From the beginning, Craig Gahagen’s, flight from JAARS in Waxhaw, NC, to Pucallpa, Peru, was fraught with challenges. Craig, SAMAIR Peru’s program manager, was flying the Cessna 206 that JAARS had recently refurbished for service in Peru.
Craig’s first obstacle was that he wasn’t cleared to fly in the U.S. Thankfully, JAARS pilots Bruce Powell and then Chuck Daly volunteered to help him ferry the plane to Florida. During the flight, Chuck oriented Craig to all the Cessna’s new equipment that Craig hadn’t used before. “Chuck took three days out of his life to help me do that, so that was really nice [of him],” Craig reflected.
Ken, a ferry pilot who flies frequently to South America, was going to fly from Florida to South America with Craig. Ken had all the special radio and navigational equipment. Three days before Craig and Ken planned to leave, Ken called Craig and said: “I’m on my way to the emergency room.”
Craig was then on the hunt for a new ferry pilot. His friend with King’s Wings—an aviation mission based out of West Palm Beach, Florida—assigned one of his pilots, Mike, to fly to Peru with Craig.
Ken packed up all his ferry gear—life rafts, avionics loaded up with the routes to South America and all the instrument approaches—and sent it to Craig in Florida. Craig and Mike were ready to go … or so they thought.
They planned to leave West Palm Beach on Thanksgiving. But when they told their contact in Brazil that they were going to land there on a weekend, she told them that wasn’t possible. Instead, they left on Friday, flying for about seven hours to Puerto Rico, where they spent the night. “The weather was just gorgeous and everything went really smoothly there,” Craig said.
Then they learned they couldn’t land in Guyana, so they decided to spend the next two nights in Grenada instead.
They hit another snag when they arrived in Grenada: Mike wasn’t vaccinated, a requirement for entry into the country. “But by the grace of God and the help of two women there who worked as Fixed Base Operators,” Craig explained, “we received permission to stay and spend two nights in Grenada.”
After flying for five hours from Grenada, Craig and Mike landed in Boa Vista, Brazil, at the Asas de Socorro hangar—another aviation mission partner of JAARS.
From Boa Vista, the guys flew to Cruzeiro do Sul, Brazil, where they met Jeremiah Diedrich, a JAARS-trained helicopter pilot who served with Ethnos 360. There, after spending a night at the Ethnos 360 guest house, they were ready for their last hour-long flight.
After eight days filled with more than 30 hours of flying and stressful challenges, Craig and the Cessna 206 finally arrived in its new home of Pucallpa!
One of the people groups that this refurbished plane will serve is the Achuar people—a group of about 6,000 people who straddle the borders of Ecuador and Peru in the Amazon rainforest. Last year, several mission organizations teamed up with the Achuar to begin an Old Testament Bible translation. Craig and other pilots with SAMAIR will use the Cessna 206 to take the Bible translators and other language workers to the town—two hours from Pucallpa—where the translation work is actually happening.
“We’re super appreciative of the relationship that we have with JAARS,” Craig said. “The way the Lord orchestrated the situation with this airplane from crunch to arrival in Peru has just been amazing.” One important thing Craig learned from this journey is how people can collaborate generously to work together for the glory of God.