April 10, 2014 - Others

Adventist mission pilot Roberts dies in plane accident in Indonesia

April 09, 2014 | Sentani, Papua, Indonesia | Gay Deles/Kevin Costello/Teresa Costello

An Adventist Aviation-Indonesia (AAI) mission plane piloted by veteran pilot Bob Roberts crashed upon takeoff this morning at the AAI headquarters in Papua, claiming his life as well as those of several passengers on board.

Witnesses said that the plane, a Quest Kodiak, appeared to have trouble lifting off just before it slammed into a bridge at the end of the runway. An official cause has yet to be determined by crash site investigators.

Roberts’ work included delivering food, medicine and urgently needed supplies as well as transporting sick and needy passengers to and from the many isolated mountain villages of Papua. He was well known throughout the islands and had flown more than a thousand relief flights.

Roberts and his wife Jan, originally from the United States, have served AAI for more than 20 years in Papua. The couple previously served as missionaries in the African countries of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zaire (now Congo) from 1976 to 1992. They have three grown children.

“He died doing what he loved best,” Jan said.

Roberts is remembered by Darron Boyd, Adventist Mission and Evangelism coordinator in Papua, as someone who brought hope in his small aircraft to those in remote areas. Despite the often extreme terrain conditions that made his work challenging, Roberts had a love for his mission. “If they’re really sick…, we fly them for free,” he said in an Adventist Mission video report last year. “Those are the kind of things that make you glad you’re a mission pilot. Helping people who would not have hope otherwise. That’s why we’re here.”

Jonathan Kuntaraf, director of the Adventist world church’s Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department said he was saddened by the death of Roberts, who was serving in his home country. “He and his wife are very dedicated people. Together we worked to raise money for the education of underprivileged children in Papua. Please pray for the family during this challenging and difficult time.”

To see the feature video of Bob’s mission work in Papua, visit this link and click on Called to Fly:

The Indonesian state of Papua is home to 2 million people and 20 language groups. It is also home to the East Indonesia Union Conference, which has 763 churches and more than 101,000 church members.

bob roberts
Crash Claims Life of Pilot

Papua, Indonesia

Long-time Adventist mission pilot Bob Roberts, who is featured in a video on this quarter’s Mission 360 DVD, was tragically killed in a plane crash this week.

The plane crashed during take off from Bob’s home base in Doyo Baru in Papua, Indonesia. The plane was carrying six passengers and all but two also died in the crash, according to Darron Boyd, Adventist Mission coordinator in the Papua Mission and West Papua Mission.

“It is with deep sadness that I write this. . . we are swimming in grief here in Sentani,” Boyd wrote in an email about the accident. Boyd also wrote that Bob’s wife, Jan, seeing that Bob had not survived the crash said, “He died doing what he loved best.”

In the mission video released this quarter, Bob is shown saying, “So those are the kind of things that make you glad you’re a mission pilot. Helping people that would not have a hope otherwise. That’s why we’re here.”


“We are so saddened by this tragic accident,” said General Conference president, Ted Wilson, speaking at the church’s annual spring meetings in Silver Spring, MD. “Bob was such an efficient, careful pilot. This is a great loss for the church.”

Bob Roberts flew with Adventist Aviation Services in Indonesia for more than 20 years. He has flown for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for almost 40 years, including several years flying in Africa.

“He helped make Adventist aviation a critical part of the church, ensuring we could reach every individual and institution that might otherwise be unreachable,” said Richard Hart, Loma Linda University president, who knew Bob from his time in Africa.

“Bob was one of the most dedicated missionaries I have ever met,” said Rick McEdward,” former Adventist Mission coordinator in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division and currently director of the Global Mission Centers. “He genuinely cared for people, and he was interested in seeing people know Jesus.”

“Bob and Jan dedicated their lives to mission, and have passed on that special legacy to their children,” adds Gary Krause, director of the Office of Adventist Mission. “Please keep the Robert’s family in your prayers.”


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