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Jay | Susan | Alex | Beth | Samantha
June 22, 2015 11:12 am
Published in: Uncategorized

We (Susan and I) were talking with Barry King at Central Region’s conference the other day, and as often happens, we started tradiing stories. Barry’s are better than mine, so he graciously offered to share them.  He emailed the following to me the other day…

Barry – After spending three years setting up and running the AIM-AIR base at Zemiozemio hangar C.A.R., I finished my term of service with AIM-AIR in the summer of 1983, and returned to the USA with my wife Jennilu and two boys Virgil and Stephen. Being a bit out of touch with life in the USA, and lacking any good options concerning employment for me in aviation, we decided to spend a year doing charitable work, as resident managers of the FISH guest house in Albany, OR. FISH was a shelter facility for battered women. The situation let us live near Jennilu’s parents.

As our year at FISH was winding up in 1984, I decided to take my family north to Alaska in our battered old station wagon and a trailer. My father-in-law (concerned for the welfare of his daughter and grandchildren) asked me: “Do you have any work lined up there for when you arrive?” I said, “No.” He asked, “Do you know anyone in Alaska, or have any contacts there?” I said, “No.” He said, “Do you have any money set aside as savings?” I said, “No”. He asked, “What are your plans?” I said, “I’m just going up there to have a look around and discover what opportunities may exist.” It was a short and unproductive conversation.

We arrived in Fairbanks in early September and came out of our tent in the morning to find our roadside campsite covered in snow. I drove into town and bought a copy of the local paper at a gas station. There was one help-wanted ad in aviation: Olson Air of Nome was looking for a pilot. I put coins in the pay phone and placed the call to Nome. I got the late David “M.O.” Olson on the line. M.O. was half Swede and half Inuit. In time, he was to become one of my best friends, but  when I placed the call, he was a complete stranger. I gave him a short version of my life story on the phone.

After I had talked for a couple of minutes, M.O. said, “Hang on a minute…” and then, “What did you say your name was?” I told him, and he said, “I think I have someone here who knows you.” I said, “I really doubt that, I surely don’t know anyone from Nome.” He said, “Hang on a minute…”, and then, “It’s my new pilot Mike Cannata. He says his Dad was a missionary doctor in Ethiopia (Dr. Sam Cannata, who worked with the Baptist mission.) He says in 1977 his Dad was imprisoned for two weeks during the Communist takeover, and the rest of them under house arrest, then they were all driven to the border at Moyale and released into Kenya. Mike says that you were the pilot who showed up in an AIM-AIR plane and flew them all to safety in Nairobi. Is that right?” I said, “Yes, I did that, and I remember Dr. Cannata and his wife, but I don’t really remember the kids.”

M.O. said, “Well, Mike remembers you and he says you are a good pilot, and that I should hire you, so I will.” Thus began our four years as Alaskans. It turned out that his flight from Moyale to Nairobi with AIM-AIR in 1977 inspired Mike’s interest in becoming a bush pilot, and that after a few years of training, his first job was working for the Olsons in Nome.

Moral of the story: when I write my book about How to Get a Job as an Alaskan Bush Pilot, Step 1 will be: Start by rescuing missionaries fleeing into Kenya from Ethiopian communists.