“Today, we celebrate our 1,000th flight,” said Fred Kelley, Chaplain for Pilots for Christ.
“It is truly a miles stone that relates to over five mission dollars in aircraft and pilot log time. We believe this demonstrates the best of the American Spirit; it also represents a Blessing, that we ask God to help us as we fly, and to this date we have never had any type of in-flight problem.”
Pilots For Christ International is a non-denominational, non-profit organization of pilots and aviation enthusiasts, “dedicated to the promotion of the Gospel through aviation and necessary ground transportation.”
According to the history of Pilots for Christ at www.pilotsforchrist.org, the Rev. William "Bill" Starrs of Parkesburg, Penn., was led to organize Pilots For Christ International.
“It is the very nature of pilots to be more than dedicated to their love of flying. Sometimes they have a tendency to let it dominate their lives. This frequently leads to the Lord taking a back seat, and this was happening to Reverend Starrs. Realizing this, Bill began praying that the Lord would show him the way to re-channel this love of flying to a greater love of God,” according to the website.
Starrs decided to take the pilots’enthusiasm and use it in the Lord's work. Airplanes had been used in missionary work for some time, but usually as only a means to reach areas without adequate transportation systems or to enable missionaries to cover more territory. “He then mailed out 4,000 invitations to pilots in the state of Pennsylvania to join ‘Pilots For Christ.’ The results of this invitation were very disappointing. So he took out an ad in a flying publication with national circulation, continued to pray, and things began to happen. ‘Pilots For Christ’ was then born in January of 1985.”
Kelley explained that the Alabama Chapter of PFC was founded over 17 years ago by a group of mission minded pilots in Monroeville, Alabama who “wanted to use their love of flying to help transport patients who needed time critical transportation to far away hospitals.”
“The remarkable part is, we really started ‘On a Wing and a Prayer,’ where the concept was to make a move on faith that if we did the mission flights, the money would come back in to help pay for the fuel in the planes,” said Kelley. “The aircraft and pilot time are all donated, but we try to raise funds through our not for profit 501C3 charity status to pay for the fuel. Remarkably, those pilots pooled their own funds and just starting flying patients.”
The majority of their flights are to MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Houston, Texas, Kelley explained.
“We have also flown many children to St Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tn,” he said. “The Alabama Chapter is blessed to have larger planes with very experienced pilots who can make those longer trips when necessary. I have actually seen the sun come up over the everglades and transported a Catholic Priest home to Chicago after a stroke, and still made it back home to the Monroe County Airport before dark; what a Day!”
He also said they have a record of never being late on an arrival or departure in 17 years.
“Now that is a hard one for even the airlines to beat,” said Kelley.
They are now in need of their own airplane.
“We are hoping that someone reading this article will be led to help make this happen,” said Kelley. “Maybe a phone call, or offer up a prayer. We have the hanger, we have the pilots and experience, we just need a plane with PFC on the tail.”
For more information visit www.pilotsforchrist.org.