"Face to Face with a Kodiak"

I stepped outside and there it was, right outside the auto shop. It loomed behind a fence. But nevertheless, there it was. Huge and very real. And there I was……..face to face with a Kodiak.

If a Kodiak brings to mind a large brown bear of the southern coast of Alaska and adjacent islands, and you are wondering what I was doing face to face with one here in North Carolina, think again. There is another Kodiak on the grounds at JAARS and it is not exactly of the animal species. You could consider it, however, a ‘beast’ in its own right.

The Kodiak I faced that day is an aircraft designed by one of the industry’s premier aviation engineers, configured expressly for the mission field and the rigors of rough, isolated airstrips. This plane uses jet fuel, which is cheap and readily available. I sure wish I’d had a camera that day to take a picture of the humorous contrast outside, me vs. the ‘bear’. I thought the aviation guys were playing an absurd joke on me, parking it adjacent to the auto shop. During my time here at JAARS it’s not unusual for a pilot or aviation mechanic to park their car on my lot and ask my assistance with their own repairs. Surely, aviation was not expecting advice on this! I know they have high expectations of me, but really……….

Over the years, JAARS has kept a fleet of Helio Courier airplanes as its primary aircraft for missions. The Helio, designed in 1954, has been adapted over the years to serve Bible translators in remote locations. Though well maintained, they are aging and run on a fuel that is getting scarcer and expensive to obtain: aviation fuel or “avgas”. Avgas can cost up to $14 a gallon.

What a contrast the Kodiak offers. I’ll use a Cessna 206 for comparison. For example, when fully loaded with fuel, the newer Cessna 206s can carry only 669 pounds of passengers or cargo. Loaded with full fuel, the Kodiak will carry 2,260 pounds the same distance. The Kodiak’s turbine engine is considered many times more reliable than a piston engine. This plane flies further, higher, faster, and slower (a safety factor for landing) than a 206. It is a dream come true for missionary pilots and a nearly perfect solution to the need for aviation in missions.

As I pondered this aircraft, I wondered what its future held. After doing some ‘tours’ and testing in the U.S. it will be shipped to Papua New Guinea to begin service. JAARS has obtained the eighth one manufactured. As God provides, it hopes to acquire about five more over the next few years. I wondered how many missionaries it will take to remote places to reach hundreds of thousands of people who live in isolation so extreme that they’ve never heard the Gospel, never seen God’s Word in their own heart language.

The Helio Courier’s name means Light (Helio) Messenger (Courier). The Kodiak, manufactured by Quest Aircraft in Idaho, was designed specifically to advance the kingdom of God. May God bless this company for their pursuit of such a goal in a time when aviation costs continue to skyrocket. May this serve as a reminder that God is not limited by anything.

Though I can’t work on the Kodiak, or any aircraft, I am a part of the team that will launch its career in missions, taking God’s Word to those who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The next day the Kodiak was gone, now parked in the hangar. I can walk over and see it any time…and periodically I do. It’s hard to see the Helio phasing out. It has been a worthy Messenger of Light. Now as we look to the future, may God bless Quest Aircraft and may God bless the Kodiak as it begins service.

“Thank You, Lord, for Your provision of the Kodiak. May it be a blessing in carrying your Word and the truth of the Gospel to many.”
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