips in Papua New Guinea so that he can continue to provide the crucial transportation services needed for Bible translation and community development.

Josh’s training at Parkwater is one example of recurrent training for pilots who serve overseas and need to maintain their qualifications—since technology, equipment, and best practices continually evolve.

Interested in becoming a pilot or mechanic supporting Bible translation? Explore your options here.