CREATING SOLUTIONS: Good Tools + Great Craftsmen = Creative Solutions

From an ordinary hangar at the JAARS airfield come some extra­ordinary products—products ranging from hard-to-find aircraft parts to innovative aircraft hardware. Terry Heffield, head of engineering, has a team of engineers, mechanics, and machinists who regularly fabricate hard-to-find parts for JAARS aircraft. They also design and produce components needed in the field—cargo pods, safer aircraft seats, and improved cargo tie-downs are examples. There are no templates for these projects. They require creativity, innovation, and technical expertise—JAARS signature qualities.


Safer aircraft seats are a perfect example. In the mid-1970s, a JAARS pilot broke his back when his seat collapsed during a crash landing. Following this tragedy, Heffield led an effort to improve seat crashworthiness. After testing many designs in a Federal Aviation Administration crash simulator, Heffield found that an innovative S-frame was the most effective design for crew seats. With FAA approval, JAARS technicians fabricated the new seats and made them available to all mission fleets.

“I know of at least five (non-JAARS) people who are walking around today thanks to the improved crashworthiness of our seats,” says Heffield.

Specialized cargo pods are another example of JAARS engineering creativity. Every mission flight needs to be optimized, but a cabin filled with people leaves no room for cargo. YAJASI, our Indonesian aviation partner, requested that JAARS design an aerodynamic external cargo pod for their PC-6 aircraft. In response, JAARS engineers partnered with Aerocet Corporation to produce a fiberglass cargo pod that fit perfectly into the area designed for external fuel tanks—leaving the aircraft’s flying characteristics virtually unchanged. Have the pods helped? Nate Gordon, a YAJASI pilot, needed to fly supplies for mission work 150 miles from his base. The cabin was full, but thanks to the new pods, he was able to accommodate 317 pounds of cargo that would otherwise have been left behind.

Fiberglass cargo pods carry additional cargo, so more passengers or supplies can be taken in one trip.

Another example of JAARS problem-solving ability—and testimony to our good stewardship: an improved PC-6 cargo tie-down assembly. Tie-down hooks secure cargo loaded in the aircraft’s main cabin. This small assembly provides a movable connection where straps can attach to secure cargo. These tie-downs are regularly damaged and need replacement. But the original parts were very expensive. So to help mission aviation partners worldwide steward their resources well, Heffield’s team began to research alternatives.

“We designed prototypes on our 3-D printer and sent the drawings to our machinists for fabrication,” explained Heffield. “After several modifications, the team came up with a revised tie-down assembly that was stronger, lighter—and about eight times cheaper than the original model.”

Terry will be the first to acknowledge the help JAARS receives from outside parties on its projects. Many people played important roles in developing the improved seats and cargo pods: engineers from JAARS partner organizations, government workers, total strangers who miraculously came into contact with JAARS. Maybe not so miraculous, according to Terry. “The Lord worked it out, so we could meet people with special skills to help us,” says Heffield. Not only were these people industry leaders, they knew the Savior and were willing to use their invaluable contacts and specialized skills to help JAARS.

How can so many engineering innovations come from the modest building at the JAARS airport? It’s no mystery to Terry Heffield. “We have good tools, great partners, outstanding craftsmen, and a Lord who provides the assistance we need.” This winning combination enables JAARS to support missionary aviation worldwide with innovations that make flying safer, cheaper, and more efficient.

These projects require creativity, innovation, and technical expertise … JAARS signature qualities.

Richard Shipman

Richard Shipman

Richard Shipman, a retired Navy pilot, is a volunteer member of the JAARS writing team.