Becoming a JAARS Pilot-Mechanic
After three and a half months of aviation pre-field orientation at JAARS, I am now officially a missionary pilot-mechanic!
I had been looking forward to this training right from the beginning when we signed up to serve with Wycliffe and JAARS.
For me, one of the highlights of maintenance training was working on the Pratt and Whitney PT6 engine on a Pilatus Porter. The PT6 is a turboprop engine; that is, it uses a turbine engine to drive the propeller. This very reliable engine can run up to 8,000 hours before needing an overhaul. The PT6 on the Quest Kodiak that I will fly in Papua New Guinea can deliver up to 750 shaft horsepower.
During flight training, I flew 54 hours in a Helio Courier, including 120 takeoffs and landings at 13 different airports, mostly on grass runways. Half of that time was spent flying in the mountains during “Mountain Week.”
Mountain Week, the climax of pre-field orientation, gave us the chance to land on challenging grass runways, practice ridge crossings, and learn to safely operate in the mountains. One of my favorite runways was Strawberry Ridge, a 1,000′-long, 16% sloped runway atop a ridge with a beautiful view of Mt. Mitchell (see the video). I’ve never landed on anything like that before!
Our aviation pre-field training completed, we are now preparing for the final stage of training before we leave for Papua New Guinea in just six months. Our next step takes us to Spokane Turbine Center in Washington where I will get a chance to fly the Quest Kodiak for the first time. The Kodiak is the aircraft I will eventually be flying. Our excitement grows as each step takes us closer to Papua New Guinea.