Saving Time

By Rachel Greco

To a pilot, especially one serving in Papua New Guinea (PNG), time is important. Helicopter pilots can have eight to 10 travel legs a day, hopping all over the place while fighting the weather—which typically worsens throughout the day.

The SIL-PNG pilots usually start flying early in the morning so they can get as much flying done as possible before the weather deteriorates into storms.

Also, the mission workers they transport usually expect them to arrive at a certain time. And something unexpected almost always happens during the day to delay the pilots.

One tool that helps the pilots save time and be more efficient is FlightSpan™, a software app developed at JAARS. The app helps pilots throughout the entire span of a flight by providing all the information they need from start to finish.

Gavin Jones, an SIL-PNG helicopter pilot, has been testing the app, and although it still has areas for improvement, it’s now being used by both fixed-wing and helicopter pilots in PNG.

Gavin with locals in Milne Bay Province

“It saves us time and energy at the end of the flight,” Gavin explained.

One important feature of the app is its integration with the aviation team’s tracking system: v2track.

FlightSpan™ uses information from v2track’s GPS system to display the aircraft’s location, altitude, speed, direction, and many other details. When Gavin enters the flight’s load and hits “send,” the app sends a message back to home base explaining where he’s departing from, the number of passengers, and the weight.

As soon as Gavin lifts off, the FlightSpan™ app transitions to the map page because it knows the aircraft has started moving. “And then I just look up and see my departure time, my ETA—all those things that normally I would have to write down and calculate, or at least look at the GPS and figure out—it’s all right there.”

Once Gavin nears his destination, the app transitions again to show the landing zone page so Gavin can look at it quickly and not have to figure out all the calculations. “So that integration with [v2track] is really helpful and saves a lot of time in the cockpit.”

Getting the helicopter version of FlightSpan™ ready to use posed a few challenges that the airplane version didn’t encounter because its capabilities are slightly different. One of the biggest hurdles with a helicopter was how the weights and balance can vary so much depending on the type of job. For example, the pilots can put a load of roofing iron on the flight steps of the helicopter or inside it, and they can hang a sling load of materials underneath. This complicated the weight and balance setup. But now it’s working well.

Although SIL-PNG has yet to implement the full functionality of FlightSpan™ Ops—the finance and scheduling part of the software program—the app has already made a difference by enabling pilots to be more efficient so they can spend more time with the people they serve in Papua New Guinea—such as the translation teams in Milne Bay Province.

A view of Milne Bay Province from the helicopter

This province is one of Gavin’s favorite areas to fly in PNG because of its beauty. For a long time, the helicopter pilots didn’t need to fly there because little work was happening, but now Bible translation work is occurring in about 18 language groups.

Several times last year, Gavin moved mission workers or Papua New Guinean translators into and out of Alotau, the province’s capital. Many of these national translators must travel from the islands to Alotau to communicate with their translation advisers or consultants either in person or through the technology there.

The helicopter saves these teams time. Traveling by boat to Alotau could take anywhere from 12 hours to two days. By helicopter, the trip takes only about 40 minutes!


Active translation projects in Milne Bay province

FlightSpan™ is just one way that people like you giving to JAARS Technology Solutions can ease the burdens for these pilots and translation teams as they work tirelessly to translate God’s Word into their languages!

Consider giving to Technology Solutions today so we can continue offering efficient, time-saving tools to our partners overseas.