National Lutheran News

Free Lutherans double the fleet

AFLC President Robert Lee dedicates a new Sweringen SX 300 two-seater.

AFLC President Robert Lee dedicates a new Sweringen SX 300 two-seater.

Anonymous donor provided latest small aircraft to AFLC

The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC), a small church body that continues the Lutheran Free Church tradition, may be the only Christian denomination on the continent with its own fleet of airplanes.

Well, a modest fleet, anyway.

The 36,000 member church body, headquartered in Plymouth, Minnesota, currently owns and operates two small aircraft, a six-seater and a two-seater (pictured). The planes are housed at two regional airports (the six-seater at Anoka County Airport in Blaine, the two-seater at Crystal Airport). They’re used to fly church leaders to events in congregations and at other sites, usually bringing them back to Minnesota on the same day.

The first plane owned by AFLC was purchased from a church member with the use of gift money. Made available for a year to a pastor serving in Norway, it has since been sold. More recently, a church member in Nebraska made the six-seater available at a favorable price.

This year the new two-seater was given anonymously to AFLC by an individual living on the West Coast. The Sweringen SX 300 was dedicated at the end of the denomination’s June 11-15 annual convention in Brookings, South Dakota.

To deal with the unexpected circumstance created by owning airplanes, AFLC created a separate ministry, “FLAPS” (Free Lutheran Association of Pilot Supporters). The ministry currently has two pilots, both members of the national staff of AFLC. The Rev. Paul Nash, director of Home Missions shares air time with Lavon Bohling, who directs FLAPS and serves on the staffs of the denominations home missions and world missions units.

Bohling told Metro Lutheran that it’s cheaper to move church leaders, including AFLC President Robert Lee, to ministry sites and events by flying them than it would be by driving. “When you consider the saving in time, lodging and meals, this is a better way to get the job done.”

The new two-seater can fly 275 miles per hour, says Bohling, while the six-seater clocks 150 mph at full throttle.
Because so many of the AFLC’s congregations are located in small communities, it’s a special benefit to be able to fly in and out of a local airstrip, Bohling explained. “A member of the host congregation will be there to meet us.”

Bohling said most trips are within an 800 mile radius, although church personnel have been flown as far as Phoenix and Houston.