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Mission Log: In The Presence Of Heroes

”The monsoon weather was a bit of a challenge, but the KODIAK’s equipment and performance made the arrival in Majuro very manageable.” From our perspective, that’s Pulitzer-worthy writing.

Of course, every KODIAK can do that. But the practical business of getting one to do it that far beyond the white breakers did necessitate some modification. In this case, the JAARS KODIAK was fitted with an auxiliary fuel tank in the cabin that doubled the aircraft’s range. Which brings up another point. Thirteen hours is a lot of flying to do in one sitting, so we weren’t surprised to learn that the overall trip of about 50 hours and 9,200 miles was planned to take about 10 days (to accommodate for rest and weather). The surprise was that it ended up taking 6.

You can (at least for the next few weeks) take a look at some of the JAARS KODIAK ferry flight history at JAARS Flight Blog. Honestly, we can’t get enough of it. There are a lot of folks here in Sandpoint walking around like proud parents. What can we say? Our kid has grown up and set out to make good in the world.

It’s a real rite of passage moment. Godspeed, N498KQ. We’ll be watching…and we’ll be here if you ever need us.

Over the years JAARS has operated 41 Helio Couriers in some of the most remote and challenging terrain on the planet. And while Helios can’t carry as much as other fixed-wing aircraft, they are absolutely essential for getting in and out of mountainous areas with extremely short strips. Over the years this plane became such a staple at JAARS that if you look Helio Courier up in Wikipedia there’s a picture from JAARS…really. They still own and operate 11 Helios and this particular plane (N242B) is affectionately knows as “Ol No. 1”.

Ol’ No. 1 is the very first production Helio Courier ever produced…s/n 0001. It rolled off the production line back in June of 1954 and now has 7,623.5 flight hours. It is still flown today as a training and demonstration aircraft.

Also on display is Steve Saint’s rebuilt Piper PA-14.

This aircraft is a replica the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) plane flown by Nate Saint back in the mid 50’s. It even bears the original “56 Henry” N number. Of all the planes on display at AirVenture…this one puts the biggest lump in my throat.

You see, in 1956, I was in college up in Canada when Nate Saint landed a modified PA-14 just like this one on a small sandbar in the bend of a river in Ecuador. After months of preparation Nate Saint and four colleagues had an encouraging initial contact with the local Auca Indians who came out to see the plane. Two days later all 5 were dead. As the news spread worldwide a lot of kids who never really thought of mission aviation were inspired to service…and I was one of them. This little yellow plane and its pilot changed the entire course of my life.

MAF and JAARS are the grandfathers of mission aviation. They have been putting aircraft in the sky for over 60 years. And this year at AirVenture, 2 of their greatest heroes are on display. The JAARS Helio Courier and the MAF PA-14 embody a generation of lives spent in devotion to service.

As I walked out to the corner and turned back to get a better look…that lump in my throat came back. The 2 grandfathers of mission aviation had heroes on display and between them stood a KODIAK.

And just around the corner is KODIAK s/n 0001. This shiny yellow KODIAK is owned by the Spokane Turbine Center (STC) where it is dedicated to training a whole new generation as mission aviation transitions from piston aircraft with oil gauges to modern turbine power and glass-cockpits.

The KODIAK is being asked to pick up where the old workhorses left off. It is quickly becoming the aircraft of choice for mission fleet renewal world-wide. In fact, more that 50 are already on order from numerous humanitarian organizations. While the mission of service hasn’t changed from the old days when I was young…the equipment has.

Here’s to a new generation and the legacy they will leave.

Dave Voetmann
KODIAK Project









(Dave Voetmann was a career pilot with MAF for 42 years. He has logged 10,000 hours in the left seat…primarily in Africa.)