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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Something Rare at MMS Aviation: A Training Aid

MMS Aviation trains using an apprenticeship approach. Apprentice mechanics work 40-hours a week on missionary/ministry airplanes and study textbooks to learn theory outside the normal work week. If there is difficulty understanding a maintenance concept, MMS Staff mechanics gladly spend time one-on-one explaining the subject matter.

Training aids have not been a normal part of learning because the planes we restore, modify and overhaul provide needed experience. That is, except in turbo-prop engine maintenance experience. MMS does maintain a Beechcraft King Air 200 that has two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop engines. This is extremely valuable because our mechanics see the engines in a normal environment during the airplanes phase inspections each year. However, this doesn't provide the ability for each mechanic to operate the engines and perform maintenance checks (and we're OK with that).

So, early last year MMS leadership decided to raise the money to purchase a runnable PT6A at the going retail price. AVOTEK, a company in Virginia, manufactures state of the art aviation training technology. We checked the price so we'd know how much money to raise. Before fund-raising began a company that operates a lot of these Pratt & Whitney engines heard about our plan and donated an engine for the test/run-up stand AVOTEK would build for us. This brought the price within available cash on hand.

Yesterday an Old Dominion truck (Old Dominion - Virginia - get it?) pulled up at the MMS hangar complex with our new training aid and were we ever excited!

Dave is our capable lift truck driver.
It might as well been wrapped in Christmas paper.
MMS Director of Training Bob Schwartz (left) will take the lead in developing our PT6A training program. Aircraft maintenance Supervisor Mike Dunkley has a lot of experience maintaining this type of engine and teaching others about it. Mike will work closely with Bob. Other experienced MMS staff will have input as well.
A turbo-prop engine is a gas turbine engine whose rotating core is geared down to turn a propeller. It burns jet fuel which is far more available around the world than aviation gasoline is. That's why missionary aviation organizations are operating more turbo-prop engine powered aircraft.

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