Sea to Sky series Chapter 1 – with Bush pilot Ryan from Papua New Guinea
I’ve often thought that God has to have a sense of humour. Moments after creation, the supreme being paused for a moment, and during a millisecond of pique, created Papua New Guinea as an exercise in extremes.
For Papua New Guinea is a land of unapologetic beauty, impossibly isolated mountain ranges, with waterfalls emptying into valleys of inexhaustible fertility.
Ryan Farran was fascinated by aviation while growing up in Papua New Guinea. The child of missionaries, it was during adolescence he decided that a life of service to the people of PNG, from sea to sky, would be his career choice.
His work for Ethnos360 Aviation, a non-profit organization, assists tribal church planning missionaries, running MedEvac missions and supplying safe water projects, to name a few.
We asked Ryan where his interest began, “I have had the itch to be a pilot since probably first grade. It’s always been an interest, but it wasn’t until about 11th grade that I made the decision that being a pilot is what I wanted to do. More specifically, a missionary pilot. Flying with the airlines looks too monotonous and boring. I like the fast pace, single pilot aspect of my job.”
We reflected, how “a kid from the United States…” would adapt to a cultural mosaic that could not be more diverse and separate from his own.
The actual answer is likely more complex. Papua New Guinea is, on geography alone, a place so exquisitely secluded, that a 25 minute flight between villages is a 4 day trip through impenetrable jungle. This is where the benefit of bush flying comes in. However dangerous this job might be, and not without a myriad of challenges, a skilled pilot makes the difference between getting supplies to an isolated community a reliable option versus, well, not at all.
Ryan continued, “I was born in Missouri, but grew up everywhere. My parents went into missions when I was 5, so we moved around a lot for that. We lived in Papua New Guinea in the late 80’s and early 90’s for 4 years. That is where I got my first introduction to bush pilots. From 6th grade on, we lived in the States, mainly in Michigan where I finished off high school and started my flight training at age 19.”
Ryan discovered, early on, that the people of Papua New Guinea are easy going and friendly. Guests in this country must be mindful that this is a paradise where time and distance are not measured in quite the way we are familiar with.
Today, tomorrow or next week all can mean the very same thing. On some primordial level, this is simply the way things get done.
For Ryan, this sense of time suits him just fine. His greatest joy is planning out his day, making all of the important decisions and completing his mission safely, “on time” in a World where time is often meaningless.
Ryan again, “We live, on a missionary center, and it’s kind of like raising your kids back in the 1950’s in a small town where everyone knows one everyone else. We live on a 35 acre village with about 250 other missionaries.
There are a ton of kids for our kids to play with, and a school that has K-12. It really is great when one finds his purpose in life doing what he loves, and having eternal value while doing it. It’s definitely a rewarding and fulfilling life.”
Ryan’s company aircraft is the Kodiak. Purpose built in Sandpoint, Idaho, the Kodiak is considered one of the more robust STOL (Short take-off and landing) aircraft seemingly destined for the most efficient humanitarian workloads. With a cargo capacity approaching 1000 kg, it’s a lifeline to communities that are separated by the most rugged of countryside.
For those seeking a career in bush pilot flying, be advised, the training is a long haul, 10 years or so according to Ryan. If our readers think there is anything routine about this line of work, Ryan offers…
“Yes, my most memorable flight days have been usually linked around bad weather.
Coming to the field with Very little IFR (instrument ) experience, it has made me learn it very well and fast.
PNG’s weather can change in a blink of an eye, keeping you on your toes at all times.
That aspect of the ever changing weather can be challenging at times, and fun other times.
Even though we fly a lot of the same routes to different bush locations, no two flights are ever the same. Cloudy or rainy weather can make the area look completely foreign.
I wind down with my hobbies. I love riding my dirtbike through the local mountains. I’ve probably put on 8000 miles over the past 4 years. I’ve always had a passion for photography, and it’s only been in the past 6 years that I’ve started getting into videography, and actually enjoy it even more.”
Ryan’s Missionary Bush Pilot YouTube channel is a delight to watch if you are interested in aviation and rugged terrain.
I’ve often thought that God has to have a sense of humour. Moments after creation, the supreme being paused for a moment, and during a millisecond of pique, created Papua New Guinea as an exercise in extremes. For Papua New Guinea is a land of unapologetic beauty, impossibly isolated mountain ranges, with waterfalls emptying into…