It’s Time I Retired

By Rachel Greco

For an update on this story, go here.

I’ll admit it—I’m an old geezer. I was built in 1972 and have flown more than 14,800 hours, most of that in Africa—a vast continent, especially for one small plane. I’ve spent these last 27 years in Cameroon, soaring Bible translators, aid workers, and other Kingdom workers around so they can make God’s kingdom known on earth.

Brandon Penkoff loads Tango Mike with 14 boxes of Hdi New Testaments. Each box holds 45 copies, 672 total New Testaments.

I enjoyed flying translators Greg and Tracy McLean to their village in the remote mountains of Northwest Cameroon from my home of Yaounde. If the McLeans had depended on one of those land-stuck movers called a “vehicle,” it would have taken two whole days to access the villages where they worked! I’ve often flown over those roads. They’re impassible for six months out of the year during rainy season. Even during the dry season in this mountainous terrain, I’ve heard that travel on those roads can be brutal.

Tracy and Greg McLean loading up the plane to leave for their village

So the McLeans would much rather hop inside me than suffer on those pot-hole ridden roads. With my help and that of my helicopter friend, TJ, it only took the McLeans half a day to reach their village instead of two!

Because of civil unrest in the region where the McLeans work and serve, my colleagues and I are even more vital to keep the humans safe. I’m sad that due to the unrest, we don’t fly them as much as we used to.

I wouldn’t be able to fly them much anyway because of all the time I’ve spent in the hangar hospital. To make sure that old codgers like me won’t malfunction or die while flying, the humans here at Yaounde must perform more-frequent heavy maintenance. Since I’ve flown so many hours, the team here has to remove my wings every 2,000 hours and do an inspection on all my attach points to check for cracks, corrosion, or anything else wrong with me.  

One of the men who used to inspect me, Dan Snow, says, “It’s a big job to pull the wings apart enough that you can get in there.” It doesn’t feel very good either! But I know they mean well, so I let the guys pull, prod, and poke without blowing exhaust on them or rolling over them with my wheels.

It is kind-of embarrassing that my colleagues, Bravo T., a Cessna 207, and my friend, TJ, the new R66 helicopter, have to watch while the humans dissect me. They’re both able to fly while I’m stuck in the hangar.

I used to fly Dr. Jim and Ina Smith to mission hospitals in Banyo and elsewhere. According to Dan Snow, “Jim and Ina could not be working in Cameroon without using the airplane (that’s me) to travel to the capital city from their work in the town of Banyo.”

Dennis Freeland fuels Tango Mike in Cameroon in preperation for an early morning flight. Dennis and Brandon Penkoff will be delivering 672 Hdi New Testaments.

To meet their rigorous flight schedule, the Cameroon crew needs both Bravo T. and I. We each have unique capabilities, which means that sometimes one of us is better suited for a particular flight than the other. Recently, the guys found some problems with my engine, so the Cameroon crew now has to depend solely on Bravo T. for all its airplane needs. This greatly complicates their schedule. If Bravo T. has an unexpected need, or if his turn comes up for a regular, required checkup, then we have no aircraft to transport our humans to the distant places where they need to go.

Even if the guys patch my engine, I know my time here in Cameroon is limited. But I’m fine with that. I’ve served as long and as hard as I could—it’s time for this old geezer to retire. Uncountable are the stories I can tell about my small part in witnessing the expansion of Christ’s kingdom, here and now, and for eternity.

My good friends at JAARS are searching for my replacement, a newer Cessna 206. They hope to install a bigger engine on the newer airplane so that it will have more power, fly faster, and burn less fuel. They also want to install up-to-date avionics (aviation electronics) since some of the newer equipment can make airplanes safer.

I definitely don’t fly as fast as I once did. It’s time for workers, like the Smiths and McLeans, to have a fitter, safer plane to take them to the people they serve. Consider giving to JAARS Transportation Solutions so that God’s Word can go forth quickly and efficiently, and I can have a good, long rest.

-Tango Mike, (an old) Cessna 206