Photo by Laurie
Miles O'Brien interviews Gracia Burnham, Steve Saint, Peter Vanden
Bosch, and Walt Fricke Monday night at Theater in the Woods.
July 28, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - Four
volunteer pilots recounted their life-changing experiences in the field of
humanitarian aviation Monday night in a "hangar talk" program at
the Theater in the Woods.
Former CNN Science Editor Miles O'Brien, an
active pilot himself, moderated a forum that included Peter J. Vanden
Bosch, 2007 winner of the Outstanding Achievement in Advancement of Public
Benefit Flying Award; Walt Fricke, a decorated U.S. Army Vietnam aviator
and Veterans Airlift Command founder and chairman; Steve Saint, aviation
missionary, social entrepreneur, and author of End of The Spear;
and Gracia Burnham, aviation missionary, a 2001 hostage of Filipino
militants, and author of In the Presence of My Enemies and To
The four came to AirVenture in support of
EAA's Fly for Life display at AeroShell Square, a section spotlighting
mission aviation and public-benefit flying.
Saint talked about using airplanes to
reduce days-long treks through the dense rainforest of Ecuador into brief
hops. He returned to live with the same Waodani people who had killed his
father when he was a child.
Burnham recounted being a missionary pilot
in the Philippines with her husband, Martin, until terrorists kidnapped
them and held them for more than a year; ultimately they killed Martin
when the Philippine military attempted a rescue-but they failed to dampen
Gracia's passion for missionary work.
Fricke, an Army helicopter pilot who was
wounded in Vietnam, told of creating the all-volunteer Veterans Airlift
Command to provide air transportation to wounded warriors and their
families. He spent six months recovering in hospitals with no family
Vanden Bosch recounted a life of ease in
retirement until a voice told him to do something with purpose-a voice
that guided him, he's convinced, to organize the Michigan-based Wings of
Mercy volunteer airlift program.
O'Brien asked the speakers what can be done
to make the public more aware of the good works done with airplanes, and
Burnham said Fly for Life is doing a lot toward that end.
"This has been a chance to let the
world know what we're doing," she said.