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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Wings of Hope Delivers Cessna 182 Aircraft for Humanitarian Service in Paraguay

By Carmelo Turdo
Wings of Hope recently delivered a newly-refurbished Cessna 182 Skylane aircraft for humanitarian service in Paraguay. The Skylane will replace a Cessna 175 that has been serving there since 2011, and this more capable aircraft will offer increased payload and longer flying range to reach more indigenous communities. This aircraft was also featured in our coverage of the April 2019 Soar Into STEM Program, wherein students learned about the aircraft's structure and participated in the restoration process (see photo below). The Aero Experience visited Wings of Hope to report on the activities leading to, and including, the flight from St. Louis to Paraguay. 

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.

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