Joe Carter linked to Could a layperson land a jumbo jet? from his ever-fascinatin’ “Thirty-Three Things” feature. It caught my eye because although as it says, it’s unlikely an untrained person could land a big jet, it has happened with smaller planes. My cousin Wayne was part of making one such landing happen. The husband piloting the plane died in mid-air, and his wife had to take over at the moment of tragedy to prevent an even worse one (there was a passenger in the back seat, too). The story is here. Wayne’s take on it was humble: he said Mrs. Yadwin was one of the most remarkable people he had ever met or ever expected to meet in his life.
It wouldn’t be easy for anyone, even a pilot, to land a jumbo jet if he or she hadn’t trained on that particular aircraft. At least, that’s what I was told by a friend of mine who used to fly A-10 fighters for the Air Force.
He told me that as I was relating to him a conversation I had had with a seat-mate on a flight some time before that. The first thing this man had told me as we settled down next to each other was that he hadn’t been on a plane in ten years. We went on to have the usual conversation about where we had been on our respective trips and where we were going. I don’t remember how, but our conversation came around to the topic of Jesus Christ. He told me he didn’t need God: that he was in control of his life, and he would always be in control.
I answered, “Really? I don’t see you piloting this aircraft we’re on.” He answered quite emphatically, “Well, I could!”
My question to my fighter-pilot friend was, “What if the man had actually been a pilot years ago? Was he being at all realistic?” My friend said he supposed he could step into the cockpit if he were to find himself in one of those 1970s air disaster movies where the flight attendant asks, “Is there a pilot aboard who can land the plane? Our crew just died.” He added, though, that he would need a lot of help over the radio, and even with that it would be a real white-knuckle experience.
I didn’t know that much during my conversation with the man on the plane. Still I could tell our conversation was not going to be a matter of persuading him of Jesus Christ’s reality. Part of coming to faith is knowing that we need God, and he was far from that. Instead I offered him a booklet about the Gospel, saying, “I think someday you’re going to run into something bigger than you are. You might want to hold on to this and take a look at it when that happens.” He accepted it appreciatively, and we went on to talk about other things.
I don’t remember his name, but I pray for him from time to time. By now he has surely encountered that bigger thing, and I pray he would have discovered that God is even bigger. God can land the planes we’re on, no matter what trouble they fly into.