One thing I find interesting in life is the connections between different topics, and particularly between people who may live in different parts of the world and at different times. In this post I am going to explore some connections I have come across in regards to something which has been dear to my heart for a long time.
I’ll start at the beginning to give some background to where I am coming from. I was born in New Zealand in 1966, but when I was 3 years old my father took a job in a South Pacific island country which was then called the New Hebrides, but is now known as Vanuatu. So my family (Mum, Dad and my older sister and younger brother) moved from the city of Auckland to the island of Espiritu Santo, where we lived in a little town of a few thousand people called Luganville which was the main (and only) town on the island, the rest of the island was basically jungle, beaches and smaller villages.
To cut a long story short, and to get to the point of this article, the way we got there was by flying on successively smaller aircraft, first by an Air New Zealand DC8 jet aircraft to Nadi in Fiji, then on a Fiji Airways Hawker-Siddeley 748 turboprop from Nadi to the airport in Santo, basically a sealed runway with a small building next to it, built by the Americans in World War 2. In later years this runway was abandoned and the Pekoa airstrip further away from town, with a grass runway, but a better approach, took over as the Santo airport. This meant that future trips to and from New Zealand required an extra stop in Port Vila, as only light aircraft could land on the grass strip, and so we would board a Britten-Norman Islander or Trislander (small twin or three-engined planes) which would get us to Vila where we could catch an international flight back home to visit the family in NZ. We were in Santo for 6 years and so we made a few of these flights in the period between 1969 and 1975 when we moved to Samoa for 2 years before returning to NZ for good. I believe that now Pekoa has been sealed so it is now possible to fly directly to Santo from various international destinations on Air Vanuatu.
To get on with the story, after this early exposure to flying, particularly in the little Islanders, I was hooked, and at an early age I was determined that one day I would learn to fly. Another big influence in my early years, and this is the first connection I am going to talk about in this article, was a book with the title “Jungle Pilot” I read at about 12 or 13 years of age, about a missionary pilot by the name of Nate Saint, who flew a light aircraft in the jungles of Ecuador in the 1950’s and was one of five men martyred by a tribe of native Indians known as the Aucas on January 8, 1956. A movie with the title “End Of The Spear” was made in 2006 about this tragic event. You can watch the trailer to this movie below.
The next connection I made in my quest to be a pilot, is that during my teens and early twenties I became involved with a prayer support group for Mission Aviation Fellowship, the organisation founded by Nate Saint, which at one time was said to have the largest fleet of aircraft in the world, operating light aircraft in support of both missionaries and the remote communities they were serving, in many countries around the world where access is difficult or impossible without the use of light aviation. At that age I was idealistic, and probably not very practical or goal-orientated, so while I had the aim in my mind, of becoming such a missionary pilot, I didn’t really count the cost so did not achieve that goal. I did, however, with the help of my Dad, who gave me $1200 on my 21st birthday for the purpose of flying, achieve the goal of flying solo in a Cessna 152. After that I was involved in university studies and didn’t have money to do much more than the occasional flight, so never achieved a pilot’s licence. Maybe one day if finances permit I will achieve that goal. Anyone who wants to help me with that, feel free to buy either the book “Jungle Pilot” or DVD of “End Of The Spear” from the Amazon store. Who knows, if I sell a million or two I might be able to pay for flying lessons and my own Cessna to fly in! Don’t know if Google will send me that much traffic but here’s hoping…
The third connection I made recently, is that I found on Youtube a video about Steve Saint, who is the son of Nate Saint, the missionary pilot mentioned above. Steve is the little boy you saw featured in the trailer of the movie, and when he grew up, he inherited his father’s passion for Christian mission, aviation and indigenous people in remote countries, and has invented a flying car which is ideal for flying into areas where there are no airstrips. Pretty cool, maybe I’ll get one of those instead of the Cessna! There are 2 videos below, the first shows Steve’s machine driving, and the second shows it in flight. Brilliant!
Finally, on a different note, a few years ago I read on the internet about a man by the name of Lindsey Williams, who started out as a Baptist pastor, then went to Alaska as a missionary pilot, then volunteered to be the chaplain for the workers on the Alaskan Oil Pipeline in the 1970’s. At this point, his life took a different turn, in fact he says that becoming a chaplain on the Pipeline changed his life and opened his eyes to something that continues to drive him to this day. You see, Lindsey Williams became acquainted with some people who he describes as “the elite of the world”. He lived with them for 3 years in Alaska, attended all their board meetings and made some lifelong friends who told him things that he otherwise would not have known. Rather than go into all that, I’ll simply post one of his many Youtube videos below and let him speak for himself…