Aviation sends off pilots for missions

The School of Aeronautics graduated six students prepared to fly for the cause of spreading the gospel

The Liberty University School of Aeronautics graduated its fourth Aircraft Maintenance Training School (AMTS) class Aug. 9.

Six of those 20 graduates are moving on to become missionary pilots for Flying Mission Services (FMS) in Botswana where operations can be difficult.

Limited resources, remote locations and crude landing strips require missionary pilots to have extensive mechanical knowledge. Although the education is applicable to many aviation careers, the AMTS focuses on preparing students explicitly for work in missionary aviation.

Graduation — Aviation students say farewell to Liberty as they begin their careers. Photo provided

“FMS is unique in the missions aviation world because it operates as a for-profit business doing charter flights out to safari camps and medical evacuation flights for the government,” graduate and certified flight instructor Jeff Schlaudt said. “The company then turns around and uses its profits to support the work that its missions branch does with orphans and AIDS patients.”

Schlaudt chose FMS for several reasons. While many missionary aviation organizations demand a certain level of flight time in “high performance aircraft” — defined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as having more than 200 horsepower — FMS has no such requirement, and Schlaudt was able to meet their qualifications.

According to Schlaudt, as a for-profit business, FMS pilots are paid a limited salary, negating any need to raise outside financial support.

“It’s as if you are working for a company whose CEO has promised to donate all profits to charity,” Schlaudt said. “There is a sense of accomplishment knowing that the more you help the business succeed, the more other people will be blessed by the results in real, tangible ways.”
The rigorous AMTS program has been designed to prepare students for such work overseas by covering 38 subject areas “ranging from turbine engines and aircraft welding to basic physics and fundamental electrical theory,” Schlaudt said.

Eight-hour days beginning at 7:40 a.m. Monday through Friday manage to fit the FAA-required 1,900 hours into 12 months. According to Schlaudt, most programs average two-and-a-half years.

“The LU School of Aeronautics has been blessed with one of the top aircraft mechanic training programs in the country,” Dean of the School of Aeronautics retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Dave Young said. “The evidence of this is in the 100 percent placement rate we have enjoyed for all classes that have graduated. This is due to the outstanding quality of our faculty and instructors and the dedication of our students.”

Young praised the recent graduates, saying they will be “making a difference in the aviation industry as top notch mechanics and as Champions for Christ.”

Associate Dean retired Navy Capt. Ernie Rogers shared Young’s sentiments, saying the class “was a pleasure to work with and had a very impressive 95 percent pass rate.”

“God has blessed us with great instructors and students,” Rogers continued. “The AMTS now starts three new classes annually beginning in August, January and May.”

Rogers says he looks forward to students filling these new classes.

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