Gear up! Well…wait a minute! Vol 40
Back in the early 80’s I lived and worked in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. There were parts of my time there that were enjoyable (like getting my private pilot’s license and my commercial helicopter license and the friends I met) but the rest of the time felt like I was serving a sentence. It wasn’t you Texas…it was me.
Let’s just say that 22 years later I’m very happy to be back in New York even with the high taxes and goofy governor.
I do love to fly. If I hadn’t had a heart attack about 5 years or so ago, I’d still be flying. There are few things I’d rather do than talk about flying. I was single when I was working on my ratings so every extra dollar (and many that weren’t extra…) went into training and practice and “just for fun” I loved the freedom, I loved the precision, I loved the little bit of risk…
The last two years of my stint in Texas I worked for an aviation insurance agency. It was probably one of the best, crappy paying, highly satisfying jobs I’ve had to this day. After 8 years in the DFW area I announced I was moving back north, it was only then that my boss finally offered me a livable salary… but the lights of home, and the four real seasons were already drawing me… and not even the ability to pay my bills on a regular basis could have kept me there.
Early on in my aviation insurance career I had written a policy for the largest FBO on Addison Airport field and as a result knew the owner well. That gave me a few flying perks. A better rate for renting planes for one, and the ability to fly just about anything she had for rent…which was a lot…some 50 planes from Aerobatic Cessna’s to speedy Belenca Super Viking…and a pair of Beechcraft Bonanzas to mention a few. I’ve always loved the lines of the Bonanza…from the big A36, to the Debonair to the old V-Tail. They are a beloved airplane. Easy to fly, fast and comfortable.
One Saturday a buddy called and asked if I wanted to join he and a couple of friends for dinner at a Oklahoma airport about 45 minutes north of DFW. It was last-minute and I hadn’t scheduled a plane to rent but I drove down and looked at what was available. Now the procedure for renting complex airplanes is to have enough time in type so that an instructor could sign you off basically telling the FAA (if they should check) that you were competent to fly that aircraft. That day the Beechcraft V-Tail was available. It was faster than the Cessna by far but a lot more expensive. I did a quick calculation and figured that because I could get there a lot faster the money was a wash..the problem was that I hadn’t been checked out on this plane. I had time in the other, newer model, but not this one. But did that matter to me?…nope. I had been certified “bulletproof” by one of flying buddies so I picked up the keys and the checklist and headed for the ramp. Did a thorough walk around and looked her over good, hopped in and started going through the checklist. Because this was a lot older aircraft, switches were different and located in different places. No worries, I had flown probably 20 different flavors of airplanes at that time…I’d figure it out. I started up, got ATIS, talked to ground control and taxied out to the active runway where I did my run-up and everything was green. Tower gave me clearance to take-off and I roared away into the early evening with the idea that I’d have a nice dinner with friends in about 45 minutes.
As I lifted off and had a positive rate of climb I began searching the instrument panel for the gear lever to put the wheels up…no luck. Well… there was a switch that said “gear” on it, but I couldn’t make it do anything. Not wanting to admit I took off in an unfamiliar airplane, at night, and didn’t know how to put the gear up…I called the tower and said I was having trouble with my landing gear…which ilicited a terse radio message and a rapid response on the ground from a lot of people including emergency types. I clarified my situation and afer flying past the tower to verify that the gear was actually down..and then flying around the pattern for 15 minutes, I was cleared to land…and landed uneventfully, taxied to parking…shut down…and went to McDonalds.
I had intended to go to Oklahoma for a nice dinner with friends. But I never made it. Yea I had the tools. A license, and a plane to get there…but I couldn’t put the gear up and take advantage of the speed…I just roared around the pattern.
Intentions can be the Waterloo for us Christians. We are almost always well-intended. Roaring around life with our gear down never getting to the beautiful dinner with friends awaiting in OK…or wherever the next step with God will take us.
Why is that?
Are we afraid? Are we unprepared for a deeper walk or for God to strech our faith? Probably a little bit of all that. But here’s the thing…the big fish are in the deep water…whatever that “deep water” is for you.
The next day I went back to the same airplane with an instructor this time and learned how to put the gear up. I never forgot again.
How about you. Why not trust God, put your gear up and soar off into the wild blue of God’s plan for you.