Step by Step

By Rachel Greco

For an update on this story, go here.

Sassy the Cessna here, though you might not recognize me at this point. I don’t look much like myself right now.

Dan Snow checking out Sassy’s front panel

The mechanics at JAARS have stripped me down to look for corrosion and other hidden problems. It’s a little embarrassing. I wouldn’t want any of my friends from Ethnos360—where I served before arriving at JAARS—to see me like this. But it’s worthwhile to endure the process so I can effectively serve the Bibleless people in Africa with SIL Cameroon*.

Jon Thomas riveting on the wing to get it ready to be painted.

I wouldn’t want to get to Cameroon next year and spend months in the hangar as they fixed whatever maintenance problems I might have. Jon Thomas, the head inspector of this project, doesn’t want that to happen either. He says, “We are trying to deal with any issues and inspections that might come up in the near future to give [SIL Cameroon] an airplane that they can put into service [immediately] and fly it and not have to worry about big maintenance issues.”

For a while, though, I thought my new maintenance friends here at JAARS had forgotten me. Shortly after I arrived in February from Ethnos360, I heard all this talk about COVID, and then I sat in the hangar by myself for months. I had expected to be traveling to serve in Africa at the end of the year, but I still needed a lot of work to spruce me up, so I was puzzled. Where was everyone?

Just when I despaired of ever seeing any humans again—let alone journeying to Africa—a few of the JAARS aviation staff returned. I was so glad to see them, even with masks covering their faces.

Paul Wiedenfeld helping to replace the lower skins on the Cameroon C206 horizontal stabilizer (tail section). The lower skins many times are dented from rocks. These skins were in need of replacement. There will be new horizontal stabilizer leading edges installed, too. The new style horizontal stabilizer leading edges will be easily replaced as they are fitted with screws rather than rivets.

So now Jon and his team of avionic technicians and mechanics are working hard to make me fit and healthy for my long journey and service in Africa. The work is going much more slowly now than it was before the pandemic, because many of the people who worked on me before are considered high risk for the virus. So instead of heading to Cameroon later this year, I probably won’t go until next spring.

But the team is making progress, step by step. They are now starting to put me back together and will soon paint my entire fuselage in the colors of Cameroon. I’m also looking forward to all the snazzy upgrades that SIL Cameroon has asked for. They will make me safer and more efficient.

Once my fuselage is painted, the avionics technicians will put in new wiring and install new radios and an instrument panel. The mechanics will also give me a new engine and propeller, increasing my power.

But I’m most looking forward to a special upgrade: an autopilot system. This will cut down the workload for me and the pilot, especially during the long two-to-three hour flights that I hear occur in Africa (apparently it’s a large continent).

They say autopilot’s even better than cruise control in an automobile: Once the pilot reaches a certain altitude and picks the direction he wants to go, the autopilot will keep us sailing straight in that direction until he turns it off. Doesn’t that sound great?

The mechanics are also working on a new cargo pod since my old one was too heavy. As Jon says, “Weight is everything when you’re flying.” The mechanics have found a cargo pod that’s about fifteen pounds lighter than my previous one. It will go under my belly—perfect for carrying boxes of Scripture, luggage, building materials, even pigs!

Of course, when I’m all modified and fit and shiny, some JAARS pilots will take me out for test flights to ensure they’re giving SIL Cameroon the best, safest version of me.

Although my time at JAARS has been much different from what I or the aviation staff expected, I know the same God who crafted the sky will finish the work he has begun in me, in you, and in Cameroon—step by step.

As you can see, I still need a lot of work, as well as a way to get to Cameroon. Please consider giving to Aviation Solutions to ensure the completion of all my upgrades and travel to Cameroon.

*A JAARS aviation partner