A nonprofit ministry is set to launch the first-ever Christian airline next year, providing a source of travel for missionaries seeking to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ across the globe.
Judah 1, currently based out of Shreveport Regional Airport in Shreveport, Louisiana, has already carried small groups of missionaries to disaster areas and mission fields in its capacity as a private airline.
But starting next year, Judah 1 will “go from being private, which is what we are now, to an actual airline standard,” Judah 1 President and CEO Everett Aaron told The Christian Post in an interview.
When this happens, Judah 1 will have a Federal Aviation Administration certification, putting it in the same league as well-known airlines such as Delta. While the ministry currently deploys smaller aircraft for small teams of missionaries, the airline is planning to acquire larger planes that can fly hundreds of people by the end of 2021.
“By the end of next year, we would like to have three to four large planes,” he stated. “As of yesterday, we now have being added to our fleet a Boeing 767-200ER. … It seats 238 people and can go anywhere in the world with one-stop. It carries 30 tons of cargo.”
In spite of its new status, there will still be differences between Judah 1 and the other airlines that have become household names in the U.S. and around the world.
“We will be non-scheduled and we do not have to have approved routes,” Aaron said. “So, that means we can go where we want when we want, unlike most airlines … that have to have certain schedules that they fly, have to have certain routes. We don’t have to do that.”
While missionaries will have to pay airfare, Judah 1 has “no baggage fees and no cargo fees.”
“So all of the missionaries’ cargo goes for free,” Aaron explained.
Since it’s likely that Judah 1’s imminent launch as the first-ever Christian airline will take place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Aaron says there will be extra precautions in place just as the non-profit ministry has already done with flights that have taken off during the pandemic.
“Our airplanes are sanitized,” he assured. “We have a machine that literally kills 99.9% of the germs in the aircraft. After every flight, we do that.”
According to Aaron, the airline is presented with an “advantage” because of its humanitarian nature.
“We are allowed to go into countries that are locked down, whereas normal airlines cannot,” he said.
One example of Judah 1’s work is last year when it transported Operation Blessing, a humanitarian group associated with the Christian Broadcasting Network, to the Bahamas to bring relief to the victims of Hurricane Dorian.
Aaron said Judah 1 plans on working with Operation Blessing again in the coming weeks to provide relief to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras — countries that have been hit hard by hurricanes in recent weeks.
Judah 1 has several other partners that it works with in addition to Operation Blessing, including Samaritan’s Purse and Eagle Mountain Church.
Aaron told CP that Judah 1’s fleet currently consists of about five planes.
The fleet includes the Westwind, which can “take doctors or small teams to the mission field” and has the capability to land on “short runways sometimes found in third-world countries.”
The Westwind, which has a low deck that “makes boarding easier for Wounded Warrior and Make-a-Wish children,” can carry eight passengers and 1,200 pounds of cargo.
The Cessna 414, which is used for Wounded Warrior, Make-a-Wish and disaster relief scouting, can carry up to six passengers.
The largest aircraft in the fleet, the MD83, can carry up to 120 people and 17,000 pounds of cargo.
But there are plans to expand the fleet to include airplanes with even larger capacities in the near future.
In addition to expanding the fleet, Aaron is also open to the possibility of establishing operations at other hubs in the U.S. besides Shreveport.
“If we have people on the East Coast that want to fly, we will look at establishing hubs for Judah 1 in other states,” he said.
In a YouTube video published in 2015, Aaron recalled how Judah 1’s story dates all the way back to 1994 when the Lord gave him a vision of “airline aircrafts lined up as far as you could see.
“They were filled with food, medical supplies, Bibles,” Aaron recalled. “The engines were fired up and they were ready to go. And there were people … lined up in front of these planes ready to get on them. But they wouldn’t get on the planes.”
When he asked God why the people would not get on the plane, he said God responded by saying: “They can’t go into the mission field until you get the airplanes. This is what I’m calling you to do.”
While Aaron first had a vision of Judah 1 nearly three decades ago, the ministry did not become a reality until 2011.