From Connections: Sometimes I go flying

By Ewin Barnett

ASHLAND, Mo.--Sometimes when I have a bad day, I go flying. Roadside litter disappears at 200 feet. All cattle look clean at 500 feet. The earth looks unsullied and neat from even 1,000 feet up. Even auto-salvage yards start to look okay at 2,000 feet.

The setting sun reflects off all the little ponds and lakes like so many mirrors. Autos form endless ribbons of headlights in lines that stretch to the horizon. Smoke from tall stacks drifts for dozens of miles. Sometimes I see flocks of geese or a soaring hawk. Several times I have seen birds at cruising altitudes.

It is really funny to pass a bird or to have a hawk give you the once-over as you zoom past it (not so fun if it comes through the front window!).

Snow face

Once at night I was practicing landings and saw objects every so often flash by in the landing lights. After several touch-and-goes I figured out that I was passing through flights of migrating geese. They were along a flyway over the approach end of the runway.

The funniest sight I have ever seen while flying was when I was coming home to Missouri from central Pennsylvania. Flight conditions were heavy snow, which was not a problem for the aircraft I was flying, but at my altitude you could hardly see the wingtips and certainly not forward any. But you could see straight down two miles. Near Indianapolis a farmer had plowed a giant happy face in the snow in a large field!

Another funny sight was when I took my daughter for a ride one December night. As we circled a mall from 1,000 feet, she could look down through the mall's skylight and see kids having their photos taken with Santa.

One of the greatest sights I have ever seen was when I flew between cloud layers and witnessed a spectacular sunset in which the golden rays bounced off clouds above and below us. Other spectacular sights included looking down on the tops of clouds and seeing rainbows and seeing the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in the great flood of '93.

Global Feast

When the Global Church of God had a Feast site at Lake Ozark one year, since it is not far from my home I flew down for the day and took kids for rides after services if the flight conditions were not too bumpy. What a thrill!

I still have a few kids who ask me if they can go for a ride. The best ride I gave was to a member from an Asian country who had always dreamed of flying, but where he lives no private aircraft are allowed. It is illegal for him to be a pilot. I let him fly, which thrilled him to no end.

Remote control

He was also amazed that I didn't need government permission to fly anywhere (except over the live firing range at Fort Wood).

One night I went to dinner with a few other people. When we were finished and had said our good-byes, someone gave me a ride to the airport, which was deserted at that late hour. Taking advantage of pilot-controlled lighting, I gave the mike button a few clicks and all the airport lights came on.

Soon I was on my way home. The sky was clear and the stars brilliant. I didn't need any fancy navigation equipment that night. About 20 miles from home, after a few clicks of the mike button on the tower frequency, from an area of pitch-black earth the airport appeared to just materialize before my eyes as the lights came on.

Pilots, particularly when flying on instruments, talk to air-traffic control via two-way radio. You can be in the soup and not able to see your wingtips and yet be in busy airspace. Your headset is alive with ATC talking to the pilots flying in the airspace that this particular controller "owns."

If you are approaching your destination and have been handed off to the approach controller, you can hear his instructions to the aircraft ahead of you, so you can anticipate the routing he will give you as he sets your aircraft into position to shoot the approach to the runway. You are all alone in the clouds, in the rain, yet not alone at all.

It is a lot like prayer. Just push the button and talk. Be succinct, make your request, and then be patient for the answer.

Pilot in the hood

I went flying last night to practice some instrument approaches. I shot four instrument-landing-system approaches, and the last one was on the dot all the way down. At the end of an ILS approach you have maneuvered the aircraft to within a few feet of the charted approach path, all the while moving at 100 miles an hour. And I could not see outside because I was wearing a hood!

A pilot friend had come along to act as safety pilot and to enjoy the beautiful view of the setting sun. I just have to take his word for how beautiful it was, just like you'll have to take mine.

It was also rewarding. Sometimes when I am having a bad day, I go flying. There is nothing else like it--yet.

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