Later in the afternoon-
I am now back at Grandma and Grandpa's and after some lunch and a nap (colds and a busy week sure can make you tired) I thought I ought to get this posted. Since it is the last Friday of the year 2011 I had wanted to write a poem or something like that, but I didn't have time. I didn't even think about the fact that today was Friday until I was in bed last night. And this morning with packing up, saying good-byes and keeping the kids out of the way (We ran around the then empty large room, climbed up to the top of nearly every bunk bed downstairs and did all kinds of things.), I didn't have time to write anything. So, you will just have to put up with this story.
At the Mercy of the Storm
“They that wait upon the Lord . . . shall mount up on wings as eagles.” That was the verse Thad had read early that morning before they took off. It had seemed appropriate for the two pilots, Garret Lang, pilot of a small passenger plane and his co-pilot, Thad Ashby.
Now it was growing late. Garret and Thad were flying half a dozen passengers to Phoenix. Having been delayed by a storm in Detroit, they were later than Garret liked for he always prided himself on his punctuality. He was a younger man than many of the pilots flying commercial planes, but he knew planes inside and out having studied anything he could get his hands on about them as a boy.
“Thad,” Garret was studying something out of the front of the cockpit, “check Control in Denver and find out what the weather is like up ahead. I don’t like the look of those clouds.”
Thad only responded with a brief nod. Fiddling with the radio he called, “Control, this is J-seven-nine-o-three, we need a weather check.” For a moment he pressed his headphones against his ears turning the radio knobs. At last he glanced over at the pilot. “I’m getting nothing but static.”
Garret took his eyes briefly off the dark clouds before him to look at his co-pilot. “Keep trying, and,” he added, turning his eyes back before him, “give our location in case they can read you.”
“Yes, sir.” Thad returned to his radio trying everything he could to make contact with someone, anyone. It was useless. Nothing but static came through.
Suddenly Garrett’s voice broke a momentary silence in the cockpit. “That is one large storm and in another ten minutes we’ll be right in the midst of it.”
“Should we try to fly around it?”
“There’s no opening. I’d climb, but I’m afraid we’d have to go higher than possible to get above it.”
“A different airport, sir?” Thad suggested.
Garret frowned. “There is one not too much farther dead ahead. We’ve been fighting head winds for the last hour. I don’t think we have enough fuel to turn and try to make Denver. Besides,” glancing out the other cockpit windows, “it appears as though the storm has just about encircled us!”
It was true. In every direction they looked, dark storm clouds embedded with flashes of lightning were to be seen billowing and rolling. Instantly the pilot pressed a small button and spoke into his mic.
“All passengers, please buckle your seatbelts as we are approaching rough weather. Thank you.”
Hardly had he switched off his mic when a gust of wind shook the small plane from tip to tail. Garret didn’t take time to look at his co-pilot as he exclaimed, “Here we go!”
From then on, neither man spoke unless it was needful, for both were busy fighting to keep the plane on course and in the air. The storm was all about them now. Blinding flashes of white lightning were everywhere, claps of thunder were constant and the rain pounded the small plane in torrents while the wind tried tossing it about one minute, slamming it down the next and doing its best to rip the wings from the man made craft which had dared to invade the sky.
Suddenly what Garret had feared would happen did. A bolt of lightning knocked all power from the plane. The lights dimmed and went out, the gauges stopped working leaving the pilot flying by sight and sense only.
His voice was tense as he said, “We have to land this baby as soon as possible. If lightning hits the engine or fuel tank . . .” He let his sentence die in the air. There was no need to finish it. Thad well knew what would happen.
After several intense moments, the pilot spoke again, “I’m going lower. I don’t know what the terrain is like nor do I know what direction we are going, but we have to try to get out of these clouds!”
Thad merely nodded as he tried to peer out the window and pierce through the dark, storm filled clouds to the ground somewhere thousands of feet below them.
Praying as he fought to keep the airplane on its descending course, Garret flew by feel alone, for the flashes of lightning blinded him to everything. Those moments felt like years to the young pilot. His muscles were taunt and sweat was dampening his shirt. Never had he experienced such a storm. Grimly he clutched the controls, his knuckles, had he been able to see them, turning white from the intensity of his grip.
Just then Thad gasped out. “The ground! I see it! It looks like a field,” he finished as the sky, having for a split second lit up the ground, vanished leaving them once more in darkness. Then, without warning, a sudden flash, more blinding if possible than the ones before, surrounded them and a thunderous roar seemed to swallow them in sound. The engines coughed, sputtered and died.
“There’s no turning back now,” Garret remarked grimly. “Just pray that you did see a field because this little ship is going down.”
“Can’t you glide any longer?” Thad questioned anxiously.
“It’s all I can do to keep her nose slightly tipped up so she won’t go into a spin, but this wind--” He stopped talking abruptly as a flash illuminated the ground only a few hundred feet below them. It looked like a field or a plain; at least there were no trees to tear off the wings as they tried to land.
With hands steady on the controls, but heart in his throat, Garret eased the nose of the plane down and for the first time that night, he thanked God for the flashes of light, for by them he was able to see the ground which was coming up more quickly than he had thought.
Neither pilot nor co-pilot said a word. Each was praying. Then there was a bump, a sudden sense of being thrown back against the seat, a crash, a rough bone-jarring shaking and the feeling of hanging almost sideways. A final jolt and then stillness. Only the rain drumming on the plane and the rumble of thunder were to be heard.