|By Carmelo Turdo|
On Tuesday, January 21, Cliff Schisler, Wings of Hope Field Director in Paraguay, visited the Wings of Hope St. Louis Headquarters to give a briefing on the Paraguay mission and prepare the aircraft for the week-long journey ahead. Wings of Hope staff and volunteers were excited to hear about the upcoming flight, and several remained dedicated to getting the aircraft ready for the engine run-up and check flight planned for later that day.
Cliff Schisler began his presentation with an introduction to the Guarani people he serves with the current aircraft previously donated by Wings of Hope. The local partner, Iglesia Centro Cristiano Siloh, provides humanitarian assistance to 20 rural communities, and the most efficient way to transport medical personnel and supplies, educators, supplemental food and other essential items is by aircraft. The current Cessna 175 will be replaced with this larger, more capable aircraft that can reach more communities. The improved performance of the Cessna 182 will also accommodate more life-saving medevac flights than are currently possible.
Below we show some slides from Cliff Schisler's presentation. This presentation, an interview with Cliff Schisler, and a closer look at the aircraft will be included in a forthcoming video series.
Following the presentation, the Cessna 182 was taken out of the Wings of Hope hangar and an engine run-up was performed. After lunch, the aircraft was taken on a check flight by Cliff Schisler and Wings of Hope pilot Steve Williams.
The trip from St. Louis to Paraguay was scheduled for Thursday, January 23, giving time for any last-minute adjustments to the aircraft if needed. However, following the Tuesday flight, a weather front moved into the area and the departure was delayed until Saturday, January 25. Wings of Hope staff and volunteers, along with family and friends, gathered for the sendoff ceremony.
"It is a very special day," said Wings of Hope President and CEO, Bret Heinrich, in his opening remarks. "It's a culmination of a lot of effort to make this day happen. It's a culmination of planning, praying, figuring and flying - all with the goal of safely placing this [Cessna] 182 aircraft into service in Paraguay. It's a continuation of service started by our friend, Cliff Schisler, and his church, Iglesia Centro Cristiano Siloh." He also mentioned that the humanitarian services provided in Paraguay reach over 4,000 people annually. Heinrich added, "So it's clear that Cliff continues to carry out the mission, each and every day, of changing and saving lives through the power of aviation."
Cliff Schisler expressed his thanks for the aircraft he currently uses and the Cessna 182 now dedicated to replace it. "I can guarantee you that lives have been changed, saved through that [Cessna] 175 that we took in 2011," he said. "And I look at it this way...If this plane could save one life, it is worth all of our investment. Because one life is worth more than anything money can buy...I give my heartfelt thanks to the volunteers and to the students who made this possible."
Wings of Hope pilot Steve Williams added, "Actually, I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world. To be able to take this trip is amazing. It is so important to give back in life...What really counts is to give back."
Representing the faculty, students and staff from the Soar Into STEM Program were (L-R pictured below): Myrielle Allen-Prince, Boeing Mechanical Systems Design Engineer; Brad Rafferty, Boeing Aerodynamics Engineer; Ashleigh Bick-Dawes, Soar Into STEM student; and Brooke Bennett, Wings of Hope Education and Outreach Manager.
Zion Lutheran Church of Ferguson Pastor Larry Lemke, a former Wings of Hope Board Chairman and pilot, officiated over the blessing of the aircraft. All those present joined in a circle around the plane, and Pastor Lemke asked for a blessing upon the plane and crew for safe travels in their humanitarian service in Paraguay. Schisler and Williams departed St. Louis for Paraguay shortly thereafter.
Cliff Schisler and Steve Williams arrived safely in Paraguay on February 3. The Aero Experience thanks Wings of Hope for their tireless dedication to making this aircraft available and for inviting us to cover this story since last April. We also thank Cliff Schisler for meeting with us several times during his stay in St. Louis for interviews and photo ops. We will release several videos relating to this story in the near future.