Why Another App?

By Rachel Greco

Josh Eicholtz, a JAARS-trained pilot-mechanic, serves in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with our aviation partner, SIL PNG. He wondered why the pilots needed another app when they already had at least two that organized their runway charts and checked their plane’s weight and balance. 

So why did they need FlightSpan, the app that Nate Gordon, a product manager at JAARS, developed for our aviation partner, YAJASI, to use in Indonesia? “I was fairly skeptical of whether FlightSpan was the right direction to go,” Josh admitted. 

But a pilot serving with YAJASI had told Josh and the other pilots in PNG to try it. So when COVID-19 struck, the pilots decided it was time to test FlightSpan. 

Nate implemented the specific requirements for PNG in a beta app to show them how it worked. As soon as Josh received the beta, he saw its potential. Within a month, he began flying with the app on his iPad. 

FlightSpan in action

Soon Josh stopped using all his old methods. And before long, all the other pilots wanted to use the app. 

Josh realized Nate had been right in saying no other iPad app does what they’re trying to do, which is fill several roles in one. 

SIL PNG aviation doesn’t have agents at most runways to sell tickets, weigh cargo, and help the pilot load the plane; the pilot must do all these tasks. “That slows me down when I get to the airstrip,” Josh explained. But with FlightSpan, the weight and balance and billing are all built in. So instead of having to do calculations across multiple apps while the weather’s building, Josh can put in the information just once.  

Josh also likes how FlightSpan keeps track of NOTAMs (notices to airmen). Pilots write NOTAMs when they notice anything that other pilots should be aware of, such as the grass on a runway being too high. Previously, Josh would have to write the NOTAM on a clipboard. Then, when he returned to the office at the end of the day, he’d have to remember to enter the NOTAM into the system. 

But with FlightSpan, the pilots put the NOTAM in the app while at the runway, reducing the risk they will forget to do so. At the end of the day, the app automatically syncs the NOTAM into the system and sends out an email, which keeps the NOTAMs up to date. “Now our pilots are getting more accurate information,” Josh said. 

But Josh’s favorite aspect of FlightSpan is how it has enabled the pilot-mechanics of PNG to serve the people better. Before the app, when Josh received a call to perform a medivac*, he had to go to the computer, pull up the flight schedule, and build his flight plan. Then he had to plan his fuel, look at the NOTAMs, and file a flight plan. 

If someone now wants him to perform a medivac, he pulls up FlightSpan and is ready within minutes to preflight the airplane. This flexibility is even more crucial when pilots are in the jungle and have to make quick adjustments. 

“The people who are most impacted by the app are the people that live in the most remote locations,” Josh said. He recently experienced this need for flexibility when he had to fly into the grass runway at Aziana in the Eastern Highlands—the shortest runway in PNG. Josh was at the base in Ukarumpa, eating lunch after putting the plane away, when the team received a medivac request. A woman at Aziana was having trouble during labor and needed to go to a hospital. With the app, it was easy for Josh to do the necessary planning and hop back into the pilot’s seat. “[The app] makes it easier to say yes to those requests because you can do it safely, and you can do it quickly.” 

People hang out by the airplane at the Aziana airstrip

With the help of people like you giving to Technology Solutions, Josh and the pilots in PNG are able to serve more people. Thank you! JAARS looks forward to how God will use this app in other aviation mission organizations around the world to reach more people with his love. 

*Emergency medical evacuation flight