The Best Makeover

By Rachel Greco

Sassy the Cessna here. I’ve recently received the best makeover—possibly of my life—and I feel like a whole new plane, ready to help spread the gospel to the remote peoples of Peru. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Sassy parked in the JAARS hangar after arrival from Arizona and ready for a makeover! Photo credit Jon Thomas

I arrived here at JAARS in February 2020 from Ethnos360, and so much has happened since! At that time, I was going to serve Bible translation with SIL Cameroon Aviation. However, the crafter of the sky had other plans. A few challenges arose that made it difficult for me to serve in Cameroon. Although that was disappointing, I’m now excited about the opportunity to help SAMAIR Peru reach isolated villages with the gospel. 

It’s taken a whole team of JAARS mechanics, avionic technicians, and pilots to prepare me for serving in Peru. The mechanics stripped me down and took out some of my innards—my 10-year-old wiring—so the avionic technicians could replace it. My friend Carman Frith, the avionics supervisor at JAARS, who oversaw this part of the project, said, “We’re trying to give [SAMAIR Peru] a new start on the wiring.” Carman and his coworker, Tim Fox, used drawings to pinpoint where the new wires should go. It tickled at first but now feels so nice! All my electrical parts are now all connected.

This part of my makeover was certainly riveting! 🙂

Besides filling me with new wire, Carman and Tim also equipped me with some updated equipment. SAMAIR kept most of the upgrades that Cameroon SIL Aviation had requested while adding a few of its own specifications. One was an updated instrument panel that uses newer technology.

Tim Fox works on some of my avionics

I also now have a new Garmin G5 radio that, according to Carman, “is capable of displaying an incredible amount of information in a very small space.” This will help my pilots know what direction they’re going in terms of the degrees of the compass. It can also tell us how fast we’re climbing or descending, our airspeed, and other important information to help keep us on track.

Another upgrade that Cameroon SIL wanted was a transponder, which enables my pilot and me to tell air traffic control who we are, what elevation we’re at, and where we’re going. Cameroon wanted this in my tail, but SAMAIR needed it moved forward to keep my center of gravity forward. So Carman and Tim were able to put it in the instrument panel in my cockpit. 

I’m also looking forward to using my new stormscope, which helps me detect electricity so I can steer clear of it, since I have no desire to get my updated body ruined by lightning or battering winds. This device is especially important in places such as Peru, where thunderstorms are common and there isn’t much of a ground infrastructure that generates this information and can get it into the aircraft.

At SAMAIR’s request, I now have a fancy new V2 Track system that will let other pilots and the airport know where I am in case of an emergency. I also now have an autopilot system.

The avionic technicians aren’t the only ones who’ve worked wonders on me. The mechanics, overseen by the project lead, Jon Thomas, have also installed a new engine, provided by SAMAIR Peru that matches those in their fleet. This will make it easier to keep me fit and healthy in the isolated jungles of Peru because they already have these parts.

Jon was the lead mechanic on my makeover. Here he’s riveting one of my wings to get it ready for painting.
Mechanics Merle, Lynn, and Paul working on the new engine that SAMAir requested.

I’ve also tried on all different kinds of colors while at JAARS. When I was going to Cameroon, the JAARS aviation staff painted me with green, red, and yellow stripes. Now that I’m going to serve with SAMAIR Peru, I have lovely burgundy and red stripes so I’ll match the other aircraft in the fleet. I look forward to meeting them, which hopefully will be soon!

Now that the mechanics and avionic technicians have completed the major parts of my makeover, JAARS pilot Bruce Powell has taken me on test flights. All my new systems seem to be in good working order, and though there are still things that need to be done, I should be ready to join SAMAIR’s fleet in November. I can’t wait to help spread God’s Word to the people in Peru!

My test pilot, Bruce, and in my front seat, Merle, one of the aviation mechanics who worked on me.

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