But in the rugged areas where Bible translators live and work, missionary pilots must use airstrips that are often nothing more than grass patches cut into a mountainside, with no control tower, no instrument landing systems, no runway markings or lights. Missionary mechanics face their own difficulties: limited maintenance facilities, parts supply issues, aircraft repairs in the field. How do pilots and mechanics prepare to operate in such challenging conditions? The answer is specialized training—the kind that JAARS has been doing for more than 70 years now.
In North Carolina, our airfield includes a mix of runways—long, short, paved and grass surfaces, plus a strip with built-in slope—that allow for varied training scenarios. Our Redbird FMX full-motion, full-visual simulator provides a cost-saving method to teach procedures and practice instrument flying without risk. And our veteran instructors—all with more than 20 years of overseas service—lend credibility and experience to the instruction.
Annually, JAARS offers a 16-week pre-field orientation (PFO) that prepares pilots and mechanics to fly and maintain aircraft in the most challenging locations. During this intense training, instructors work with trainees to increase their competence and instill good judgement, attention to detail, and understanding of risk management. A final training week in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains enables students to practice flying in terrain similar to what they will encounter overseas.
We also provide recurrent training for pilots and mechanics who are serving overseas and need to maintain their qualifications—since technology, equipment, and best practices continually evolve.
Finally, in addition to landing fields and instructors, we maintain a training fleet with a variety of aircraft that replicate those used in the field: helicopters that can land in the tightest of spaces, specially designed STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) aircraft that can operate on the shortest of runways, and cockpit equipment that will minimize learning time when our trainees begin flying overseas.
Bryan Jones, a pilot and mechanic slated for service with SIL in Papua New Guinea (PNG), came to JAARS for PFO after devoting 15 years of his life preparing for mission aviation. At the program, he gained the specialized skills he could never acquire in general aviation training and was also able to get training in the Kodiak aircraft he will be flying overseas.
Similarly, Indonesian mechanic Sony Haumeny—with mission aviation partner YAJASI—supplemented his PFO training with commercial engine and propeller maintenance schools.
Gavin Jones, a JAARS pilot in PNG, related this story about a recent flight:
“A missionary family—including a dad, pregnant mom, and two small girls—was about to hike more than 12 hours through steep, wet, slippery terrain to a location near my destination. They were thrilled when my helicopter transformed a challenging, dangerous hike into an eight-minute flight.”
The ultimate beneficiaries, of course, are the people and language groups who are still without completed Scripture—or any Scripture at all. In Africa, more than 1,400 people groups have less than a complete New Testament, while in the Pacific, over 900 people groups lack a fully translated New Testament. Most of these communities are in remote, off-the-grid locations—making safe, reliable aviation service essential.
We invite you to partner with us to maintain the high standards of our training. Your prayers, your advocacy, and your gifts will equip pilots and mechanics for safe, effective ministry around the world—and for the advancement of the Bible translation they support.
More pilots and mechanics are lined up for critical training over the coming years. Your generosity will help make their training—and a lifetime of service—possible.