VENICE – Agape Flights closed on the purchase of a U.S. registered 1985 Reims F406 Cessna Caravan II on Tuesday, about three months after the aviation ministry lost one of its two airplanes during a protest at the airport in Les Cayes, Haiti.
Almost immediately after that March 29 loss, Agape Flights started raising money for a replacement aircraft. That effort received a boost in May, when Sarasota-based Faith Life Church donated $1 million to the cause.
“The great thing about this aircraft is the flexibility of it,” Agape Flights CEO Allen Speer said.
Agape Flights gets hefty donation: Sarasota-based Faith Life Church donates $1 million to Agape Flights for a new plane
The F406 Cessna can carry up to 12 passengers, be easily converted to cargo use and carry about 2,000 pounds of cargo.
“It’s got the big wide cargo doors where you can actually put the front end of a forklift in there,” Speer said. “It's an amazing aircraft.
“It is exactly the aircraft that we prayed for; we just couldn’t find them.”
Agape Flights delivers supplies for visiting mission groups in the Bahamas, Haiti, and the Caribbean.
“This is a big, big, big upgrade for our mission partners and our organization,” he added. “We’re walking around today with smiles on our faces.”
Speer had already looked into about two similar planes in the United Kingdom – both of which were sold before his inquiry.
Speer was in Haiti when he received a call from Sean Nixon, CEO and chief pilot for Inter Island Charters, based in Marsh Harbor on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas.
Nixon had bought the F406 about 15 months ago but was contemplating selling it. His wife Carla Nixon read in a magazine about how Agape Flights lost the twin-engine Piper Navajo Chieftain and urged her husband to call Agape Flights.
Nixon was in Fort Lauderdale when he reached out to Speer and agreed to stay there so they could meet the next day.
Speer, Agape Flights Maintenance Director Greg Haman, mechanic Chase Linde and Agape Flights Director of Development Carol Leman met with Nixon to check out the aircraft.
Earlier coverage: Agape Flights makes rare relief delivery in Florida
Nixon agreed to fly it to Venice June 17, so Haman and Linde could conduct a pre-buy inspection.
Speer said there were some issues that would need to be addressed and both pilots must be sent to school in North Texas to be certified to fly the F406.
Though Agape’s new plane has less than 6,000 hours on the airframe, it’s also the first of its type ever made, with a serial number of 001.
Speer said the earliest the new plane will be used on mission flights would be around Sept. 1.
Haman and Linde will go through the plane’s two Pratt & Whitney PT6 engines and other aspects of the aircraft to make sure everything is up to the highest standard possible, Speer said.
“We’ve got to get to know this aircraft. It’s a very unique aircraft, it was really built to do what we do,” he added.
Between purchase of the aircraft, maintenance, upgrades and pilot training, Agape Flights expects to spend slightly more than $1 million so the F406 can be used on mission.
Agape Flights officials see the purchase of the plane as only the latest answer to their prayers, coming on the unexpectedly speedy fundraising for it.
Initial donations made to the Aircraft Replacement Fund totaled $141,000 and Agape Flights received another $300,000 as an insurance settlement for its loss
Agape Flights also raised more than $200,000 through The Giving Challenge, though that money can be used to fund any of the nonprofit’s services.
That created a nest egg of about $641,000.
Faith Life Church – which had not previously donated to Agape Flights – originally promised about $600,000 but in three weeks, the congregations in Branson, Missouri, and Sarasota collected $1 million for the new plane.
Agape Flights received another bit of good news from its insurance provider, which said they were not going to salvage the engines and propellers from the Chieftain, giving the nonprofit permission to resell them if it wished.
Meanwhile, MMS Aviation, a Coshocton, Ohio-based aviation maintenance ministry, connected Speer with a group based in Central America that could make use of the engines and propellers.
Speer was scheduled to meet with his board of directors Wednesday and planned to suggest they give the propellers and engines to the other ministry.
“We just believe that to whom much has been given, much is required,” he added. “And we also believe that we need to be given like so many people have given and invested in us.”
Earle Kimel primarily covers south Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at email@example.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Agape Flights buys plane to replace one destroyed March 29 in Haiti