Missionary aviators face crisis

By August 11, 2008

International (MNN) — People around the world are paying dearly at the fuel pump. As prices for gasoline increase, so does the cost of aviation fuel, or avgas. The increasing fuel costs, coupled with the fact that Avgas isn't being mass produced have caused a crisis for organizations like Mission Aviation Fellowship.

Many of the planes MAF flies burn Avgas. While gasoline is sky high, avgas is much higher–as much as 225 percent higher than one year ago. The implications to MAF flight services, missionaries and nationals working in remote places are grave.

MAF vice president of resources Dave Fyock says, "$650,000 is the overruns on budget just on fuel alone. In addition to that, the cost of inventories has doubled. So just in fuel increases alone, we're talking a cash outlay of $1.1 million."

In the past few weeks, God's people have responded generously to this crisis. Fyock says, "Our appeal for funding to help with the fuel has brought in to date $286,000, and we are so thankful to God's people for providing that. The truth is, we still need a significant amount more if we are going to make ends meet here at MAF this year."

In an effort to offset these unbudgeted expenses, MAF cut operating costs by 10 percent. Fyock says despite that, it may affect their work into the next fiscal year. "We're working on budgets for the coming year and looking at where we may need to either cut back on hours or possibly even ground for the next year a program or two."

That means plans to expand into to new countries may be on hold, says Fyock.

This hasn't been a surprise to MAF. "We saw the avgas slowdown coming in the late 90's, and we began working in-house to develop an aircraft that would meet our needs and take us away from our dependence on aviation gasoline," Fyock explained.

From that, Quest Aircraft Company was started. Over the next 13 years, MAF plans to replace many piston-engine aircraft with Quest's Kodiak 100 that runs on jet fuel. Fyock says, "Today it is just beginning production. And we're looking forward to having 20 of those in our fleet."

He says this change is essential to their future. "We know if we don't move to the Kodiaks and the turbine fuel, we will not be able to serve into the future because avgas will become more and more scarce. We are anticipating in another 10 years the possibility of not being able to find avgas in almost all of the fields that we serve."

In the meantime, MAF relies completely on God's provision and His people to provide the vital lifeline to tens of thousands of isolated people, missionaries, national church leaders, villagers, as well as the sick and injured.

To help keep MAF planes flying, MAF needs your intervention. Click on the link provided here, or call the number provided on the left.

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