Fixed-Wing

In January of 2011, we were blessed with the gift of a 1956 Cessna 180, tail number N4599B. In case you are not familiar with the 180, it is a 4-place airplane often used as a bushplane in Alaska.

We have prayed for a long time, asking God to provide a helicopter for our work. Not just the work focused on by Agua Viva, but the work of evangelizing Talamanca which includes the work of all the missionaries in the area. Because of the terrain where a majority of the villages are located, the use of a fixed-wing aircraft had never been a consideration in our planning. The almost total lack of any flat ground in alto Talamanca precluded any thought of using an airplane instead of a helicopter. Since having been gifted with the airplane, ministry opportunities among Indian populations in both Panama and Nicaragua have been presented to us. Opportunities the airplane would make possible.

The airplane had been constantly hangared and the number of hours it had flown the previous 15 years was surprisingly low. The first point a good thing, the second, not so much. We were making preparation to fly the aircraft to Costa Rica and decided to have an annual inspection performed. Since taking possession of the aircraft, it had been flown about 35 hours, an accumulation of flight time that far exceeded the previous 15 years. The intention was to take the aircraft to Georgia from North Carolina, where we were to have the annual performed. We departed Burlington, NC into over-cast skies. Monty, one of the ministries’ Trustees and a long-time IFR pilot, was pilot-in command. Cruising at 8,000 ft. in clear sky, approximately 1000 ft. above the cloud deck and 30 miles from Columbia, SC. , an explosion followed by an intense vibration marked the demise of the right middle cylinder and the disappearance of all engine power. An immediate glide to planet earth was initiated, much to our dismay and contrary to Monty’s best efforts at maintaining altitude. A subsequent failure of the flight instruments signified a blind descent through several thousand feet of cloud cover. The fact we touched down, wheels first at the end of a very wide long strip of asphalt in Columbia is a testimony to God’s goodness and sovereignty.

The power failure has resulted in a large repair cost to return the aircraft to airworthy status. Once operational however, it should be much safer than before the incident, since steps have been taken to hopefully avert a reoccurrence of the problem in another cylinder. Another source of expense, not yet committed to, is our desire to modify certain aspects of 4599B to make it a little more bushplane oriented. Below is a list of the specific modifications and their approximate cost.

  • Wing X wing tips…………………………………$5495
  • Sportsman STOL…………………………………$2000
  • Vortex Generators………………………………$1500
  • Oil Filter Adapter………………………………..$500
  • Battery Box………………………………………..$365
  • 2 rear jump seats…………………………………$1850
  • Extended baggage kit……………………………$1130
  • Inertia reel harness………………………………$1140
  • Heavy Duty landing gear brackets…………..$1440
  • Tundra Wheels & 29″ tires………………………$5221
  • 10″ tundra wheel assembly…………………….$2375
  • 4 person life raft with life jackets……………..$1600
  • CHT/Engine Analyzer……………………………$2500
  • Total…………………………………………………..$27,116

If all the listed changes could be made, the airplane could begin to give us access right away to some of the remote and distant villages. It could also serve as a means for resupplying teams who have hiked to distant villages by air dropping in needed items.

A long story to illustrate a point, aviation operations are by their very nature expensive. As a small independent ministry, we have never had the additional funds, above and beyond our usual expenses, to maintain air operations. Then again, until now, we never had an aircraft. To add fuel to the fire of my often hinted at insanity, I not only want to operate one aircraft but two. And it is not about the aircraft themselves or the flying. My desire is fueled by the belief that no other aid to ministry could possibly do more for the propagation of the Gospel here in Talamanca. God must be working. There must be others, who will heed the call and choose to make the salvation of Talamanca of paramount importance in their lives.

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