When I was a skydiver in the mid-western part of the United States around 1981 two things went wrong one day. The first was that our new young skydiving pilot forgot to replace the oil filler cap when he checked the oil in the plane. The oil filler cap was located on the nose of the plane approximately in front of the pilot’s seat and no one noticed. The second thing was that because it is possible for a plane to safely take off with more weight in it than it can safely land with, and since we were planning on jumping out of the plane when it got to altitude, we overloaded the safe landing weight of the plane for takeoff.
During takeoff, after we left the ground, the oil from the engine came out of the oil filler tube and covered the plane’s windshield so it was not possible to see out clearly. The engine temperature light came on. The stall warning was screaming and the pilot panicked and took his hands off the steering yoke. In front of us were the high tension lines for a major mid-western city, and beside them was the city sewage treatment facility, so it was not possible to land safely going forward. We had to turn around and do a down wind landing with the plane over weight because we were too low to safely skydive out. We had an airplane emergency!
I began to pray immediately. I prayed with a hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal (#53), which goes in part, “Everlasting arms of Love Are beneath, around, above; God it is who bears us on, …He our ever-present guide Faithful is, whate’er betide; …From earth’s fears and vain alarms Safe in His encircling arms, He will keep us all the way, God, our refuge, strength and stay.” This calmed my thought and buoyed me with hope. My uplifted thought helped calm the others in the plane.
The skydiver behind our pilot took hold of the pilot’s arms and put his hands back on the steering yoke again, and said, “You can do this. Remember your training.” The pilot calmed down immediately. He was able to turn the plane around and land safely even though it was down wind. No one was hurt.
The plane had to be inspected before it could be flown again, so we didn’t jump any more that day, but when we did jump again the pilot was more careful about checking the airplane’s equipment and we were wiser about the number of people and the weight we allowed in the plane. We never again loaded it beyond the safe landing weight.
The big lesson in this for me thought was that I could trust God’s loving protection even if the human scene seemed bleak.