“Using a PPC is great for non-professional pilots like myself because it is so forgiving. Ten years after training at I-TEC, and 500 flights later with the same engine and same chute, I have discovered how great a tool a PPC is for missions.” – Glenn Chapman
I first met Steve Saint in 2006 at the Oshkosh airshow where he was promoting his book, The End of the Spear. As a missionary on furlough, I was exploring the possibility of using ultra-light aviation for missions in the difficult terrain of my particular field. I work with ABC/International Ministries doing evangelism and pastoral training in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When Steve told me about his experience of using a powered parachute (PPC) in rural South America and invited me to I-TEC for training, I jumped at the chance.
Troy Townsend, a certified powered parachute instructor and I-TEC engineer, trained me in January of 2007. I performed two solo flights before I took the machine to California where I could continue to practice before returning to Africa. After a grand total of 12 flight hours in the States, I shipped my machine off to its new home.
PPC Flying in the DRC
I live right next to an airstrip used by Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in the Congo. This made it very convenient to pick and choose calm moments to build up flying experience and confidence, but I wondered how I could begin training to use soccer fields as landing strips. The answer came unexpectedly!
While I was flying over the grasslands one day, my engine began running rough. I quickly headed to the nearest village and managed to turn into the wind and land on their soccer field. After troubleshooting, I found that dirty fuel was the cause of my engine difficulties. There were three miles and a river between the village and home, so a friend graciously came for me in a dugout canoe. The next day, I went upriver by boat and brought clean fuel and a new filter. After completing my repairs I performed my first short field takeoff.
The PPC is a Valuable Missions Tool
Using a PPC is great for non-professional pilots like myself because it is so forgiving. Ten years after training at I-TEC, and 500 flights later with the same engine and same chute, I have discovered how great a tool a PPC is for missions.
Traveling on the ground in Congo is difficult, with swamps and rivers covering the landscape. The roads in this area are often too rugged for even a four-wheel-drive vehicle! If you don’t have access to the sky, it’s easiest to travel on a bicycle or a boat. However, traveling with fragile audio-visual equipment on the back of a bicycle or motorcycle could easily cause damage.
With the powered parachute, I can load up a 1 kw generator, speaker, computer, projector, electrical cables, and a large king-sized sheet for a screen. Since many villages in the Congo have a soccer field suitable for takeoff and landing, I can travel to villages in a fraction of the time while preserving the equipment.
Since there is not access to TV or theaters in this area of the Congo, projecting in the villages is very exciting and draws people from villages all around. For village evangelism, I have been showing Campus Crusade’s Jesus Film in local languages, exposing locals to Christ and the Gospel.
As I depart from a village there is always a crowd that gathers around my PPC. I tell people not to be impressed by a machine that can take me up and bring me back down to earth again. Instead, be impressed by the One who can take us up to the heavens and hold us there for all eternity.
Watch Glenn and the PPC in Action