Tornado tragedy turns into blessing

What began as a tragedy has turned into a blessing for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Two years ago, in March 2011, a tornado ripped through the SUN ’n FUN International Fly-in and Expo, damaging a number of aircraft, including a Cessna Grand Caravan owned by a Florida family. The plane, with distinctive zebra-stripe accents on its cargo pod and interior, was flipped over and sustained extensive damage. Two years later, that aircraft is back on display at this week’s SUN ’n FUN before taking off for a new life as a missionary plane in Africa.

“The way this plane was previously decorated, with the zebra interior and accents, it’s as if it was destined for Africa,” said John Boyd, MAF president and CEO. “We give thanks to God for the gracious donors whose gifts allowed MAF to purchase the plane.”

With its fleet of 57 aircraft, MAF provides transportation for churches, missionaries, relief agencies, medical groups, and others working in the most isolated corners of the world. It flies mostly Cessna 206s and 208s, along with Kodiaks, King Airs, and a few other planes.

“When we first heard about the damaged Caravan, we were interested,” said David Rask, MAF’s director of aviation resources (pictured below). “We weren’t in any position to repair it ourselves, but we thought if it was totaled, perhaps we could purchase it for parts.”

That’s where Preferred Airparts entered the picture. Preferred purchased the Cessna 208B and set about to repair it.

“We had been looking for a Caravan for our program in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and when we learned Preferred Airparts had purchased the tornado plane, we contacted them,” said Rask. “We like Preferred’s work and have purchased several planes from them in the past.” MAF signed a purchase agreement with Preferred in May of 2012.

Preferred Airparts repaired the Grand Caravan with the specialized equipment that MAF needs to operate on remote, rugged airstrips in equatorial weather.

And this new-again plane is desperately needed.

Rask“Our current east DRC Caravan was the 10th Caravan built,” said Rask. “MAF purchased it new in 1985 and it now has more than 20,000 hours. This new aircraft has modern avionics and can carry a larger load.

“Caravans work great in that part of Africa,” Rask continued. “They are especially suited for the airstrips there. We transport heavy loads and land on airstrips hacked out of the jungle, but the Caravan can handle it.”

MAF’s services are desperately needed in the DRC, and the ministry organization hopes to purchase two additional Caravans to expand its work there, as funding becomes available.

Mission Aviation Fellowship is a family of organizations with a singular mission: To share the love of Jesus through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed. Its U.S. headquarters is in Nampa, Idaho. Recently, MAF has been actively involved in combatting malaria and Ebola in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, supporting relief work in Haiti and Indonesia, and enabling the work of churches, evangelists, and Bible translators across Africa and Asia.

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