Balus Belong 7 Day
The Story of the First Adventist Mission Plane in the South Pacific. More
Cessna 180, the ‘Andrew Stewart’ (VH-SDA), is the second mission aircraft, worldwide, purchased by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was the first new mission aircraft, the first worldwide to enter service in 1964 and the oldest denominational aircraft still extant. After nearly a decade of mission service in Papua New Guinea without an insurance claim, in one of the most hazardous aviation environments in the world, VH-SDA was flown back to Australia and traded in on a larger and more capable replacement. Former pilots and missionaries then raised money to purchase the aircraft back from the dealer and over the next dozen years or so this aircraft flew in the North New South Wales Conference, used during the week by office staff in the course of their duties and often on the weekends for lay evangelism. Traded in several more times for aircraft with better load carrying capabilities and the longer range needed with all seats filled required to reach all parts of north western New South Wales, it was after ownership outside the Church, bought back each time until eventually retired with 9,000 hours on the airframe, parted out, and mounted on a pole at the ‘Sunnyside’ museum in Cooranbong, NSW. Then after 20 years and obvious deterioration and little maintenance it was brought down off its pole and restoration to display condition commenced.
The story of the ‘Andrew Stewart’ is inevitably entwined with that of the growth of denominational aviation in the South Pacific with, at one point, 12 aircraft in the fleet flown by 16 pilots — and the establishment of a flying school at Avondale College in Australia. Today the legacy lives on as the mission aviation program of the church includes turbine powered aircraft in Papua New Guinea with short field and load carrying capability not even imagined when VH-SDA entered service in 1964.
This is also the story of VH-SDA’s two first pilots, Pastor Len Barnard whose 18 year struggle to see a mission aviation program established in the South Pacific was fulfilled with the purchase of the ‘Andrew Stewart’ and Pastor Colin Winch, the second pilot of VH-SDA, who later pioneered long over-ocean flights with an Aztec, the ‘J L Tucker’, which with long range tanks set several distance records across the trackless Pacific. Later he was to establish the flying school at Avondale where he he was the Chief Flying Instructor and, before his retirement, served for many years as the Chief Pilot for the South Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
All royalties realized from the sales of this book are being used to fund the restoration of the ‘Andrew Stewart’ by its former pilots and other volunteers to static display condition and that income will also assist with the provision of a purpose built hanger to enable that display under cover.