USA (MNN) — Two years ago, a tornado ripped through the Sun'n Fun Air Show in Lakeland, Florida, damaging hundreds of aircraft. Little did a mission agency realize that God was getting ready to use the storm to help provide a needed resource to their work in Africa.
With its fleet of 57 light aircraft, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) provides transportation for churches, medical teams, missionaries, relief agencies, and others working in the most isolated corners of the world.
David Rask, MAF's director of aviation resources, was at that air show two years ago. He says, "Hundreds [of airplanes] were damaged or destroyed, including this beautiful Cessna Grand Caravan that was almost new at the time. It was owned by a family. It was flipped on its back. The insurance company said it was a total loss."
Rask continued, "When we first heard about the damaged Caravan, we were interested," said Rask. "We weren't in any position to rebuild 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 Caravan 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 needed to operate on remote, rugged airstrips in equatorial weather.
After a few MAF modifications to the new-looking plane, Rask says, "Next week we're going to take it back to the Sun 'n Fun Airshow, two years after it was destroyed there. That'll be the departing point before it heads off to Africa."
That will happen right after the dedication of the aircraft on Friday morning, April 12 at 10:30. If you live in the area, you're invited to be a part of the ceremony. You can see the new-again Cessna Grand Caravan at the MAF display at the Sun'n Fun Airshow, in the Southeast Exhibit Area, Lot 1 (corner of Doolittle and Sun 'n Fun roads).
"Our current east DRC Caravan was the tenth Caravan built," said Rask. "MAF purchased it new in 1985, and it now has more than 20,000 hours. The rebuilt plane has modern avionics and can carry a larger load."
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.
"There is a team waiting in the east of Congo, ready to use this tool to its full potential," said Rick Dickson, MAF director of regional operations. "It will carry life-saving medicines such as malaria treatments, or full medical response teams fighting the next Ebola outbreak. It will fly many groups who seek to bring much-needed care to villages ravaged by roaming militia or the LRA. It will carry both Congolese and expat Christ-followers who seek to build and strengthen the local church."
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