What is the ultimate flying machine?
The Concorde? A high-tech fighter jet?
I’d suggest to you that the holder of this title belongs to the common swift.
The swift holds the record for the fastest confirmed level flight of any bird: 111.5 km/h (69.3 mph). (Birds like falcons can fly faster, but only when diving down through the air to catch prey.)
Swifts also spend most of their lives on the wing, landing only to nest. Some individuals can spend up to ten months in continuous flight. In a single year a common swift can cover at least 200,000 km. No other bird spends as much of its life in the sky.
They are truly astonishing creatures.
A funny thing about swifts, though: they don’t do very well on the ground.
Their small, weak legs, which are placed far back on their bodies, are really only good for clinging to vertical surfaces like cliffs. They never voluntarily settle on the ground, where they’d be vulnerable to predation. Although swifts are capable of taking flight from level ground, they prefer to “fall” into the air from a high point.
Simply put, swifts were meant to soar.
And so were you.
But oftentimes there are things inhibiting our flight…
If you’re a pilot, there are a lot of things to worry about up in the skies.
Stalling your aircraft is one of them.
If your plane no longer has enough lift to keep you flying, it will falter and enter an aerodynamic stall. You need to take corrective action, and fast.
So how does a pilot get out of a stall?
Nose down, full throttle.
This means the pilot must push the nose of the plane downward and give the engines full power.
To a layperson, this course of action seems scary and counter-intuitive. Surely the last thing a pilot should be doing when they’re in trouble is aiming the plane toward the ground at full speed?
It may seem nerve-wracking, but it’s the only way to get out of a stall. Going nose down, full throttle will give the plane the needed airspeed to regain lift and get out of the stall. Then, the pilot can resume level flight and continue on the desired flight path.
In life, too, sometimes we need to do something that scares us a little in order to get out of trouble.
Like when we sin or make a mistake that we know would displease God.
Usually, the first signs of fall are visual: the leaves on trees start to redden, the fall asters begin blooming, and the sun is at a noticeably lower angle.
But sometimes you can hear the onset of fall.
Today at The Faith Cafe we could hear the sound of Canada geese honking at each other as they flew overhead, preparing to fly south for the winter. They’ll fly to warmer climes in their iconic V-formation, honking the whole trip.
But why do they honk at one another as they undertake their momentous journey, and why fly in a V-shape at all?
The lessons geese can teach us have long been used in leadership seminars, but I think they apply to our Christian walk as well.
It’s usually safe to rely on our senses, but sometimes they can play tricks on us.
Especially if you’re flying a plane.
Pilots sometimes get into trouble with something called “spatial disorientation.” If they’re flying at night or in poor weather, they’re unable to see the horizon through the cockpit’s windshield. Without these visual cues, they may fall back on their other senses, but this can be a big mistake.
A pilot’s non-visual sensations, such as signals from their inner ear, may not respond truthfully during flight. Without visual inputs to override these mistaken feelings, a pilot may believe he or she is flying level when they may actually be in a bank, or gradually ascending or descending.
If a pilot isn’t proficient in the use of flight instruments, errors can pile up until the pilot loses control of the aircraft, entering a steep, diving turn known as the graveyard spiral. The pilot remains unaware of what’s happening until it’s too late to recover control, and the aircraft breaks apart or crashes.
In fact, it’s believed that spatial disorientation is what led to the fatal crash in 1999 of the plane piloted by John F. Kennedy, Jr. Flying at night over water, the visual landmarks he might have relied on were absent. Kennedy was certified for visual flight rules, but had not yet received his full training for instrument-only flying. His instruments would have told him that he was heading on a collision course with the water, but tragically, he trusted his non-visual sensations until it was too late.
We as believers can get into the same sort of trouble when we trust our feelings instead of what the word of God says.