I smiled and said “No, I don’t … but, tell me, how are you feeling today because I sure don’t want to have to figure out how to fly this once we’re up there!” I’d forgotten to bring along my “Piloting For Dummies” book.
Mike laughed. “That’s a good question,” he said. “Most people don’t think of that.” He assured me he was feeling fine.
Fact is, I’d flown in four and six seat private planes a few times before as well as had countless flights in small commuters. And, shy of the time Lisa and I took a small tourist flight over the Grand Canyon and it started snowing while we were ascending, I really had never experienced fear from flying in a small plane. (Ask me sometime about my very scary flight in a larger plane over the Alps though!)
I’ve always wanted to get a pilot’s license, in fact, but at this point it would totally freak out my life insurance agent so I’ve pretty much put that dream to the side.
Anyway, it was a real neat opportunity when Mike asked me early this week if I wanted to fly up to Toledo with him on Thursday morning to look at some equipment. It was pretty exciting for me to ride in the right hand seat and get to wear the big bulky headphones. I felt like a little kid – tried my best to contain my excitement but it was a very cool experience.
“Beautiful day for flying,” Mike said across his headset as we headed toward the runway of the local airport. And it was beautiful. Not too warm but sunny and not a cloud in the sky.
I watched him as he walked around his plane. He checked the oil and some other obvious things but I could clearly tell that he had a keen eye for making sure the plane was safe and flight ready.
Then we climbed in. He reminded me to not step on the flap and assured me that I didn’t need to touch anything – that he would have it all under control. He plugged into the plane’s controls our destination so that it would determine the best flight path.
Shortly after we gained some altitude, I could see both Grand Lake and Indian Lake to the north of Sidney. I was amazed how quickly and clearly they came into view. You enjoy a perspective in a small plane flying at a lower altitude that you don’t get in a big plane at 30,000 feet or whatever. From a lower altitude, you can see details but your horizon stretches for miles and miles.
One thing I’ve noticed before in planes is that, as you gain altitude and look out the front window, you can’t see over the dash. That is sort of an odd feeling to someone who wants to try to equate flying a plane to driving a car. In a car, you can see over the dash pretty well. But I realized from the perspective of the front seat as we went up that there was no reason for me to look over the dash – the plane pointed my vision at exactly where we were going – up up and away if you will – and that was where I needed to focus. There was no reason for me to look below us or see where we’d been. I needed to look at where we were going.
After we landed at Toledo, a gentleman from the airport came out to meet us. Mike wanted him to help tell him where to park but the gentleman wasn’t being overly cooperative. Not getting any direction from him, Mike eventually had to make the call himself and park where he though the plane would be fine and not in the way of anyone.
We walked up to the terminal and, while Mike took care of the things he needed to take care of with the airport people, I looked at a cabinet where they had various flying-related things for sale. Included in the cabinet were air sickness bags, aka “barf bags”. There’s too much eight year old boy in me still to not have laughed at that a bit. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could get airsick in the smooth and beautiful flight that my friend had just taken me on. But I suppose it happens – one should be prepared.
We went from there to look at the equipment and then we went back to the airport for the flight home. I marveled at Mike as he flew the plane. He was constantly watching gauges, running his fingers over them to verify that he’d checked them. Even tapping on them to make sure they weren’t stuck and giving a false reading. A bad reading on the gauge could indicate a problem that needed to be corrected.
We had a great flight home. As we ascended, we approached some big fluffy clouds. I was wondering if we’d experience turbulence if we went through them but Mike instead guided the plane over and around the clouds. As I looked down, I saw a patchwork of beauty unfold. Green fields of growing crops. Amber fields of wheat. Brown fields that weren’t being planted this year. Wooded areas and their multitude shades of green. People’s houses, driveways, roads, swimming pools. It was all beautiful – again from our not-too-high perspective.
It was indeed a beautiful day for flying and I am grateful to Mike for asking me to go along. There could not have been a better way to spend a morning.
As I have reflected back on Thursday morning, I realized that my plane ride included some great lessons on life …
1) Always keep a close eye on things … make sure that you’re in good running condition.
2) Watch your gauges carefully – those things that tell you when you’re off course. Even tap on them occasionally to make sure that they aren’t giving you a false “good” reading and making you think you’re on track while you’re not. Sin has a way of deceiving us into thinking it’s okay.
3) Just like I had to give up control to Mike who knows how to fly planes and I don’t, we need to give up control to God. He knows the real pathway. We mess things up when we try to control them ourselves.
4) Don’t fly too high. Fly high enough for a good perspective but not so high that you lose track of details nor that you can only see yourself.
5) Know in general terms where you’re going … plug in the coordinates and God will work out the details of the exact flight path.
6) Look to others for leadership when appropriate but, if they aren’t providing it, step up to the plate just as Mike did in deciding on his own where to park the plane.
7) Keep your eyes and attention focused on where you’re going, not where you’ve been.
8) Be flexible to steer around clouds when you can but realize that ultimately you’re following God and you may need to go through the clouds on occasion. Bring along a barf bag just in case.
9) Look around and enjoy God’s beauty. He has provided it to us for sustenance, inspiration, and enjoyment. Bask in it.
10) And never turn down Mike if he asks me to go flying again sometime.