Angel on Board

A fearful flier learns to have a little faith during a routine flight.

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- Posted on Mar 1, 2011

Angel in the sky

My least favorite thing in the world? Flying.

Before every trip I took I considered staying home just to avoid the misery it caused me. Yet here I was in an airport with my husband, Paul, waiting to board our connecting flight back home to Raleigh. The first leg of our journey had been so turbulent I’d even suggested we rent a car instead.

An airline attendant made an announcement from the check-in desk: Our plane had mechanical difficulties. “Oh, no,” I moaned. Just the thing to weaken my confidence. If a plane had technical problems I didn’t want to know.

“We have another plane to replace the one being serviced. However,” she said, “it’s a bit smaller than the scheduled plane. There aren’t enough seats for everyone. Is there anyone who can volunteer to wait for a later flight?”

My hand shot up. Paul pulled it firmly back down. “It won’t be any easier a few hours from now,” he said. “Just have some faith.”

“Well, if I could sit in the cockpit so the pilot could explain what he was doing I would! But that won’t happen.”

Reluctantly I filed onto the new plane with the other passengers. It certainly was small. The seats filled up quickly. Paul and I sat next to each other. The third seat in our row remained empty. Flight attendants counted heads and checked them against the number of seats.

“It’s full,” I said. “Except for this one. Hopefully not a bad sign.”

We buckled up as the plane prepared to leave the gate. I chewed my nails and tapped my foot. I jumped at every mysterious “click” and “rumble.”

At the last minute a man with a briefcase got on board. His uniform told me he was a pilot. He greeted the attendants and walked down the aisle—in the opposite direction from the cockpit. “Is anyone sitting here?” he said, stopping at our aisle.

“No.”

“I was supposed to pilot your scheduled plane to Raleigh,” he said, tucking his briefcase under the seat. “But now it looks like I’ll just be along for the ride.”

He settled himself in the empty seat. My actual pilot? Right by my side? I turned to Paul, who was looking at the pilot in shock. “I might as well be in the cockpit,” I whispered. Paul shook his head in amazement. I turned back to the pilot. “I think God must have sent you.”

The pilot seemed embarrassed by my enthusiasm—until I explained. Then he began explaining things to me. Like how the lights flickered before takeoff not because we were losing power, but because we were switching off battery to engine power. He told me how the plane curved to follow flight paths set out for us.

“Right now the pilot is checking the cabin pressure,” he said, “and the altitude next to that. In four seconds you’ll feel a tug as he inches the nose higher.” When I felt the tug—right on schedule—I wasn’t scared at all. He talked me through the whole flight, calming all my fears.

I arrived in Raleigh having experienced something new for me: a pleasant flight. It’s amazing what happens when you have a little faith.

Faith was just what I needed—and not just in the pilot. Flying will never be my favorite thing to do, but I’d never again consider staying home to avoid it. If the seat next to me on my next flight is taken, I’ll make room in my own for the angel God has put on board with me. 

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