Fortunately there is an antidote for this deadly menace. It’s called humility.
I love humility. I admire it whenever I see it in people, and I aspire to it. But I struggle with and seem plagued by pride. I confess it immediately when someone accuses me of pride. It’s the original sin, and it’s in every human. But it’s a cop out to justify it or make peace with it because of those facts.
The Scripture says, God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. The Bible also says, “Humble yourself under the hand of God, and He will exalt you in due season. From this we can see there is power (“grace”) available from God if we are humble. And we can humble ourselves. I remember recently thinking about humility in connection with my recent plane crash; that I should not miss or waste an opportunity to humble myself.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I would give the details of the accident in a subsequent blog for those who wanted to know what happened. I haven’t done so because of a crowded schedule, not because I was skirting the issue. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to make my error known and humble myself, so here goes.
After flying as a pilot more than fourteen thousand hours over thirty-five years, and never scratching an airplane, on March 28th of this year I crashed and totaled one. I walked away from it, and there is an old saying in aviation, “Any landing you walk away from is a good one.” 🙂 This is in fact true, for reasons that should be self evident, but it’s still very embarrassing to have an accident like this as a pilot. I think most people take pride in their abilities and records demonstrating those abilities, but it may be heightened in the flying profession. Anyway, I suggest we call pride “pride,” and humility “humility,” and get on with this story. Here’s what happened as I told it to the NTSB representative assigned to my case, and later to the FAA.
I departed KFSM [Fort Smith, AR] Friday morning about 0715L, March 28th, 2014, en route to visit my father in Harrison AR. It was a clear, calm day for flying. I flew a stop and go to Rwy 7, before turning out of traffic to the NW VFR. I had walked a friend’s field the day before near Dora, AR, and determined it to be a suitable runway for the Maule, so I decided to make a landing or two before continuing on my way to KHRO. The first landing was uneventful and went as planned, landing to the north. I rolled to the end of the field, turned around and shut the airplane down to take some early morning photos. Then I climbed back in and took off to the south, deciding to make one more landing before continuing to my destination. This landing was much like the first, but with a considerable bounce. I added power and straightened the airplane’s flight path bringing it to the ground just short of midfield. I looked at the distance remaining to the end, and decided to go around. With the addition of TO power I was committed to the take off, and seeing there wasn’t obstacable clearance ahead attempted to clear a fence at the NE end of the field where there was lower terrain. I impacted the fence coming to an immediate and forceful stop with the tail of the airplane straight up in the air, the airplane slowly falling on over on it’s back. I found myself hanging upside down in the harness, with the smell of gasoline in the cabin. I quickly turned off the master switch, then tried a few times to open the door unsuccessfully. So I unbuckled from the seat belt/shoulder harness and kicked the door glass out, crawling out on the wing, and moving quickly away from the airplane. The ELT was beeping loudly. I was unharmed and unscratched amazingly. After a few minutes I climbed back into the cabin briefly and turned off the ELT.
In retrospect I should have practiced several more hours in the airplane before landing in fields where go around options are limited. This landing would have been a non-event on a normal runway with sufficent clear zone for a go around. Even though I made dozens of landings durning Maule training and felt competent, more time could have helped in avoiding the bounce, correcting for such, and go around practice. A firm decision to land or go around must be made early at such fields to ensure safe landings or obstacle clearance for go arounds.
The mistakes leading to the crash seemed impossible and not real about a second before impact and all during the day after the crash, which I spent alone in retrospection because my family was in another city. Even though I was unscratched and not even sore from the impact, I knew my airplane lay mangled on its back in a friends field not far away. It was my fault. I needed to own it and take responsibility for it, which I do.
There is a real freedom in feeling small, and knowing that God is big. I know I’m fortunate not to have ended up in a burn unit somewhere. I know I’m fortunate to be alive. I thank God for His protection, and for the opportunity at another chapter of life.
“The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)
“The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.” (Proverbs 15:33)
“However, Hezekiah humbled the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come on them in the days of Hezekiah.” (2 Chronicles 32:26)
“When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18)
“My soul will make its boast in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice.” (Psalm 34:2)
“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10)