Palo Alto Airport Connection with Mission Aviation Fellowship

A special mission of mercy originated from Palo Alto Airport in August this year.  A modified Cessna Grand Caravan took off on a 40 hour 5,500 mile flight to Sentani, Papua in Indonesia.  This single-engine aircraft will be handed off to Mission Aviation Fellowship, an organization which flies missionaries, medevacs and material to some of the hardest to reach places on earth.  

Redwood City resident Bill Leahy has been modifying and transporting planes for Mission Aviation Fellowship for nearly 10 years.  To prepare the Grand Caravan for the trip, Leahy designed and installed a pair of 250 gallon fuel cells, which combined with the plane’s twin 160 gallon tanks will keep it in the air for 18 hours.  Palo Alto Airport serves as a primary staging point for supplying the organization new aircraft. 

The Grand Caravan is capable of carrying 3,000 pounds of cargo plus a pair of pilots and 11 passengers.  This is an improvement on capacity over the Cessna 206s the organization has relied on for years.  In addition, the new fleet runs on “Jet A” fuel, a type of kerosene that is more affordable and available than “avgas” required by the smaller planes.  A gallon of avgas in Indonesia was selling for about $15 in August, nearly four times the price of Jet A fuel.  This is up from $2 per gallon just five years ago.

Mission Aviation Fellowship is headquartered in Nampa, Idaho.  The new plane will ultimately operate out of Tarakan, Kalimantan, transporting locals and cargo in the Krayan and Apokayan areas.  The air fleet is a critical lifeline for locals in an area where roads are scarce and few rivers are navigable.  Several medevac flights will take place every week, providing many their only way to medical treatment if they get sick.  For some it will be the difference between life and death.

This is one more example of the general aviation community, contributing to make the world a better place.  Those who want to close down our regional airports need to know there is more is going on here than just weekend jaunts for $100 hamburgers.

Mission Aviation Fellowship is a Christian organization and is always looking for aviation professionals who want to help.  You can find out more at


Palo Alto Airport Links Trio of Recent Fatal Crashes

According to the Federal Aviation Administration there was no common denominator between three recent fatal airplane crashes.  A 41 year old neurosurgeon and new pilot flew a rented Cessna 172 at night and crashed in the hazardous Lake Tahoe region.  An experienced 38 year old pilot with his own airline transport business flew his Piper Navajo Chieftain into the garage of a two story home in Las Vegas.  A retired programmer, 60 years old, crashed his 1977 Socata Rallye into the California Highway Patrol building on Highway 101 in Gilroy.

There is no common denominator in age of pilot, level of experience, type of plane or location of the accident.  There is an unusual connection, however.  All three were among those piloting the aproximately 500 small aircraft that take off and land at the Palo Alto Airport each day.  One pilot was headed to Palo Alto, one took off from there and one lived nearby.

This loose connection to the airport in Palo Alto serves to highlight what most pilots take for granted.  Accidents do happen;  pilots make mistakes and machines break down.  Although three fatalities in one month with a connection to a single airport is unusual, it happens.  For most pilots flying is still far safer than driving.  You wouldn’t give up driving because thousands die every year on America’s highways.  No one is likely to park their plane because of a run of fatal crashes.  The price of fuel?  Now that’s another story.