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Missionary aviators get their wings

10:59 am December 31st, 2013

By Joan Cronk
Contributing writer
Anyone with a heart for flying to mission fields can attend a training academy right in Eatonville.
Trinity Aviation Academy, a not-for-profit, all-volunteer flight and mechanic school, is run by capable, experienced volunteers and because of that, they can charge considerably less than other companies. Their web site says their sole purpose is to train new pilots and mechanics for the mission field.
The 36-month program costs $45,000. That may sound like a lot of money, but executive director Dan Mulkey said students are saving between $60,000 and $80,000 by attending Trinity.
“We feel that is substantial,” said Mulkey. He said the goal is to get the pilots ready for mission organizations to use.
Mulkey always wanted to be a mission pilot, but marriage and children and just ordinary circumstances got in the way. Now he is following that dream by working extremely hard as a volunteer to make that dream happen for others.
“I just want to help people to get where I wasn’t able to go,” he said.
Once the pilots complete their training at Trinity, they will be qualified to serve as mechanics for their planes, as well as fly them. After training at Trinity, they attend a language school for a year and then spend another year or so learning how to raise support money.
“The shortest they could possibly get through this is between fuve and six years,” said Mulkey.
That is a lot of dedication.
“Most of the students have an interest in flying and have a heart to see Christian missions in countries that don’t have the support,” Mulkey said.
Currently, there are three students at Trinity. Mulkey said it can handle five, but the goal is 10. There also is a need for volunteers.
Trinity occupies four acres at Swanson Field in Eatonville and is working on what Mulkey refers to as a “pretty close budget.” He retired five years ago, and Trinity president Bernie Johnston asked Mulkey and his wife Jeannie to come out and clean the place up and get the business started.
“We’ve been working on the grounds and property for five years,” said Mulkey, adding that normally it takes 10 to 12 years before pilots are actually in the mission field. “Our goal is by volunteering our time and getting the experience through the apprentice program and the flying experience, we hope to shorten that time.”
Pilots have to continue to raise money to keep operating in the mission field. Mulkey said they need about $6,500 a month of donated support.
When asked what kind of folks sign up for this kind of a selfless program, Mulkey said, “I think people who are committed to those that need to know about Jesus. That is what drives them – a heart for people who are in need.”
More information on Trinity Aviation Academy is available at trinityaviation.org and 253-691-6654.

About Trinity Aviation Academy

A plane that's part of Trinity Aviation Academy is inspected at Swanson Field in Eatonville. (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

A plane that’s part of Trinity Aviation Academy is inspected at Swanson Field in Eatonville. (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

Location: Swanson Field in Eatonville
How to contact: 253-691-6654, trinity.aviation.academy@gmail.com, trinityaviation.org
What it does: Train new pilots/mechanics for mission work, following principles of International Association of Missionary Aviationm and using Federal Aviation Administration-approved materials and standards.
Staff: Dan Mulkey, executive director (former Army helicopter crew chief and platoon sergeant with two tours in Vietnam); Stanley Gerlitz, director of operations and safety (retired in 2012 from the FAA with 42 years experience as an air traffic controller and related work, and has flown in the Alaska bush as a Civil Air Patrol pilot and officer); Tad Henry, director of academics (has a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. and certificates for commercial pilot, ground instructor and aircraft dispatcher Jeannie Mulkey, registrar.

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