Missionary Pilots go through years of training to make a huge impact on the world. Image via Mission Aviation Training Academy.
A few days ago, a friend of mine announced that he was accepted to an internship with the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). He will be spending a summer in Lesotho, Africa working closely with their flight operations to transport medicine, supplies, and pastors into remote villages on the mountains. Of all the internships my friends have announced lately, this one really blew me away. To travel into a completely foreign land to utilize your skills in aviation with the sole purpose of spreading goodwill and the Gospel is truly brave!
When I heard this, I began to wonder just how people ended up becoming missionary pilots. It is certainly not a career field they advertise at flight university. It may get a mention here or there, but it is rare to find someone who has an end goal of becoming one. Why is that? Clearly there is a need to use the modern technologies and capabilities we have to help those who are unable to unable to access important things without them. However, as I have learned, it is not as simple as putting a pilot in a plane with some supplies and taking off.
At the heart of the need for missionary pilots is the fact that some people in the world live in extremely remote and impoverished areas. Most of these people have never seen an airplane, let alone had the thought to build a working airport. Because of this, missionary pilots often have to land on whatever semi-suitable ground they can find. This may very well be a particularly long strip of dirt nestled in a mountain range. These pilots expertly land at these dangerous locations and bring in anything that the villages may need, such as doctors, pastors, or even groceries.
Missionary pilots who fly missions into remote locations have to be ready for anything that could possibly go wrong. They are required to have advanced pilot certifications, as well as advanced mechanic certifications. There is no "typical day" in the life of a missionary pilot, so they must be well prepared for all possibilities. Many missionary pilot hopefuls choose to prepare for their futures by doing apprenticeships with established training institutions. For example, The Missionary Maintenance Services (MMS) Apprenticeship program is an intense, thirty month, full-time aviation maintenance ministry that prepares students for the life of mission work.
Another interesting fact about missionary pilots is that they have to raise their own financial support for missions. They do this through connections with churches and individuals. Sometimes it can take years to raise the money required to do the mission where they are needed. Thankfully most missionary organizations have a network of support that the pilots and mechanics can become a part of.
It may seem crazy to go through all of this training just to have to raise your own funds to even go on a mission. The reality is, that doesn’t matter to those who feel they have been called to serve the Lord in this way. They delight in the process to ultimately share their expertise with those in need. They are able to make a real, tangible change in the world for the better. In the end, I do not think you could find a missionary pilot that did not think it was worth it.
Are you interested in helping a missionary pilot make positive changes in the world? Check out the MAF website for more information on sponsoring them!