Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wings of Hope Contributes Missionary Airplane for STEM Project

By Carmelo Turdo
The Aero Experience continues our periodic coverage of the great Midwest Aviation service organization,  Wings of Hope, with more from our visit earlier this month.  In our earlier story, we reviewed the missions performed from St. Louis and around the world.  The Medical Relief and Air Transport Program provides air transportation at no cost for patients needing specialist treatment in facilities in the Midwest.  Wings of Hope also provides direct and indirect medical aviation support within several African and South American countries.  The St. Louis headquarters facility provides corporate management and aircraft maintenance services in a very efficient and professional manner.  Numerous examples of the great work performed by Wings of Hope are illustrated in The Aero Experience stories over the last few years.

During our most recent visit, we were introduced to Adventist World Aviation Missionary Jud Wickwire, whose Canadian Cessna 182 was receiving an avionics upgrade by Big River Aviation's Paul Voorhees.  We were also informed of the current STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project involving a Wings of Hope Aircraft that will be used for medical air transportation by Adventist World Aviation in Nicaragua following its refurbishment and required safety inspections.  Thanks to Wings of Hope Communications Manager Carol Enright, we were able to learn more about the STEM aircraft program and meet with Jud Wickwire in the Wings of Hope hangar.

Last September 23, a Cessna 182, the workhorse of missionary aviation, was delivered by Wings of Hope to Lancaster Regional Airport for use in a STEM challenge program with the Lancaster, TX Independent School District.  The program was designed by Experience Aviation, a non-profit organization founded by Barrington Irving, to give students hands-on experience in aircraft airframe and powerplant (A&P) maintenance under the supervision of a certified A&P mechanic.  In addition to performing routine and required maintenance, the program includes an engine overhaul, avionics update and the installation of STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) kit on the wings for better performance on small, unpaved airstrips.  The aircraft will then become a vital means of access to remote villages where routine and emergency medical care is currently unavailable.

The Lancaster Build & Soar Program, as it is known, provides opportunities for 50 students from Lancaster High School to participate in the aircraft refurbishment project and apply the STEM knowledge they received through their academic courses.  From October 1, 2016 through a portion of May 2017, the students will work through rotating Saturdays for a minimum of ten sessions.  The aircraft will then return to Wings of Hope in St. Louis to be painted and inspected before it will receive a sendoff for service as a medevac plane in Nicaragua with Adventist World Aviation.  This project is one in a series of successful Build & Soar programs that have involved over 500 students since 2008.

The background information on this program, and the images of the aircraft delivery and student interaction below, were provided by Wings of Hope:


During our most recent visit to Wings of Hope, we were fortunate to meet with our old friend Paul Voorhees of Big River Aviation and then with a new friend, Jud Wickwire, a missionary pilot with Adventist World Aviation.  Wickwire, a native of British Columbia, Canada, was a bush pilot and ran a fishing lodge prior to joining with Adventist World Aviation.  He served in the South American country of Guyana for over five years as Chief Pilot of Wings for Humanity, and is currently Vice President of Operations for Adventist World Aviation Headquarters Canada.  The Aero Experience was privileged to spend a few minutes with Jud Wickwire as his aircraft maintenance was completed.


Missionary flying in Guyana is a challenge, with most missions comprised of deploying from the base in Mabaruma to fly seriously ill or injured patients from remote villages to medical facilities in the capital, Georgetown.  Other missions support the medical outreach programs (preventive medicine, wellness checks) and the missionary work of the General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventists. Networks in the U.S. and Canada provide flight training, missionary training, and corporate management needed to navigate the legal and financial aspects of maintaining and growing an international service ministry.  

Jud Wickwire has the calm demeanor one would expect from an experienced pilot who has flown for years in Third World conditions, but he also shares a compassion for others that is essential for missionary aviation service.  He noted that Adventist World Aviation missionary commitments are lengthy, up to six years, and require commitments from family and friends to support the missionaries during extended periods on location.  And flying medical missions in Guyana, despite support from the government there, is not without its emotional high and low points.  "I have had three patients die in my airplane, and one born," he said.  All the while, serving others with his skill as an aviator, while supporting the ministry, made his time in Guyana a fulfilling experience.

The Aero Experience will continue to report regularly on the impact that Wings of Hope has on Midwest Aviation and around the world.  Thank you to Wings of Hope for your hospitality and assistance in writing this story.

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