July 11, 2008
NAMPA, IDAHO -- Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is cutting operating costs by 10 percent in the wake of soaring gas prices in order to avoid reducing flight services.
MAF is a faith-based, nonprofit ministry that serves missions and isolated people around the world with aviation, communications and learning technologies.
A media release from the ministry says high fuel costs are having a negative impact on all relief agencies, which not only are providing food and other necessities, but in many cases are sharing the Gospel as part of their outreach.
According to the release, the MAF fleet of 134 aircraft flies in the most remote regions of the world and works in areas where some people earn only a dollar a day. MAF is unable to pass along the entire fuel cost increase to clients, so the ministry is absorbing more of those costs.
The release states: "Aviation, in the minds of many, is the heart and soul of reaching the unreached peoples of the world. Missionary aircraft can take people into areas where no roads exist. They deliver food, medicines and other supplies when roads are impassible. But this effective mode of transportation is in peril, as the cost of aviation fuel rises out of control.
"It is a serious crisis," said David Fyock, MAF vice president of resources.
"Automobile gasoline in the United States is expected to reach $5 per gallon or higher," said Fyock.
He added: "Today, MAF has no choice but to pay as much as $13 a gallon for aviation gas – or 'avgas' – overseas. That means it costs about $234 an hour in fuel alone to run an airplane. Some MAF programs are already anticipating $18 per gallon."
Any fuel other than avgas will damage piston-powered aircraft engines and could result in catastrophic failure, said Fyock. It's the only fuel approved by the FAA for these engines, he explained.
Not only are prices climbing to unprecedented levels, but the shortage of avgas overseas adds a second crippling blow to the ministry, Fyock said.
"According to the United Nations, between 1995 and 2005, world export of avgas has declined to 175,000 metric tons from 310,000 metric tons -- a whopping 43.5 percent reduction. For all users of avgas, this means fierce competition for a dwindling supply," he said.
Fyock said that because the areas in which MAF is working are so remote, the ministry has to stockpile fuel. The amount of money tied up in fuel inventory is twice what it was a year ago.
"The problem is so serious that after much negotiating, our Indonesia flight programs recently had to buy fuel in one large bulk order -- enough for three months of flight operations," he said. "The cost to MAF was a staggering half a million dollars!"
Not much can be done in the short-term, Fyock said, other than raise more funding to offset the additional costs. However, new technology will help in the long run.
"Long-term, there are some different aircraft and engine designs that are coming out. The KODIAK 100 is an example of one of these aircraft that uses jet fuel instead of avgas. And jet fuel worldwide is about one-third the price of avgas," Fyock said.
Diesel engines could replace current avgas engines as well, which also would reduce the cost of fuel, Fyock added.
He concluded: "The bottom line is all mission organizations need to raise more money to help fund their ministries. Many believe high fuel costs are here to stay."
Founded in 1945, MAF (www.MAF.org ) missionary teams of aviation, communications, technology and education specialists overcome barriers in remote areas, transform lives and build God's Kingdom by enabling the work of more than 1,000 organizations around the world.
With its fleet of 134 bush aircraft, MAF serves in 51 countries with an average of 281 flights daily across Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America.
MAF pilots transport missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conduct thousands of emergency medical evacuations. MAF also provides telecommunications services, such as satellite Internet access, high frequency radios, electronic mail and other wireless systems, in isolated areas.
Copyright 2008 ASSIST News Service