Missionary Venture Utilizing Airplanes Takes Wings in St. Louis

Date: May 28, 1965
Location: Wichita, KS
Newspaper: The Catholic Advance

St. Louis – A new cooperative venture designed to utilize airplanes in the service of humanity in mission lands took wings here Tuesday (May 25).

Max Conrad, 63-year-old “flying grandfather” and holder of the world’s long-distance flight record, took off from Lambert-St. Louis field in a Cessna 206 Skywagon on the first lap of a 9,000-mile flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

There the plane will become the backbone of the first regularly scheduled air line service in the vast Northern frontier district, which includes some 200,000 famine-stricken nomads living in the Turkana district, northwest of nairobi.

The plane will carry food and medicine, doctors, nurses, agricultural advisors, relief program directors, and others who will work in the region. It will provide air service for persons of all faiths working to help the Africans.

Tuesday’s flight cumlinated two years of planning that went into forming UMATT, United Missionary Air Training and transport, by two St. Louis men, Joseph Fabick and William D. Edwards.

The UMATT program is a cooperative effort of the priests and Brothers of the Society of Mary, the St. Patrick Missionary Society, and the Medical Missionaries of Mary.

It will be directed in the U.S. by Brother Thomas Dwyer, S.M., with headquarters at the University of Dayton.

Brother Michael Stimac, S.M., a veteran pilot, will head the program in Nairobi and serve as UMATT’s fulltime pilot.

Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders were on hand at the St. Louis airport for the plane’s departure, representing the interfaith effort that led to its purchase. Well over half of the $30,000 to buy the Cessna came from non-Catholic sources.

The Skywagon is the first of three planes included in the initial UMATT planning. A four-seater will be obtained soon for the program’s training phase at the University of Dayton, and a similar craft will be purchased for air orientation in Kenya.

UMATT’s long-range plans include future flying projects in South America and Australia.

The role of aviation in missionary and Peace Corps activities and preliminary flying instructions will be included in a mission institute scheduled for the summer at the University of Dayton.

UMATT also will support an expanded aviation training program at a boys’ school near nairobi.

After leaving St. Louis, Conrad and the Skywagon were scheduled for stopovers in Dayton, New York, Boston, Ireland, England, France, and Rome before reaching Nairobi June 10. He will be met in Rome by Brother Stimac and, the two men will fly together on the last leg of the trip.

Brother Dwyer, discussing the aims of UMATT, described it as “a service for men of good will in all faiths, working to help those whose lives and hopes will take on new dimensions because of the miracle of the airplane.

“It means fleetness to doctors to heal the pained,” he said. “It guarantees transport of bread and milk to the hungary. It means dignity of the youth of emerging nations, and it gives strength to the energies of the dedicated missionaries and Peace Corps workers in the field.”

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