Representatives for Judah 1, which bills itself as the world’s first Christian-based airline, expect to be operational and in the air by this summer.


The prospective airline announced plans in December to start operations at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field and focus on providing transportation options to missionaries and support efforts across the world. Judah 1 founder Everett Aaron gave an update on the project during a meeting of the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority Thursday.


“I think everyone has seen the (McDonnell Douglas) MD (MD83) out there, and we are glad to have it home,” Aaron said as he gestured toward the airport.


Despite the ongoing partial government shutdown, Aaron said the efforts to get the airline certified and approved with the Federal Aviation Administration are going smoothly. It is possible the paperwork and certification could be completed as early as June, but Aaron said he is shooting for July or August.


Aaron said Judah 1 has contracted with consultants for the Fort Worth-based Cavok Group to help create the airline’s training and policy manual, which will be submitted to the FAA as part of the certification process.


The company founder said he does not expect to have any delays to the process once the government and FAA are reopened due to an influx of new applications. Judah 1 has already reserved a place in line as it was previously working with the FAA on a similar certification prior to transitioning to a full-scale airline late last year.


In addition to pursuing airline status, Aaron said Judah 1 is also working toward certification as an aviation maintenance facility. Aaron said the need for maintenance services stems not only from the airline’s operations, but also from demand to the south in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.


The certification as a maintenance facility is less reliant on the FAA and will be less impacted by the ongoing shutdown. Aaron said this certification could be coming in the next 30 to 60 days. Aaron did not give definitive details of where the maintenance facility would be located, but said current plans place it close to the airline’s hangar.


Aaron previously estimated that 400,000 Americans travel abroad for missionary work each year. Among these groups is the Baptist Medical and Dental Mission International, which sends 4,000 missionaries a year across the globe, and Kids Against Hunger, which distributes eight tons of food weekly.


“This is not just a typical airline,” Aaron said in December. “This is not schedule routes and we are not taking people from Dallas to Vegas. That is not what this is about. All of this is about missionaries and giving back and helping the world become a better place. That’s what we are about.”


Through the service, Aaron said Judah 1 will also be able to transport supplies with missionaries. About 50 percent of shipped supplies for missionary and aid work is lost in transit due to theft, shipping issues and spoilage.


Members of the RMA board asked Aaron what areas would be covered by the airline initially. Judah 1 will determine what trips it makes based on demand and the size of missionary groups, he said. However, initial plans call for trips to Haiti, Central America and the northern portions of South America.


Since the initial announcement, Aaron said the idea for a Christian-based airline has been well received and he has received press attention from across the world. The attention has also led to interest in prospective missionary groups, including three that have since contracted with Judah 1.


“People want to fly now and I have to tell them that we are not ready yet,” he said.