Thursday, July 30, 2009…The largest annual sporting event in the world started about 50 years ago with just a few pilots getting together to do what pilots and fishermen do best…swap stories.
Now, 56 years later, EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin hosts some 600,000 guests. As you can see, the North 40 is filled with folks who park their planes and camp under the wing...some for a night…some for the whole week.
Year after year we all show up to participate in what seems like a nonstop extravaganza of the latest and greatest in aviation. We’re all here because we know that when they say AirVenture is “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” they aren’t kidding. Gene Jordan (a good friend who has been with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) since 1977) sums it up with a simple fact, "It's kind of like heaven for a pilot.”
That’s probably more true this year than it has ever been. You see, each year EAA features different themes in aviation and for 2009 one of the themes at AirVenture is Humanitarian and Mission Aviation Service Worldwide. Or, as Gene Jordan puts it, “How airplanes are used for good." This year AirVenture is celebrating humanitarian aviation and EAA has provided a 40 by 40 ft tent on the extremely valuable real estate right off AeroShell Square.
This tent features displays by 40 humanitarian aviation organizations all in one place at one time. People have been flying in from all over the world to be here this week. Let me try to put it into perspective. MASA is an amazingly dedicated group that provides housing and 3 hot meals every day all week for missionaries who attend Oshkosh each year. (They gladly made the 8 hour round trip to pick me up at O’Hare and drove me to Oshkosh when my flight was cancelled earlier this week. That’s the kind of dedication these folks have.) Usually they take care of 100 people each year. This year nearly 400 mission personnel are benefiting from their hospitality.
Yesterday everyone gathered for a group photo and it was quickly obvious that without a wide angle lens and a cherry picker I wasn’t going to be able to get everyone in the shot.
The amazing story here is the unprecedented demonstration of teamwork that has united a global cast around a central theme expressed as FLY4LIFE. The International Association of Missionary Aviation (IAMA) was the logical organization to tackle this mountainous task and they have done an incredible job of coordinating the worldwide effort that brought these non-profit mission organizations together. When I spoke with Chuck Daly (the Director of JAARS Aviation and President of IAMA) he shared with me that, “Our desired outcome has been to see people getting involved in mission and humanitarian aviation. We want folks to leave this show thinking…hey here’s something I can do to make faith and compassion tangible. That might involve supporting one of these organizations, or supplying aircraft parts, or providing technical expertise, or maybe heading overseas yourself. FLY4LIFE offers a whole host of ways in which we can work together to change the world for individuals in need. And, from the perspective of mission organizations coming together, this week has been and outstanding experience. These folks have great dedication. It’s impossible not to sense the tremendous enthusiasm and public support represented in this event.”
Quest is thrilled to stand together with our friends and partners at aviation's greatest gathering and 3 KODIAKs are on display this year as part of FLY4LIFE. Here is MAF's KODIAK.
This one belongs to JAARS.
Spokane Turbine Center (STC) also has a KODIAK at AirVenture.
We are delighted that of the first 19 KODIAKs delivered 7 of them serve with humanitarian organizations. And right now the 20th is heading for the paint shop to be dressed in MAF colors. These deliveries are particularly exciting because they fulfill Quest’s original vision. From the very beginning we set out to design and manufacture a bush/utility aircraft specifically suited to the needs of mission and humanitarian aviation.
This aircraft was designed with the participation of the Quest Mission Team (QMT). These organizations have over 6 decades of experience providing humanitarian services in the most geographically challenging and difficult to reach areas of the world. Their involvement in this project translated that history into a modern solution to the current requirement of remote “bush” flying. As Chuck Daly puts it, “One of the most important things about the KODIAK is that it has been a team effort from the beginning. Quest sought out the help of organizations like JAARS, MAF, New Tribes, and many others. It was a collaboration first of design and then also of funding. Quest has provided an excellent excuse for us all to sit down at the same table together and work these things through.” Now, as KODIAKs are deployed in the field they supply humanitarian organizations with a rugged, powerful, and capable aircraft with which to renew their aging fleets.
The greatest side benefit of this project is that KODIAK has also been a powerful catalyst within the mission aviation community. Chuck Daly again, “While there has always been a sense of teamwork within mission aviation there has never been a single tool … until now … that has really been a rallying point the way the KODIAK has.” Together our vision is that the most impoverished people in the world will have a better life here and in eternity as a result of the KODIAK, the pilots who are called to help, and those of you who support these efforts in a myriad of ways.
Together we are getting that job done one plane at a time.