Date: May 30, 1965
Location: Los Angeles, CA
By: Dan L. Thrapp
Newspaper: The Los Angeles Times
Hughes Engineer and Wife Going to Africa to Develop Native Aerial Communication
George L. Raymond, 49, a balding, convivial pilot ith 1,500 flying hours to his credit, guided the helicopter along the ridge route last Christmas Eve. He and his wife, Helen, were making for Bakersfield.
They were forced low by a fog bank, and when a rotor blade failed they had no chance. The plane crashed.
“It ended up in a mess no higher than your desk and about as big.,” Raymond recaled. “We had no business walking away from it. But we did.”
He and his wife suffered only minor injuries. The mishap itself, and the fact that they were spared, caused them to think deep thoughts. They owed a lot to Someone, they figured.
The problem was, how to pay it back?
Deep in east Africa about this time, the Marianist fathers were dreaming dreams and working hard to make them come true.
The Society of Mary is not very large, as Catholic orders go. It was started in this country about 1849 and has about 200 priests and 1,100 brothers in its four American provinces.
But the Marianist mission and educatinal impact far outweigh its numbers, and in East Africa the Marianist fathers and brothers have a large and growing influence.
East Africa is a land of veldt and desert, thorn trees, grassy plateaus, dry river beds, thriving cities, high mountains, great herds of game and some people as primitive as any on earth, while others are as cultured as any that can be found anywhere in Africa.
Widely scattered mission stations, commercial ventures, schools and other establishments seek to minister to the east Africans. A basic problem is communication among them.
Thus the Marianists decided that radio and airplane could become major communication tools. They envision a program to train Africans to fly and hope to operate an unscheduled airline linking nairobi, Kenya, with such remote places lake Victoria, lake Rudolph and Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The idea originated with Brother Michael Stimac, who went to nairobi after years of teaching at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio.
10 Brothers Help
His ideas were approved by the Rev. James M. Darby, provincial of the Cincinnati Provence of the Society of Mary, which assumed nominal responsibility in this country for the project. The program is called the United Missionary Air Training and Transport, and Brother Stimac is its director.
Ten Marianists were assigned to help with the project.
It was decided that the service and training program would be nondenominational, money was collected from various sources and airplanes were borrowed.
About this time Raymond saw news items about the work and wrote to find out more about it.
Today he has an armload of letters from Marianists and others interested in the project – and he also has an acceptance of his offer to go to work for it.
Raymond will take a summer course orienting him for missions work in Africa and then he and his wife will leave for Nairobi. He is enthusiastic, but one small cloud did dim his horizon.
Problem Is Solved
“UMATT has acquired a Cessna 206 bush airplane in this country,” he explained. “A recent letter suggested I deliver it when I go to Africa.
“Last time I flew the Atlantic I had four fans working for me, and I have no desire whatever to cross that pond with one!”
However, it was an item already worked out.
The airplane, typical of the sort the project will acquire as it grows and as funds hopefully become available, will seat six, carry 1,000 pounds of freight and have an 800-to 1,000-mile normal range.
Max Conrad, the famous “flying grandfather,” will leave St. Louis with the Cessna 206 Skywagon today on the 9,000-mile flight to Nairobi.
Will Train Africans
It will be theceremonies at St. Louis, Dayton, New York, Boston, Shannon, Rome, where Pope paul V! may personally bless the plane, and Nairobi.
“Brother Mike hopes to see the East African economy developing swiftly,” said Raymond, “and wants this project to phase into it as it grows. As openings appear he wants Africans trained as pilots, mechanics, meteorologists and in other skills ready to fill them.
“There has never been a native pilot in Africa. All the flyers there now are Caucasian or of Indian origin.”
Raymond is an Episcopalian and his wife is a Baptist.
About 300 airplanes are flying in various parts of the world for missions activities, but none, so far as he knows, are supported “collectively,” Raymond said.
Background Is Ideal
“My background is not only in flying, but also in supply and support, which this project wants,” he said.
Raymond was born in New York state and was a glider pilot during World War II. He has made one trip to Dayton, where he conferred with priests and brothers planning and running UMATT.
In one interview father Darby asked quizzically:
“What would you say if I said, ‘Go to Africa now?'”
“You mean this afternoon – or can I wait until morning?'” Raymond countered.
“That’s answer enough,” grinned Father Darby.
Raymond agreed that he was much more enthusiastic about the endeavor than Mrs. Raymond, although he conceded she was more religious.
“She had visions of living in a mud hut in some African jungle,” he said.
“Then she learned that Nairobi is a modern city with supermarkets, taxicabs and every convenience and her anticipation improved markedly.”
Actually the Raymonds may be in Africa only temporarily.
The Marianists want also to start similar projects and services (if this one works out), in the Australia-New Guinea area and in South America.
These projects, like the East African one, will be to assist missionaries of various faiths, “for all man of good will doing humanitarian work,” as one letter said.
In addition a training school is envisioned, perhaps not in the imediate future, in Baja California, where students would be able to work under mission conditions and fly over rugged terrain.
Raymond would have a part in such a training program, he hopes, if he sticks to the Marianist program.
“We eagerly took quite a salary cut to go into this,” he said. He is an engineer, employed at Hughes Aircraft Co.
“My wife and I pay taxes on $17,000 of income. The top pay for this project is $3,000. But the outlook is permanent, at any rate.
“I am not going out under any contract, but when I asked back at Dayton how long my job would last, they asked me, ‘How long do you want to live?'”