International (MNN) ― New Tribes Mission's Paul Wyton says before they began to feel the pinch of the fuel crisis, they knew they were going to have to replace their aviation fleet.
The ministry is trying to head off a disruption to their work in the future. Most of their aircraft have piston engines, which run on avgas. The problem is that avgas costs are outpacing the prices of other petroleum fuels, while at the same time growing increasingly scarce.
According to New Tribes, outside the USA, the demand for avgas is not great enough to keep it in volume production. Prices have risen to more than $10 a gallon, and scarcity could continue to drive prices toward $20 a gallon.
New Tribes is buying 14 of the new Kodiak planes, designed with the demands of missionary aviation and the coming scarcity of fuel in mind. "It flies on jet fuel, and that's the primary selling point for us. Jet fuel is readily available in all of the countries where we currently serve. The Kodiak flies 25-percent faster. It's a muchlarger airplane and will carry twice the payload of the aircraft that we're currently using."
The Kodiak employs a turbine engine and a new wing design that means it can land and take off in a shorter distance and climb at a much faster rate. The planes also require less maintenance.
The first plane will be put into service next year. As each plane becomes available, New tribes will need an additional $600,000 to complete its purchase and outfitting.
The Kodiak was designed for mission aviation, but the rigors of jungle aviation require additional equipment. The remaining cost also includes things like transportation, customs fees and maintenance tools--in short, everything needed to have the plane on the ground and ready for service.
Wyton acknowledges the high price tag but says when it comes to the Bible, "There's a tremendous urgency to get the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We're working in many different locations around the world. Different tribal groups are asking for missionaries, and we don't have missionaries to place in those locations. We're not looking to cut back programs, we're looking to expand."