Source: Adventist Review
[June 25, 2007] A brand new, lightweight airplane plane made a stop at Cessnock Airport in Australia on May 24, during its maiden voyage from Auckland to Papua New Guinea (PNG) where it will be used to transport medical staff and much needed supplies to remote communities.
At a time when many flight operators are pulling out of PNG because of rising costs, the PAC 750XL is the first of its kind to enter the country. It will be used by the Seventh-day Adventist Church to treat the sick in hard to reach places in the country’s highlands, as well as transport food and building supplies.
A plaque was presented to Adventist Aviation during a ceremony the next day, dedicating the newly commissioned PAC 750XL “to the service of God and in memory of mission pilots who died in mission aviation and other mission service.” The dedication plaque will be placed in its hanger in Goroka, PNG.
Dr. Brad Kemp, associate general secretary for the church in the South Pacific, offered the prayer, dedicating the aircraft in part to the church’s mission pilots “who put their lives at risk but who do it with purpose and passion.” They bring hope to remote communities by reminding the members of these communities they are not isolated, not forgotten, Kemp said.
Former mission pilots Lawrence Shields and Les Anderson died in plane crashes near Goroka in the Eastern Highlands of PNG in 1973 and 2002 respectively, while Peter Knopper was murdered in 1988 in Homu, PNG. Graham Barnett was killed in an accident in 1998 at Pacific Adventist University in the country.
The first Seventh-day Adventist medical missionary pilot in PNG, Pastor Len Barnard, joined the aircraft’s inaugural flight to Goroka during its scheduled stop at Cessnock. Now retired and living in Cooranbong, he established Adventist Aviation in PNG with Pastor Colin Winch in 1964. He praised the church for its boldness in purchasing the aircraft.
“I never thought I would see such a state-of-the art and beautiful machine used by the church,” Barnard said. “It is my greatest wish that the Lord will bless this machine, the pilot and all the passengers and that it will be used to the glory of God in Papua New Guinea.”
AAS flies supplies and medical staff and sets up temporary clinics to treat the sick in PNG. Those with more serious conditions are also evacuated to hospitals. According to Pastor Roger Millist, chief pilot and chief executive officer of AAS, the acquisition of P2SDB was made possible because of the ongoing service that has been provided for almost half a century. The airplane cost $1.8 million in Australian dollars, or approximately $1,480,000 in U.S. funds.
“Funds for the replacement of aircraft have been put aside over the years,” said Millist, “but serious fund raising was also needed to make this dream come true today. People all over the world have donated to make this plane possible.”
Funds for the new aircraft came from donations from church members through camp meeting offerings and the worldwide Sabbath School Offering of 3rd Quarter, 2006, which as previously reported was one of the highest 3rd Quarter offerings collected. The people of PNG also contributed financially to help purchase the plane that will be used to help those in their country.
Adventist Aviation has not had a new aircraft since 1977. The Quiet Hour, an independent, supporting ministry of the church based in Redlands, California, USA, purchased the first two, a Cessna 180 and a Piper PA-23-250 Aztec. It is now raising money through its “Airplanes for the world” project for a third, which will be either another PAC 750XL or a Quest Kodiak S/N 001. World Sabbath School Mission offerings continue to support the mission of the church around the world.
Millist described the aircraft as “versatile and rugged.” Hamilton, New Zealand-based Pacific Aerospace Corporation built it specifically to the needs of Adventist Aviation. The turbine engine can take the aircraft from brake release to 22,000 feet in 22 minutes. It seats a pilot and nine passengers, carries enough fuel to fly for five hours with 45 minutes reserve and features: a cargo pod; a satellite phone; full co-pilot’s instrument panel; and heavy duty landing gear.
One of the major benefits of the new plane lies in its use of fuel that is much more readily available. Fuel used in its previous aircraft had to be imported into PNG, hence raising the cost significantly.
“We operate in very dangerous terrain and weather with short rugged airstrips, many of which are poorly maintained,” said Millist. “This aircraft is a clear statement the Adventist Church is serious . . . about being God’s hands and feet in PNG.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has more than 3000 churches in PNG and almost 225,000 members there.