Losing a Friend and Mentor

They say that if you are in aviation long enough, you will lose a friend to an aviation related accident.  I guess that is true of any endeavor in life that contains risk but it has happened here.  We have to regretfully say that Great Commission Aviation Board Member, Steve Merritt, passed away today (December 18, 2017) due to injuries sustained in a plane crash that occurred on Saturday, December 16, 2017.   Before I say anything else, I will really miss him.  He was my biggest mentor in aviation.

I met Steve a few years ago while I was training for my Instrument Rating.  He and I hit it off immediately as I shared the dream of Great Commission Aviation.  Steve had a passion for ministering to others through aviation and was my opportunity for flying missions such as the trip to Eleuthera, The Bahamas.  He had touched people all over the country, and world, but was humble enough to take younger pilots under his wing.  If  there was a desire and a passion for aviation, he wanted to help you make it happen.

I had lunch with Steve at least twice a month, usually at Johnnie’s Barbecue in Louisburg, NC.  On Fridays, they serve what Steve called the “Fred Flintstone”.  It is a fish sandwich where the fried fish filet hangs over both sides of the bun.  At these lunches with Steve and other older pilots, I was regaled with flying stories and North Carolina aviation history.  I learned more from these lunches than any training I have ever received in an airplane.

Steve was also known for his pithy sayings, or Steve-isms.  These included:

  • Don’t major in the minors.
  • A Cessna can fly a little overweight, it cannot fly a little out of gas.
  • Altitude, Airspeed and Ability; A pilot always needs 2 of the 3.
  • Hey look, there’s 5 pilots and 6 opinions in this room.

At this point, the FAA and NTSB are conducting investigations into the accident.  Therefore, I will not speculate nor expound on the event.

A wise old pilot once said that there are pilots who know that today is the last day they will ever fly an airplane and there are pilots who do not know that today is the last day they will ever fly an airplane.  Steve woke up Saturday morning not knowing that it would be his last day to fly.  Let that be a wake-up call to all of us about our inevitable mortality.  There will be a day where we stand before our Lord and long to hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Blue Skies and Tailwinds, Steve Merritt.

Steve

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2017 in Review

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2017 was a very busy, activity-filled year for the family and our ministry in Great Commission Aviation.  We started off by visiting the Sun N’ Fun International Expo and Fly-In in April.  It was there that we were introduced to the gyroplane!  Since then, I have become a flight instructor in gyroplanes (in addition to airplanes) and have trained other prospective gyro pilots.  In addition, I had the awesome opportunity to attend EAA Airventure (Oshkosh) as a demonstration pilot for ELA USA gyroplanes!

Back in North Carolina, I have continued to serve as Senior Pastor at Union Chapel Baptist Church of Zebulon and still flight instruct for Civil Air Patrol and general aviation students.

Liani and I have noticed that wherever we are, I am now known as the “preacher-pilot.”  Guests have visited our church to hear the “preacher-pilot.”  What a way to be on mission!  The goal of Great Commission Aviation is to create these “preacher-pilots” and I guess it has succeeded with me.

As of last count, we have given 75 hours of flight time/flight instruction for free.  This includes free training and orientation flights to introduce Seminary students and others to the world of aviation and mission aviation.

WHAT WE DO

The original intent of Great Commission Aviation was to train “preacher-pilots.”  Our mission statement, though, is “Obedience to the Great Commission through Aviation.”  While we continue to market for potential students, I have become the most visible “preacher-pilot.”  I did not envision that I would be the minister and missionary, but that is what God has orchestrated.  Through a myriad of flying opportunities, both in fixed-wing and gyroplanes, I have been able to minister to people throughout the United States (and even the Bahamas).  As we enter 2018, pray that God will continue to open doors of ministry through aviation.  Also pray how you may help in this ministry.

2018 PREVIEW

In the upcoming year, we plan on returning to Sun N’ Fun.  In addition, I may have the opportunity to attend the Sebring Expo, Bensen Days (gyroplane fly-in in Florida), Oshkosh and the PRA (Popular Rotorcraft Association) Annual Convention and Fly-In in Mentone, Indiana.

We will also continue with the flight instruction and ministry opportunities as they arise throughout North Carolina, the United States and wherever we are led abroad.

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As we enter into the next year, all administrative items are in place.  What we need are prayers first, and funding.  Please pray, and then visit http://www.globalservicenetwork.org to give.  Simply scroll down to “Find An Associate”, enter my name (Jason Wilkinson) and voila!  Thank you for the support, both through prayer and financial.