What is a mission pilot? I have been asked by many people if Liani, the kids and I intend on moving to a remote part of the planet and living the life of the stereotypical missionary pilot. The answer is “no” but, also, raises the discussion of people not really understanding how aviation can be used outside of the jungle bush-pilot. Can a pilot be a missionary domestically? The answer is a resounding “yes!” I want to describe some of the avenues that have been brought to me as a domestic mission pilot:
- Training – As you all know, I just received my CFI (Flight Instructor) rating. There were several reasons for me desiring this. I love teaching and one of my spiritual gifts is teaching. I don’t have to just teach aspiring mission pilots or those exploring that field. I will also instruct my fellow aviation enthusiasts of all walks of life. Let me tell you, when another pilot/passenger in a small general aviation aircraft finds out you are an ordained minister with a Seminary degree, A LOT of ministry opportunities occur. Discussions about God, eternity and life’s struggles are all opened up when you share a small cockpit (and I don’t mean people being scared of the “dangerous” airplanes).
- “Discovery” Flights/Sightseeing – I have flown more than a handful of individuals/families who have never been in a small airplane, including foreign missionaries’ children who were here on furlough. It is a great ministry to bring joy and excitement to peoples’ lives and give them an experience they will never forget. Remember, many of these families, especially the missionary kids, do not have the expendable income just to do “fun” stuff.
- Mission Trips/Disaster Relief – Last year, I was given the opportunity to fly a Piper Aztec twin-engine airplane to Eleuthera, The Bahamas on a mission trip. We packed the plane with ceiling fans, lawn chairs, and dog food. Why? The Bahamians have to spend a ridiculously high price for these items due to shipping on a container ship from Florida. We bring them for the extra price of the duty tax in a quick hour flight from Florida (5 hours from North Carolina). Our cargo was just a sampling of what the missionaries on Eleuthera were needing at the time. It changes every time we fly. Other private pilots have flown hundreds of relief missions to West Virginia during the flooding and to Haiti post-earthquake. Disaster relief is gearing up again due to the flooding in Louisiana, and now, Hurricane Matthew’s path through the Caribbean.
- Civil Air Patrol – Did you know that the US Air Force has a civilian auxiliary; the Civil Air Patrol (CAP)? CAP has been around since 1941 and is considered a “non-combatant” arm of the Air Force. We fly the largest collection of Cessna aircraft in the world, including Cessna 172’s, 182’s, and 206’s. CAP has three primary missions; Cadet Programs, Aerospace Education and Emergency Services. I am involved in all three to some degree. As a pilot, I have been certified as a Mission Pilot for Search and Rescue and Disaster Relief. We are the guys tasked with finding missing aircraft and even missing persons to an extent, such as flood victims or lost hikers. We fly photography missions documenting storm damage, or man-made damage (i.e., terrorist attacks such as 9/11). Post Hurricane-Matthew, CAP airplanes took tens of thousands of digital pictures of water levels and flood damage. I personally flew several of these Aerial Photography missions.
As you can see, mission aviation encompasses so much more than stereotypical “bush” flying. My family and I have been called to mission aviation, but in a domestic context. If you would like to join with us in this endeavor, please visit our giving page at https://globalservicenetwork.org/ and search for Jason Wilkinson under GIVE/Find An Associate.