The Plane Truth


In 1913, the county fair in Binghamton, N.Y., featured the “wild men of Borneo.” Witnessing the exhibit, eight-year-old George Elba Fisk felt called to be a missionary among the exotic Dyaks. Sixteen years later, George and his wife, Anna, sailed for the island, then called Netherlands East Indies. Upon reaching Borneo, they discovered there were great natural barriers blocking them from reaching the animistic people of the interior. With baby daughter on board, the young couple spent months paddling up treacherous rapids in a small dugout canoe before reaching their destination.

In 1932, after several years among the Dyak and countless treks across difficult and dangerous terrain, Fisk asked the C&MA to consider purchasing a hydroplane. He was convinced that this was the most effective way to bring the gospel to the unreached of Borneo. During their next home assignment, George spent much of his own money to take flight lessons.

After years of having the plane request rejected by the Board of Managers, field director R. A. Jaffray made a final plea for what the missionaries considered a critical need:

“The Board’s reply to our pleading [concerning] the plane was indeed a grief and disappointment to us. We still believe, however, that this is the will of God for the speeding up of the work in Borneo . . . and personally I see no other solution . . . except the use of a plane of our own.”

Finally, on June 29, 1938, the Board of Managers approved the purchase of the C&MA’s first mission plane. The total cost was $20,454.59, almost $19,000 of which was personally donated by Jaffray. The new plane allowed Fisk to reach the interior in a matter of hours instead of weeks. At first, the Beechcraft hydroplane was blamed by Dyak witchdoctors for crop failure—a setback they tried to remedy with 10 days of pig sacrifices! In time, fear turned to familiarity. Fisk was able to lead hundreds to Christ and established many organized churches with native pastors.

When World War II reached the region in 1941, the Alliance plane was commissioned by the Netherlands East Indies government to assist in emergencies. In preparation for his home assignment, Fisk had just trained new missionary Fred Jackson to operate the plane. Jackson flew numerous supply and evacuation missions for the Dutch government. Shortly after he landed at Long Poedjongan outpost, the Japanese captured the base. They ordered Jackson to fly the plane to Tarakan air base for use in their war effort. In an act of desperation, a Dutch official burned the Beechcraft to prevent the Japanese from acquiring it. Jackson, fearing retribution, joined a Dutch military party in surrendering at Long Nawang camp. Years later, news reached C&MA headquarters that Fred, along with fellow missionaries Andrew and Helen Sande and their infant son, were interned and later executed at the camp.

In 1948, another hydroplane was secured for the field without hesitation. Even before the formation of Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF), The Alliance was a pioneer in the field, using planes to spread the gospel in the most remote corners of the world.

—C&MA National Archives

Past Alliance Life Issues


Get Involved...


We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »


Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »


Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »