As Director of Aviation Resources, one of Dave Rask’s major roles is overseeing the MAF-US fleet of aircraft. Let’s follow Dave as he walks us through the process of buying an airplane and getting it to an overseas location for MAF service.
Before MAF looks for an airplane, aircraft needs from around the MAF world are prioritized, budgets established, and our ministry advancement team begins to seek those interested in partnering with MAF to fund a specific airplane. For nearly two years, a Cessna Caravan has been on the list for eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In May, Dave was able to start looking for an airplane.
Several factors favored purchasing a lightly used airplane, so Dave began looking for a Cessna Grand Caravan produced between 2008 and 2013. Cessna only made 422 of them. Probably less than half of those would be equipped to meet MAF’s needs. Out of that small field, it is not always possible to find one for sale that is worth pursuing. Starting with prayer, asking the Lord to provide the right airplane in the right time, is always where Dave begins.
Dave immediately found one that was very interesting. Unfortunately, a prospective buyer had already placed a deposit on the airplane to hold it until he could inspect and purchase it. However, that buyer did not follow through with his plan. As soon as the airplane came back on the market, Dave sent two very experienced MAF Caravan mechanics to look it over. Within three days we made an offer and were ready to purchase the plane. However, the seller suddenly became less responsive. Dave learned from our mechanics that more people were coming to look at the airplane, and that the original buyer, who had defaulted on his contract, was going to show up as well. It looked like a bidding war was about to take place. That is never good for a buyer.
Dave’s advantage was that we already knew the airplane was in very good condition and were ready to close a deal as quickly as possible. With a little quick negotiation, (and specific prayer support!) Dave was able to secure an agreement at a price just slightly above our opening bid. Dave flew the airplane home to Idaho in early June.
Getting it ready to send overseas involves modifications like installing utility seats that are easily removed to quickly switch from carrying passengers to cargo. We also remove the air conditioning system. Why would we remove the air conditioning in a plane which will fly in the heat of equatorial Congo? Because it weighs 120 pounds. Our passengers would rather use the maximum payload than enjoy air-conditioned comfort. Over the expected service life of 20-30 years for this airplane, that weight adds up to hundreds of tons of supplies to help the needy people of Congo.
One of the reasons Dave was so interested in this airplane, is it already had $100,000 or more in other modifications MAF needs that were not reflected in the price. Thank you, Lord!
MAF will also install additional radio equipment less commonly used in the US. This will include MAF’s new aircraft tracking device that uses both satellite and cell communications technology to lower operating costs, improve safety, and enhance communications.
The airplane spent mid-June through mid-August getting a new coat of paint in MAF’s paint scheme.
The modification work will stretch into next year because our MAF shop in Nampa is working on several projects right now. It is difficult to time these things so each project comes along in neat succession, one after the other. We carefully prioritize our resources for ministry impact.
At the end of the modification process the airplane gets an inspection by an FAA representative to certify that the airplane is airworthy under US regulations. This clears the path for importation into another country. Finally, we add extra fuel tanks in the cabin to increase the range for the trip to Africa.
Is it all worth it? Most definitely, Yes! MAF airplanes will typically serve for 30 years, so there is a long return on the investment. Although it is seldom in the US news, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a humanitarian crisis. Four and a half million people are displaced by fighting as over 140 armed militias battle to enlarge their territory.
The second largest Ebola outbreak in history (but the largest in DRC) is still rapidly growing in eastern DRC. In July it was declared a Global Health Emergency. This outbreak started in August 2018. It took 224 days for the number of infected persons to reach 1,000 and only 71 days to reach 2,000.
In the midst of all this suffering, MAF is bringing life and help and hope to the Congolese. We are heavily involved in efforts to combat Ebola and in bringing humanitarian assistance. The church is active, working to bring restoration and healing between groups that have lived in conflict.
MAF has been asked to expand flight service further to the south, particularly to support Congolese Doctor and Pastor Denis Mukwege who received the Nobel Prize for his work to bring healing to women who have been raped by the armed rebels. This additional airplane will give us the resources to meet that need.
Living in this part of the world is difficult. Between the militias and threat of Ebola, MAF’s ability to stay there is tenuous.