By Katie Adams
JAARS delivered a third Quest Kodiak airplane to Wycliffe personnel in Papua New Guinea on Monday afternoon, October 10. A crowd gathered to greet the 33-foot long aircraft when it landed on the Aiyura airstrip in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea.
For most people, a brand new aircraft landing to aid the Bible translation effort in Papua New Guinea could mean progress, adventure, opportunity, and hope. The sight of the shiny, blue and white wings and silver propeller and the sound of the powerful turboprop taxiing on the runway brought excitement to the workers who will depend on this airplane to do their jobs. For Kristen Brewer, they brought something far more personal—a connection to the family she left seven thousand miles away.
Kristen and her husband, Jeff Brewer, are Wycliffe personnel who have lived in Papua New Guinea since 2008. Jeff is an aircraft mechanic and Kristen is a stay at home mom for their three children. Her father has worked in the Quest factory where Kodiak aircraft are built in northern Idaho since 2007. For Kristen, every Kodiak is a little piece of comfort bridging the gap between her and her parents.
“When I see a Kodiak land for the first time, I just always think that it started in my parents’ town,” she said. “My dad may have even touched it. It’s just amazing to me that a small plane can fly all the way from them to me. It makes the world seem smaller and my family not seem so far away.”
Now one in a fleet of seven aircraft on the ground in Papua New Guinea, the Kodiak will be used to fly people to and from remote villages, transport cargo, perform medical evacuations, and provide other support for more than 175 translation programs in-country.
As of 1999, translation programs around the world were starting at the rate of about one every eighteen days, meaning there wouldn’t be a program underway in every language until the year 2150. Wycliffe’s introduction of Vision 2025—the goal to see a translation project in every language by the year 2025—increased the pace dramatically. Today, translators begin a new program about every five days.
Of the roughly two thousand languages around the world that still need a Bible translation started, there are about three hundred in Papua New Guinea alone. In a country like this, rich in steep mountains and rolling hills that make traveling long distances on foot or by vehicle cumbersome, air travel becomes a crucial part of the translators’ ability to meet the urgent need for Bible translation.
The Kodiaks are being phased in to replace two existing Cessna 206 aircraft, which are older, more expensive to use, and carry less cargo. The Kodiaks can seat ten passengers, but typically seat eight after loading cargo. Unlike the other two Kodiaks, this latest addition has a cargo pod located underneath the airplane that solves that problem.
“Now that we have one Kodiak with the pod, we’ll be able to load it to maximum capacity and carry more people,” Kristen said. They are expecting pods to be delivered for each of the other Kodiaks as well.
Quest lists its base price for Kodiak aircraft at $1.6 million, which doesn’t include shipping and related costs. The aircraft can only be paid for by donors willing to contribute to the translators’ efforts, said Chuck Daly, vice president of global transportation services at JAARS.
The Brewers and fellow personnel in Papua New Guinea are hoping to streamline their fleet even further with the addition of a few more aircraft. A helicopter will be delivered next spring, Chuck said, and he is hoping a fourth Kodiak will also be delivered next year.