18th September 2020
Franklin Graham has been a licensed pilot since 1971, and aviation has long been a vital tool for the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. In 1975, founder Bob Pierce took Graham on a missionary flight to a witch doctor’s village on the island of Borneo.
Their Cessna landed on a crude airstrip freshly hacked out of the jungle. “Buddy,” Pierce told Graham, “these people need to hear about Christ. That’s why mission aviation is so important. If it wasn’t for these pilots and their little airplanes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ might never reach an area like this.”
Samaritan’s Purse still flies Cessnas and other light aircraft to support relief and evangelism projects in some of the most remote corners of the world, but in recent decades the Lord has equipped us to take on even heavier burdens.
In 2001, we acquired a DC-3 prop plane that was built for World War II. It can carry five tons of cargo or up to 32 passengers and is rugged enough to operate on unpaved runways. At age 75, this airplane is still a workhorse for our projects in Africa, including in the remotest parts of South Sudan.
Over the last two decades helicopters have joined our fleet as well and have proven invaluable for delivering supplies and staff to hard-hit areas where runways are impassible or nonexistent. Our skilled “chopper” pilots most recently made multiple trips delivering cargo and people to the Abaco Islands where hurricane Dorian had decimated whole communities.
Without the use of our helicopters, these hurting people would have been cut off from the aid they so desperately needed.
In 2015, we had the opportunity to refurbish a DC-8 cargo jet that was about to be scrapped. This plane can carry 42 tons of cargo and 32 passengers, and it has a range of 7,000 miles.
The DC-8 gives us the capacity to respond immediately to disasters and to deploy our fully-equipped Emergency Field Hospitals to areas incapacitated by storms, earthquakes, and other catastrophic events. As a result, we’ve been able to send help immediately to survivors of an Ecuador earthquake, victims of ISIS terrorism in Iraq, epidemic disease outbreaks in Italy and Bangladesh, and tropical storms in the Caribbean, Mozambique, and the Pacific island of Saipan.
Most recently, the DC-8 has airlifted emergency supplies to Lebanon to help victims of the explosion that devastated Beirut. We provided critical shelter material as well as medical equipment and highly-trained medical teams to care for these suffering people whose lives were changed in seconds.