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October Newsletter

Flying Fabric

Not to be confused with magic carpets.

The bare tube frame with a fresh coat of epoxy primer.

Right now I’m helping to rebuild a 4 seat Bearhawk that’s owned by an Indiana farmer. He keeps the plane in Haiti where it’s used to support an orphanage. Life in a hot tropical climate is hard on an airplane (corrosion runs rampant in moist, salty environments) so he brought it to MMS Aviation for a major overhaul. What makes the Bearhawk unique is that the fuselage, or body of the airplane, is covered by fabric. The fabric is stretched tight over a steel tube structure and this tight fabric gives the airplane its aerodynamic shape. When the Bearhawk arrived from Haiti it was worn and tired. One of the items on the “squawk” list was replacing the faded, punctured, and patched fabric covering. This is a big job! We started by stripping the airplane down to the frame. We sandblasted all the old glue, fabric pieces, and old paint off of the tube frame – right down to the bare metal. Now we are basically building the airplane all over again.


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Currently I am gluing the polyester fabric to the frame. This involves stretching a 70” wide roll of fabric over an uneven metal structure and gluing it down without getting any wrinkles in it. It’s like setting up a tent during a tornado! I’m actually really enjoying it. It’s like an Arts and Crafts project I had in kindergarten except that when I’m done I’ll have an airplane sitting there, and not a bunch of stupid noodles glued to a plate. I’ve built a few model airplanes when I was younger but I’ve always wanted to build a real one. I’m finally getting that chance! It’s so satisfying to see an airplane take shape in front of you. I’m excited to be getting fabric experience because even people on staff here don’t get the chance to work on fabric very often. Even though fabric construction is actually quite durable and very lightweight, it takes so much time to install fabric on frames that many airplane manufacturers stopped using fabric and began building semi-monocoque (I just learned that word) designs made out of aluminum alloy. So fabric isn’t that common in commercially built aircraft (although home built or kit planes often still use it).

This process got me thinking. In order to accomplish something (like fly through the air), many components must come together in just the right way to make flight possible. For example, if you took the fabric off of the frame and threw it into the air, it would flutter around for awhile and then just fall into a crumbled heap like laundry that missed the basket. If you took the fabric off of the frame and then threw the frame off of a cliff, it would drop like a rock to the earth below and land with a crash, sending plumes of dust rolling across the landscape. Pretty useless! Even if you have the fabric glued to the frame, it won’t fly if the airplane isn’t designed properly. You need someone to write the instructions so you end up with a useful end product.

You probably know where I’m going with this. We’re the steel tubing, our supporters are the fabric, and God is the designer who is tells us how to assemble it all together into a shape that flies.

I’m getting the experience and hands-on education needed to fix missionary airplanes through the two and half year mechanical apprenticeship. This training is the 4130 chrome-moly steel tubing of our ministry. It gives our calling its shape and purpose. However, the shape is useless if there’s no aerodynamic surface to enable the frame to fly through the air. You guys are the fabric stretched tightly around us. Of course, this “airplane” isn’t fully assembled yet. We’re here at MMS Aviation building the “frame” of our ministry now. We are well supplied with fabric. But we don’t know yet exactly what type of airplane God is building. We don’t know where we will serve, what types of aircraft we’ll be working on, or what ministry we’ll be with. However, we are confident that God is building the exact aircraft He needs for the job and if we just accomplish each task He gives us, we’ll end up with exactly the airplane God intended to build, capable of doing amazing things. And there’s nothing more beautiful than a well built airplane.

Thank you for joining us in God’s aircraft factory. The Gospel is real, the Great Commission is urgent, and it’s an honor to be part of God’s plan to change the world. We’re glad you guys have been “glued” to us!

Family

Grandma and Grandpa Snader visited several weeks ago and we all piled into our van and visited the Columbus Zoo! We saw all kinds of exotic animals but what Adi talked about most was the wooden horse carousel ride. I personally think giraffes are cooler than a wooden horse but all in all, everyone had a great time.


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Elliot is now army crawling and is getting really good at quietly scooting into trouble. But far and away his favorite thing to do is push himself around in his walker. He crashes around the house at full speed! This greatly annoys Adi who likes to sit undisturbed while she sits in her little rocking chair watching her Sean the Sheep DVD. Of course, Elliot finds it hilarious when Adi gets mad and so he finds great joy by crashing into her rocking chair, repeatedly. Hopefully when he’s sixteen he doesn’t find crashing into things so funny!

Elliot Snader
Elliot dug half the dirt out of the potted plant and threw it all over my desk and the floor. It was my fault since I was supposed to be babysitting and making sure these kind of situations didn’t happen.

We’re planning on moving into town so we’re only several minutes away from the hangar. This is so Janice can be more connected to other MMS families and have friends other than the cows in the pasture across the street. We’re looking forward to moving near the end of November. We’re going to have a smaller yard but a much cheaper heating bill, better water, and more available babysitters!

With Gratitude,

Josh


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