Flying Outa Control!

The 180 Cessna docked at Rainbow Lake. This is the plane that I got to fly.

While I worked up north, both in the Yukon and northern BC, I had the opportunity to fly in a number of planes.  Mostly little puddle-jumper float-planes and of course the workhorse of the North, the de Havilland Beaver. I loved flying!  Mostly.  A few times I would have preferred to have my feet firmly planted on solid ground.

When I worked for the outfit east of Atlin, BC, I got to fly almost every week and sometimes even more.  Often I flew to change camps, or into town to grocery shop and do the occasional load of laundry.  Sometimes we were ferrying hunters to another camp. Sometimes we were scouting for game.  Sometimes we were just getting the lay of the land.  Sometimes we were looking for lost horses.  Whatever the reason, let’s just say, I got to fly a lot.

The outfitter I worked for, Allan, flew a 180 Cessna.  I was told in the plane world, it’s the sports car model of the Cessna.  (Sorry you pilots reading this, I’m not an expert and I’m just going by what I heard on the job.)  It did seem to be a nice plane—roomy enough for 4 people and luggage and fairly fast and sleek in the air.  The only downfall it had where we flew, was that it took a longer run off the lakes and needed more space landing than some of the other bush planes I flew in.

Leaving Atlin Lake behind as we flew off towards our base camp at Line Lake.

Flying many hours sitting in the copilot seat was awesome.  That turned even awesom-er (yep that’s a word I tell you) when Allan actually let me fly the plane one day leaving Atlin.  We were headed to Line Lake where our base camp was located, and it was approximately an hour long flight.  Once we left the azure blue waters of Atlin Lake behind us and soared over the land, Allan told me to take a hold of the yoke in front of me and start flying.

I was pretty nervous, and fairly excited at the same time.  It’s a completely different feel from driving a car—mostly because I felt like one little insy move on my part would send us plummeting to the ground in a fiery crash.  It was touch and go for a few minutes as I adjusted to the feel of the plane responding to my ministrations of the yoke.  I was getting it!  I was flying!

Then Allan told me to find the pedals in front of my feet and proceeded to explain their function, which—if I remember correctly—control the nose of the plane on a horizontal level.  So I wasn’t really “flying” the plane while I was just holding the yoke like I had thought.  Now I had to hold onto the yoke and push with the pedals and keep my eyes on a little gadget thingy that showed how level my wings were.

While I was watching my level wings, I forgot about the plane nose and pretty soon I was trying to find the sun.  Thankfully Allan was close at hand to point this out to me and tell me how to correct me.

The first 20 minutes were nerve wracking tension for me as I constantly was adjusting and checking and rechecking and double checking every part of the plane.  I completely forgot to look were we were headed.  My fingers cramped, my spine clenched, my jaw spasm-ed.

How DO pilots fly for hours and make it look EASY?  (Practice upon practice, I can hear them say.  Hours upon thousands of hours of it.)  Yeah well, I was a passenger one minute and then a pilot next and it wasn’t easy.  It was a foreign concept for my poor brain.

Allan told me to relax some and that it would take more than a hairpin twitch from me to make the plane fall out of the sky.  He told me to just sit back and enjoy it, let the air currents hold the plane up, because I sure wasn’t, sitting stiff in my seat with a death grip on the yoke.

It probably took me another 15 minutes to coach myself into relaxing and trusting the air to hold the plane aloft.  Allan had me preform a few wide turns and then level out the plane.  I was exhilarated!  I was getting the feel of it.  I was starting to feel in control.

“Oh shit!”  Allan swore.

And I hit the roof (or would have if I hadn’t been buckled in).  The plane dived sharply to the left and dropped a few hundred feet in seconds.  And I was left grabbing air in pure panic!  It took a full minute (well probably only a second, but it felt like a minute) for me to realize that the plane wasn’t spiraling to the ground like a kite separated from it’s string.  Nope Allan had just reinstated himself as pilot and was making a bee-line for Line Lake which we had nearly passed by in my glory daze as a “pilot”.

My heart resumed beating and fell back down into it’s proper spot in my chest from out of my throat, where it had lodged.  But I still couldn’t shake the shock I was experiencing of one second being in control and the next completely outa control!  It still catches me to this day and is a feeling I hope to never repeat.  The only time I’ve come close is when I hit black ice once driving and my brakes didn’t work for a few seconds . . .  and then they did.

It’s a horrible feeling being out of control.  I hate it.  I think I’m a bona-fide control freak.  Pretty sure I need therapy.  Pretty sure this past year God is making sure I learn who REALLY is in control of ALL things.

I think I had a subconscious feeling, because I flew so much those summers, sitting right next to the pilot, that I had picked up how to fly a plane by osmosis.  But I sure didn’t!  I was a good passenger who understood many things about flying, but that didn’t make me a pilot or even a co-pilot by any stretch.

I’m sure there are many people like me, who think we can be the pilots of our lives.  We control everything—our destiny, our attitude . . .  It’s not until something dramatic (read traumatic) happens in our life, that we come to a realization that we were just under a delusion that we were the ones keeping ourselves aloft.   Some of us may come to realize that there may actually be Someone out there who is the REAL pilot.  Some of us even come to the unshakable belief that this Pilot is an all-knowing, all-powerful God who is in control of everything, and place our trust in Him to fly our “plane”.

This hasn’t been a new concept for me (though it may be for you).  The thing is, about God, I’m learning now, is that I can’t ever be his co-pilot.  Not really.   I know I’ve be given an illustration in the past of God being the Pilot and me being the co-pilot in life.  But I think now that’s wrong.  I was just deluding myself, like I was when I was just holding onto the yoke and thinking I was flying the plane.

I’M NOT IN CONTROL AND NEVER WILL BE.

I can pretend.  I can think I am flying, when really I’m not.  And I can even fly though life, piloting my way.  Sure that’s not the big issue.  The issue becomes when I think I AM the control—the authority. That if something ever happened to the Pilot, I could take over.   However, Jehovah God, who is the ultimate pilot, doesn’t need co-pilots.  There is no seat beside Him.  No one could ever take over from Him.  No one could ever replace Him.  No one could ever BE Him.

HE IS GOD AND GOD ALONE.

Once I came to that ever-growing realization that I could never really be a co-pilot, I have been able to look at many areas of my life where I have been deluded in my thinking that I was in control.  That I was the control.  I’ve often felt like I was the one keeping myself aloft.  But I was wearing myself frantic and thin with the death grip I had on things.  And then came that time when I had everything completely in order, I was relaxed, I had come to terms with the way life was, I was feeling confident and in (wait for it) control and then “Oh shit!” things took a dive.  And it took months, years, maybe just a second for me to realize that the ultimate Pilot was back in command and had been all along if I dared to admit.

Shock.  Outrage. Panic.  Yep it was all there and I can still feel it to this day.  And I hope I never feel that way ever again.

I am a control freak and this is going to be a life-long battle for me to relinquish control and live in quietness, trust and confidence in my Master.  It goes against the grain for me.  I hate it, and yet I am acknowledging it.  Isn’t that the first step to recovery?

“God, the Master, The Holy of Israel,
has this solemn counsel:
“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me
and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.
Your strength will come from settling down
in complete dependence on me—
The very thing
you’ve been unwilling to do.”

Isaiah 30:15 (The Message)

Another successful landing on the beautiful Atlin Lake.

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