Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GCA Helps Place Aircraft for Another Ministry

During the week following Easter, Rob made a trip to Guatemala in the service of another ministry: Living Water Teaching , who operate a large network on Bible schools in Central and South America, among other places. They recently arranged to have a Cessna U206 based at their large hangar in Xela (Quetzaltenanto), Guatemala and they will be hosting a pilot and mechanic, Charles Martinez and his wife Robin, who is a teacher at the school.

Charles' ministry is called Mercy Wings and he will be based in Quetzaltenango with Living Water where he will provide routine flights for groups that travel between the large cities in Guatemala, using the 206.

Rob was asked to help plan the trip and accompany Charles on the flight down to Guatemala From Texas, with a fuel stop in Mexico, followed by a couple of days of preliminary familiarization flights. This was one of those times when various ministries get to work together to accomplish a task that will help the international effort of spreading the Gospel of Christ. A real blessing to all involved.

Rob has been invited to return and continue training with Charles and he is very hopeful that our various ministries can work together in ways that will help this involved and perhaps also those that GCA serves in the remote regions of Guatemala as well. The potential for a beautiful friendship is there!

A map of Guatemala with markers in the Ixcan (far north), where GCA operates as well as Quetzaltenango (more south), where Living Water Teaching and Mercy Wings now has a Cessna 206:

View Guatemala in a larger map

Guyana, South America

Guyana, South America

During February and March, Robert was happy to help with another medical flight operation in Guyana, South America. For three weeks we provided relief services for the RAM program in the Southern Rupununi region of Guyana. This is the same project that Jennifer and Robert help to initiate back in 2001. We were able to make many flights and help several seriously injured and ill patients get to the hospital in the town of Lethem, Guyana from small remote villages.

See photos of the trip at this url: http://picasaweb.google.com/GCAPilot/GuyanaTrip

View Guyana in a larger map

Friday, January 16, 2009

Great Commission Air January Newsletter

Nine Students Sponsored for the Village School!

Sponsored Students and Parents of MayalanGCA has arranged for nine additional student sponsorships in the village of Mayalan. These Mayan kids had set aside their plans and dreams of attending school, put down their pencils and picked-up a hoe, ready to join their families in working as full-time subsistence farmers.

Now those kids have the opportunity of an education and new hope! If you would like to participate by sponsoring a student, please call Jennifer Rice at (734) 846-4092 or
you may make a donation online at http://www.GreatCommissionAir.org/donate.php

Fundraising Goals in Sight:Contributios Graph
Fundraising since the accident in July has been nothing short of breathtaking. At the current rate of contributions, our goal to replace the aircraft will be met before spring. Please help us keep up the momentum! This chart shows YOUR amazing response since last July. Not only were our lives saved in the accident, but be we will be blessed to have the opportunity to save others with your continued support!

New Member on the GCA Board of Directors: Ed Schertz GCA Board Member
Mr. Edward Schertz has recently joined the Great Commission Air Board of Directors. Ed is a committed Christian and has been involved in missionary aviation for many, many years both as a pilot, flying in Brazil, South America, and as an A&P mechanic, working at Wings of Hope. Ed is well known and is highly respected within the humanitarian and missionary aviation world. He will be a great asset to GCA. One of Ed’s first duties at GCA is to help us locate a Cessna U206 that is appropriate for service in the Ixcan region of Guatemala. Please welcome Ed and join us in thanking God for his help and selfless service.

GCA Considering Caribbean Humanitarian Service: GCA Skymaster Cessna 337 N6CV

The Cessna 337 owned by GCA in Venice, Florida has been for sale for some time. We had hoped to use the funds to purchase a U206 for the project in Guatemala. With aircraft sales very weak, we are considering using it to serve medical missionary groups working throughout the Caribbean while it is for sale. For some patients, transport from places like Haiti, Bahamas, Jamaica and Belize (among others) to the United States might best be done on a light twin like the 337. We are in the initial stages of determining if the need will justify putting the 337 into service. Please pray with us for guidance in this matter.

First Potable Well Water in our Mayan Village:Genna Rice Carrying Water for the Family

After making a presentation at the Rotary Club of Chelsea, Michigan, we were very surprised and encouraged to hear that they are voted to support a water well drilling project with GCA. There have been several attempts to drill or dig wells throughout the village but none have produced potable water. We hope to drill a deep well to supply water to a large storage tank located near the airstrip, where everyone can come to obtain clean drinking water and to wash clothes. Until now, women washed clothes in shallow creeks, standing in deep mud up for hours. These are the same creeks we use to obtain drinking water in the dry season. A bad way to wash clothes and a good way to get and spread parasites!

Thank you for your support. Please keep those we serve in your prayers!
To donate online, please click here: http://www.GreatCommissionAir.org/donate.php

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Replacement Aircraft Fundraising Update

Sale of P337:
Sadly, the sale of the P337 in Venice Florida fell through. This was a real disappointment to us as we had hoped to use funds from that sale to purchase a plane suitable for operation in the Ixan, namely a Cessna U206. We hope another buyer will be found soon.
For photos and more information, click here: http://picasaweb.google.com/GCAPilot/Cessna337#

Mass Mailing:
We recently sent a post-card to every CessnaU206 owner in the U.S. suggesting a possible trade: Their U206 for a P337. It would be a sensible trade for many U206 owners that would like to upgrade to a twin-engine plane. The P337 is capable of flying much higher and faster and has added reliability of two engines and safety of redundant systems such as vacuum, electrical, pressurization, etc... We wish we could use it but the short, rough airstrips that we serve in the Ixcan won't allow it.

Lets pray that someone will take advantage of this offer so that we can get back to work in the Ixcan soon!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

GCA Plane Replacement Fund Takes-Off!

Friends and supporters of Great Commission Air have turned out powerfully to help us recover from the loss of the Cessna 336 in August! Of the $160,000 needed to purchase a plane and return to Guatemala, only $43,000 still needs to be secured.

You can help in three ways:

  1. Take this need to your church missions committee. We are glad to visit personally or we can create a video greeting and update personalized just for them.
  2. Donate today. Most of the funds come from individuals like you. To donate online use this URL: http://www.GreatCommissionAir.org/donate.php
  3. Pray. Ours is a faith-based ministry. We have faith that God hears your prayers for those we serve, for the ministry and for safe operations. Please pray today.

God Bless and thank you for your support of this life-saving ministry!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

GCA to Replace Aircraft - Return to Ministry ($130,000 needed)

Although we are still recovering from the crash of our Cessna 336 in Guatemala, we know that the ministry there is where we belong. The people of the Ixcan are pleading for our return. Many lives are saved using aircraft to provide emergency medical transportation and many missionaries and medical teams still need transportation to difficult to reach areas.

The best aircraft for the job is a Cessna U206 (like the one pictured - just without the Masai spears). We are working hard to raise enough funds to purchase a used U206.
The cost will be approximately $130,000.
So far about $15,000 has been raised.
Please help us meet the goal so that we can return to our life-saving ministry.

Excellent News Coverage:
WXYZ Channel 7's "Call Bill for Action
Ann Arbor News Front Page:
Thank you Jo Mathis and Mary Gibson!

Monday, August 4, 2008

GCA Aircraft Crashes in Guatemala - No Injuries

On Thursday, July 31, The GCA Skymaster N538JP crashed in the mountains near the city of Coban due to a mechanical failure. Miraculously, there were no injuries.

Early in the morning, I was called by the folks at the clinic in Playa Grande and asked if I would transport an 11-year-old boy to Coban for treatment at the regional hospital. I put on my new GCA shirt that has the words "God is My Pilot" embroidered on the right side (in Spanish), gave Jennifer and the kids a hug, as is my custom whenever I leave for a flight, and walked down the road to the plane.

I did a thorough pre-flight inspection and made sure I had enough fuel for the first flight and other planned flights that I would need to make afterwards. I then flew from our village of Mayalan to Playa Grande where the patient, his mother, his aunt and her baby boarded the aircraft. Before departing, the mother asked me to wait a moment so that we could pray. I told her that it is my custom to pray after I arrive at our destination, to give thanks. We prayed for a moment and then departed for Coban.

During the approach to Coban, while on the base leg, after applying full flaps I heard an extremely loud bang. The aircraft immediately rolled hard to the right and left aileron had no effect. The roll rapidly continued until we were nearly inverted and was uncontrollable. I retracted the flaps, a process that takes several seconds, and the ailerons gradually became effective again. When the aircraft was finally level, we were extremely low, in a tight valley completely below the surrounding terrain and heading away from the runway to the East. Not only that, but both engines had stopped running. Within a few seconds, we made a controlled crash into vegetation on the crest of a narrow ridge. The plane impacted on the main landing gear and traveled for a short distance before the nose gear dug in and caused the aircraft to flip over at least twice before comming to rest more or less right-side-up, with one wing stopped by a small tree. Had we impacted much sooner, the plane would have driven into the side of the ridge. Later, it would have skipped off the top and ended up far below near the highway.

The door of the aircraft flew open on impact. Fuel was running out of the wing and into the cabin. I turned off the master switch and one of the fuel control valves and immediately began helping the passengers un-buckle their seatbelts and shouted to them to leave the plane. The boy's mother handed me the baby and I gave the baby to its mother once she got out. The mother and I then extricated the 11-year-old boy from his seat and they both climbed out of the plane. We all walked away in the very tall vegetation and bushes using the path that the plane had made when in crashed. I asked everyone if they were OK and they all replied that they were.

At that point, I got down on my knees and thanked God in a loud voice, from the bottom of my heart in a way that I have never done before.

God is my Pilot. Please join me in thanking God for saving us all.

Today, Monday, August 4th, with help from many friends in Coban and others who came to help, we have completed moving the wreckage to a safe location. Our immediate plan is to return to the the US and try to obtain another aircraft as soon as possible so that we can continue our ministry in the Ixcan. We save many lives with the service we provide in this region and there is no reason for us to stop serving.

It is my hope that we can find a plane that might be a bit more suitable for the very short and rough airstrips we use. Perhaps a 182 or 206. GCA owns another Cessna 337 that is nearly ready for sale and is being cared for by our friends at AGAPE flights in Florida. We hope to be able to use funds raised from that sale to procure another plane.

Please pray with us that we will be able to accomplish this work quickly.

We are preparing to return to Ann Arbor, Michigan. We would be delighted to visit with you and a group of your friends, your church, Bible Study or Rotary Club to talk about this ministry and how they might be a part of this God-fearing Life-Giving ministry. Please write to Jennifer at Jennifer.Rice@GreatCommissionAir.org or leave a message on her Michigan number at (734)846-4092.

Watch for a future Blog entry about our Lord's provision hours before, during and after the crash. We have a list of at least 20 GodSpots - ways we can see (spot) His hand on this whole situation.

With all our love and greatful appreciation for yours, and your prayers,
Praise Him!
Rob Rice

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Great Commission Air MedEvac from Barillas

A minivan with twenty people on board went off a steep mountain road. One person died and many others were badly injured. Peggy Tuttle, from Good Samaritan International called on behalf of the clinic there. The first load of patients included a woman with head trauma and neck injuries, her baby, a boy with internal injuries and possibly neck injuries. Along with the three patients, the mother of the boy and his father accompanied us for the 30 minute flight to Huehuetenango (sounds like waywaytenango) where a public hospital had been notified to be ready to get us. Had the plane not been here, the road to Huehue is long and rough, about seven hours on extremely bad roads. This is the reason why we do what we do, for the love of God. Thanks for supporting this project!

Today's Fligh track: Click Here.

Robert Rice

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Where's Waldo (and Where's Rob)

The map on the left is generated by a service we use called Find-Me-Spot.

The service helps us keep track of where our aircraft (and pilot and passengers) are. When the "OK" button is pressed on our unit, an email is sent to Jennifer along with the coordinates of the plane allowing her to do flight following without the problematic HF radios we used to use.

The map is available on the web to the public, so even YOU can see where I am at any moment!

To see the map, updated in real-time, click here.
The URL is too long to list, but once you have viewed it, you might wish to save the URL address in your favorites list for later viewing.

If you click on the above link, you will see points of on my flights during the last 24 hours. The map is updated automatically when I press the check-in button. It will be different every day.

What follows is a description of what happened during my flights on Tuesday, the 22nd. A more or less typical day:

The Flight Plan (before reality set in):

Flight Leg 1: Pick-up Medical Missionaries
I had a scheduled flight to pick-up two medical missionaries from Barillas, a mountain town about 30 miles west of our base in Mayalan, who were working with Peggy Tuttle of Good Samaritan International.

Flight Leg 2: Pick up sick Mayan woman and accompanier
Last night, a missionary in the small village of La Gloria about 30 miles South, called me pleaded with me to pick-up a Mayan woman that was critically ill.

Flight Leg 3: Pick-up terminally ill grandmother for flight home
Last night, and this morning, a woman in Huehuetenango (waywaytenango) called and begged me to pick up her and her mother, who was terminally ill, to take her home to die in Barillas.

What Really Happened
I departed our base in the village of Mayalan at about 8:52, as the clouds were breaking up.
See my first check-in, #1 on the map. My first stop was Barillas to pick up the missionary women but my check-in did not register on the map. Barillas is about 25 miles West of Mayalan.

Barillas has a rough airstrip along the top of a ridge at an altitude of about 5,000´.

Rock Hits Propeller!
While landing, a rock was kicked up and put a big nick on one end of my newly overhauled rear propeller. I was genuinely unhappy about that. While I waited for my passengers, I filed the nick down into something that looked less like a bullet hole.

Two Women, Many Bags:
With the two women and their many bags loaded, we departed and made a course for La Gloria where the seriously ill woman was waiting for me on the airstrip.

La Gloria is on the map at the #3 point.

Mud, lots of mud, medical patient, more mud:
In La Gloria, we loaded the sick Mayan woman, lying down on the floor behind the co-pilot seat. I used some of the missionaries' bags to cushion her head, and put some others under her feet. I put others on the lap of her brother-in-law, whom was accompanying her, and some more on the lap of the missionary lady in the seat behind me. I put one or two more of the bags on top of my patient, in a way as to not cause discomfort. Needless to say, there were lots of bags.

With all the passengers, the patients and bags on board, we had a full house.

We took off from La Gloria, spewing mud as we lurched down the steeply sloped, no-go-around strip, and climbed above the clouds shrouding the ridges and headed to Guatemala City.

Guatemala City is #5 and #6 on the map.

Ask for an ambulance and get a crash truck:
I asked the approach controller to call for an ambulance and they reported that they had called one. Upon landing, we found that the airport's volunteer firemen had actually been summoned and were waiting for us with their small crash truck (not an ambulance). They eventually did call the actual ambulance for us and we all waited together for it to arrive.

Tried to buy fuel but VISA card declined!
After the ambulance arrived and picked-up our patient, the ride for our medical missionary ladies came and picked them up too. Being low on fuel and making a point to fill my tanks whenever in Guatemala City, I purchased 100 gallons of fuel, at a cost of nearly $7.00 per gallon.
Because we are a new customer in a foreign country, Capitol One VISA declined the charge (about $700) so I called them and also asked them to increase my credit limit, which they gladly did. A few minutes later, the charge was accepted and we were $700 poorer but really, really full of fuel.

I filed a flight plan for Huehuetenango, where the terminally ill grandmother was waiting for her flight BACK to Barillas. The place where I had earlier picked-up the medical missionary ladies.

Leg 3 to Huehuetenango Cancelled:
Before leaving Guate, Jennifer called Peggy Tuttle in Barillas and found out that the airstrip was now completely engulfed in clouds. There would be no landing in Barillas. I called the lady in Huehuetenango from my cell phone and gave her the bad news.

I did fly by the airstrip in Barillas on my way home just to see what it looked like. It looked like a cloud the size of a blimp had parked itself squarely on the airstrip. And only on the airstrip.

I continued past Barillas, over the ridge and coasted down 5000´ to sea-level where I made my landing in Mayalan ten minutes later.

Miller Time (almost):
It is now 3:00 pm. The plane is covered with mud (a result of landing in La Gloria and Mayalan). I need to off-load (siphon) about 50 gallons (that is 300 lbs) of the fuel that I purchased in Guatemala, and carry it from the plane to my little shed where I stockpile it in fuel drums for later this week.

After that, I will carry water from the rain barrel next to the same shed and wash the mud off the plane.

Then I will get the file out and reshape the tip (on both ends of the propeller) so that the nick will be smooth and both ends will be more or less equally distorted.

Just another day at GREAT COMMISSION AIR.

Bonus Features:
Video of Jennifer washing clothes by hand. Its really cute!

Video of me landing on the airstrip at Barillas:

Click here to view a video collage of video during my recent visit to Tanzania:

One final Note: I really need to tell you that GCA depends completely on your generous donations and your prayers. If you want to support this life-saving ministry, please consider donating: http://www.greatcommissionair.org/donate.php If you can not donate, we understand, but please pray for us and those we serve. Your prayers are more valuable to us than all the gold in the world.

Thank you and God Bless You!!!

Rob and Jennifer Rice
Great Commission Air

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

These Boots Were Made for Washing

Wearing boots while washing clothes makes a lot of sense. Especially when the alternative means standing in an inch of mud! It doesn't hurt to smile along the way.

Just yesterday, one of my dearest friends in the world, Julie Castle, commented about how she just wasn't meant to live outdoors. Once again, she reminded me that many of you, our readers, have a very important role: You are are the Senders. You are called to pray for, tell others about, and support this ministry. For those that have been thinking about it for a long time, I hope this video clip makes you smile and reach for your checkbook - or a strong desire to click the donate link below. We continue to need you!http://www.GreatCommissionAir.org/donate.php

Great Commission Air - Serving in the Name of Jesus

Saturday, July 5, 2008

GCA Returned to Guatemala

Sick Mayan woman in pick-up
No sooner had we returned, in fact, a couple of hours after we returned to our village of Mayalan, a pick-up came in from a neighboring village with a very sick woman in need of a flight to the town of Playa Grande, where there is a clinic with a doctor.

Sick Mayan woman in pick-up
The woman seemed to have miscarried and was quite ill with a fever and unconscious.

Jennifer called the clinic in Playa Grande and arranged to have someone meet me at the airstrip when I arrived. In fact, I flew over the clinic and saw the clinic pick-up truck heading out to the airstrip. By the time I had landed, they, and the army contingent, were waiting for me.

Rob Fueling N538JP, patient on ground
Before we could depart with the patient and her mother and two sisters, I had to add 10 gallons of fuel to the right wing tank. You can see the patient on the ground near the plane, waiting patiently.

We love this work and the lives we help to save in the process. Please help us to help the people in this remote place by supporting Great Commission Air. See the link at the bottom for details on how.

Rob landing in Mayalan
Here is a view from the cockpit as we approached a village very close to our base in Mayalan. I dropped Jennifer and the kids off here so that I could unload the cargo in Mayalan, then return and get them. I did not want to land in Mayalan with such a heavy load as didn't have much recent practice with very short landings, so heavily loaded.

Large expenses have been incurred to return the Cessna 336 to service, in addition to the cost of completing the annual inspection on the 337 (N6CV). We humbly ask that you make a donation to help support this ministry. Financial needs are especially acute at this time.

This is a life-saving service that ONLY WORKS WITH YOUR SUPPORT.

Click this link to donate online:


Special Thanks: Before returning to Guatemala, we spent six weeks living and working with the volunteers at Harvest Aviation in Wauchula Florida, finishing all the small details related to our new rear engine on the Cessna Skymaster 336, N538JP. Thanks especially to the Ereckson family who hosted us for over three weeks while we were in Wauchula.