A Georgia women with years of experience piloting small planes is reminded who's in charge when she escapes an airborne emergency with her life.
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I'm Cathy Lewan, and I'm an aerial photographer. I've been flying for 22 years, and I love it.
I love it because it presents amazing challenges every time I do it. It gives me tremendous freedom, the ability to be high and as close to heaven as I can get.
It was Valentine's Day 2016, a beautiful day, and I took off flying to an aerial photography site that I do every month, just southwest of Hartsfield. Just prior to reaching the site, I had smoke in my cockpit. About a minute or two later, my throttle got stuck, and I was in the busiest and biggest airspace in the world.
So I immediately did all the things I knew to do: I called the air traffic controllers there in Hartsfield. Within a very short order, I declared an emergency. We then encountered a communication problem, but despite it, they started building teams of air traffic controllers and people.
There were pilots in the skies that were helping communicate for us. I looked down and there were all these emergency lights, racing to the runway. And something happened that triggered an emotion of catastrophic death.
My father had killed in a plane crash; he'd been killed in the Army. He had radioed in and he had asked to turn back because his avionics were not working, and they told him to proceed ahead. And he ended up crashing into a mountain and was killed.
The thought of my father proceeding ahead, despite the fact that he'd had mechanical problems when they told him to, has always haunted me. But that's what came to my mind throughout this entire flight.
I was praying. I was praying. I always take off and I pray and when I land and throughout. And at that moment, I remember thinking, 'I cannot proceed,' and they cleared the runway and put all those emergency vehicles there, and at that point, I changed the decision-making and said I wasn't going to land, and I was circling.
It was at that point that I asked the air traffic controllers to call my husband and tell him that I loved him, call my mom and I wanted my children to know, too, that I needed prayer, and they said absolutely.
I felt such immediate peace after that; I knew I was flying "right seat." There's a saying in aviation and in life: If you're sitting in the left seat, you're in the wrong seat. Because the left seat's where the pilot sits and the right seat's where the co-pilot sits, and I'm always the co-pilot. He's always in charge.
The flight lasted 52 minutes and 32 seconds, and in that time, a lot of amazing things happened that only the good Lord above could have been part of. I remember such a tremendous sense of strength and support. It showed me in every way that God is there. He's there for all of us.
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