UMATT Press Release – May 1965

See Original Document
See Original Document

On the morning of May 25, a shiny six-place red and white Cessna 206 Skywagon will take off from Lambert-St. Louis Field en route to Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. On her tail there will be a dove, the symbol of peace, and the letters U M A T T, a symbol of brotherhood.

Its mission … and that of United Missionary Air Training & Transport … is to provide a much needed regularly scheduled air line service in the vast Northern Frontier District which includes the Turkhana Desert region northwest of Nairobi. It is the missionaries’ hope of being able to tend their people in this destitute and roadless region. The plane will carry food and medicine, doctors, nurses, agricultural advisors, relief program directors and others on their appointed rounds. It will provide air service for persons of all faiths who are working to help the Africans.

For a St. Louis based group … spearheaded by businessmen Joseph Fabick and William D. Edwards … and the other co-founders of UMATT, the take-off ceremony will be a moment of joy and encouragement. For them it will mark a great achievement … the start of what they call a much needed “third-level” airline in Africa to link many remote missions and stations in Kenya with all East Africa and the outside world.

Project of All Faiths

While UMATT combines the programs of the Marianists, (lay brothers and priests of the Society of Mary), the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society and the Medical Missionaries of Mary, who are active in Kenya, it also has the support of men of all Faiths as well as those in general aviation who have helped make this African air lift program a reality.

The UMATT program will be directed by Brother Thomas Dwyer, S.M., with headquarters at the University of Dayton, in Dayton, 0 ., and by Brother Michael Stimac, S.M., at the Kenya Headquarters in Nairobi.

Max Conrad, the flying grandfather from Arizona, will be at the controls when the plane leaves St. Louis. Conrad, who holds the world’s long distance flight record, asked for the “privilege” of piloting this particular plane to its destination as a labor of love. Conrad is 63 years old, and the father of 10 youngsters.

Religious Ceremony Planned

And with Conrad and the plane will go the blessings of all Faiths, bestowed in special ceremonies at the St. Louis airport by dignitaries of the Catholic, Jewish and Protestant churches in the city. They will represent the people of all religious leanings whose contributions made the purchase of the Skywagon possible. Well over half of the donations came from non-Catholic sources.

The trim ship will be flown first to Dayton, the birthplace of aviation and the home of the Marianists, who have been chosen because of their flying experience to administer the inter-faith UMATT program. After brief inter-denominational ceremonies at the University of Dayton, Conrad will head for New York City on the second leg of his 9000-mile flight.

There he will be welcomed at Kennedy International Airport. Conrad also will receive tributes from the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Boston, where he will stop briefly before taking off for Shannon, Ireland. He will be honored in Shannon by the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society during his stop.

Papal Blessing Sought

From Shannon, Conrad will fly to Rome where it is hoped arrangements can be made for Pope Paul himself to bless the airplane in special ceremonies before its take-off on the final leg of the journey to Nairobi.

Today, the beginnings of this inter-faith air lift idea are overshadowed by the accomplishment of the herculanean goal which a small St. Louis group set for itself just two and one-half years ago. They were inspired by Bishop Joseph B. Houlihan, of St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, who in the summer of 1963 told the group of St. Louis men of the dire need for help among the 200,000 famine-stricken nomads of the Turkhana Desert area. Bishop Houlihan, of Eldoret, Kenya, related the story of the tragedy and toll of famine in the desert, and the famine relief program and aid of the Medical Missionaries of Mary.

In explaining this great need, he appealed for help in financially supporting the work of missionaries in their efforts to raise the level of physical well-being and spiritual enlightenment of these almost forgotten, nomadic human beings.

Successful Fund Drive

It was then that Joseph Fabick, of John Fabick Tractor Co., and William D. Edwards, a manufacturer’s representative, started the Turkhana Desert Fund. And … just two and one-half years later they had met their goals. The first plane … a $30,000 investment was purchased for use in the Kenya air lift service

“This double door work plane with 285 horsepower Continental motor has been donated by friends of aviation and of missionary endeavor,” Fabick says modestly.

It was on Sunday morning April 25 that UMATT was born, and the Cessna 206 dedicated to the work of helping others. The passing of the keys to Bro. Dwyer marked the culmination of the dreams of many men in many parts of the world.

In accepting the plane, Bro. Dwyer said that two airline pilots, Jerry Fay and Bud Donovan, who several years ago obtained a little Piper Cub plane for the missionaries in Kenya, helped inspire the UMATT concept. The plane has been the lifeline of “The Flying Nun”, Sister M. Michael Therese, M.M.M., a registered nurse, missionary, nun and aviatrix, who has been ministering to the people of the Turkhana Desert for several years. He noted that for her work, she has been nominated for the Harmon Aviatrix Trophy for 1964.

Leaders Cited by Director

Bro. Dwyer also cited the vision of Edwards and Fabick, who saw the need for additional equipment and trained personnel, and the untiring efforts of Bro. Stimac who recently spent three months in the U.s. to aid in their fund raising efforts. And he extended his gratitude to George Haddaway, publisher of FLIGHT Magazine, whom he described as “aviation’s greatest friend”, and to men like Dwight Joyce, Charles Fuerst, Dwane Wallace, Paul Rodgers, aviation pioneer Oliver L. Parks, Joseph Geuting, Thomas McCarthy, Bob Considine, Stan Musial and others whose names remain quietly in the shadows.

“UMATT is 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,” Bro. Dwyer said. “It means fleetness to doctors to heal the pained; it guarantees transport of bread and milk to the hungry; it means dignity to the youth of emerging nations, and it gives strength to the energies of the dedicated missionaries and Peace Corps workers in the field. UMATT is efficiency … union … strength and peace,” he added.

“Already people in the State Department in Washington have expressed their interest in UMATT because it offers an extremely effective way to face the threat of Communism,” Bro. Dwyer added. “And we have won the unsolicited support of the Flying Doctors, the Priest Pilots’ Association and others, who have offered their co-operation in this undertaking in Africa.”

Other Projects Planned

“While the first target for this “Flying Peace Corps” will be missionary work in Nairobi, future projects are planned in South America and Australia in the near future,” Bro. Dwyer explained. “And the immediate goals of UMATT are within reach.”

He said that the Cessna Skywagon is going to East Africa as a completely subsidized operation. It will not be for hire or charter, but will be used only for air transportation and training for the specialists working to help the Africans. He repeated that he felt that this venture is a particularly good way to confront Communism in these emerging countries.

But … this is only the beginning of the UMATT concept. Bro. Stimac, who will be the full time pilot and administrator of the program in Africa, will meet the new Cessna and Conrad in Rome, and will accompany the veteran pilot on the final leg of the mission to Nairobi. After arrival there, Bro. Stimac will take Conrad on a tour of the remote desert area in Northwest Kenya, where they will meet “The Flying Nun” and her medical missionaries.

The Cessna Skywagon then will be used to link all of the remote missions with one another, and with Nairobi and the outside world.

Other Planes Needed

The Skywagon is just the first of three planes that are included in the initial UMATT planning. Another plane … a four seater with a 400 mile range … is to be obtained soon for the training phase of the program at the University of Dayton, and a third ship of the same size and range for use in the air orientation program being carried on by UMATT in Kenya.

There is still more to the program than this. The University of Dayton is conducting a Mission Institute this summer in two parts. The first eight-week session, already underway, offers ground school training to prepare for Federal Aviation Administration examination. The second portion will run from June 28 to July 23, and will include aviation orientation in the use of light aircraft in missionary and Peace Corps activities.

In Kenya, in addition to the airlift program, UMATT will offer and support an expanded aviation program in a boy’s school near Nairobi, where aviation and other associated technical courses will be provided to the young boys who soon will emerge as Kenya’s future leaders.

The school has been operating for some time, with the air orientation, pre-flight training and radio classes being conducted by Bro. Stimac, who is a seasoned pilot and former teacher of physics, aviation ground school and general science in Cleveland , O.

Stopgap Against Communism

In the view of Haddaway, who has enlisted the aid of general aviation throughout the United States in the development of the UMATT program, we have overlooked the use of small planes and helicopters in our foreign assistance programs.

“Here is an enterprise in which Communist countries are unable to compete with us,” Haddaway says. “There are two outfits the Commies want to get rid of in the remote areas — our Christian missionaries, such as those who will be served in Kenya by the air lift, and the Peace Corps. These are effective person-to-person operations, and recipients of this kind of aid cannot be hoodwinked by Communist propaganda,” he added.

“We are firmly convinced that the kind of aviation program to be supervised by Brother Stimac can do more to stem the tide of Communism in Africa than any other project.

Haddaway feels that after one year, the effectiveness of the Kenya project will convince the United States that utility and agricultural aviation should be utilized in our foreign assistance program, not only to give real tangible and critically needed assistance but to tie these developing countries to our economy for future foreign trade.

Sees Need for Flying Peace Corps

“We desperately need a Flying Peace Corps or some type of an aviation arm for our A.I.D. program,” Haddaway contends. “Contracts could be let to people now in the business of training students, mechanics and electronic experts. The Kenya Project holds much promise to get this expanded program going as an official national effort in foreign affairs,” he concluded.

Tax deductible contributions to UMATT should be sent to UMATT, c/o Bro. Thomas Dwyer, S.M., University of Dayton, Dayton, O. 45409.

# # # # #

5958 Elizabeth Avenue
St. Louis, Mo. 63110

For further information call:
UMATT, DAYTON AC 513-461-5500
ST. LOUIS AC 314-647-4150


May 25

9:30 a.m. – Pre-take off Ceremonies at Ozark Airline hangar (interviews and photographs)

11:00 a.m. – Take off for Dayton (photos over riverfront)

2:00 p.m. – Arrive Dayton. Cox-Dayton Municipal Airport (ceremonies at airport by Marianist Brothers)

5:00 p.m. (CDST) – Leave Dayton for New York

8:30 p.m. (EDT) – Arrive New York – Kennedy International Airport

(Max Conrad will spend two days in New York making public appearances, and for interviews by press, radio and television on May 26- 27)

May 28

9:30 a.m. (EDT) – Ceremony

11:00 a.m. – Leave New York for Boston after takeoff

1:00 p.m. – Arrive Boston Logan International Airport
(Ceremonies of Medical Missionaries of Mary)

May 29

6:00 a.m. – Leave Boston for Shannon, Ireland

May 30

Arrive Shannon for ceremonies and welcome
by St. Patrick’s Missionary Society

June 1

Leave Shannon for Rome with stops in
England and France

June 4-5-6

Arrive Rome (ceremonies may include Papal
Blessing by Pope Paul VI)

June 7

Leave Rome for Nairobi

June 10

Arrive Nairobi

(UMATT Flag raising and welcome at
UMATT Headquarters)

Scroll to Top