How do you get to be a Missionary Pilot?
A lot of our flying here in PNG is through mountains in less than wonderful weather to eroded short one-way grass runways built on the sides of mountains. Most of the flying is "on the edge" in that we are dealing with high density-altitude, high temperatures, and high humidity in aircraft loaded to the limits of performance. Contributing factors to the dangers of flying are language and culture barriers, routine radio communications difficulties, lack of navigation aids, improper runway maintenance, frequent runway incursions by people and animals, and transportation needs of personnel living in remote areas. For these reasons we have tried to standardize our flying through training and routines.
Prior to being accepted at NTM Aviation's flight training facility for bush flying training, all pilots must have a Commercial Pilot license with at least 300 hours of experience, and have completed New Tribes Mission's "Missions Training Institute".
In the Fall term of Missions Training pilots and mechanics visit the aviation HQ in Arizona for evaluation of flight, mechanical, and learning skills. After completion of the Missionary Training and Language Institute training, those who pass the aviation evaluation move to Arizona for extensive bush pilot and/or mechanical training and evaluation before placement in another country. This bush pilot training includes practice on short and narrow airstrips at maximum performance, mountain flying training, and mechanical experience on aircraft. After arrival in the country of placement pilots will receive further training peculiar to that country.
Some of our pilots gained the prerequisite flight experience in the military. Others attended flight schools, community colleges and universities, then found jobs in the commercial aviation world. There are schools that specialize in training people who desire to serve as pilots and missionaries. Many Christian colleges and universities have aviation programs. Here are some that have been used to train missionary pilots:
LeTourneau University, Longview, TX
of Missionary Aviation Technology
School of Missionary Aviation, San Diego, CA
Multnomah Bible College
Here are some other schools of which I am aware. I do not know much about them:
College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout (Branson), MO