Pre-Field Orientation: What does it take?

The JAARS Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) program is a sixteen-week training event based at the JAARS Center in Waxhaw, North Carolina. Ten days of the training is conducted off-site, based out of the Avery County airport in the North Carolina mountains. This portion of PFO, known as “Mountain Week,” is an opportunity to put into practice all of the class, shop, simulator, and flight training conducted in PFO.

The goal of PFO is “to thoroughly equip our new pilots, pilot-mechanics, and aviation maintenance specialists to function safely and professionally in their assigned field operations.”

Brent Fox sets rivets on a Kodiak aileron that was sent to JAARS from Papua New Guinea. Photo by Johnny Reeves

What does it take to reach this goal? A multi-faceted response that includes the orientees, the JAARS Aviation Training staff, Team JAARS, and our field entities.

Students of the 2018 spring PFO attending the PT6 familiarization, heavy maintenance and hot section inspection course given at the JAARS Center. Photo by Jon Damon

Orientees: All orientees must have a qualified, experienced background combined with a desire and willingness to continually learn. Aviation maintenance technicians must have an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate and a minimum of two years of aviation maintenance experience. Pilots need a minimum of 500 hours total flight time, a commercial pilot certificate with instrument rating, a second-class medical, and an A&P certificate. English proficiency and a successful completion of the JAARS Technical Evaluation is required. Foreign equivalent licenses for pilots and mechanics can be accepted.

Inspection on the Mission Aviation Fellowship Quest Kodiak loaned to JAARS for PFO. Photo by Jon Damon

JAARS Aviation Training staff: The 20 dedicated, professional, and experienced individuals on our training staff have a heart for teaching and a desire to mentor those God is sending to the field in aviation service. Currently, the staff has a combined 558 years of mission experience and over 70,500 hours of total flight experience. With this level of experience, they speak with authority and credibility as they move orientees from operating in a familiar professional environment into the environment of professional mission aviation.

Instructor BJ Diggins and Johnny Reeves prepare for a flight in the Helio Courier. Photo by BJ Diggins

Team JAARS: This group of personnel provides much-needed services like housing in the apartments or campground on campus, medical support via the JAARS Clinic, professional member-care services from Human Resources, counseling, Missionary Kids Station, Partnership Development coaches, and Purchasing and Shipping. The Learning and Development team enhances an orientee’s training through the Intercultural Communications Course that precedes the PFO course. JAARS Townsend Airfield is specifically engineered for the introduction of aircraft operations in an overseas context. Short and sloped grass runways expose the pilots to aircraft control situations not normally encountered through paved runway operations.

Surveying airstrips is an important skill to learn prior to overseas service. Photo by Johnny Reeves

Overseas Entities: These organizations determine the content and desired completion standards for PFO. They receive the “final product” of a process that is often 10 or more years in the making—from God’s initial call laid on the orientees’ hearts, through all of their preparatory training to meet the entry standards, through membership with a sending mission organization, and through the technical and human factors training provided during PFO.

To take full advantage of PFO training, orientees should have 100 percent of their support in place when they arrive. They can then concentrate on their final training before they depart for overseas assignments and arrive on the field with current, recent training. Aviation is the practice of many frangible skills—getting to the field quickly after the completion of PFO enables these skills to remain fresh.

An additional part of the funding equation is the actual cost of PFO. For Wycliffe members, the course cost is approximately $900 for aviation maintenance technicians and between $7,000 (piston field) and $11,000 (turbine field) for pilots. For pilot/mechanics from other mission organizations, the cost is approximately $13,000. These costs change each year and do not include any funding for housing, food, travel, immunizations, and other services.

Please contact the Coordinator of Initial Flight training at 704.843.6183 or at for the most current information.
Watch a short video of a JAARS training flight here.

Dan Osborn

Dan Osborn

Dan Osborn and his wife, Gail, served as long-term volunteers with JAARS for eight years. Dan, a retired USCG helicopter and fixed-wing pilot, served as the Aviation Training Manager and Gail was a receptionist at the JAARS Clinic.