Date: January 14, 1967
Location: Wichita, KS
Newspaper: The Wichita Beacon
Two Marianist teaching monks flew into Wichita this week on part of a tour designed to expand a unique air transportation system and aviation training programthey operate in Nairobi, Kenya.
In a country where it takes hours of jolting, dusty travel in jeep-like trucks to get anyplace, the two monks, Brother Paul Koller and Mike Stimac, deal in a commodity which reduces the time it takes to get someplace and does away entirely with the usual means of doing it.
Brother Stimac is the 42-year-old founder and cheif pilot of a two-year-old organization called United Missions Transport and Training (UMATT).
Last year UMATT pilots airlifted more than 1,500 missionaries, teachers, doctors, well drillers, agricultural experts and other trained personnel to mission assignments deep in the bush country.
Bro. Stimac is making the tour in an effort to raise additional financial support for the enterprise and to “scrounge” up eight more airplanes for use in the program.
The two monks arrived Wednesday morning at Beech Aircraft Corp. Although they cam ein a single-engine Cessna, their expansion plans include acquisition of a twin-engine Beechcraft, Bro. Stimac said.
Bro. Koller, 35, is the cheif instructor of the aviation education program, in giving some 2,000 African boys training in aviation science.
His stop in Wichita was to confer with Marion P. Stevens, Beech director of air education, on the possibility and procedure for beginning a similar program in neighboring Tanzania.
The two monks left Africa on their tour late last year and will return in April or May to resume their work. Groundwork for their African assignment was laid in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1958, where the two men were instructors at a college run by their order.
While there, they developed a syllabus and flying labratory for use in instructing their students in aviation science. Toward the end of 1961, Bro. Stimac was sent to Africa to continue this work.
By the end of 1962, however, he had found that his students were capable of much faster development than he originally had projected for them.
“The ideal tool to lift them to the modern outlook,” Bro. Stimac said, “was the airplane.” He got them their airplane and started giving them pilot training in addition to their other studies.
“Shortly afterward,” he said, “we began to be called upon to fly people into the bush country. The whole thing kept getting bigger and bigger and, finally, I just took all the people who needed aviation over there and made a big club out of them. That’s what UMATT is.”
Then, in 1965, Bro. Koller was sent to Africa to run the aviation program while Bro. Stimac took over full-time operation of UMATT.
The significant features of UMATT, Bro. Stimac said, are that it is interdenominational in both service and it is free. Those who get airlifted into the bush country on mission assignments pay nothing.
“We who understand the flying business fly the planes and get the support for them,” the monk said. “This leaves the missionaries and others who make use of the service free to do their work when otherwise they might have to come back to the United States every so often to raise money for the service.”
Typical of the type of service the two monks perform, Bro. Stimac said, was the X-ray machine a doctor in a Lutheran mission hospital in Mvumi, Tanzania, was able to have because of them.
“He had the X-ray machine in the first place, but it was all in parts and he didn’t know how to put it together.
“We found two X-ray engineers in nairobi who could put it together but didn’t have time to drive the 400 miles to do it. So we flew them to the hospital, they put the machine together and we flew them back to Nairobi.”
Another time, Bro. Stimac recalled they were lucky enough to have arrived at a small mission where a doctor was working frantically over a little girl whose forehead had been crushed ina a fall from a jeep.
It would have taken 19 hours by road to get the girl to a hospital but it was only a 2 1/2 hour flight by plane. Several weeks later, she was up and walking around, Bro. Stimac said.
Looking ahead 10 years, the monk pointed out, “we have a program here creating workers who will have a chance of being trained in the aviation industry and consumers who will be conscious of the value of aviation.”
It is a vision of an African society, Bro. Stimac said, “that can be American, European (a minor tragedy), or Asian (a major tragedy). We want it to be an American one.”