Saturday, September 1, 2007


I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes. As a child in South Alabama, I marveled at the military jets from Tyndall and Eglin AF bases that flew over our area. Before sonic boom regulations were established, it was not uncommon to hear loud “booms” that shook the windows as these jets broke the sound barrier.

I decided as a child I wanted to be a pilot. In college, I took Air Force ROTC ground school as an elective (even though I was never in the Air Force). After graduation I started taking flying lessons in a Cessna 150 at Wetumpka airport near Montgomery. A Cessna 150 is a tiny two seat airplane that is used primarily for training. My instructor weighed about 250 pounds, so the little plane would struggle to climb after take off. After about 10 hours of dual time I was ready to solo. My instructor got out, and I was amazed at how well the airplane flew with 250 less pounds!

On of the most exhilarating experiences of my life was that first solo flight as that little airplane climbed like a homesick angel!

In seminary, I worked for Louisville Flying Service at Bowman Field not too far from Southern Seminary. I did everything from parking and servicing aircraft to ferrying them and doing some charter work flying passengers to destinations around Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois.

That was over 30 years ago, and since then I have amassed well over 1,000 hours and attained a multi-engine and instrument rating. I've been a partner in owning a Mooney20B, a Cessna 310 (twin engine – Colemill Conversion) and now I’m a partner in a beautiful Cherokee 235 (like the airplane in the picture above).

I still love to fly – simply for the joy of flying. And I've enjoyed using an airplane for the convenience of traveling to preach around Texas and other states. It has turned a 12 hour drive to see my granddaughter in Columbia, MO into a three hour flight!

I’ve learned many spiritual lessons in the cockpit. For instance, when you’re flying in IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) you can’t see the horizon because of clouds, so you must TRUST your instruments with your life - literally. In every cockpit there is an instrument called an artificial horizon, and you watch it to make sure the wings are level and you aren’t climbing or descending. That's the primary instrument, but you must also scan the Altimeter, Vertical Speed Indicator, Directional Gyro, and Airspeed indicator. Instruments can malfunction, so you gather information from more than one source.

There have been times I’ve been flying in clouds when I didn’t FEEL that I was flying level, and I had a DESIRE to bank the airplane until it FELT level, but I had to IGNORE my feelings (which can be affected by slight disorientation or vertigo) and BELIEVE what the instruments were telling me. You may recall in 1999 that John F. Kennedy, Jr. died when the airplane he was flying crashed. The NTSB concluded that he experienced spatial disoreintation and lost control of the aircraft. In hindsight, he should have watched his instruments, or better yet, just punched on his auto-pilot which would have leveled the aircraft. Dependence on feelings can be fatal to a pilot.

That’s a parable of the Christian walk. We can’t depend on our feelings, because our feelings can be misleading. We must put our absolute and complete TRUST in God alone. The writer of Hebrews says the same thing, “Without FAITH it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)