Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Wings of Hope Provides Aviation Relief Services In the Midwest and Around the World

By Carmelo Turdo
The Aero Experience begins a series of stories featuring the work of Nobel Prize nominated Wings of Hope, headquartered at Spirit of St. Louis Airport, that will continue throughout the year.  We mentioned in a previous post that Wings of Hope prepared a Piper Navajo for Jacek Rejman for use for his new venture, Arusha MedEvac, in Tanzania.  Wings of Hope was also represented in the Humanitarian Aviation program at Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology last week.  There is much more to the Wings of Hope mission that exemplifies how aviation makes life better for those in need in U.S. and around the world.

The Wings of Hope facility in St. Louis is impressive - clean, well organized, professional - containing a mix of aircraft meant for different purposes.  Several aircraft wear the familiar blue stripes and red cross indicative of the corporate aircraft used for the Medical Relief and Air Transport Program operated from St. Louis and flying to various Midwest destinations.  Other aircraft are being prepared for overseas medical and developmental programs service.  Still others are donated aircraft that will be serviced and eventually sold to raise funds for future operations.  Along with a small permanent staff, Wings of Hope employs four full-time and 2 part-time A&P mechanics.  There are also 30-35 volunteer mechanics and 18 volunteer pilots who assist in supporting the corporate missions.  Wings of Hope has a four-star (96.46/100) rating on Charity Navigator, and 92.9% of expenses are credited to programs and services delivered.  


Wings of Hope is a global humanitarian charity that serves as an aviation non-profit organization.  The mission statement contains the objectives of delivering humanitarian programs to the poor and assisting communities in gaining self-sufficiency.  Using aircraft to reach remote places is the logical method.  

Starting in 1959, various Catholic ministries started providing humanitarian air services in Kenya.  Not unlike Charles Lindbergh's preparations for the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Bishop Houlihan approached St. Louis businessmen Bill Edwards, Joe Fabick, Paul Rodgers and George Haddaway to listen to his needs and provide the seed money for the first Cessna U206 used by the newly-minted United Missionary Air Training and Transport.  As news of this first successful aircraft service spread, more aircraft were needed.  Wings of Hope incorporated in 1967, and has since provided humanitarian and development services around the world and in the U.S. through an inter-faith approach to serving the needs of all mankind.

The original mission of providing humanitarian aid to people in developing countries using aircraft continues, and includes significant investment in programs that address health, education, economic opportunity and food security.  Basic preventative health care services are accomplished through traveling clinics on a regular basis.  Examples include flying medical clinics in Tanzania, the use of a Cessna 172 aircraft for emergency transport and preventive dental services in Nicaragua and the use of donated buses for medical clinics in Myanmar.  

Education programs include a significant effort in Cambodia that provides after school education in English and computer classes to improve the job prospects for the students.  Also, university scholarships and training programs help to equip students to mentor others and lift up whole communities.

Economic development programs include a microfinance program for women to develop businesses in Kenya and work centers in India to assist in the creation of new businesses.  Both methods provide opportunities for women to participate in gaining self-sufficiency for their families.  Food security programs, like the chicken farming initiative in Ecuador, strive to equip the women of their communities with a means to sustain food production beyond the initial donations of eight chicks.

In the U.S., Wings of Hope continues to provide the Medical Relief and Air Transport (MAT) Program from its base in St. Louis.  The program was established in 2003 to provide access to life-saving health care within the Midwest to those who are unable to obtain or sustain transportation to specialty care facilities.  This is accomplished using corporately-owned aircraft and volunteer pilots and medical staff.  In 2016, 285 patients were served on flights using Wings of Hope aircraft or through the provision of commercial aircraft flights when practical.  During our recent visit, a flight was preparing to transport a patient from St. Louis to a medical facility in Wichita, KS.


Also during our visit, a Piper Cherokee Six was being refurbished for service in Belize, and Paul Voorhees from Big River Aviation was installing some avionics in a C182 owned by Canadian Adventist World Aviation missionary Jud Wickwire.  We will hear more about his service in a future story.

Coming up later this month, Wings of Hope will host a plane wash fund raiser for its Young Ambassador Program.  Check out the program at the link provided here, and please support the Young Ambassadors through this event or through your charitable giving to Wings of Hope. 

The Aero Experience thanks Wings of Hope for their hospitality and assistance in preparing this story.  Some photos used herein were taken during previous visits.  Visit The Aero Experience often for more stories about Wings of Hope and other Midwest Aviation treasures.

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