Lack of fuel grounds Mission Aviation planes

NAMPA, Idaho  — A shortage of aviation fuel has grounded missionary pilots with Mission Aviation Fellowship, leaving 150 air strips currently without service.

The ministry maintains a fleet of 52 aircraft, serving more than 800 Christian and non-profit agencies in remote areas, as well as thousands of isolated people in Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America.

In response to the crisis, MAF is embarking on an aggressive 10-year plan to acquire 20 of new Kodiak 100 aircraft, manufactured by Quest Aircraft, said John Boyd, president of MAF.

Not only does the Kodiak use jet fuel, which is more readily available and cheaper, but the plane also is larger, flies faster and can still get in and out of small air strips. The Kodiaks even come at a discounted cost to the ministry.

As part of its "Fleet Optimization Project," the ministry is raising $29 million, with nearly $10 million already on hand. MAF will take delivery of its first Kodiak in October.

When available, avgas can cost up to $12 a gallon, whereas jet fuel is $3.50 a gallon, said Boyd. In addition to the fuel savings and its ability to fly farther with more payload, there are other benefits, he said.

"As the fleet changes, it will help us increase our reach, expand the ministry and enable us to meet needs we can't meet currently," he said.

The new Kodiaks will allow MAF to reach even more of the isolated peoples in remote places around the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Boyd said.