More People = More Challenges

By Rachel Greco

When James Grabhart was a kid, a missionary pilot came to his church and spoke about landing on a mountain, getting captured by guerrilla warriors, and escaping in the middle of the night like Peter from jail. This story captured James’ attention, but he didn’t pursue mission aviation until he had worked as an architect for several years. 

When the housing market crashed and James’ career in architecture went with it, he and his wife began asking God, “What’s next?” God reminded James of his long-forgotten interest in mission aviation and his wife’s desire to serve overseas. 

So James began attending the flight program at Moody Aviation. In 2018, a flight accident involving two students and an instructor made it difficult for James to keep learning how to fly. It was also going to take longer than four years for him to graduate with his commercial pilot’s license, so after praying with his wife, James decided to become a maintenance specialist instead of a pilot. 

Although it was disheartening at the time, James soon realized that God’s hand was in this decision. Not long after James and his wife decided that he should give up flying, his mother-in-law, who lives next door, had a series of health issues that put her in the hospital—right at the time when commercial night-flight training was beginning. His wife was then trying to homeschool their three kids while also taking care of her mom, so had James still been flying, he would have been completely unavailable to help his wife. “God knows what he’s doing,” James reflected. 

The Lord led James and his family to Missionary Flights International (MFI), which flies from its base in Fort Pierce, Florida, down to the Bahamas, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. MFI provides supplies for over 500 mission organizations working in that area. Its aircraft have turbine engines, so when Moody said it would be offering a turbine-intensive course, James recalls thinking, “I need to have that knowledge at the forefront of my mind so that when I’m down there, I can actually be useful beyond just handing [out] tools.”

As they begin an inspection, students get their first look inside the PT-6 engine.

Moody partners with JAARS to allow maintenance specialists to take the PT-6—a specific kind of turbine engine—course offered at JAARS. This allows students to learn under different instructors as well as meet mission workers who serve at JAARS. James had studied turbine engines with Moody, but that was earlier in his training when he didn’t think he would be working on them. And the JAARS course is much more focused. 

Instructors Jon Damon and Chip Jones review components of the propeller system.

James said of the the two instructors, “Jon and Chip did a really good job explaining [everything].” James appreciated how the instructors explained through diagrams what the systems were doing, then took the students back to the engine and explained where the systems were. “Sometimes there’s a disconnect between the representation of the parts and where those parts are actually located on the engine,” James said. But he didn’t have that problem in the PT-6 course at JAARS. “Every day, we were back at the engine they have in their classroom, and Chip was asking, ‘What’s this? What does this do? And why is this important?’” 

James valued how the instructors took time to review the information, making sure the students understood the concepts. The instructors made the review time fun by using an electronic quiz tool to ask questions from content taught the previous day. 

Attendees of the Spring 2021 PT-6 Heavy Maintenance Course included orientees from the JAARS Pre-Field Orientation course and aviation students from Moody Bible Institute.

Instructor Jon Damon is glad that some Moody students joined the Pre-Field Orientation students for the course. As the class grows, though, challenges increase. More people equals less opportunity for the students to have hands-on time at the turbine engine. The students end up standing together, trying to see what’s going on and waiting their time to work on the training engine. 

Thankfully, with help from people like you giving generously to Aviation Training Solutions, JAARS was able to buy a second PT-6 training engine that will meet the needs of the growing PT-6 class and help equip people like James to better serve the Lord overseas. Thank you

To enable JAARS to create the most effective and valuable training for mission pilots and mechanics, consider giving to Aviation Training Solutions.