Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Good Mistake

My eyes are strained with focus; every nerve in my body is alert as I peer through the thick black clouds around me. A sudden flash of lightening to my left jolts my passengers as they too intently gaze outside. Heavy rain pounds the windscreen as I struggle to find my way through the mountain pass, praying that the weather will lift just a little so that I can resume a more comfortable altitude.

Late Wednesday afternoon I set out to pick up several passengers from Pignon. Since we are now in the rainy season, every afternoon thick cumulus clouds build up and quickly turn to large thunderstorms making it difficult to cross the two mountain ranges laying between Port au Prince and the Central Plateau. I request 10 extra gallons for the trip so I would have an extra 30 minute reserve, but discover that they accidentally put 18 gallons extra! I become somewhat annoyed at the fueling personnel since this means that I will be able to carry 60 lbs less cargo. As I take off, I quickly realize that the flight would not be an easy one, and call flight following on the HF radio to confirm weather reports in the Pignon area.

A thick black ceiling of clouds make it impossible to climb over the mountains, and the rain ahead drops the visibility down to a few miles. As I level off at 2000 ft I start planning a route that I will take to get through the mountain pass ahead. As I approach Pignon, I am aware that the weather is rapidly deteriorating behind me, so I call flight following again to ensure that the passengers are ready to leave without delay, and that the weather at Pignon is holding. A few miles out from Pignon, the clouds suddenly break and a small hole of blue sky lingers directly overhead the airport. I quickly land, board the passengers and take off to return to Port au Prince.

As I begin climbing, I look at the dark clouds ahead which are now several hundred feet above the ground. I double check the quantity of my fuel and run a quick calculation to determine how many hours of fuel I have left. My passengers peer nervously over my shoulder as I press forward through the rain pounding on the windscreen. The visibility has now dropped down to close to a mile, and I keep a close eye on the river 1000 ft below to guide me down the valley ahead. I spot another small valley to my left that should take me though the mountain range, but as I head up the valley, the visibility continues to drop and the rain pounds harder on the windscreen making it nearly impossible to see ahead of me. Suddenly, as I enter the clouds, it becomes white all around me. I focus on my instruments an execute a 180 degree turn careful not to lose any altitude since I know that we are low in a narrow mountain pass. Seconds later we pop back out of the clouds, and I begin looking for another route to take back to Port. As I fly along the base of the mountain I quickly realize that the ceilings have now dropped down to ground level in the valley passes. My last option is to fly all of the way out to the coast and follow the coastline back to Port au Prince, but this will take an extra 45 minutes. Again I check my fuel and run some calculations to determine if this is feasible. I call flight following on the radio to give them my position over Gonaives and my intentions of heading back over the coast. As I approach the coastline I begin to feel relieved. As long as I keep my mixture leaned out, and follow the coastline south I should have no problem getting to Port. I maintain 400 feet above the ocean, and switch to my left fuel tank thanking God for that extra fuel. Fifteen minutes later I spot the airport, call tower and land. I praise the Lord for safety on this flight as my wheels touch down on the runway and my passengers begin clapping! After I shut down, I check my fuel and discover that I have a mere 8 gallons remaining. It truly was providential having that extra fuel onboard!


  1. How evident again that with the LORD all our affairs are in His hands! "My ways are not your ways...and My thoughts are not your thoughts...My ways are much higher than your ways"

  2. There is no such thing as too much fuel. 1 liter = 1 minute was always my rule of thumb. You haven't experienced rain until you have been in the tropics. God knows hows to order our events, even when they seem like they are MISTAKES according to our plans. Oh to have the faith to believe that God knows all about my day and not get stressed when He provides the occasional changeup.
    Bon Die Konin, the Beak

  3. Wow Jason - how wonderful to know that we are in God's care! We thank the Lord with you for His care and protection!