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The Samaritan's Purse aircraft fleet, which includes our DC-8 cargo jet, enables us to respond to disasters with great speed, quickly bringing emergency supplies and teams anywhere in the world.

Aviation has long been a vital and necessary tool for the ministry of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization that responds to crises worldwide.

In addition to the DC-8, Samaritan's Purse has also now added a 757 airliner to further increase our capacity for long-range delivery of urgently needed relief supplies. Our fleet of 24 aircraft also includes helicopters, lightweight aircraft, and a DC-3 plane. These aviation resources make it possible for us to serve people in impoverished villages in Africa, isolated communities of Alaska, remote Pacific islands, and many other hard-to-reach areas around the world.

"When a disaster strikes and people are crying out for help, every second counts. We specialize in responding immediately to emergencies around the globe, and we thank God for resources like our DC-8 cargo jet that make these missions possible."
—Franklin Graham, Samaritan's Purse President

A Unique Workhorse

Our DC-8 aircraft is the only remaining active DC-8 in the world. The plane is equipped to carry both cargo and passengers, enabling Samaritan's Purse to send disaster relief supplies while also deploying our Disaster Assistance Response Team.

The DC-8 has a range of 7,000 nautical miles—that's equal to a nonstop flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, all the way to Tokyo. The plane has capacity for up to 10 air-freight pallets with a combined weight of up to 74,000 pounds, and can carry 32 passengers and two flight attendants.

The cargo jet is 157 feet nose to tail with a wingspan of 149 feet. The four CFM-56-2C engines each produce 22,000 pounds of thrust.

Here's a look at this unique jet's journey to Samaritan’s Purse:

  • The DC-8 was the first civilian jet model built by the Douglas Aircraft Company. A total of 556 of these planes were produced from 1958-1972.
  • Our DC-8 came off the assembly line on Dec. 24, 1968.
  • Samaritan’s Purse purchased the plane in 2015 from an Australian cargo carrier just before it was set to be turned into scrap parts.
  • Samaritan’s Purse inspected and refurbished the airplane to ensure it met FAA standards.
  • The DC-8 made its inaugural journey in April 2016, less than 24 hours after the FAA gave final sign-off. Samaritan’s Purse airlifted an Emergency Field Hospital, doctors, nurses, and disaster response specialists to Ecuador in response to a 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
  • Since the organization first deployed it in April of 2016, the DC-8 has carried more than 8.2 million pounds of cargo on 192 missions.
  • In 2023, the DC-8 carried more than 280 tons of cargo on 11 relief missions.

International Emergency Relief

In addition to Emergency Field Hospitals, the DC-8 also airlifts emergency relief supplies in the aftermath of devastating events, transporting relief such as shelter materials, solar lights, food, and medical teams.

Emergency Field Hospitals

The Ecuador airlift was the first of many DC-8 flights to transport our fully-equipped Emergency Field Hospital into disaster areas. Samaritan’s Purse has also deployed the mobile hospital in the wake of epidemic disease outbreaks in Italy and Bangladesh; tropical storms in the Caribbean, Honduras, Mozambique, and Saipan.

More recently the DC-8 conducted 42 airlift missions to war-torn Ukraine to transport Emergency Field Hospitals, medical and other disaster relief specialists, and to provide other aid to the war-torn country. We cared for more than 21,000 patients and provided more than 245 million pounds of food and water to many hurting families.

  1. ECUADOR April 2016

    volunteers setting up an Emergency Field Hospital after deadly earthquakes in Ecuador

    After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador, the DC-8 made its inaugural journey to airlift an emergency field hospital along with key medical staff to Ecuador. In the days following the earthquake, the DC-8 made five trips—continuing to deliver critical supplies.

  2. TANZANIA May 2017

    the DC-8 in Tanzania carried badly injured children to the United States for treatment

    After a tragic bus accident in northern Tanzania killed 35 people, three children were the sole survivors—left with life-threatening injuries. The Samaritan's Purse DC-8 transported the children to the United States where they received critical medical care.

  3. PUERTO RICO Fall 2017

    devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through the Caribbean islands

    In the months following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the DC-8 made 44 round trips from North Carolina to the Caribbean—airlifting more than 1,000 tons of emergency relief supplies to islands including Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and Antigua and Barbuda.

  4. MOZAMBIQUE March 2019

    flying over wreckage in Mozambique

    Samaritan's Purse airlifted more than 70 tons of critical relief supplies, including an emergency field hospital, to Mozambique after Cyclone Idai created widespread devastation—killing hundreds, flooding thousands of homes and leaving some 400,000 people displaced. Medical teams treated more than 5,700 patients and disaster response specialists aided thousands of families through the distribution of food, emergency shelter materials, water filtration units and blankets.

  5. ITALY March 2020

    Samaritan's Purse Emergency Field Hospital in Italy during COVID-19

    As northern Italy quickly became a global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, Samaritan's Purse airlifted more than 38 tons of medical relief supplies, including an Emergency Field Hospital, to Cremona, Italy. In partnership with Cremona Hospital, Samaritan's Purse medical staff treated 280 patients at the 68-bed respiratory care unit.

  6. ETHIOPIA February 2021

    unloading the DC-8 in Ethiopia

    Samaritan's Purse airlifted more than 120 tons of critical relief supplies on four DC-8 flights to northern Ethiopia after months of internal conflict left millions of families without access to basic necessities. Teams of disaster response specialists distributed the supplies—including supplemental food kits, emergency shelter material, and cooking and hygiene kits—while providing medical care through two mobile medical units.

  7. HAITI August 2021

    DC-8 delivers relief to southern Haiti

    After a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Haiti leveling towns and killing more than 1,000 residents, we airlifted Emergency Field Hospitals, water filtration, food, and shelter materials, along with medical and relief teams, to the city of Les Cayes where we provided medical and surgical care along with critical relief to the region.

  8. UKRAINE February 2022

    Medical teams care for Ukrainians in Lviv hospital

    Over the course of a year, from early 2022 until the winter of 2023, the DC-8 completed 42 airlifts to assist the people of war-torn Ukraine. We airlifted Emergency Field Hospitals, medical teams, and relief specialists to assist more than 23,000 patients and provide medical and other relief--such as food, water, and shelter materials--to more than 8 million Ukrainians.

  9. HAWAII August 2023

    Volunteers sift through properties on Maui after wildfires destroyed many homes across the island.

    Our DC-8 cargo jet airlifted a volunteer team and 17 tons of relief supplies from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Maui, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Aug. 15. Among many other items onboard were solar lights, cooking kits, hygiene kits, and plastic tarp to provide immediate relief to survivors of the deadly wildfires. The plane also carried tools and equipment that will help our volunteers sift through ashes to recover valuables and treasured mementos for devastated homeowners.

  10. ARMENIA October 2023

    As more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh seeking safety in Armenia, Samaritan’s Purse delivered more than 53 tons of critical aid aboard our DC-8 to support these displaced people. Our staff gave out blankets, hygiene kits, solar lights, and more to grateful families. At the same time, our teams of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists treated burn victims with severe injuries from a gas explosion. All of this work was bolstered by partnerships with 42 local churches who helped in the distribution of relief supplies.

  11. ACAPULCO November 2023

    We airlifted nearly 90 tons of supplies on two DC-8 flights and two 757 flights to Mexico where Hurricane Otis devastated coastal Guerrero state near the popular resort town of Acapulco. Supplies included food, water filtration systems, roof tarping, cooking supplies, and Spanish language Bibles. We assisted thousands of hurting families and served in Jesus' Name through faithful local church partners.

Mission Aviation Services

The DC-8 and crew are part of our overall Mission Aviation Services, responsible for 24 aircraft in total.

Our skilled helicopter pilots made multiple trips delivering cargo to the Abaco Islands, Bahamas, where Hurricane Dorian decimated entire communities. Without the use of our helicopters, these hurting people would have been cut off from the aid they so desperately needed.

Samaritan's Purse helicopter working in the Bahamas

In 2001, we acquired a DC-3 prop plane that was built for World War II. It can carry five tons of cargo or up to 32 passengers and is rugged enough to operate on unpaved runways. At age 75, this airplane is still a workhorse for our projects in Africa, including in the remotest parts of South Sudan.

Samaritan's Purse helicopter working in the Bahamas

Samaritan's Purse also flies Cessnas and other light aircraft to support relief and evangelism projects in some of the most remote corners of the world.

Samaritan's Purse Mission Aviation Services plane in Alaska. A CASA transport plane lands in Port Alsworth near Samaritan Lodge Alaska.

The Last Frontier

Our Mission Aviation Services pilots and planes also carry scores of volunteers, Samaritan's Purse staff, and supplies each year to remote areas of Alaska. Our Alaska projects deploy volunteer construction teams to remote villages where we have helped rebuild burned-down homes and dilapidated church buildings battered by decades of harsh Alaska winters.

Alaska is also where our Operation Heal Our Patriots program has hosted more than 1,700 military couples at Samaritan Lodge since 2012. This ministry to wounded veterans and their spouses relies heavily on our CASA aircraft and floatplanes to transport these hurting couples to the lodge where they participate in Bible-based marriage classes and go on bond-building excursions in the Alaska wilderness.

Samaritan's Purse Mission Aviation Services plane working in Alaska

For more than 50 years, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine, and we do this in Jesus' Name. We want people all over the world to know that God loves them.

We are thankful to God for resources such as our DC-8 cargo jet and other aircraft that help us distribute life-saving aid and provide our staff opportunities to share the eternal hope of Jesus Christ.

Where Most Needed

Your gift to "Where Most Needed" equips Samaritan's Purse with the resources—including personnel, materials, supporting services, buildings, and equipment—to fulfill our mission of relief and evangelism worldwide.

Where Most Needed
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