Like many others, I’m sure, we all spent a little—or maybe a lot of—time looking into the what and why of the recent helicopter crash that took the life of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his 13 year old daughter, and eight others, including the pilot.
Now, I happen to have a close
acquaintance, who flies a military helicopter for the PA National Guard. I
asked him how he thought this could have happened to a seasoned helicopter
pilot, logging years of experience, and who was even a flight instructor.
Should the copter have been grounded?
Should those foggy conditions
have told the pilot not to take off?
And, this is the big one: Did the pilot know he was in trouble prior to the crash, or did he think everything was fine?
This is what I learned from my pilot friend:
“Well, I read about the flight
conditions that day, and I don’t believe the fog was the issue. In that part of
the country, there are fog events all the time. I guarantee you that was not
the first time that pilot flew in foggy conditions.
“Also, Kobe Bryant was a seriously high-profile celebrity. In a case like this, there is tremendous pressure on a pilot to get his passenger to his destination, and fast. If that pilot had flown in similar conditions in the past, how could he say ‘no’ this time?
“The tower can deny a pilot the opportunity to fly his aircraft. In this case, the tower did not issue a denial. That, however, is not to make any statement as to the safety or danger of flying at the requested date and time. The ultimate responsibility always remains with the pilot.
Then, my friend went on to say this: “I believe that the pilot never even knew he had a problem. When you are in flight, and can’t see the ground, you cannot, absolutely cannot, ‘fly by the seat of your pants’. Your senses cannot be trusted. You may think you are tilted when you are actually level. You may think you are level when you are actually tilted. Therefore, if you think you are level and you are tilted, you have a very short time to ‘right’ the aircraft.
How short? “You have just a few seconds.” How do you do it? “You must, absolutely must, consult your instruments. Your instruments will tell you if you are tilted or level. But, that’s it. If, within those few seconds you don’t act, it’s probably too late. Often, way too late.”
But, then I was told, the most important thing: “Yes, the pilot must act within those few seconds, but first, he has to know he is in trouble. Because, if he does not know that the aircraft is not doing what he thinks it actually is doing, then he will never act. He won’t fix the problem because he does not know that he even has a problem.
This is why preachers must
preach: Honest, fearless, accurate, true preaching, even in the face of those
who need his message the most, but appreciate it the least. Men and women, lost
and confused, need accurate information. They need to know that, without
Christ, there is a crash ahead, and they only have a limited time to set things
right. They need to know that the results of that crash are far worse than any
aircraft crash that can only destroy the body, but not the soul.
It is the job of preachers to communicate to all they can that, without Christ, their ship is horribly tilted. Of course, most of their hearers will go on believing that their ship is fine as it is, thank you very much. But, if the preacher is a true preacher, he will tell them of their sinful condition anyway, knowing that their standing outside of Christ can only land them in trouble.
And, the preacher must not fear the response of his hearers. Rather, he should fear the response of the One that he represents. He must, must, deliver His message. Honestly. Fearlessly. Accurately. And, truly.