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The first R66 turbine helicopter has started flying in the capital city of Yaoundé, Cameroon, located in central Africa on the west coast.
Revolution Aviation, better known as its popular U.S. registered trademark EatSleepFly, is doing what it does best — leading by example. This time in Africa with an association called JAARS Inc. which is a nonprofit organization in Waxhaw, North Carolina that also works alongside SIL and Wycliffe Bible translators which are located throughout the world.
JAARS has operated an R44 helicopter for several years and recently reviewed its operational requirements and found a need for an R66 turbine helicopter. This will bring better performance for mission work and extend the range of missions with the installed auxiliary tank, adding almost two hours of additional flight-time endurance together with the convenience of jet fuel being more accessible within Cameroon.
After much prayer, an R66 was purchased by a private individual and work was set to transport it to Africa. The aircraft was assembled in Yaoundé by mechanics who were flown in from the United States.
Mission aviation is critical in the developing world by bringing supplies, translators and more to areas where people need it most. People in the U.S. are fortunate the road systems are well maintained — what would take five hours to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas would take about half the time by helicopter. However, in many parts of Cameroon, what would take from 12 hours to three days to travel to by car would only take 20 minutes to five hours by helicopter, respectively.
The ratio is significantly different making the need for aircraft, helicopters and planes so important. The role aircraft play in this environment is an absolute game changer when getting food, medical, building supplies, volunteers and more where they need to be the most.
With all this taken into consideration, it was decided that additional training was needed on site in Cameroon. Mark Robinson, chief pilot at Revolution Aviation, was high on that list with credentials that stood out having flown the first model and taking delivery of the standard R66 SN0004, police and Mariner version of the R66, running a flight school, and being a prior Robinson Instructor Safety Course pilot.
“Many people don’t know this, but I was actually born and raised in Cameroon,” said Robinson. “When I heard about the opportunity to assist JAARS in the advanced training of their pilots for this mission work, I couldn’t believe my ears; the cause is amazing. It took several years and prayer to get to this point in the joint venture and to finally be in Cameroon with this aircraft on location is great — it is so unique to acquire a skill and bring it to where people may need it most and who may not necessarily know it is available to them. This type of flying, adventure and discovery is so different. I hope I can train more new pilots to serve and use their skills in this way. I’m just blessed to be helping in the first place.”
Looking forward, Revolution Aviation plans to train more pilots for specialized mission work and raise awareness for the need of an additional helicopters in the region.