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 incorporated into the design geared for use in remote areas. (See CHRISTIANITY TODAY News, May 10, 1963.)
Many missionary aviation experts are questioning the wisdom of Mortenson’s venture despite the fact that development of the prototype has been achieved in close liaison with aeronautical engineers and certification inspectors of the Federal Aviation Agency. He has received no official encouragement from MAF, from Wycliffe, with whom he served as a pilot-mechanic in Peru, or from Moody Bible Institute, where he received his aviation training.
MAF officials have traditionally relied upon commercial production-line models with minor modifications, and then only when these models have survived the “infant mortality rate” among new designs. To start from scratch with a fresh design is too risky, they feel, especially in view of limited budgets. Moreover, they feel that the extra engine in Mortenson’s plane may be more of a liability than an asset because it introduces so many more complexities.
But such arguments have not shaken Mortenson’s faith in the project. With the help of a special non-profit corporation headed by chemistry professor Paul M. Wright of Wheaton College, he has labored for over two years, even though he never had any guarantee of funds. The entire project has been financed by contributions. Biggest boost came when the “Back to the Bible” radio broadcast raised $10,000 to pay for the engines.
Mortenson originally had hoped to have the plane flying by the end of last summer. But work progressed at a slower pace than he had anticipated. He says that no major technical problems have been encountered, however, and that a maiden flight this spring seems fairly certain.
Methodist Board of Missions voted a sweeping reorganization of its structure, designed to unify the administrative and promotional work of Methodist missions in the United States and forty-eight other countries.
United Presbyterian Board of National Missions will launch an intern program this summer that will put six seminary students to work for integrationist organizations in the South.
Athletes and spectators at the Winter Olympics did not have to look far to find a Protestant church. The newly completed Evangelical Church of the Resurrection in Innsbruck, Austria, stands midway between the Olympic village and the stadium. During the games it was staffed by an Austrian, a Swedish, an English, a Hungarian, and three German pastors.
Twenty-nine cardinals of the Roman Curia met with Pope Paul VI last month to discuss the possibility of summoning a “Pan-Christian Conference” that would be attended by religious leaders from East and West, with the pontiff presiding as “first among the bishops of the Catholic Church.”
A draft declaration calling for the elimination of religious intolerance was completed by a special United Nations study commission. An official of the World Council of Churches, however, termed the document “inadequate and disappointing.”
A report that President Johnson will propose federal aid for parochial as well as public schools in depressed areas drew a statement of criticism from Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The organization, which was holding its annual meeting in Houston when the reports appeared, said “subsidies to parochial schools under any pretext are subsidies to the churches which own and control them.”
A purge of educators in Ghana included the arrest of Dr. Dennis Osbourne, a physicist who had been active in evangelical Christian work among students at the University of Ghana. Osbourne was well known for a series of pamphlets on Christian truth which he had written for undergraduates.
Sudan Interior Mission launched publication of a new French-language magazine for Africa. The editor of the periodical, to be known as Champion, is Mademoiselle Giselle Joly.
Scholars working on a new translation of the Polish Bible hope to conclude their work by 1966 in time for the thousandth anniversary of the Polish nation.
A new advertising sales organization to be known as Opinion Magazine Group is being established for The Christian Century, ecumenical Protestant weekly, America, a Jesuit weekly, and Commentary, a monthly sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. The group will offer advertising space in all three publications through a single order.
The first issue of a new Journal of Ecumenical Studies was due this month. The journal, scheduled for publication three times a year, is sponsored jointly by Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox scholars.
Philadelphia College of Bible will sponsor a Golden Jubilee Banquet April 17 as part of its fiftieth anniversary celebration.
The Rev. Harry Rine De Young named chairman of the United Presbyterian Division of Evangelism.
Dr. John Laney Plyler is retiring as president of Furman University (Baptist).
Dr. Gordon G. Johnson nominated to be dean of Bethel Theological Seminary.
Professor Norman W. Porteous named principal of New College, University of Edinburgh.
The Rev. James Dunlop nominated moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
Bishop Robert Selby Taylor elected Anglican Archbishop of Capetown, South Africa.
John C. Eller named president-elect of American Protestant Hospital Association.
Richard C. Underwood named editor of Together, family magazine of Methodism.
The Rev. Jesse W. Myers resigned as United Presbyterian chaplain at the University of Maryland. He had been publicly rebuked by university officials for criticizing fraternities.
“Scotland Yard is searching for more space in which to store its embarrassingly large stock of obscene books and pictures, and HM Customs is forbidden to burn any more obscene books because they were breaking the rules of a smokeless zone by making black smoke.”—The Guardian of London.
BISHOP CLARE PURCELL, 79, former president of the Methodist Council of Bishops; in Birmingham, Alabama.
DEAN ROSCOE WILSON, 81, noted Anglican churchman; in Melbourne, Australia.
THE REV. F. R. WEBBER, 76, authority on church architecture of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; at Mt. Vernon, New York.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more