As a child, Lenny Yarita would look over the door between the parts room and the maintenance floor in the hangar in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea (PNG) where his dad worked. His gaze would land on the Cessna 206s then in operation, and he would see himself someday flying them to carry mission workers safely around the country.
But God had other plans and directed Lenny to become a maintenance specialist instead. After finishing high school in PNG, Lenny was accepted at a community college in the U.S. to study aviation maintenance. After receiving his Airframe and Powerplant certificate, he returned home, where he worked to get his PNG license.
But Lenny wasn’t done yet. To be able to sign off on inspections in PNG and declare an aircraft airworthy, Lenny came to JAARS to take our most recent months-long Pre-Field Orientation Course (PFO).
Lenny first heard about JAARS from his dad, who would often say, “This [part] came from JAARS.” But Lenny didn’t know what JAARS meant until he started working in the hangar and learned that mission pilots and maintenance specialists could go to JAARS to receive evaluations and training. So off to JAARS Lenny went, first for a technical evaluation, and later for PFO.
As part of PFO, Lenny took a PT-6 turbine-engine course because the aircraft he works on in PNG have turbine engines. This course will help Lenny troubleshoot problems remotely. If a pilot is out flying and radios back to say that he has an oil problem, Lenny will be able to ask him questions to troubleshoot the problem. He’ll be able to tell the pilot whether he can safely return or should wait for Lenny or another maintenance specialist to take the part out to him.
Lenny has already done this with problems unrelated to the engine. Once, a pilot hit a bird while flying. Via the radio, Lenny told the pilot what surfaces to inspect for damage. The pilot found no damage, so he flew back to the base in Ukarumpa. There, Lenny and the other maintenance specialists took a deeper look at the aircraft.
Lenny’s favorite part about his job is when he sees the Kodiak aircraft being loaded with the translated gospel. “That just gives [me] goosebumps. Even though I’m not doing the translation—I’m just in the background—it brings me a sense of contentment that I’m actually supporting this and happy that someone today is going to get God’s Word in his [first] language.”
“This Pre-Field Orientation won’t only help me,” Lenny said, “but it’ll help our team in Papua New Guinea share the load between all the licensed [maintenance specialists] so that we can split the work. Each of us can be supervising other new people. It will also help each of us take breaks in between inspections.”
More maintenance specialists and pilots are needed in Papua New Guinea, for both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The team currently only has three licensed maintenance specialists on the floor and one who is working to be current in the country. They also have 10 pilots: 3 helicopter and 7 fixed wing. When those maintenance specialists leave for home assignment, there might at some point be no maintenance specialists to fix the aircraft. “Then we [would have] to pause the inspections and pause maintenance, which means that [we would] pause operations until we get more people.”
This would mean that the transportation that facilitates the translation, Scripture engagement, literacy work, and medical evacuations would have to stop! The background work is often just as important as the “foreground” work of God’s Word going forth.
Thankfully, because Lenny went the extra mile to get certified, the team in PNG now has one more person to help lighten the load and stretch resources.