In the stillness of a spring morning, Carl A. Mortenson hopes to climb into the cockpit of his “Evangel 4500” and taxi across a private airstrip just west of Chicago. That in itself will make missionary aviation history, for the small, twin-engine plane is the first ever designed especially for missionary use. Beyond that lies a vigorous test program for the new aircraft with Mortenson as test pilot. If it proves successful, the “Evangel 4500” could make missionary flying safer.

Missionary aviation has had an admirable safety record, despite the fact that single-engine planes are used almost exclusively. Planes of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship, for instance, have traveled some 9,000,000 miles without a fatality. The fleet of planes operated by the air arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators also has escaped major tragedies.

The 29-year-old Mortenson, however, feels that missionary aviators ought not to rest upon their laurels. Serving to support this view is the fact that there have been at least three fatal accidents of missionary aircraft within the last nine months.A Dutch Roman Catholic missionary was killed last spring when his plane creashed in West Irian. On June 29, 1963, Joel Robertson of Air Crusade, Inc., died in a crash in Guatemala (this accident was blamed specifically on engine failure). Last month, the Rev. and Mrs. John B. Woods, Presbyterian U. S. missionaries, were fatally injured when their plane struck a mountain in Mexico. All three were single-engine Cessna 180s, which are widely used in missionary aviation. At least one of the crashes was attributable to engine failure.

Mortenson hopes to reduce the risk with the development of his twin-engine “Evangel 4500.” The twin-engine feature is only one of a number ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.