Dependable Aircraft is a Lifeline in Rugged Terrain, Says Ex-Missionary Pilot

Wycliffe Associates is seeking to replace its aging aircraft to boost Bible translation efforts in some of the most hard-to-reach areas in Indonesia.

The international missions group aims to raise $1.5 million to purchase a Pilatus PC-6 aircraft, which will empower Bible translators to traverse through the most remote and rugged islands of the Muslim-dominated country where people speak over 700 separate languages.

Wycliffe Associates President and CEO Bruce Smith calls Indonesia "one of the most challenging mission fields on earth."

"It takes specialized airplanes to keep Bible translators at work, planes designed specifically to get in and out of the incredibly complicated terrain: steep cliffs, narrow gorges, short runways carved out of thick jungles," says Smith, a former missionary pilot.

Indonesia houses the most extensive rainforest cover in all of Asia. The country encompasses more than 17,000 islands, many of which are hard-to-reach areas where multitudes are trapped in the bondage of animism and spiritism.

"I've been in some pretty difficult situations as a missionary pilot, and I can tell you that a dependable airplane is not optional. An airplane is a lifeline," says Smith.

Reaching Indonesia's language groups can take as many as five days by bus or boat. Reaching the same area, however, would take only two hours by plane.

Rising maintenance costs of its 40-year-old planes that use avgas, an expensive fuel that is scarcely produced, make reaching the unreached in remote locations more difficult.

The new aircraft, therefore, will be vital for Bible translation efforts in the region, where some 340 languages still need a Bible translation to begin.

The PC-6 is one of the most useful utility aircraft in the world. It is fully capable of operating on different types of unprepared, rough and short airstrips. It also functions well in remote areas, at high altitudes and in all climates.

"This is not really about machinery-it's about eternity," says Smith. "A single plane, over the course of its projected lifetime, will serve hundreds of thousands of people."

Wycliffe Associates partners with nationals, mother-tongue translators, volunteers and others to direct and fund efforts to support Bible translation. It also provides logistics, networking, and technical support to Bible translators.

Since 1967, the organization has mobilized lay people to partner with Bible translators around the world. In 2010, the organization mobilized 4,381 volunteer and staff members to accelerate Bible translation in some 59 countries.