Wings of Hope

Date: October 15, 1981
By: Leslie Stackel
Magazine: Interline Reporter
Page: N/A

Interliners join in a program of obtaining and distributing aircraft for humanitarian purposes throughout the world

Many humanitarian organizations preach a philosophy of self-help to the needy, but few promote this policy as dramatically or as effectively as Wings of Hope, a non-profit, non-sectarian group that – with the aid of interliners and others – helps to bring supplies of food and medicine to people in remote areas of the world.

Unlike other charitable organizations, Wings of Hope helps by sending aircraft to missionaries who use them to bring food and emergency health care to isolated populations in Africa, South America, New Guinea, Alaska and other corners of the globe.

Founded by a group of St. Louis businessmen, it serves as a “wholesale clearinghouse for humanitarian endeavors.” Wings of Hope helps the samaritans of the world do their job by harnessing its members’ aviation know-how in tasks that range from overhauling an aircraft’s engine to setting up a radio network to sending a commercial pilot on a ferry flight to New Guinea.

The organization was originally conceived about 15 years ago when, during a deadly African drought, a missionary from Kenya’s Turkana Desert came to the U.S. seeking aid. He met William Edwards, a St. Louis manufacturer’s representative.

The missionary requested a plane to transport relief supplies to thousands of starving desert nomads. Trucks laden with food, he explained, could not pass through the region because, ironically, heavy rains on the windward side of the desert mountains caused flooding which made the roads impassable.

Edwards consulted his friend, Joe Fabick, a St. Louis manufacturer and pilot, who in turn interested George Haddaway, a flight magazine publisher, and Ozark’s Paul Rodgers, who is now president of Air One of St. Louis. These men worked out a plan to raise money for the plane by rebuilding and selling heavy equipment donated by private firms and placing all proceeds into an airplane fund.

The missionary’s goal became a reality, but even more importantly, stories of other missionaries with similar problems inspired the four men to form a core group of airline and heavy machinery experts offering help worldwide on a regular basis. Thus, Wings of Hope was born. Today, Edwards is executive vice president of the organization and Haddaway and Rodgers are both on the 12-member board of directors.

Also on the board is Capt. Vernon Brown, retired vice president of operations/inspection for American Airlines.

“We view ourselves as the missing hnk in an important chain of human assistance programs,” said Edwards. “Much of what we do is made possible through donations – in money, property and personal services.

“Right now, we have about 500 active-member donors from commercial carriers who have learned about us through our ads le aviation publications [which appear free of charge, incidentally], and who often will call up and ask ‘what can I do to

One recent case Edwards cites is that of Capt. Douglas Cline from United Airlines. Cline noticed a Wings of Hope ad in an issue of a flight publication, and consequently donated a 53 Beach Bonanza D35, along with his permission to sell it for a plane better equipped to handle bush and utility flying.

‘We’ll take anything’

“The donation of used airplanes is our mainstay, and accounts for over half of our national support,” Edwards continued. “But we will take any equipment, spare parts or tools that can be used to rebuild planes and radio systems or that can be sold for new ones. We’ll take anything of value and make some use of it.”

Wings of Hope also regularly receives cash donations from airline employes, private individuals, and has been the recipient of fundraising drives organized by students and businessmen, as well as offers of radios and machinery by aircraft manufacturers, one of whom also extends special discounts to Wings of Hope for new aircraft.

Some of the most valuable contributions Wings of Hope receives, however, come in the form of time and effort volunteered by interliners.

Edwards points out instances of personal sacrifice on the part of pilots from major carriers and describes the case of Capt. Bud Fuchs of Ozark who read about Wings of Hope and immediately volunteered his service for a one-time ferry delivery of a Piper Super Cub to a missionary in Bolivia.

Wings of Hope is also the beneficiary of Missionary Airline Ferry Service, organized by United Airlines Capt. Bob Burdick, and consisting of 10 volunteer pilots from about four different commercial airlines who donate their time to deliver planes overseas.

A plane transfer of this type to a location such as New Guinea ordinarily would cost $8,000-$10,000, according to Edwards, but Wings of Hope pays one-third to one-half, with the money saved in pilot’s fee and return flight passage.

Food and care

“In most cases, the delivery of a plane to such places means food and medical care for thousands of people who might be suffering, but are unable to reach villages from the boonies,” Edwards explains. They live in outlying parts of a country, perhaps cut off from civilization by dangerous jungle roads or by desert or mountains. Places where the only means of transportation is an aircraft and where hope comes in the form of a whirring engine overhead.

Paul Rodgers tells of a typical Wings of Hope rescue story and of the impact on the lives of needy populations.

“I flew down with Joe Fabick to Iquitos, Peru, one of the most remote places along the Amazon River, to see how our assistance and equipment were being used, and was amazed at how our planes actually save lives every day. In this particular case we visited a leper colony where, apart from short-wave radio, there was no contact with the outside world. No highways, not even regular boat service. In this primitive colony there was a young boy who ws badly burned in an accident. He needed care and was carried out in a carved-out log to our Cessna 182 resting on floats on the Amazon River. Within 35 minutes we had him in an Iquitos hospital, but if he had to be transported down the Amazon, it might’ve taken three weeks. He probably wouldn’t have survived.”

But, this type of service is less than one-half of what we do, Rodgers says. “If there’s a missing service or dimension in another organization’s program, and it takes money, equipment and delivery, engine overhauls, pilot training, anything related to air transportation and avionics machinery, we will try to help.”

Edwards points out that no two deals are quite the same. “Each request we get from different missionaries and humanitarian organizations is unique.”

He gives an example: “Over the 1ast two months, we received four requests from different missionary bodies in three countries. In most instances, we acted as a buying and delivery agent of airplanes suitable for field use, but each case had its own special twist.

“In one, a German missionary stationed in Bolivia not only wanted us to purchase a single engine aircraft larger than his own (with money sent from his headquarters in Stuttgart) and equip the plane with fine avionics gear, but to give him 12 hours of concentrated transition training. We did. He paid $65,000 in machinery that would’ve cost him more than $100,000 in Bolivia.”

Not only dollar savings, but manpower utilization is compounded when Wings of Hope is called upon.

“After 15 years in the field, our type of program, well applied where needed, multiplies the efficiency of some groups twenty-fold. We don’t need thousands of Americans around to make things work for these people all over the world. When combined with Wings of Hope, there is a maximized power in only a few.”

This Project Needs You

The Cessna Skywagon flown to Kenya, Africa, by Max Conrad is only the first phase of a continuing program to support medical operations in remote areas. The United Missionary Air Training and Transport (UMATT) earnestly solicits support from everyone in U.S. aviation. Dontions have ranged from $1 to $5,000.

Jerry Fay, one of the airline pilots who engineered the plan to send a Super Cub into the desert in 1963, has this to say about the project:

“Bud Donovan and I still hold this Turkhana project as a quiet and lasting bond between us. It’s only two years now but it does seem like a lifetime ago that we were there – and I wish we could do it all over again, Doing this kind of work with these missionaries just causes the years to slough off and I felt like I was a mere lad of twenty again. Sister Therese averages 20 hours per month mostly on medical safaries on which she carries a nun-doctor. You may travel the world over but I can assure you that nothing approaches this Turkhana of Northwest Kenya. It’s remote, inhospitable, a desert of contrasts in that it still supports life on a very thin line – and it is rewarding beyond belief.”

Your donations or queries should be sent to UMATT, University of
Dayton, Dayton, Ohio 45409.

Sister M. Therese, the flying nun with the Medical Missionaries of Mary, is pictured in Kenya with friendly tribesmen and the Piper Super Cub which was bought and delivered to Africa two years ago by Jerry Fay and Bud Donovan, Pacific Northern Airline pilots. A larger Cessna will enable her to carry sick people, doctors, nurses and supplies and wild animals will not find its metal ski11 as edible as the Cub’s fabric covering.


With Sisler M. Therese in the Cub (below) is Brother Mike S!imac, S.M., who heads up the United Missionary Air Training and Transport operation in Kenya.


People-to-people medical aid and other missionary work are helping to stem the tide of communist infiltration and subversion throughout Africa. Here’s Sister M. Therese with friendly boys interested in her map.


Sister M. Therese and Brother Mike plan the day’s flying while their Super Cub, is fueled. UMATT is an interfaith group based in Nairobi and provides air support to far-flung outposts of Western civilization in East Africa. The need for medical assistance became critical in the Turkhana Desert a few years ago when drought precipitated a famine that decimated the friendly tribes.


A trained medical doctor, Sister M. Therese learned to fly specifically for her Turkhana Desert medical work. Without the airplane, many medical outposts would have to close down. She has been nominated to receive the 1964 Harmon Aviatrix Trophy.


This new Cessna Super Skywagon wi1h 285-hp. Continental engine, purchased with funds donated by a large number of U.S . aviation people, will be flown to Africa by Max Conrad (left), famous long-distance pilot. In group at right, Brother Thomas Dwyer (left) of the Society of Mary, Dayton, shakes hands with Oliver L. Parks, aviation pioneer, on occasion of delivering the Skywagon to Marianists. With them are Joe Fabick, St. Louis industrialist and business pilot, Paul Rodgers, Ozark Airlines vice president, and Bill Edwards (far right), chairman of the fundraising committee. The Society of Mary in Dayton will be the key supporting group for UMATT in Africa.
(Photos by Arteaga, St. Louis)

Scroll to Top