Plane investment earns second new aircraft for Papua New Guinea mission

Three years after Adventist church members from around the world invested in a new plane for Adventist Aviation Services (AAS) in Papua New Guinea, this investment has earned a second, identical aircraft for AAS. The second 10-seater, turbo prop PAC 750 XL arrived in Papua New Guinea on June 29 and began operations at 6 am the next morning.

“This upgraded service and resource give us greater capacity and efficiency to support the mission of the church,” says Pastor Roger Millist, CEO of AAS. “It is satisfying to see this success. There have been difficult times but we have persevered. It is taken a lot of hard work but with God’s blessing we have achieved it.”

The first of these planes arrived in PNG on June 1, 2007, after extensive fundraising by church members around the world. Camp-meeting mission offerings between 2005 and 2007 in Australia and New Zealand, a worldwide 13th Sabbath offering in 2006, a nation-wide offering collected by church members in PNG and funds raised from the sale of outdated aircraft combined to finance the purchase of the first new mission plane in many years.

In the three years since, AAS has flown 2700 hours in this aircraft. Pastor Millist says about 70 per cent of the flying has directly supported the church’s mission work, with the remaining time as “community flying” carrying passengers and cargo. From these secondary commercial operations, AAS has earned about $US1.5 million to put toward the purchase of the second $US1.7-million aircraft.

With normal usage and current staffing, the AAS aircraft is out of the air for two weeks for regular servicing after every six weeks of operating. “Now with two planes, we will be able to guarantee that we always have a plane available for church work,” Pastor Millist explains.

The initial aircraft choice has proved a success, with the AAS plane becoming a poster machine for manufacturer Pacific Aerospace Limited, based in Hamilton, New Zealand. “Ours was the first of its type in PNG, this new one will be the seventh, so it has met expectations,” he says. “With this plane, we have been able to access parts of PNG that we have not had ready access to for almost 30 years.”

This success has been noted in the aviation industry, the most recent example of which is the cover story in the July issue of New Zealand Aviation News. “We have touched an aspect of society that the church would never have contact with otherwise in the aviation industry,” says Pastor Millist. “When people around the world think of the PAC 750, they think of Adventist Aviation in PNG.“

Pastor Millist says that after five years of hard work, AAS is now in a position to do long-range planning and development, of which the new plane is the first step. “The next step is more staff—additional pilots and engineers—which will also require additional staff housing,” he says.

After two years working elsewhere, chief engineer Linden Millist is returning to AAS to support the new aircraft and to assist in training another engineer, who is due to arrive from the United States in coming weeks.

“AAS is an important part of the church’s mission in PNG, where there are no roads and travel is difficult,” Linden says. "We need aeroplanes and we need aeroplanes to be maintained to the highest levels. It is part of being a small cog in a large gear box.”

Pastor Millist agrees. “I keep being impressed by the number of things that happen in the course of our operations that remind us that this is God’s operation and not ours,” he reflects. “Yes, we have put a lot of work into it and the church as a whole has given it a lot of support. But so many times, things work out better than what we could have planned. This is God’s program, this is God’s aeroplane and He is directing things.”

By Nathan Brown, Townsville, Australia. 

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